Thursday, 21 December 2017

What to wear on top of the world

Apologies for the blog silence but I have had an eventful few months lately. I spent most of November having a solo holiday in Nepal, most of October preparing for my adventure and the last few weeks since I've returned dealing with the normal busyness of this time of year!

The highlight of my trip to Nepal was spending 20 days hiking in the Himalayas, trekking to Everest Base Camp via the spectacular glacial Gokyo Lakes. It was incredibly hard work as the terrain is either steeply up or steeply down, the trail is rocky and uneven and of course it's all done at high altitude and in extreme cold. But the scenery of the Himalayas is amazingly beautiful and I had a huge sense of personal achievement, especially on some of the harder parts like ascending Gokyo Ri which is a lesser mountain (5373m peak) and crossing the Cho La Pass which involved climbing up a very steep rocky path to a height of 5545m and then descending on the snowy and icy side.

Gokyo Lakes, Nepal
Coming from Australia it was really difficult to prepare. We don't have any high mountains in Australia - our highest peak Mt Kosciusko is only 2228m which is barely considered a hill in Nepal! So I focused my training on increasing my physical fitness as much as possible. Nor do we get particularly cold weather in Sydney, but I knew it was going to be cold so I made a stack of merino wool tops to wear while I was travelling.

I bought the merino wool from The Fabric Store who have a great range in various weights and colours. I made two tops in a fleece back merino wool to wear as outer layers, and three tops in a lightweight wool to wear as inner layers and wearing these in various combinations depending on how cold it was kept me very warm. Plus despite wearing these for a month without washing they didn't smell or even look dirty at all.

I used McCalls 7261 which is a top with princess seams, raglan sleeves and collar variations that is actually meant for activewear fabrics but the wool had a slight amount of stretch so I figured it would be ok.
I found this pattern to run rather large - I used the correct size for my first version in black wool but it's rather sloppy and has excess fabric under the armpits in particular. I do like how the back dips down because it covers my lower back nicely when sitting down - no cold drafts there!

I also like the lapped neckline even though it's quite bulky and there are numerous layers at the front where the two ends of the collar overlap. It did keep me warm though when popped up which is the main thing!

mountain views, Himalayas Nepal

suspension bridge, Himalayas Nepal

For the next version I used the same fleeceback wool but in grey, and used a size smaller so it would be more fitted and it looks much better while still being big enough to wear over other clothes. For this version I also used my coverstitch machine to stitch along the seam lines, with the bobbin thread on the outer side so it has a real active wear look to it.

Durbar Square Kathmandu

I also made three tops in thinner merino wool using my go to t-shirt pattern Burda 2/2011 #106 to use as lightweight layers. These were fantastic - in Kathmandu I wore them on their own, and up in the mountains I just layered two or three depending on the time of the day and the coldness and they were just perfect.

image via 
One top is in a vibrant green, one in a black and white fine stripe and one in a grey marle which I didn't get a photo of but trust me looks just like the others!

Narrow shopping street in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu

So as you can see from the few photos above, Nepal is a remarkably beautiful country. The city of Kathmandu is still recovering from the earthquake 2 years ago, and the lowlands are still recovering from the damage caused by the monsoon floods and landslides from earlier this year but it is still an amazing place and the people are so friendly. I travelled by myself leaving my husband home looking after the kids for the month - it was my 40th birthday present to myself. I joined an organised group for the trekking part but met lots of locals and other tourists during the times I was on my own - I never felt lonely or unsafe at all. I can highly recommend a trip there if you need some excitement in your life!