Jul 2, 2014

The People You Meet: The Excess Baggage Police

One of the critical people I’ve met since I started climbing is the Excess Baggage Police of most major (and minor) airlines. I have disturbing early childhood memories of my own parents panicking with an open, overstuffed suitcase in front of an Air Canada counter, demanding that my wide-eyed little brothers and I wear / eat / drink / sell the excess 5kgs that they were in danger of having to compensate for. Since that day, I decided that I would be more strategic in preparing for my run-ins with the Excess Baggage Police. I promised myself that I would never be forced to pry open my suitcase and lose my dignity in full view of my fellow travellers or be forced to wear 6 jackets, 5 pairs of socks whilst eating a giant 2kg dried bratwurst while traveling through security… 

Tomorrow morning I head off to Peru to climb a jaw-droppingly beautiful 6000m snow-covered peak called Alpamayo. I wish that I could say that my childhood lessons learned had taught me to pack ‘lite’ for such an expedition. Unfortunately clothing and ‘gear’ technology hasn’t reached the stage where everything truly is ‘feather weight’ and my delicate work/life balance has not afforded me my own private jet. Instead, I will elegantly lug about 40 kilos of ‘outdoor gear’ that I have packed and repacked into two large, 110L duffel bags. I will also pray that what ever friendly face I meet at the Excess Baggage Counter is having a brilliant day, enjoying the July sunshine, and believes in Random Acts of Kindness.

I’ve mentally prepared myself for the negotiations… smiles, tears, jokes, begging, pleading, bribery… anything to avoid the dreaded excess baggage charges that turn Duty Free Shopping Fun with a pre-expedition glass of champagne into a plastic cup of tap water in the stained seats of the departures lounge.

When I look at the ‘snapshot’ of my collection of ‘essential kit’ (ah-hem) I can’t help but admire (yet again!) early mountaineering pioneers such as George Leigh-Mallory and stand in awe of their achievements wearing wool socks, gaberdine jackets and leather boots as they plodded to heights significantly higher than Alpamayo. 

The true adventure will clearly start tomorrow as soon as I set foot outside my front door. I must admit, I’m really excited and can’t wait to see a new part of the world, step onto a mountain I’ve heard so much about, and meet friends, old and new, in the before we head to the hills..!  If the Excess Baggage Police is the biggest challenge that I’ll have to overcome in the next three weeks I”ll certainly count my blessings..! 

Onward and upward.


  1. Don't they realise you're a famous mountaineer off on another great adventure?