Posts for Guide News

Expedition Tajikistan: A Ski Traverse of the Fedchenko Glacier

Posted by: Zeb Blais | August 20, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Guide Grant

This spring I teamed up with an international crew of ski mountaineers to traverse Tajikistan’s Fedchenko Glacier.  Before the expedition, I had hardly heard of Tajikistan and certainly had never dreamed of crossing one of the longest glaciers outside of the Polar Regions.  When the opportunity arose, I couldn’t say no. A high mountain adventure to a central Asian country on the northern border of Afghanistan wasn’t something my sense of adventure would just let me walk away from.

Map of Tajikistan (RMI Collection)

The trip came to life three years ago when three Canadian skiers hatched the idea and began the logistics.  I was brought on because the team wanted two more experienced ski mountaineers for the remote and relatively unexplored zone of the Pamir mountain range.

Having traveled in developing countries before, I knew that I not only wanted to travel, climb and ski in this remote range, but to give back to the mountain communities that would help inevitably help us on our adventure along the way.  As I packed my gear for the trip I noticed how much great warm clothing I had to choose from and I realized that I didn’t even use half of it anymore.  This was it!  I could get people to donate the winter clothing they hadn’t used in years and put it to good use in a country where access to technical apparel was slim to nil.  I began a clothing drive and between me and my teammates Holly Walker, Emelie Stenberg, Vince Shuley and Selena Cordeau, we were able to collect and give 350 pounds of clothing to give to the Tajik people who needed the clothes far more than we did.

The good vibes from the clothing drive started our trip on a positive note - which was good, because it was a long, hard trip.  We planned on one week for getting on and off the tributary glaciers to get to and from the Fedchenko.  It ended up taking us thirteen days, nearly twice as long.  We planned on setting up three basecamps and skiing 6000m peaks for two weeks; we were tent bound for six of those days due to weather.  On top of all that, the snowpack was just about as unstable as it could get.  This greatly limited what we were able to climb and ski.

Zeb Blais on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

The team at camp on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Despite the hard work and frustrating snowpack, we had an amazing trip.  Massive valleys, towering peaks like Peak Ismoil Somoni (formerly Peak Communism) and Independence Peak (Peak Revolution) and miles of ice surrounded us in a grand scale.  We were in a place that few people had been before and completely isolated except for our DeLorme InReach two way satellite texting device.  It was humbling and inspiring.

We met our goal of traversing the Fedchenko from our starting point in a town called Poy Mazor to its head and descended out the beautiful and rugged Tanimas Valley.  Due to the exploratory nature of this trip and having little information about our exit, we left ourselves a few extra days before we would all have to fly home. 

Camp on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Traversing the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Skiing above the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Our extra days were spent regaining some of the pounds we lost during the expedition eating fresh tandoor bread, kebabs and local apricots and cherries.  People greeted us everywhere and invited us to share bread and tea with them even if they couldn’t speak a word of English (and we could only muster hello and thank you in Tajik).

The team left Tajikistan with a good taste in our mouths in more ways than one. We explored and lived in a high mountain range for 29 days, were exposed to the kind and generous culture of the Tajik, Pamir and Afghan people and came home safe!

Thanks to the Eddie Bauer/ RMI Guide grant for assisting me in this amazing pursuit.  The lessons I learned on this trip will forever shape my decision making and goals in the mountains.  Until next time…

Zeb Blais is a Senior Guide at RMI. He has climbed and skied mountains throughout North America. When he is not guiding, Zeb teaches avalanche courses and ski patrols at Squaw Valley in California. His spare time usually doesn’t save his feet from ski boots.

Traversing the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais) The team at camp on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

RMI Guide Lindsay Mann Completes Level 3 Avalanche Course

Posted by: Lindsay Mann | August 15, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Guide Grant

With support from the Eddie Bauer - RMI Guide Grant, RMI Guide Lindsay Mann took part in an American Avalanche Institute Level 3 Avalanche Course this winter in Jackson, Wyoming. Afterward, Lindsay sat down to reflect on the course.

Snow pit instruction (Lindsay Mann)

This past January I participated in an American Avalanche Institute Level 3 Course in Jackson, Wyoming. A Level 3 Avi Course entails a great deal of prep work as participants need to complete snow observations, make numerous snow pit profiles, and spend ample experience traveling and making decisions in avalanche terrain before the course even begins. After several days of classroom and field learning, the course concluded with several testing components. These test involved completing a full data snow pit in under an hour, finding three buried avalanche beacons in less than seven minutes, and completing a written test.

Recent avalance debris (Lindsay Mann)

The conditions for our course were ideal for learning. Midway through the course a major storm cycle came through the area, resulting in rapidly changing conditions within the snowpack that had a wide array of implications on avalanche risk. While the class focused on the technical aspects of snow crystal identification and anticipating the array of components that contribute to avalanche forecasting, we were also able to enjoy some great skiing between the times we spent observing and forecasting the rapidly changing snowpack.

Lindsay skiing during the course (Lindsay Mann).

I walked away from the course with a sense of accomplishment, as this is the highest-level avalanche education course available in the U.S., and a greater understanding for mechanics of avalanches and and avalanche forecasting. The complexities of avalanches are remarkable and this course was invaluable in contributing to the toolbox of skills upon which I rely for decision making in the mountains and in avalanche terrain.

Lindsay Mann is a Senior Guide at RMI Expeditions and a NCAA D1 Skiing Champion. She has climbed and guided around the world, from Peru to Alaska. Learn more about Lindsay and see her upcoming trips here…

Snow pit instruction during the course (Lindsay Mann). Lindsay skiing during the course (Lindsay Mann).

Father’s Day Video: the Kilimanjaro Family Climb

Posted by: | June 13, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Kilimanjaro

Happy Father's Day! Peter Whittaker and his daughter on the summit of Kilimanjaro (Jon Mancuso).

Happy Father’s Day! See the video of Peter Whittaker’s climb of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, with his daughter Gabriella and on sharing the experience of the mountains, presented by Eddie Bauer/First Ascent.

Whittaker Father-Daughter Kilimanjaro Climb from Eddie Bauer on Vimeo.


Thank you to the Whittaker family for sharing this inspiring family achievement.

Much appreciated.

Kind regards

Sue Newby-House

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Posted by: Sue Newby-House on 7/13/2014 at 8:00 pm

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen Participates in Career Fair at Columbia Crest STEM School

Posted by: Alex Van Steen | May 21, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Responsible Climbing

Yesterday, RMI Guide Alex Van Steen joined a host of other local professionals at Columbia Crest STEM School’s First Annual STEM Career Fair. The presenters who were invited to speak tied their professions directly into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and encouraged the approximately 125 first through sixth grade students to see the connection between what students were learning in the classroom and what knowledge and skills professionals required in their careers.

The presenters included geologists, meteorologists, naturalists, biologists, veterinarians, computer programmers, science librarians and a variety of other environmental educators. While Alex tied his roles in environmental management, human resources management, and job place safety to the STEM program, the truly exciting part for the students came when they had the opportunity to put hands on all the climbing and mountaineering gear used for the mountain climbing demonstration. Students crawled around in tents and into -30 sleeping bags, saw short demonstrations of how camming units and pitons (yes, pitons!) worked, and some students even donned an 8,000 meter down suit. Big smiles, lots of questions and fun learning!

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen presents during the Career Fair at Columbia Crest STEM School. Photo: Alex Van Steen

DHAULAGIRI: Team Returns to Base Camp and Wraps Up Expediton

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Garrett Stevens, Geoff Schellens, Jake Beren | May 06, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News

Hello Everybody,

This is the Dhaulagiri Climbing Team we are calling here from Base Camp.  We have to let you know that unfortunately there was no summit for us.  As we have said in recent blogs the weather has been pretty bad for us.  We have had a lot of snow and we had to turn around at the very last day.  We have a few member of the team at Camp 3 and had a decent chance at a summit push, but conditions were no good.

We are currently at Base Camp and will start to hike down tomorrow, and we should be back in Kathmandu in four or five days and we will try to write down details to wrap up our expedition.  We have worked very hard and have been the first the first team on the mountain and the one that got the highest.  It will be neat to see everybody follow in our steps all the time going up and down the mountain.  Like I said, we had a ton of snow breaking trail was very difficult and we made it as high as we could.  Other than that everybody is doing pretty well, and we are very satisfied with our work.  Again, we were a team going unsupported and did everything on our own. Getting to where we got with day in and out snowstorms dumping up to three to four feet of snow, the work wasn’t easy.  We are pretty proud of what we have done.

We want to thank everybody for their support given to us, and we hope everything is going well back home.  We will touch base from Kathmandu in a few days.

Thanks Everybody! Talk to you all soon!

RMI Guide Elias deAndres Martos

Dhaulagiri Team Checking In.

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Must be close to wrapped up, safe and sound.  looking forward to having our Aussie back.  Congrats to all.

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Posted by: hensleys on 5/11/2014 at 12:30 pm


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Posted by: Mike PoutiTine on 5/7/2014 at 6:19 am

Dhaulagiri: Team Checks in Before Summit Push

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Garrett Stevens, Geoff Schellens, Jake Beren | April 29, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News
Elevation: 15,584'

The Dhaulagiri team called the RMI Office this morning to check-in.  Here is a summary of our conversation:

First and foremost, everyone is healthy and in good spirits.  The weather forecast is calling for more of the same—gorgeous, clear mornings followed by afternoon snowstorms.  They are refusing to let the plethora of new snow dampen their spirits.  A new team has arrived at base camp and everyone is enjoying the new company.  The team is getting ready to head to bed for the night.  In the morning they will begin heading uphill to get into position for their summit attempt. 

The team sends their love to everyone following along!  They will keep us posted on their upward progress.

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Good luck to the team and stay safe!

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Posted by: Barbara Schwarz on 5/1/2014 at 10:27 am

May The Force be with you.  Your strength, will, and wisdom make an awesome contender for Mother Nature.  Power on.

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Posted by: nsb on 4/30/2014 at 9:29 am

DHAULAGIRI: Team Has Established Camp 2

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Garrett Stevens, Geoff Schellens, Jake Beren | April 28, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News


This is the Dhaulagiri Climbing Team and once again we wanted to apologize for the lack for the lack of communication, but as we said before we have been having a few problems with the satellite “sat” phone.  But, right now we can send a dispatch.

We have been discovering the worst weather that we have ever witnessed. This Himalayan peak is pretty much keeping us working really, really hard. We are getting snow storms every day. The only time we have not had afternoon storms have been when we have all day storms!  But, that hasn’t kept us from climbing.  The last two days we have been working very hard being the only team on the mountain breaking trail to establish Camp 2. In the next few days we are going to be looking at the route between Camp 2 and Camp 3 which is one of the hardest parts of the climb. If that is a go we’ll have a summit bid.

Like I said, we have been receiving anywhere from a foot to two feet of snow every other afternoon and it has made our job hard. A couple of other teams have arrived, but they are not as ambitious to work up high yet.  We are not going to quit until our plane leaves. We have a little bit less than 10 days here to make it happen. We have a really good weather forecast and will keep our fingers crossed that we are going to have a shot at it.

So if the sat phone keeps working for us we will keep you posted as much as we can. So please keep your fingers crossed for us.  This is Dhaulagiri and we hope you all take care. We hope to communicate good news soon!

RMI Guide Elias deAndres Martos

Dhaulagiri Team checking in April 28th.

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Crested Butte is keeping fingers crossed! Be Safe!

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Posted by: Jessica on 4/29/2014 at 8:57 am

Jake must be enjoying the powder skiing.

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Posted by: Pete Sowar on 4/29/2014 at 6:19 am

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen Shares his Mountaineering Experiences at Columbia Crest STEM School

Posted by: Alex Van Steen | April 25, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Responsible Climbing

Long-time RMI Guide, Alex Van Steen, visited a local second grade classroom at Columbia Crest STEM School as part of RMI’s Community Outreach program.  STEM schools, a relatively new concept in Washington State, have a distinct emphasis on hands-on learning and the integration of science, technology, engineering and math into student lessons. RMI has partnered with Columbia Crest STEM to bring our mountaineering experiences right into the classroom.  With Alex, the second graders studied the essential question, “What causes a volcano to erupt?” Students thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and learned ways to explain and create their own shield, composite, cinder cone and caldera volcanoes!

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen

RMI Guide Alex Van Steen with the Columbia Crest STEM School 2nd graders. Photo: Sarah Turner Columbia Crest STEM 2nd graders mix up a batch of jelly and kernel magma. Photo: Sarah Turner Alex Van Steen oversees the CC STEM 2nd graders building a shield volcano. Photo: Sarah Turner

Dhaulagiri: RMI Guide Team Checks in from Base Camp

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Garrett Stevens | April 20, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News
Elevation: 15,584'

Hello, this is the Dhaulagiri climbing team on Sunday, the 20th. First of all we want to apologize for the lack of communication, but we’re having serious problems with our SAT phone and charger and we are trying to solve that problem. We are also saddened by the news that arrived to base camp here of the tragedy on Everest.  We want to send our condolences to the community of the Sherpa involved in this tragedy. Our progress here on the mountain continues. We have been able to reach almost Camp 2. We have been very unlucky with the weather. Until right now we have been the only team on the mountain, but we were able to make a carry to almost Camp 2 and spend a few nights at Camp 1. Right now the weather looks like it is favorable to us and we are hoping to take a few days of rest and make some more progress up high, hopefully getting to Camp 2 or 3 in the next week or so. Getting ready for a future summit push around the beginning of May. So we’ll keep you posted on that and we hope everybody is doing well. We’ll try to keep you posted as much as we can with the limited communications that we have here. Regards to all from Dhaulagiri Base Camp.

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos calls in from Dhaulagiri Base Camp.

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Please be wise and safe as you make your decisions.  You are loved down here at sea level.

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Posted by: nsb on 4/23/2014 at 10:52 am

RMI Guide Geoff Schellens Looks Back On AMGA Ice Instructor Course

Posted by: Geoff Schellens | April 15, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Guide Grant

With support from the Eddie Bauer - RMI Guide Grant, RMI Guide Geoff Schellens took part in an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ice Instructor Course this winter near Ouray, Colorado. Afterward, Geoff sat down and shared some stories from the course.

Ice climbing is a unique discipline of climbing, which poses specific challenges for the climber: ice fall, rock fall, specific equipment needs, over heating, becoming too cold, and avalanche hazards, just to name a few.  Guiding ice climbing requires quite a bit of preparation, awareness, and technique to mitigate these challenges. 

Ice Climbing on Dexter Falls (Geoff Schellens)

On the third day of my five-day AMGA Ice Instructor Course, we had planned to take two groups to Eureka, Colorado, to climb long multi-pitch ice routes.  Avalanches from large snow bowls above threaten many of these routes, like the classic Stairway to Heaven.  On this cold, crisp morning we encountered six inches of new snow, and after driving up to Red Mountain Pass we decided that the avalanche risk was too high and opted to go with our back up plan: climbing at Dexter Falls. 

Dexter is just north of Ouray, Colorado, and offers excellent multi-pitch ice routes that are exposed to less avalanche hazard.  Climbing Dexter Falls with two teams of three climbers posed new guiding challenges.  Namely, avoiding knocking ice onto the climbers below.  We chose to climb with both teams parallel to each other to protect against this.  Parallel rope technique requires that the lead climber is thoughtful about where both following climbers will be ascending.  The goal to keep them on slightly separate routes, allowing any loose ice to fall without risking injury to either climber. 

Ice Climbing (Geoff Schellens)

The climbing was fun and we topped out having done it in a safe manner. Climbing ice in Ouray, Colorado, or anywhere for that matter, is easy and enjoyable after acquiring a relatively straightforward skill set.

I hope you enjoy the photos!
Geoff Schellens is a senior guide for RMI Expeditions, leading trips in Argentina, the North Cascades, Alaska, and Colorado. Geoff is currently climbing Dhaulagiri, an 8,000 meter peak in the Himalayas. See more of Geoff’s mountain photography on his website The Exposed Edge.

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Recent Images From Guide News

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  • The team at camp on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)
  • Snow pit instruction during the course (Lindsay Mann).
  • Lindsay skiing during the course (Lindsay Mann).
  • RMI Guide Alex Van Steen presents during the Career Fair at Columbia Crest STEM School. Photo: Alex Van Steen
  • RMI Guide Alex Van Steen with the Columbia Crest STEM School 2nd graders. Photo: Sarah Turner
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