Interview with First Ascent Ambassador Justin Bowen
Justin, where did coffee take you this winter?
I carried a pack of [First Ascent] Instant Coffee into Mt. Kenya National Park this past January on an expedition to put up a new route on Mt. Kenya's south face. Having good coffee at base camp was a luxury. I packed a single serving of Ethiopia roast instant coffee in my backpack for our climb, which came in handy on the summit. After two days of climbing, a quick cold coffee gave my partner and I the energy to get down the mountain.
Were there any unexpected challenges on the route?
The terrain was surprisingly difficult. Our packs were too heavy to wear while climbing, so we hauled them for many pitches. We had planned on making it to a small tin hut on the summit for the night, but our slow moving pace left us no choice but to open bivouac 400 feet below the summit at 16,600 feet. Mark Jenkins, my climbing partner - older and wiser, brought a light sleeping bag for this situation. I brought a large trash bag as my sleeping kit, which wasn't nearly as warm. The whole night I wiggled my toes to keep them from freezing. I'm pretty sure I heard Mark snoring perched in his sleeping bag just above me. As the sun rose, I was comfortably warmed by its morning rays. A sea of clouds lay below us. It was a magnificent moment.
What was the piece of gear you packed that totally felt worth it?
I juggled between warmth and weight when packing my bag for the climb. I knew that we needed to be light to climb comfortably, but warm to sleep comfortably if all went wrong. I packed an extra down jacket and down pants which came into good use during our bivouac below the summit. In hindsight, I wish I brought my down booties, because my feet were so cold!
What keeps you going back to climbing mountains?
The relationships I build with myself and my partners while in the mountains is very unique. The mountains and my experiences on them are very special to share. Here we can live a very clear life in the moment, and grow together as we problem solve our way up and down. And of course, the mountains offer so much fun and adventure.