The North Face unveiled Futurelight, a new, breathable, waterproof material set to revolutionise the future of technical fabrics, which is developed using innovative nano spinning technology and sustainably practices. In addition to unleashing my inner courage, I accepted the challenge to summit the Haba Snow Mountain, at the same time, to put Futurelight to the test, with the aim of finding out if Futurelight really is, as the brand puts it.
Haba Snow Mountain is located in southeast Shangri-la County in Yunnan. It rises to 5,395 meters above sea level, making it one of the tallest peaks in the province. It is covered with snow all year round, and the initial thought of summiting Haba Snow Mountain was scarcely credible.
However, with The North Face Futurelight, I was pretty relieved when I knew it would help me to nail my nerves and flatten my fear. And I climbed it without any mountaineering experience, and for the first time in my life I used crampons and an ice axe, strenuously walking on the crisp, fresh, and powdery snow.
From hiking the muddy and mucky trail, the flat but steep rocky slope, the flowstone climb, to the dark and thick snow slope, every single step was beyond expectation. Luckily, the novice climbers were led by six experienced and professional athletes to the summit.
Futurelight is more than a single jacket, and it is a new paradigm in clothing and protection. It is made of lightweight, breathable, waterproof material that keeps rain, wind, not forgetting about snow out, while releasing heat and vapour.
Futurelight uses a proprietary nano spinning technology that lets air move through fabric easily and is more venting than ever before. Much to my surprise, it really is not only soft, light, and comfortable, but it is also durable against all kinds of elements.
Lijiang - Haba Village (2,600m)
On the first day, we travelled from Lijiang (2,460m) to Haba Village (2,600m) which took approximately 4.5 to 5 hours, going through the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge. The Haba Village is ethnically diverse with at least three different minority villages, namely the Naxi, Hui (Muslim), and Yi living in harmony.
In preparation for the first hike on the following day, there was an altitudinal adaptation training and insightful general climbing knowledge instruction conducted by one of the most experienced instructors - Teacher Bei Hei.
Packing for a climb is often a struggle to distinguish what we want to bring from what we need to bring. Your hiking gear is crucial for your hiking experiences!
Haba Snow Mountain Essentials:
- Futurelight Hardshell Jacket
- Futurelight Hardshell Pants
- The North Face thermal layers
- Soft Shell Pants
- Ventrix Jacket
- Waterproof hiking shoes
- Extra underwear and socks
- 20 liters Tech Pack 20
- Cap or beanie
- E-tip gloves
- Hiking poles
- Water bottle
- Lip balm
Haba Village - Haba Base Camp (4,100m)
Starting at 2,600 meters, we began the roughly 6 hour ascend up to the Haba Base Camp at 4,200 meters, walking through pristine alpine forests. Horses were used to carry our larger personal belongings as well as supplies.
The vertical alpine climate was formed according to the mountain's election, and thus the climates, such as subtropical, temperate, cool temperate, and polar were distributed in ascending order.
Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs on the night before, hence the wet and muddy trails. When I was in constant worry about the dirts and muds, one of the guides reminded me of the shoes' waterproof and breathable membranes.
Also, such climates created a perfect environment for many vegetation belts covering the mountain, for instance, the alpine vegetation, meadows, shrubberies, conifers, and ever-green broad-leaved forest.
The hike upwards was exhausting yet manageable, though it may have been more enervating without the help and morale-boosting from each other.
We stopped for lunch, beating the persistent rain, while taking a pleasure in the captivating natural setting of the massive rocks, coniferous woodlands, rolling grasslands, and stands of willow trees. Lunch tasted strangely tastier in the woods.
Despite the unpleasant weather, The North Face Futurelight hardshell jacket, with its feature of a waterproof fabric with microscopic pores, kept larger water drops out while allowing moist warm air to escape.
As we kept going gradually up, the trail was also heavily trodden by cattle and horses and tramped by mule packers and mountain guides. At beyond 4,000 meters above sea level, the air was already thin, making every step and every breath up the slope progressively laboured.
It was midday, and we made it to the base camp before sunset. The base camp was located at the edge of the forest with a very breathtaking view on the mountain.
Haba Base Camp - Haba Snow Mountain Campsite (4,900m)
Setting out at 9 in the next morning, hiking into the snow mountain lightly, and the necessary equipment and personal belongings had to be carried by all climbers in the whole journey.
Starting from 4,100 meters, we began the climb to the campsite at 4,900 meters, for 5 to 6 hours. The first part of the route to the campsite was through a huge grey slab on the left of the mountain by retreating glaciers and astonishing rock formations before reaching a series of morainic hills and ridges until we reached the glacier at about 4,900 meters.
Although the distance was not long, the altitude rose sharply from 4,100 meters to over 4,900 meters in that stretch, and the 800 meters were definitely not easy.
After a couple of hours struggling with the fierce and numbing cold, the merciless and brutal exhaustion, and the impossibilities, we overcame the steep snow line, flowstone, and glacier.
Upon approaching the snow line, we put the ice climbing spikes or snow goggles on for the last bit of the climb to the camp site. The camp site was a very basic camp with little facilities. It was freezing cold and I remember shivering all the time!
Again, I reflected with surprise. Futurelight hardshell jacket and pants are designed for people who are intimidated by inclement weather, and for those who want to stay unburdened, warm, and dry inside and out while being in the snow.
Haba Snow Mountain Campsite - Haba Snow Mountain Summit (5,396m)
Sleeping on the snow at 4,900 meters was gruelling. Having to rise at 4 in the next morning and waking up to severe headache due to the acute mountain sickness (AMS) negatively affected my motivation.
After putting on the necessary mountaineering gears, we made our way through the chalky white snow, bracing ourselves in the blustery and howling wind. Heavy snow was scattering all over the mountain, our steps became slightly easier with the help of the crampons and toothed shoe attachments that helped us claw our way through the ice-laden trails.
We had to go up directly on a large snow and ice slope before reaching the summit. About a kilometre away from the camp site, one particularly difficult section of the trail was a steep incline dubbed the "Desperate Slope" which was the last resting post before the final stretch to the top.
The "Desperate Slope" deserves its name, when you think you have reached the top, only to find another steep climb ahead of and no sign of the summit. Everyone went through the AMS, and various kinds of discomfort, and finally reached the summit.
For the first time ever, I witnessed the same expression from every one of us. I saw faces with the tears of joy. Summiting Haba Snow Mountain brought a strong sense of unity. And that was the charm of the mountain.
On the summit, the temperature was -7 degree Celsius, there was no sunshine, and the whole process was completed with The North Face thermal layers, The North Face goose down fill 800, and Futurelight hardshell jacket as the outer layer.
A lot of waterproof gears tend to be bulky, muggy and crunchy, and that's what The North Face believes it has fixed with Futurelight. The mountain was sheeted in white, the wind was mercilessly pushing us, but much to my delight, I was feeling warm, pleasant, and comfortable in Futurelight.
Summiting Haba Snow Mountain was surreal.
And I've never imagined that there can be this day.
Summiting Haba Snow Mountain felt like a dream. It took courage, determination, and perseverance. As I am typing this, I still remember vividly that the weather on that day was foul, harsh, and bitterly cold.
But with the right climbing equipment and helpful and supportive guides, the weather did not strike us very much, instead, it was a stirring feat and a triumphant experience for us all. Overlooking the beautiful, vast, and majestic landscape around Haba Snow Mountain, my heart was full.
Standing at 5,396 meters above sea level was beyond belief. Although it has been an arduous and challenging journey, I am still lost for words. I am still ecstatic at the fact that I achieved the mountain top.
While making our descent back to the Haba Base Camp, a mountain guide asked, "Will you do it again?