- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Gabriel Barral
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Anne Gilbert Chase
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Cody Doolan
- Paul Edgren
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- Josh Gautreau
- Thomas Greene
- Casey Grom
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Tim Hardin
- Mike Haugen
- Bryan Hendrick
- Andy Hildebrand
- Mike Hinckley
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- J.J. Justman
- Levi Kepsel
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Katy Laveck
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Andres Marin
- Jeff Martin
- Robert Montague
- Erik Nelson
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Logan Randolph
- Tyler Reid
- Dave Reynolds
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Shaun Sears
- Garrett Stevens
- Jason Thompson
- Mike Tomlinson
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Maile Wade
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Bryson Williams
- Dan Windham
- Robby Young
Posts from 01/2011
Saludos de Ecuador,
Our team hiked to the climbing hut on the Illiniza volcanoes today. The weather treated us well and afforded us great views of Cotopaxi and the Illinizas, north and south. The hike was enjoyable and everyone is feeling great. Right now we’re relaxing at the climbers’ hut, drinking tea and chewing the fat. Tomorrow morning we’ll get an early start and climb the ‘normal route’ on Illiniza Norte, which has some sections of 3rd class scrambling. Then we will descend the ‘scree route’ and continue on to our waiting vehicles. I’ll check in again tomorrow evening when we’re at the hacienda, Chilcabamba.
RMI Guide Mike Walter and crew
We spent our team’s first full day in Ecuador climbing Rucu Pichincha, an extinct ~15,500 foot volcano just west of Quito. The approach to this climb is via a gondola that took us to ~13,500’, on the flanks of Rucu. Hiking for a couple hours put us up by the summit ridge. The weather was good—cloudy but dry and just cool enough to be comfortable for climbing. A few hundred feet of 3rd class scrambling got us to the summit. Any easy scramble back down and a relaxing hike back to the gondola wrapped up our first acclimatization climb.
After a nice dinner at the Magic Bean restaurant, we all retired to our rooms to rest and pack for the next leg of our trip: climbing Iliniza Norte. Everyone is doing well, and we’ll check back in tomorrow evening.
What do you do in Antarctica when you want to kill time? you eat, sleep, read, play games, write in your journal and…. do first ascents. Not a bad program, isn’t it?
After a great breakfast of french toasts and beautiful lunch, I headed out with Nick, Victor’s client, to do one more line on the north face of Mount Russman. It takes about 30mins down the now well travelled ski track to the base of the face. There, we trade skis for crampons and poles for ice aces. Victor followed behind with the Union Glacier camp head chef, Gavin.
Today’s line was a mix of steep snow and steeper ice with wild mushroom formations stacked on top of each other. The climbing was smooth and we moved quickly through this untouched terrain. As we neared the top, huge cornices were towering overhead and the terrain was steeper than what it had seemed like from the bottom. We topped out 2hours after leaving our skis. We radioed in to camp to notify them of our success on the route and to let them know that we were headed straight back to camp. It’s requirement and we need to communicate with camp on a regular basis while out in the field.
This was Gavin’s first first ascent, just like it had been for Richard Parks a few days ago. So, he got to name the route. He offered a few names, but the one that stuck with “Route du Jour”. It was a perfect fit for a chef and also because this is realy what it is like: we wake up in the morning and wonder which route is going to get plummed that day, much like a chef decides on what menu he is going to prepare.
We just got news that we are likely not flying tomorrow night. So, there might be more “Route du Jour” to come!
We are back at Basecamp!
The group woke early to sunny skies, and some small snow drifts at 19,600’. A quick breakfast and time to break camp and pack, and we were on our way downhill. The group moved very well, and just under 5 hours later we were walking into Basecamp ahead of some weather that was chasing us. While we sat in the cook tent drinking tea and coffee, the skies opened with snow and gusty winds.
We have just finished an incredible dinner of Argentine steak and Malbec (at 14000 ft!). The group is well fed, happy for the thicker air, and headed to bed. Tomorrow, our packs again get lighter as the mules give us a hand with our loads. We will walk to our first camp (Pampa de Leñas) for a barbecue and sleep, before a last few hours to the trailhead, and transport to Mendoza! We’ll be in touch tomorrow. Thanks for reading,
RMI Guide Gabriel Barral and Team
The team did a great job, not just on the climb to the summit, but also on the descent back to high camp.
Now everybody is very tired, but I think that after a big portion of Ramen the stoke meter will mark a 11! (It’s one bigger isn’t?!)
This is the RMI Aconcagua Expedition checking in from Camp 3 after a successful ascent to the top of Aconcagua (22841’-6962m)
A beautiful dark blue sky, lots of stars forming constellations such as the Cruz del Sur (southern cross) and a magnificent full moon were the kick off of our climb at 5:30am. The weather during the first 6 hours of our ascent was extremely good, no wind and temperatures on the sunny slopes were more than comfortable.
Once we started the final part of the ascent (the Canaleta) clouds moved in, but the temperatures kept getting warmer.
Unfortunately at the moment of our arrival on the summit it became covered by clouds, and we did not have the chance of enjoy the awesome 360 degrees view of the Andes, but this didn’t stop the group from having the opportunity to let our emotions get out and celebrate.
We will check in tomorrow from the comfort of Base Camp Plaza Argentina.
Thanks to everybody out there for following our progress on the mountain and for sending all those kind messages.
Gabi and the RMI Aconcagua Expedition.
Two nights ago, when I sent my last dispatch, we were all a bit deflated, having been told we’d most likely be sitting here at Union in bad weather for 4 more days. To our surprise, though, yesterday morning brought brilliant blue skies and the possibility of an Ilyushin flight in the evening.
As the day went on, it was clear the Ilyushin would be coming to take one load of passengers out to Punta Arenas. Included in that first flight would be Ed, Cindy, David, and Ben. The rest of us - Peter, Seth, Caroline, Kent, and I - would be on the next flight.
With ample sun and stunning peaks waiting outside camp, there was little option but to go climbing…for those of us not packing. Mount Rossman, a towering massif of snowy ridges and rocky buttresses, had lured many already with it’s siren song. Unclimbed until last year, nearly every couloir and ridge on the multi-summit peak had seen a first ascent in the past 10 days. Caroline went off with Vic Saunders and some others for one of the few remaining unclimbed lines on the right side of the peak. Soon after, Seth blasted uphill, skis on his back, to make turns off the summit. Kent and I, after finishing up some production work, decided on another unclimbed line, a nice looking couloir climbing some 1500 feet up the peak.
For me, the joy of doing a first ascent, of setting the first tracks on a given route or peak, is not to be able to brag about it, but rather just the sheer adventure
of it, for you have no idea what lies ahead. Sure, Kent and I looked at the route from camp, saw that it looked continuous and snowy the whole way, and seemed to be steep enough to be fun, but not too steep. But, you never know. Would the snow be good? How about the rock quality where it seemed to pinch closed 1/2 way up? Ice screws? Pickets? Would there be the bullet-proof, blue ice we’d seen elsewhere, or just easy-going neve? While those questions could be intimidating, swirling in the back of the mind, they are, to me, the part that gets me going. It’s the lack of knowledge, the feeling of some vestige of “true” adventure, which makes such an outing enticing.
In the end, Kent and I found a beautiful, aesthetic line following generally good snow up a 40-55 degree couloir for 1500 feet. The rope and gear we brought stayed in my pack, neither of us feeling the need for it with such good conditions. It was just fun climbing, some shooting by both of us, and an immensely enjoyable few hours on a new route on Mount Rossman. We called it “Ilyushin Fields” after the plane which, as we descended, dropped through a curtain of ice fog onto a blue ice runway, loaded 62 passengers, and swept them off to Punta.
Soon, we hope, we, too, will be in the air from Antarctica over the Drake Passage. But, if not, while some 20 first ascents have been ticked off around here in the past 2 weeks, there are still a lot of firsts left to do around Union Glacier. We won’t be bored.
This is day 6 at Union Glacier. The weather is stellar, not a cloud in the sky, the first plane out to Punta Arenas flew out last night and we just found out that we won’t fly tonight because the Punta Arenas airport is out of….fuel! Hard to believe, but so it goes. People are chomping at the bit to fly out but I really can’t complain. My time at and around Union Glacier has been really amazing. I have done three new routes in the past three days on Mount Russman. One was an easy but steep snow couloir to the summit of Mount Russman (1428m). I left camp after breakfast in a full on white out, cold temperatures and snowy weather, but after missing out on climbing a new peak the day before with Seth and Jake, I wanted to climb no matter what. We - Gordon and Simon (two British Army men we had met on Vinson) and I - skied the flat 3kms to the backside of Mount Russman roped up and left our skis at the base of the face. We couldn’t see the peak but decide for a couloir and made it to the top. I wish I could have seen camp 3000 feet below but the clouds prevented us from enjoying the view. Yet, it was a beautiful day just for being on the summit of the most obvious and closest peak to camp.
Yesterday, we woke up to beautiful blue skies and warmer temperatures. Victor - my friend I did that first ascent with the first day at Union - was going up his 10th first ascent in two weeks and asked me if I would join him and guide Richard Parks, a famous British retired rugbyman who is trying to climb the seven summits and two poles in seven months. From camp, Mount Russman offers a plethora of steep snow and mixed lines and lots of the first ascents have gone down in the past two weeks, but there were still a few lines to plum. We headed for a V shaped line, which offered up to 65-degree snow and ice. It was Richard’s first first ascent and I was so excited to guide him up it. He got to pick the route name: Gratitude. A beautiful name which describes perfectly how I also felt about climbing yet another new route in Antarctica and getting to be here all together with a great team and getting to hang out with amazing people. While I was climbing, Jake and Kent were also doing a first ascent on the same face and Seth skied from the summit, putting amazing tracks down the face, visible from camp.
It was colder this morning and when Victor, his client Nick and I headed for what could be our last climb here, we weren’t sure we should start up the climb in such polar temperatures. As soon as the wind died, it was warm again and we made quick progress up the 300 meters of snow and ice to the start of the route. There, the route switches from rock to ice and back to rock and is the only line angling left across the steep north facing wall (read south facing in the northern hemisphere). The rock was of poor quality but the line was so nice: I only wished I had more of these readily accessible lines in my backyard. We named it Diagon Alley, which coincided with finishing my audiobook, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We headed back down to camp hoping for the news that we would fly out. Hopefully we will fly tomorrow. Otherwise, there are many other lines awaiting first ascents to keep us busy for another few days.
This is Gabi and the RMI Aconcagua expedition checking in from Camp 3 (19600’).
This morning we started at Camp 2 with an early breakfast. We started our ascent at 10:20 am and after 3 hours and 20 minutes of hard work we arrived at our high camp.
The weather this morning was awesome, no wind and warm temperatures (well, as warm as it could get at 18,000’). During the ascent clouds moved in and a cold breeze cooled us. At our arrival to Camp 3 a little bit of weather added some spice to our day. It snowed half a inch, but for a good 15 minutes it looked like it was going to keep snowing all night.
Current conditions are better. It is still cloudy, but it has stopped snowing and it looks like we are going to have a clear night. Our plan is to wake up early tomorrow morning (sometime between 3 and 5 am) and we will check the weather. If the weather is as the forecast is calling, we’ll have breakfast and start our summit attempt !
Everybody is very excited for tomorrow and the stokemeter is very high (8) at Camp 3!
We’ll be in touch tomorrow.
RMI Guide Gabriel Barral and the Aconcagua expedition
Sometimes things work well, efficiently, smooth as silk. And, sometimes, well, one hits a few speed bumps. We’re in the speed bump zone.
Yesterday, we had high hopes that the weather would clear tomorrow, allowing the Ilyushin - with its new fuel pump - to cross the Drake Passage and drop onto the blue-ice runway to shuttle us all back to Punta. But, weather is indeed a fickle element, and generally prefers to surprise rather than be predictable. To the surprise of some 100 people here now at Union - clients and staff alike - the forecast today is for 4 more days of bad weather, unflyable.
So, we’re stuck. It snowed all day today, with a low, grey ceiling of cloud, and will most likely do it again tomorrow. Some people have been waiting for a flight out for 2 weeks. ALE is doing everything they can, but the weather is out of even their control. So, we sit. We wait. We play cards, we laugh, we go out for a climb, a ski, something to pass the time and keep our minds off loved ones and family far, far away. It could be worse, much worse, so there are no complaints.
We all appreciate you’re tuning in these last few weeks and following along with our little adventure. I thought I’d leave you now with one of my favorite quotes from a hero of mine, and a figure of Eddie Bauer history and lore: Dr. Charlie Houston. Leader of the 1953 American expedition to K2, Houston and team had an epic op the peak. The barely survived, and one member, Art Gilkey, sadly perished on the peak.
Later, Houston reflected on the climb in his book, “K2: The Savage Mountain”, and wrote thus of climbing:
“Why climb mountains? The answer cannot be simple. It is compounded of such elements as the great beauty of clear, cold air, of colors beyond the ordinary, of the lure of unknown regions beyond the rim of experience. The pleasure of physical fitness, the pride of conquering a steep and difficult rock, the thrill of danger controlled by skill…How can I phrase what seems to me the most important reason of all? It is the chance to be briefly free of the small concerns of our common lives, to strip off non-essentials, to come down to the core of life itself. On great mountains, all purpose is concentrated on the single job at hand. Yet the summit is but a token of success. And the attempt is worthy in itself. It is for these reasons that we climb. And in climbing, we find something greater than accomplishment.”
Again, thank you all for following along. Happy adventures, and a deep Namaste from the far south.
Peter Whittaker wraps up the RMI Vinson Expedition
We are enjoying a beautiful bluebird rest day here in the comfort of our second camp high on Aconcagua, after yesterday’s trip to Campo Colera at 19,600’. The temperatures have warmed up and the winds have died down, so we are all just refueling and getting mentally prepared for the upcoming push to our highest camp and the summit. For a change of pace, we’re going to have each team member share some thoughts today. Without further ado:
Sid: rest days are probably the toughest days, though given the push ahead it is welcome. Hello to all and thanks for your thoughts, they make a difference.
Keith: VERY tough mountain so far, but Gabi, Garrett and Pete have made it do-able and tolerable so far. Hi to fam and friends!
Erin: it’s been a difficult climb with high winds, but I am feeling well despite a brief battle with dehydration yesterday. Looking forward to coming home to family and friends, see you all soon!
Todd: Looking forward to the summit! Kili ain’t got nothing on Aconcagua…go market go!!
Dan M.: Awesome team, great climb and scenery. Send more TP. O-H!
John: Greetings family and friends, looking forward to the summit attempt. This is a beautiful, awesome and challenging mountain. As in Psalm 19, “The heavens and earth speak forth His glory”.
Michael: It’s all I expected physically and with beauty. Love to Lois and my girls, miss you all.
Lisa: Tom, miss you every day. Would love for you to be here. Sheri, your sleeping bag is working perfect.
Garrett: Great climb with great people in a spectacular place! Amy, I love you and miss you. See you soon!
Pete: The Andes have been showing us their spectacular side! Katie, love you, miss you, and talk soon!
Gabi: Having a great time, enjoying the time shared with the team members and my friends Pete and Garrett.
Ceci: te amo, nos vemos pronto por Buenos Aires!
Thanks to everybody out there for following our progress and sending all those positive wishes.
The RMI Aconcagua expedition
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