Monday, March 9, 2015

My High-Altitude Boots called Miyey

This pair of boots was featured in Esquire magazine this March2015

(This is not a product endorsement)

After I summit-ed Aconcagua (Jan2005), the highest peak outside Asia – I started with my preparation for my first big mountain.   
Cho Oyu (8200m) a death zone peak – is the 6th highest mountain and will obviously require the best of the gears available.
I had a business trip in Toronto the same year which enabled me to buy additional gears. 
Except a highly specialized boots that is required for such mountains.  There were I think only 2 brands that offer the exact specs (at that time), and other options would need ‘add-ons’ which could prove laborious to put on when one is breathing very little air and/or overly exhausted. 

I posted detailed description of the kind of boots used in mountaineering here. 

Having no other alternative to get this kind of footwear, I sent out a request to my outfitter in Kathmandu to have a good pair of boots acquired.  There are many importers and ‘branded’ shops in Nepal and I was sure he can get me a pair.

I arrived in Kathmandu before my trip and was presented with this pair of shoes.  Millet Everest!  It’s French, and pronounced “Me-yay” (or Mee-yea) – the usual complexity that the French invented. He he.
I didn’t dictate the brand, and that was only the available stock that my contact was able to acquire. I said US size 10.5 to max 11.  He got me the only one in stock – size freakin' 12!  

Was it ok?  I didn’t have much choice.  Looking back, all my past 2 Millet boots were both sized 12 and since all boots already felt big anyway – I didn’t mind the small difference.
I did mind the problem with my sz11 crampons which didn’t fit the boots.  I spend restless hours in my Kathmandu hotel room trying to fit the damn thing, with pliers and all – for nothing. I gave up and told my colleagues that I was screwed.

Dirk, my German teammate quickly volunteered to try. He’s an alpine climbing instructor in the Alps and should have more useful experience in this thing. He dissembled the crampons (this is the for-glacier-walk , adjustable type), refit the front part using only the ‘last hole’ to connect with the shaft (vs. standard 2 ‘belt holes’) and quickly added a few millimeters to the total length.  And IT FITS!
But not as perfectly as I’ve wanted.  Cannibalizing some odd 3mm wires from somewhere (was it the bed spring, I forgot) - I added wiring in front  and on top of the standard  front loop to ensure it connects with the boot’s hooves.  There – it’s done.

If you don’t know the specs, Millet boots has a -60C rating, the claim is based on the overall insulation capacity, primarily the inner boots which is wrapped/layered with aluminum aveolite – or whatever it is!
I survived the climb, and made it to the top even.  Wrecked and all, while my boots – smiling proud with only minor crampon strap marks and few scratches to prove that it was used.

It’s doubly memorable after I finished my Everest climb using it.  The boots has its own story and pride – having reached the highest point on Earth.  Was it the end of its story?

I heard some climbers ditch the same boots after 2 or 3 uses.  Presumably due to the lost or reduction of its insulating function.
I didn’t throw it away, and use it 2x more.  For the lack of funds I guess, or enough trust that it will see me through.
I went back to Elbrus (2007) in Russia for a revenge climb (failing my 1st try).  And although it seems an overkill to wear such boots, I was relieved to see many climbers wearing the same type of boots.  I believe those were the guys who all first climbed an 8000m, and then decided to climb the 7 summits (Elbrus is the highest in Europe).  

My Denali climb (2008) would have been very feet-cold-and-numb miserable if not for a well-insulating boots like Millet.  An added ‘memory’ to it was the fact that we were temporarily trapped in the summit with a sudden 30mph storm.  My feet were fine, my right hand was threatened by the lost of a glove piece (a team mate fell off the ridge jerking me off my position while refitting my glove piece). Worst was the cold wind frosting our goggles, mask and later exposed faces.  But we survived to tell the story.  Meanwhile, the boots were just there, ‘feeling no danger or threat’, happily stumbling over snow and ice.
Later on the way down, I earned 2x 5-peso coin sized blisters (and a couple of smaller ones) from walking a long distance, past 2 camps in blistering speed (and sweat-wet double socks in a non-breathable plastic boots).  

Overall, the ‘experience of my boots’ is worth a page in a shoe history book having climbed Pinoy’s first death zone, stood on top of the world, did a successful revenge climb, and survived a summit storm!
Oh, it’s still with me, patiently waiting for its next use.   Or for someone to acquire it. :)
Esquire chapter 'cover' for the featured footwear

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