Packing Lists, Contact Lenses & Lasik – Packing Tips from a One Eyed Climber

I went on another one night/one day climbing/shopping trip to the 5.10 Outlet and Joshua Tree National Park last Friday – Saturday.

Deciding to go on the trip was last minute.  I had work I wanted to get done so I didn’t truly decide I was going to go with my friend until late Thursday night/Friday morning. Packing wasn’t done until hours before departure and it was more haphazard than usual because I had rearranged my camping stuff in order to do a practice pack for an upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Of course, I ended up without a few key things.

Mainly I did not pack a back up set of contact lenses (there is usually a pair in my car camping ziplock bag of toiletries but I had cleaned that out). I also did not pack my eyeglasses.

And I forgot my SLR camera because I had just gotten a new camera bag in preparation for the CR trip and I forgot to repack my camera body into my regular climbing/photo bag. I had my desired lens in there though. Ha, some photographer I am eh?

This packing fiasco was a lesson to me that even when I feel comfortable doing car camping trips, a list is still a great thing to have, even if it’s just for an overnighter.

In fact, I should’ve used fellow climber, Sudarkoff’s  ingenious and customizable packing list generator. His tool is

Pack Whiz List Generator

Pack Whiz List Generator

great because you can choose different travel variables such as domestic or international travel, weather conditions, activities you plan on doing, etc. Once you do that it generates a list of suggested items for you. You can then customize the list to your liking. Furthermore, you can choose to share your check list with others. I immediately saw the value in Pack Whiz for making a list for Costa Rica (my first international trip in a while)  but I overlooked the usefulness in just having a list for an overnight camping trip as well.

So what was the outcome of my trip?

All went well Friday. My friend picked me up late in the day and then we went to REI where we both picked up needed items, then went to the 5.10 outlet where I found a great deal on some Savants, amphibious hikers which I think will be perfect for Costa Rica waterfall hikes and for hot weather hiking in general.

Early Saturday morning is when the trouble began. Upon waking up for one of those oh-so-convenient predawn bathroom runs I noticed my right eye wasn’t clearing up from its bleary state as fast as my left.

Soon I realized my lens for that eye had either fallen out completely or moved off of my iris and was caught maybe in the side of my eye. I wear extended wear disposable lenses and have for years. I have not had one just fall out while sleeping before, usually it’s because of eye rubbing or water splashing, etc. This was my first time trying a new brand though and this new brand felt so comfortable I thought there was a possibility that the lens could be in the side, top or bottom of my eye and I was just not feeling it.

I searched my tent in the light of my headlamp while waiting for dawn and when when I heard my friend moving about in his truck to ask him if he could see a lens in my eye. He thought he did but after a minute of me trying to get at it we concluded that he was mistaken. From experience I know that even if I had found my lens by then it would be a brittle, possibly cracked mess which would not do me much good.

That left me with one good eye and one extremely blurry eye with -8.0 vision. -8.0 vision roughly means that I can hold my hand about 5 inches away from my eye and it looks reasonably clear, anything beyond that and things go from very blurry to, “Ooh look at the pretty color blobs!” This also meant that a headache might be imminent and the loss of binocular vision and thus depth perception was immediate.

I had volunteered to do some rope gunning for a group of climbers which included beginners but instead I just followed climbs all day, sometimes being the person in the middle and doing the clip/reclip thing or tailing a rope, but still not helping out in the lead climber / follower ratio.

It was still a fun day though. Despite getting a headache after following up Double Cross which went away after I consumed a lot of water, I didn’t get a headache the rest of the day. I spent some of the day partially covering my bad eye with my hat or just closing it so I think that helped.

As for the climbing, most of the climbs were ones I had done before so I was fine not being able to see on one side of my face. However, I was on the small edge/friction part of a 10c I had never done before which I felt was made much harder because of the depth perception loss , “Gee is that an indention in the rock or a flat colored spot?” and because I was constantly trying to turn my head around so I could see with my good eye. I ended up not finishing the route. I did end up cleaning on Toe Jam twice with no problem, however it’s a route I’ve led before so I was familiar with it. All in all I just enjoyed making new friends and overcoming my one-eyed disability.

The hardest part in regards to my uneven eyes was probably just scrambling, when the lighting on the rock left no shadows it was sometime hard to tell how steep the slope was. My new Savant shoes performed wonderfully, by the way, they have a bit of C4 Stealth near the toe.

My boyfriend used to say something like “Adversity is good for you” or maybe it was “Adversity is fun”. I think he was sometimes joking when he talked about it, but I think I know what he was getting at, a little adversity can add some spice and help prepare you for new challenges.  So on a trip where I was only going to get one full day of climbing in – and then I find that on that one day I am faced with a handicap, I just said to myself, “I’m going to make the most of it and be the One Eyed, Pig tailed, Pirate Climber. Yarr!”


I’ve been wanting to get eye surgery done for years now. Obviously if I had had it done before this trip I wouldn’t have needed to pack back up contact lenses or bring my prescription eyeglasses.

When I first heard about eye surgery, it seemed radial keratotomy was the only option, and it seemed to have draw backs that made me wary. For one, I heard that it did not do well at altitude. I’m not sure if that means Everest altitude or just any altitude above 10K (which is when altitude sickness becomes a possibility).  I also heard that color perception might be affected, graphic design is my primary job, so that concerned me more than it would the average person.

Well it seems Lasik eye surgery has advanced and proven itself for a long time now,  so finances willing I hope to get surgery in 2010 or perhaps 2011. I’ve talked to one climber who had it done who had to have a follow up operation, he said it was painful though his eyesight ended up being great and still is great years later. I will not be going to his doctor.  Others I’ve talked to (some climbers, most not)  seem to have no problems, though at least two of them have mentioned seeing slight night halos. If anyone would like to share their experience with Lasik and an outdoor life, please share!

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  • nsmonkeygirl

    I'm curious, do you have 2 followers? I ask because I'm starting trad climbing with 2 climbing partners and we're trying to figure out how to do this with 3 of us.

  • Climbing with 2 Followers?
    I've handled it two different ways. One, the leader goes up, the second person goes up but has a tail rope. The second then unclips climbing rope from gear like normal and generally leaves gear in (but can clean it if it makes it easier for the third climber and is not a necessary rope redirect piece). Then the second clips in the tail rope through the gear, as if they were leading. At the belay the tailed rope is then put through the anchor system and the third is then belayed up.

    The second way, is that the second climber ties into the middle of the rope. We did this on Toe Jam as it was a short enough climb for a 70m rope. The second unclips the rope from gear and then clips in the trailing length of rope. The third climber's experience is then just like a normal cleaning of a trad route.

    I've also done that on a climb where the second and third person simul-climbed. That's a more advanced method with the second climber tied into the middle of a rope. Ideally the second and third climbers should move at the same climbing pace. Tthe third climber could potentially short rope the second if they don't move up fast enough, and on the other hand the third climber could have a dangerous amount of slack if they catch up to the second climber. I've only done that on very easy pitches, we're talking 4 grades below the normal level of the climbers involved, with the weakest climber being in the middle.

    In both situations you want to judge whether or not a climb's features might eat your rope. Being a second with a stuck tail would be no fun.

  • grace c

    On my first multi-pitch trad climb, I was one of two followers – the leader simply led with two ropes, and each rope was clipped into most of the pieces of pro. If I was the second, I unclipped my rope from the gear; if I was the third, I cleaned. It meant we didn't face any of the simul-climbing issues, but your rope management needs to be *excellent*!

  • So did the leader then simul belay both of you? Or did you still go up one at a time after that?

    I've been on a simul-belay once I think (again an easy pitch).

  • My bf and I do this a lot whenever we bring one of our friends on a multipitch. The best way to go is lead with doubles (saving some weight for the leader) and have one person follow on each double. I guess if you're worried about safety then you could lead on two single ropes.

    To belay you should have a reverso or similar belay device that allows you to top belay two people at the same time and it theoretically autolocks each person (but still good to hold on to the break). Both climbers can then climb at the same time (much faster than one at a time) and each clean the gear on their respective ropes. To manage the rope, the leader has two leashes to the anchor (i.e. daisy chain and a clove hitch with a lead rope) and then lap coil one rope on each leash.

    It's complicated if you've never done it before, but once you get the hang of it, it's super efficient.

  • Aha, here is another case for double ropes! I supposed I should try to get used to them, as the system seems to have many advantages.

    The 3 person multi-pitch scenario is uncommon for me these days but it does sound like the way to go if everyone in your party is up for it — and you have good rope management skills of course.

  • grace c

    We went up one at a time – yes, it was a bit time-consuming (but i got to enjoy great views)…

  • Yeah, I'm a firm believer in enjoying the view during multi-pitch trad!