My parents wanted me to become a doctor. But they made the grave mistake of taking our family on outdoor hiking trips in England (where I was born) and the US (where I was raised). The climbing bug took hold early, but it didn’t become a career path until my college days at Georgetown University. There I joined a climbing club, became mentored by one of the best in the field and soon found myself in a position to lead climbing expeditions around the world.
Before long, I was climbing some of the tallest and most challenging peaks on the planet. It was fun and exhilarating and best of all, I was getting paid. I’ve summited Mount Everest 7 times, including once without the use of supplemental oxygen, a goal I’d had since boyhood when I read about the earliest Everest climbing expeditions.
In fact we ended up looking so unkempt, when we got back stateside Men’s Journal insisted on taking us to a fashionable Brooklyn hair stylist to get cleaned up for our post expedition press junket. We both appreciated feeling human again, and it just goes to show how important it is to look your best when you’re being put in front of the public eye.
When summiting the tallest peak in the world, it’s a massive struggle just to survive the elements, so regrettably looking your best sometimes needs to take a back seat. In fact, my climbing partner Cory Richards and I came up with a unique hashtag to accompany some of our less-than-glamorous Snapchat pictures: #HairByEverest. We tagged a lot of our social media posts with that hashtag because the wind would wreak havoc on our unwashed hair. Our broadcast friends back at the CBS Morning Show, who were following our climb, got a real kick keeping up with our somewhat deranged hair styles and #HairByEverest became its own thing.
While it’s fun to make light of our looks, skincare especially is critically important when you’re climbing to such extremes. While wind and sun are number one enemy, the sub-zero temperatures can also damage exposed extremities, quickly. Frost bite is no joke, and a very bad look!
Aside from covering up as much as possible, I use Kiehl’s Super Fluid Daily UV Defense at base camp, which is specially formulated to protect my skin from the extreme weather conditions. Many people don’t realize that boiling water at high altitudes takes hours, not minutes, so following a daily face-wash routine is next to impossible, and you can forget about washing your hair.
Back home, I’m the CEO of the expedition company I founded, as well as a public speaker, and the occasional media star, so it’s important to keep my rugged looks in presentable shape. Off the mountain, I take measures to treat my skin and hair with care.
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Adrian Ballinger is a climber, skier, business leader, and professional speaker. He is a certified IFMGA/AMGA mountain guide and as founder and head guide of the internationally acclaimed Alpenglow Expeditions, he has led over 100 international climbing expeditions on 6 continents.