Sunday, April 01, 2007

Mountain of a Mountain Man

So I'm finally going to climb Mount Shasta. It's something I've thought about since I was a child growing up in Siskiyou County. It's the realization of a life-long yearning, and a benchmark in my fitness development. But that's not the point of this post.

The point is this. I'm big. I don't look like a "typical" athelete. At least not any athelete other than a football lineman or a powerlifter. This makes finding athletic clothing and equipment somewhat difficult. While I can certainly, though perhaps with some searching, find clothing and equipment suited to typical gym-training & team sport needs, I experience significant difficulty outfitting myself for "outdoor" sports (the ones I'm actually interested in). Mountaineering, in particular, has prooven to be a problem area. Within this blog, I would like to detail my experience searching for mountaineering equipement suitable for my large size, in hopes that other aspiring large-sized mountaineers out there might find my posts and make use of the information contained therein.

First order of business, mountaineering boots.

Hard, "double-plastic" mountaineering boots are pretty damned fundamental to mountaineering. They are completely waterproof, they're insulating, they're sufficiently rigid to hold onto any crampon and support various and sundry mountaineering steps, and the stiff shell of the boots allows crampons to be cinched down without cutting off circulation to the foot. The only problem is, most mountaineering boots don't come any larger than a US men's size 13, if that. Seeing as my feet are size 14, and you're really supposed to wear your mountaineering boots one size too-big, that fact was a problem for me.

After much searching on the internet, I found mention of one boot that goes above a size 13, the Lowa Civetta. There's actually the standard Civetta and the Civetta GTX Extreme (the standard Civetta should do you fine unless you're planning to do some really long, really cold expedition climbs - we're talking Himalaya's here). The cheapest price I was able to find on the Civetta (by about $20) was here (shipping and return are free).

I tested the boots out about two weeks ago while taking a basic mountaineering course. They're size 15, standard width. Lengthwise, they were great. Width was alright, though if you have particularly wide feet and/or "boxey" toes (I have both), they might be a little tight near the "knuckle" of the little toe - something to be aware of when applying the moleskin.

Up next, gaiters.

I think I'm screwed on the gaiters front. You know the size of my boots. Now be aware of the fact that I have 19 inch calves. Between the size of my boots and the general largeness of my lower legs, I haven't been able to find any gaiters that come anywhere close to fitting. Double-X rentals from Outdoor Research were 1-3 inches of girth from closing at any point along their entire length. Same with some double-X gaiters from Mountain Hardware found at an REI. I haven't found any mention of triple-X gaiters anywhere. The solution? I'm going to make my own gaiters.

Turns out you can buy Goretex fabric, ripstop nylon, as well as numerous buckles & gizmos useful in the maufacture of gaiters here and here (amongst other places, I think). Both retailers also stock paterns for gaiters. I'm actually rather stoked about the notion of making my own gaiters. I'm just a little scared about the fact that there might be people out there who make their own sleeping bags, bicycle shorts, and sports bras...

That's all on this topic for now. In upcoming weeks, I may return to discuss crampons...


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