South African outdoor technical brand K-Way has designed and manufactured bespoke climbing suits that will enable a four-women team to withstand the arduous weather conditions and terrain of Everest, in the Himalayas.
The South African women will attempt to summit the world’s highest mountain during March and April.
“I am excited about this opportunity to take the K-Way brand to the top of the world and showcase what South Africans can achieve,” says K-Way technical product developer Stephen Hector, who oversaw the manufacture of the down suits.
With more than 35 years’ experience in the industry, he has been spearheading the design of Cape Union Mart’s K-Way brand for more than nine years.
Hector says he is honoured to be part of the team to develop the down suits that will help protect these female adventurers on their expedition, adding that “every single person who was involved was invaluable”.
The suits, which were designed, developed and manufactured in four weeks, were built at the K-Way factory in Ottery, Cape Town, to highly specialised specifications, while being tailored exactly to the bodies of the mountaineers.
“Understanding how tough this expedition truly is played a massive role in the design of the suits. Comfort is paramount, so we put much effort into ensuring that the measurements of each climber’s suit were absolutely perfect,” says Hector, noting that, of the six fabrics used in the suits' construction, five are imported and one is sourced locally.
The suits’ outer fabric is Pertex Endurance, which provides high abrasion resistance and significant weather protection, as it is waterproof to 1 000 mm, completely windproof and highly water resistant. The designers have used 850 fill-power goose down, with the average fill per suit just exceeding 1 kg. The total weight of each suit averages 2.7 kg.
Hector adds that care has been put into eliminating cold spots while constructing a labyrinth of 86 stabilised, hand-filled goose down chambers.
“The design had to ensure there are no cold spots and that each segment operates like a box - a carefully calculated box. If you put too much down into one segment, the area will attract dead air and if you put too little down, you will get a cold spot.”
From enhanced mobility and insulated pockets to innovative zip designs, he says nothing was left to chance.
“The last thing the climbers need is a failing zip at the wrong time, many thousands of metres above sea level.
“The gear is made to the highest quality and standard, as it must perform at an optimal level to enable the adventurers to push their bodies to the limit, while remaining protected from the elements.”
Hector says the down used in these suits “is the Rolls Royce of down”.
“Lower fill-power down is heavier because you need to use more, whereas we used high-end down to ensure the suits are as light as possible, yet capable of keeping the adventurers warm.”
Hector highlights that equipment is often taken for granted, but stresses that when climbing a high-altitude mountain, chances or shortcuts cannot be taken.
“Your equipment must be 100%, from your boots to your helmet,” says Hector.