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"Should one be shaving on a lengthy high altitude trek?" shall be the question that I'd like to ask to great mountaineers with wisdom in high-altitude mountaineering. If you have observed, there are so many mountaineers who do not prefer (or should I say bother?) to shave during an expedition.

Has it got any scientific or significant reason for they being aberrant, beyond the lethargic approach of being socially good? (Culture is different up there at the mountains)

Of course, a shaving trimmer is a handy instrument to take along, what are the pros and cons of shaving against not shaving, and vice versa?

For example, having a face covered with beard can really keep your jaws from freezing? But, then do we jeopardize the hygiene, as we may not face wash everyday?

P.S.: I am restricting the scope of the question to Facial Hair only.

  • @liam: umm. Okay. I half-heartedly agree, considering the scenarios can be different on a higher ground, but yeah... Seems like getting closed.. – WedaPashi Sep 25 '14 at 12:19
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    Actually, I can think of many mountaineers who are simply bearded (i.e. they don't particularly stop shaving for the expedition, they keep a beard at all times). Incidentally, there are many cultures/regions/times where having a beard is common, “lethargic approach of being socially good” or “jeopardize the hygiene” sounds pretty extreme. There is no reason to assume that beards are wrong in the first place! – Relaxed Sep 25 '14 at 16:37
  • A shaver or trimmer or razor is also extra weight that you have to carry. Ounces add up to pounds, pounds add up to pain. Grams add up to kilos, kilos add up to .... this doesn't work for the metric system :P . – Freiheit Sep 25 '14 at 16:40
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    Having a beard covered with frost is the manliest of mountaineering achievements. In order to achieve this, make sure to stop shaving at least a couple of weeks before you start the expedition. – Ben Crowell Sep 26 '14 at 5:42
  • @BenCrowell: Haha.. Advice neatly taken. I'm personally banked to the same thought. Thanks :-) – WedaPashi Sep 26 '14 at 5:48
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Apart from the practical advantages mentioned in practicality of beards, there's also some aspects that are special to remote and/or high altitude trekking:

Melting snow to obtain water costs a lot of fuel (and time) which makes water quite a valuable good. You don't want to spend 10% or more of your expensively molten water just to pollute it with shaving soap. It is much easier to just let the beard grow and possibly just trim it with scissors if it should get too long, as this does not require water.

Beside that, shaving can irritate your skin. Especially if done with cold or only lukewarm water and possibly with little shaving soap, you are prone to cause a lot of micro-cuts with your razor. Exposing the skin to cold air afterwards won't make the situation any better.

On the other hand: not washing your face for some days and not that thoroughly over some weeks should not lead to serious hygienic issues (unless your skin is somehow sensitive in that way).

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    I would tend to agree. It would seem the primary discouragement is carrying the gear for shaving when weight is at a premium. – Russell Steen Sep 25 '14 at 15:13
  • @BenediktBauer: Good thought Exposing the skin to cold air afterwards won't make the situation any better. Thanks. +1! – WedaPashi Sep 26 '14 at 5:35
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Would have to agree. In the west we have been accused of being overly clean. after a few days you will likely reach some form of equilibrium with the mess. And while I don't recommend going more than a fortnight, its unlikely to be too much of a concern. Also it gives that first shower and shave after the trip an extra special "return to normal" feeling.

Besides, whom are you likely to meet that you want to impress on a slope? yetis? bears? they are into the furry face look.

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As a beard wearer for many years (though not for ever) I would recommend not shaving. The practical benefits of not having to wet shave when water and energy are at a premium, let alone the logistics of carrying batteries for your trimmer are pretty obvious. The hygiene risk is actually slightly lower as you are not putting a sharp but not necessarily clean edge against your skin in less than ideal conditions.

However, beards are not for everyone. Do not wait until you are out in the wilds to find out that you are one of the unfortunates. Grow it at home and become comfortable with it. You do not have to go "wild man" if you don't want to and with a little practice, you can easily keep it neat and trimmed with nothing more then the nail scissors on your multi-knife.

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