Rosemary Saal is an outdoor enthusiast, educator, and Seattle transplant currently living in Tucson, AZ. Growing up in Seattle, she was constantly surrounded by the many mountains of the Pacific Northwest. While she began a thrilling yet sporadic journey of learning to ski at a young age, she couldn’t begin to imagine the many possibilities that existed in the mountains beyond a chairlift. At the age of 12, she took her first rock climbing course with Passages Northwest (now GOLD with the YMCA), and learned the ropes of scaling walls outdoors.
She later joined Full Circle Everest and in 2022 they became the first all-black expedition to climb Everest. We ask her some burning question like what is haircare like at 29,000ft?
1. As I woman of colour how did you get into this industry?
I was fortunate to enter this industry first via a simple joy in running around and climbing trees that em was encouraged by family, then officially via community led programs in Seattle, where I grew up - particularly a program formerly called Passages NW (now referred to as GOLD- Girls Outdoor Leadership Development).
This was an incredible program that made the outdoors accessible for young women and girls in the Seattle area and beyond, and who reflected their diverse student body with diverse staff and instructors as well.
2. What are the support challenges you and the team face when planning such an assault?
A climb like this one is a huge undertaking. Thankfully, the overwhelming public response to the expedition was that of encouragement and support. The trickiest part of preparation was the financial aspect - fundraising and sponsorship was certainly a process to build
3. How to do look after your hair on an expedition if at all?
Hair care is so important, even in the mountains! When on an expedition, I usually keep my hair in braids to keep it protected and to minimize tangles. Due to the full-on nature of many climbing environments, I may not be able to tend to my hair every day, but would still make time to rebraid/finger comb every few days. I also usually pack a wide-tooth comb to detangle and probs a lil conditioning or oil spray to keep my curls moisturized. If I’m able to use water from a river or stream to rinse and moisturize as well, even better!
4. Does the altitude affect your hair and how?
For me, the altitude itself didn’t affect my hair too much that I noticed, however the circumstances surrounding that environment did. Once higher up, particularly in Everest, most climbers begin to wear supplemental oxygen masks, plus with the temperature changes I was bundled up more consistently, so my hair wasn’t exposed to the environment as often. Even when it was exposed, I didn’t feel any significant differences!
5. Is haircare and personal care an issue on an expedition and if so how?
I wouldn’t say issue as much as I would say something to think about and plan for. It can be tricky to balance having the right hair, skin, and body care products with keeping your pack light and not bringing too many extra items.
Still, personally, it’s important to me to make time for my backcountry self-care routine while on expedition. In addition to simple conditioner to keep my curls moisturized, I would also bring a simple skin-care routine! Especially important to me when in drier and colder environments. While I may not be able to complete a full self care every day and night, I still make a point to create time for it - it feels wonderful and grounding to incorporate those routines I use at home while in a far and potentially remote place. Who says you need to give up self care to go on an adventure?
6. What are your future expedition plans and how can we support you?
Future expedition plans for me include just getting after it with friends and continuing to cultivate my relationship with wild spaces! A way to support any expedition plans of mine would be to pursue your own adventures as well. What’s your personal Everest?
You can support Full Circle Everest via their support page at https://www.fullcircle-expeditions.com/
Full Circle Everest/Amrit Ale