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01/10/2007: "Gabardine, Everest, and Bicycles"
Encountered a wonderful article on BBC this morning about the use of gabardine in extreme sporting activity, focussing on Mallory and Irvine's 1924 climb on everest, during which they may possibly have reached the summit before encountering some as-yet undetermined disaster.

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.

"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."
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:Indeed, if you're looking for the true miracle fabric, look no further than the humble sheep--especially if you're a bicyclist!

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