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August 30, 2018

Where in the World is Charlotte Austin?

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Thanks for asking! I work for International Mountain Guides, where I lead climbing, trekking, and mountaineering expeditions around the world. Right now, I’m still recovering from my most recent trip: for the last two weeks of July, I was lucky enough to lead a team of six climbers on a mountaineering expedition in rural western Mongolia. Our objective was Mount Khuiten, which — at 14,350' — is the tallest mountain in the country. It's a gorgeous, rural peak, and it's less than three miles from the border tri-point between Mongolia, Russia, and China. So cool! 

It was a fabulous trip. We had a blast exploring Ulan Bataar, then caught a small plane to the western province of Olgi, where we loaded into 4x4 vans and overlanded for 7 hours to get to the trailhead. From there, we trekked to base camp while camels carried our gear. Camels! (I named mine Excamelbur.)

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From base camp, the climb went perfectly: the team was strong and optimistic, we were able to thread the needle on a slightly tricky weather window, and the conditions couldn't have been better. I'm so proud of our team, and couldn't be more grateful for our Mongolian friends.

When I reflect on the trip, I think about the ocean-colored skies. I remember the alpine starts, when the agony of prying yourself out of a warm sleeping bag is worth the joy of watching the dawn. And I think about a nomadic Mongolian woman who shared her family’s homemade cheese, explaining each step of the process that moved milk into curds. I left her with one of my Oiselle layers, not knowing how to explain that even though it was dirty from my two weeks of climbing it was one of the only things I had on my back that felt connected, conceived, and stitched together in a process I could explain and understand. She smiled shyly, trying on the long-sleeved shirt and checking her reflection in a 3”-square mirror. 

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As we left, I tried to explain through our interpreter that I’ll be back next year. The way she hugged me made me feel free. 


My favorite Oiselle gear for climbing expeditions:

  • Vim Jacket. Alpine climbing is all about mastering the art of layering — you’re working hard, the temperatures are constantly changing as you get higher and the weather changes, you’re trying to keep all of your extremities warm while not sweating through your base layers. The Vim Jacket is lightweight, easy to throw in a backpack (or even just a pocket), and it’s the perfect way to cut the wind. I recommend it to everybody.
  • Spring Wazzie Wool Racerback Tank. When I’m on a long expedition, I often wear a lightweight tank top underneath all of my other layers. It wicks away sweat, it keeps me modest if I’m changing layers in mixed company, and — when it’s a wool baselayer — it never smells funky. I’ve worn all different brands of wool, and Oiselle’s is the absolute softest, most durable, and least prone to shrinkage when I accidentally stick it in the dryer. 
  • Bae Bra. Imma be real: when I’m guiding a big mountain, I don’t want to think about my breasts. I want to pull on a sports bra when I’m getting dressed in the morning, add whatever layers I need to stay comfortable, and focus on the task at hand. I love the Bae Bra’s straps, because they never, ever fall off my shoulders. The band is nice and thick, so it never digs in. And Big Blue — so damn fun. 

Next up: I’m heading to Peru in early September to lead a Machu Pichu trek, and then I’ll spend the fall at home in Seattle. I plan to snuggle with Huckleberry, eat lots of vegetables, and run around Greenlake in my Oiselle gear many, many times. 

Until next time,

CHARLOTTE

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