Climber Graham Hoyland had exact replicas of Mallory's clothing made and tested them on the mountain itself to see whether they might have had a hand in in the disaster. He discovered that in fact the gabardine was better suited to the task than modern climbing textiles.
Wearing the replica clothing for two days on Everest, Hoyland tested the suit alongside the expedition leader who was wearing a typical modern down suit.Naturally, it's heartening for a fan of sheep hair such as myself to hear this. I'd like to add further that wool has environmental as well as functional advantages over "modern" synthetics:
"I immediately found the underclothes warm to put on, whereas the modern polypropylene underwear feels cold and clammy," said Hoyland.
"When exposed to a cutting wind blowing off the main Rongbuk glacier, I found the true value of the Gabardine outer layers. These resisted the wind and allowed the eight layers beneath to trap warmed air between them and my skin."
"Like most mountaineers, I am used to synthetic outdoor clothing: polypropylene underclothes and outer fleeces which are bought pre-sized, off the shelf and never quite fit properly.
"They are unforgiving in stretch, and begin to smell unpleasant if worn for more than a couple of days. There is a harsh synthetic sensation next to your skin."
- Synthetics are made of petroleum; wool comes from sheep eating grass, which they fertilize for new growth even as they graze. (Modern grazing techniques and regulations effectively prevent the overgrazing that was common in the past.)
- Wool, because it doesn't smell bad despite repeated wearings, requires less washing or cleaning, and thus less use of water, energy, and cleaning chemicals.
- Wool lasts longer than synthetics, so you use less of it over a lifetime of clothes-wearing.
- Wool (especially our Bicycle Fixation Classic Wool Knickers) is just so much more elegant than synthetic attire that you'll ride your bike more often, reducing the impact of your personal travel on the planet, and enhancing your life and health considerably.