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What special items do expert travellers pack to ease their journeys? In the latest instalment of our series, mountaineer Kenton Cool explains why he never flies without his toy mouse
I never leave home without my little stuffed mouse called Stripey. He has been on almost every expedition, climb and summit with me. I’ve summited Everest 11 times now and Stripey has been up there each time.
In many ways he’s a bit like a security blanket. It doesn’t matter how bad the bivouac is or how cold it is, I can close my eyes and snuggle next to Stripey and he’ll take me back to being a child again.
No one really knows quite where he came from; he appeared in hospital when I was born. I think he is a bit of a good-luck talisman. There have been a couple of occasions that he hasn’t come with me and, while I don’t want to say bad things happened, every time he’s there, things seem to run more smoothly. I’m not a big believer in lucky charms, but when I’m laying out all my equipment, I make sure he’s the first thing that gets packed. In the same way that I’m reticent to change my clothing systems or equipment because I know what works, I know that climbing Everest works with Stripey there.
Stripey doesn’t always leave the rucksack these days as he’s beginning to look a little threadbare but people do raise an eyebrow when I whip him out. He’s gone through a couple of variations of clothing. He’s had red furry salopettes in the past but he’s now got a dinner jacket which was made for my wedding back in 2008, so he braves the cold in that now. Not only is he the world’s foremost mountaineering mouse but he’s the best-dressed one, too.
The weight of equipment can be important on an expedition and I’m quite militant about it — I’ve been known to cut labels out of clothes to save weight. But then I’ll carry this mouse that weighs 537g. He’s the only piece of equipment that hasn’t changed.
This year I’ve got four big expeditions — to South America, Everest, Alaska and then in the autumn to Bhutan. Another goal is to climb an 8,000m mountain in winter, something no Briton has done before. I’d like to try on Manaslu, a 8,163m-high peak in Nepal. I don’t know whether it would be fun but it would be quite exciting. And brutally cold. I think Stripey’s going to need a one-piece down suit.
Kenton Cool is one of the world’s leading high-altitude climbers and Everest guides, and an ambassador for Sherpa Adventure Gear, a clothing manufacturer that helps fund education for Sherpa children. His autobiography ‘One Man’s Everest’ is published by Preface. He was talking to Carl Wilkinson