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Dhaulagiri: RMI Guides Spend a Night at Camp 1 and are Back in Basecamp

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Garrett Stevens | April 12, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News
Elevation: 15,584'

Hello, this is Dhaulagiri climbing team on Saturday, April 12th. We have come back to base camp. We had made a move to Camp 1 and spent last night up there. We were forced to move down because of the bad weather. However that was pretty much the plan after moving up there and caching some gear and spend at least a night for acclimatization. We have about a foot of snow at base camp and we got about 1 1/2 feet at Camp 1 last night. Looks like the trend is going to be like that for the next couple of days and we are going to wait it out down here. We’ll keep you posted on the move. So far the “mountain of storms.” We will see what happens. Hope everyone is doing well and we’ll check in later.

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos


Elias de Andres Martos calls in from Dhaulagiri Basecamp.

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RMI Hosts Prep for Rainier Classes at REI

Posted by: Ben Liken, Paul Maier | April 11, 2014
Categories: *Guide News

RMI is hosting several Prep for Rainier classes over the months of February, March, and April at local REI stores in the Puget Sound area. Join RMI’s experienced guides to discuss everything that is needed to prepare for Mt. Rainier, including conditioning, trip planning, route selection, and equipment selection to climb Washington State’s highest point!

Come out to your local REI store to hear stories and answer your questions about Mt. Rainier!

Tuesday 4/15/2014 7:00pm REI Redmond with RMI Guide Paul Maier More info…

Join RMI for classes on how to prepare for Mt. Rainier at your local REI store!

Dhaulagiri: RMI Team Making Progress on the Mountain

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Garrett Stevens | April 10, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News
Elevation: 15,584'

Hello, this is the Dhaulagiri climbing team calling from basecamp on Thursday, the 10th of April. We have been here now for a few days. We made some progress on the mountain.  We’ve moved a couple of caches almost to Camp 1. We have had a few peeks of the mountain, in between a couple of severe storms that have fallen upon us. We were pretty close and a move to Camp 1 has been made. The four of us have acclimatized to that elevation, and we will try to push out there tomorrow and spend a couple of nights. The weather forecast looks favorable to us for the next couple of days. The weather here has been a little weird with really clear mornings and snowstorms pretty much every afternoon, so that has been a little interesting. We are enjoying ourselves pretty well here. Everybody is very healthy and in good spirits. We’ll try to make some progress and spend our first night at altitude. We’ll keep you posted with more once we make that move. We hope you are all doing very, very well. Regards from Nepal.

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos


RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos calls in from Dhaulagiri's Basecamp.

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Dhaulagiri: Elias & Team Check in from Their Approach to Dhaulagiri

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Garrett Stevens | April 02, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News
Elevation: 12,139'

Hello this the Dhaulagiri team. We are at the end of our fifth day of our approach to base camp at a location called Italian Camp. We are roughly at 3,700 meters. Everything has been pretty good so far. We have had really good weather on the approach. A couple of snow storms at night. The sunshine at this camp is baking us right now.  We are about to have a pretty good meal here. We would like to share also that on the approach, we had a really cool encounter in one of the villages. We shared some of the supplies that we gathered over the last year from supporters who have been pitching in to bring us here. So that was really neat to share these items with a village on our way to Dhaulagiri. Everything is well like I said. We have about two or three more days to get into Base Camp from where we will be checking in once we arrive. So we hope all is well and we will keep you posted. Bye.

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos


RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos calls in from Italian Camp.

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Dhaulagiri: RMI Guides Start by Meeting with Ms. Hawley, the Bookkeeper

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Garrett Stevens | March 27, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News

Namaste!

The 2014 Dhaulagiri team has reunited in Kathmandu after the three waves in which all of us arrived. With the last minute of extra food shopping done, we had the mandatory briefing at the ministry of tourism this morning and paid a special visit to Ms. Hawley, the “bookkeeper” of Himalayan climbing. She helped us understand this endeavor even better with some statistics pertinent to our team: among our nationalities, only 14 Americans (2 women) and 28 Spaniards have summited on this mountain with just 300 total ascents. Really exciting!

Tomorrow we fly early morning to Pokhara, and then a six-hour drive will take us to Darbang.  This is the trailhead to our week-long approach to base camp. We’ll check in next from the trails!

RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos

The RMI Dhaulagiri team meet with Ms. Hawley in Kathmandu. Photo: Elias de Andres Martos

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RMI Named Best Outfitter by Outside Magazine

Posted by: | March 04, 2014
Categories: *Guide News

Outside Magazine Best Outfitter 2014

RMI Expeditions is pleased to be honored as Outside Magazine’s 2014 Best Outfitter! Outside selected RMI out of dozens and dozens of travel companies to be the recipient of this year’s award, recognizing our incredible guide staff, exciting mountain adventures, and dedication to responsible climbing.

“We are honored to receive Outside Magazine’s Best Outfitter for 2014. At the heart of our trips stand the incredibly talented guides who lead our adventures. With great passion, experience, and skills, our guides strive to make every trip an exciting and meaningful experience,” said Peter Whittaker, guide and owner of RMI Expeditions.

We owe a big “Thank You!” to all of the climbers who have joined us on adventures over the years and our outstanding guides. We look forward to more climbs to come!

Read Outside’s Article and see the complete list of Travel Awards winners at www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/travel-awards/2014-Travel-Awards-Best-Outfitter or in the April Issue available March 18th.

Read the official Press Release below:


RMI Expeditions honored by OUTSIDE Travel Awards 2014


Ashford, WA (March 4, 2014) –OUTSIDE, America’s leading active lifestyle brand, has selected RMI Expeditions as an honoree of their annual Travel Awards, which celebrate the top destinations, companies, products, and travel providers—in the U.S. and around the world—that inspire people to participate in an active lifestyle. RMI Expeditions was honored as Best Outfitter. The entire list of honorees appear in OUTSIDE’s April issue (on newsstands March 18), and online at www.outsideonline.com/travelawards.



This year, OUTSIDE tapped its global network of correspondents, who traveled across America, to Belize, Switzerland, Italy, and beyond, identifying the best new adventures, stunning lakes, gorgeous new lodges and hotels, family vacations, secret getaways, high-tech airports, and foodie hotspots. The result is more than 50 spectacular trips, plus the best travel apps, tour guides, gear, tips for traveling green, and advice for traveling solo.



“We are honored to receive Outside Magazine’s Best Outfitter for 2014. At the heart of our trips stand the incredibly talented guides who lead our adventures. With great passion, experience, and skills, our guides strive to make every trip an exciting and meaningful experience,” said Peter Whittaker, guide and owner of RMI Expeditions.



“Whether you’re looking to go big for an expedition, splurge on a luxurious paradise, or plan an epic family trip, OUTSIDE has unearthed fifty travel gems that will inspire you to renew that passport,” said OUTSIDE Editor Chris Keyes. 


RMI Expeditions, based at the foot of Mt. Rainier in Ashford, WA, leads treks, climbs, and expeditions around the world, from Mt. Rainier to the the Himalaya. Established in 1969, RMI has built a 45 year legacy of leading exceptional mountain adventures catering to climbers of all abilities. RMI’s guides are some of the most accomplished mountaineers and mountain guides in the world, including Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn, Peter Whittaker, and Melissa Arnot. Every RMI trip is carefully vetted and planned by RMI’s guides and climbers receive extensive pre-trip support from the guides and staff before heading to the mountains. RMI’s exceptional leadership, focus on safety, personal attention, and dedication to climbing responsibly distinguish RMI as a leader in the mountaineering world.

The complete list of Travel Awards winners will be featured in the April issue of OUTSIDE, available March 18, and online at www.outsideonline.com/travelawards.
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About RMI: RMI Expeditions (Rainier Mountaineering, Inc) is one of America’s most reputable and long-standing guide services with over 45 years of mountain guiding experience. An American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) accredited guide service specializing in mountaineering expeditions, alpine climbing, trekking and ski touring programs, RMI is committed to leading exceptional mountain adventures.

About OUTSIDE:  OUTSIDE is America’s leading active lifestyle brand. Since 1977, OUTSIDE has covered travel, sports, adventure, health, and fitness, as well as the personalities, the environment, and the style and culture of the world Outside. The OUTSIDE family includes OUTSIDE magazine, the only magazine to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, The Outside Buyer’s Guides, Outside Online, Outside Television, Outside Events, Outside+ tablet edition, Outside Books, and now Outside GO, a revolutionary, 21st-century adventure-travel company. Visit us online and on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.


Guide Shack: Shooting In Cold Environments

Posted by: Jason Thompson | February 08, 2014
Categories: *Guide News

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

I spent over a decade working as a mountain guide and many days I found myself working in very cold environments, often for weeks at a time. I carried my camera on all of these trips. One of the coldest places I worked was on Denali in Alaska while working for RMI. During those expeditions, climbers often had questions about using cameras in these cold environments. Here are a few tips that I shared with them:

1. Keep multiple batteries available. Keep them close to your body. Sleep with them. If you’re not going to be using your camera for long periods of time take the battery out so that it stays warm and it’s ready to go.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

2. Remember that if you bring your cold camera into a warm room that condensation will rapidly fog the glass in your lens. I have found that if I bring my camera into my tent its usually not enough of a temperature gradient to cause condensation.

3. The solar kits these days are very affordable, compact, light and you would be surprised at how much charge they will provide even if it’s snowing. Check out the Goal Zero kits, they will have whatever you could possibly need.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

4. Camera technology changes rapidly. One major advantage of the new technology is the size of the cameras available these days offer very high performance while being slightly bigger than your iPhone. A couple of cameras that I have had success with for a pretty good dollar value are the Sony RX-100 and the Canon s100. They are sleek cameras that will fit in your pocket comfortably. Of course one thing to consider in the colder environments is that using the LCD screen will use more battery juice. Having a viewfinder like the Nikon Coolpix 7800 will provide longer battery life.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

5. Keep your camera handy. The more accessible your camera is, the more images you will capture. I typically will carry my camera clipped to my backpack shoulder strap about chest height and tether it to a small locking carabiner. That way even if I drop it I will not lose it.

6. Safety first. Mountaineering is a team sport. You’re tied in with other people. Just because you see a picture that you have to take right then don’t forget that it’s your responsibility to make sure its safe to capture that picture. Communicate with your teammates.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

7. Shoot details. Shoot unique angles. Shoot to tell the story. Simply, just dropping to a knee for a different angle will improve your image.

8. IPhones make amazing images. I just recently picked up this iPhone case and modified it by drilling 2 small holes in the side of the case and installed a short tether.

9. My light and fast alpine style camera kit includes the Sony DSC-RX100, Joby Gorilla pod (be gentle with these in really cold environments as they can be fragile), a Hahnel Giga T Pro II Wireless Remote, Sandisk 32GB SD card x2, 1 ziplock bag, 1 dust cloth for the lens and the Lowpro Portland 30 case. This comes in at about just over 3lbs.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography

(C) Jason Thompson Photography
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Jason Thompson is a Senior Guide at RMI Expeditions and a renowned photographer. He has traveled the world to places such as Alaska, Patagonia, and the Caucasus Mountains leading climbs and documenting mountain adventures through his camera lens. See his work on www.jthompsonphotography.com. Jason’s recent videos include the 2013 Reel // Artist Statement and Wrangelled, which was nominated for a Coldsmoke Award. Follow Jason on Instagram at @_jt_photo.

(C) Jason Thompson Photography (C) Jason Thompson Photography (C) Jason Thompson Photography (C) Jason Thompson Photography
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RMI Guide Ben Liken Recounts AMGA Rock Instructor Course in Red Rocks

Posted by: Ben Liken | January 02, 2014
Categories: *Guide News *Guide Grant

This past November I and several other RMI guides had the opportunity to further hone our guiding skills by participating in the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Rock Instructor Course (RIC).  I decided that after five years in the industry it would be enlightening to gain a perspective into this organization and put myself in the position of a student.  The RIC is designed to create a foundation for guides looking to pursue a certification in the rock or alpine realm and is a prerequisite for many other AMGA courses.  The program was set up as a contract course by RMI and was partially funded by the Eddie Bauer/First Ascent guide grant which kept the tuition costs low and excitement high. 

The course took place in the world renowned climbing area of Red Rocks; just outside of the world renowned capital of partying and gambling, Las Vegas, NV.  Red Rocks is formed out of beautiful Aztec sandstone that was left behind by sand dunes 180 million years ago in an environment much like today’s Sahara Desert.  With relatively short but, often complex, approaches and descents to long classic routes this is the ideal place to learn and play.  The available climbing ranges from short sport climbs to 2500’ big wall routes, however, this course focused on guiding in class 4 terrain and traditionally protected routes to the 5.9 level.

Most of us arrived at least a few days early to prepare for the course and get used to the rock; climbing Washington state granite, Bozeman ice, or glaciers on Mount Rainier doesn’t always prepare you for long lines on soft sandstone.  I arrived one week early and was thoroughly psyched to leave the soggy sight of the Puget Sound for a sun soaked desert.  I quickly found myself back in the rock climbing culture at the local BLM campground, with campfires and some mellow acoustics at night as well as the blow torch sound of a propane stove firing in the morning.  It was early to bed and early to rise for the next few weeks to maximize the limited winter light.  The sun rose at 6:30 am but left us by 4:15 pm.  After 6 great days of climbing and several months of preparation, I was ready to start the course.

It was a crisp Sunday morning and we were all up extra early to make sure our gear was in order and looking good.  We had received a rather detailed itinerary via email and a few phone calls before the course but still were not sure exactly what to expect at the Red Springs picnic area that morning.  For most of us this was our first experience with the AMGA and none of us had taken a “guide track” program before.  I had heard that it was going to be serious and to go in prepared, which led me to have questions like “what will these instructors be like? And expect of us?” “Does my hair look okay?” ”How much am I really going to learn?”  Upon arrival it was the classic first time meet up.  Overall pretty quiet with a few light conversations, introductions, and of course a lot of sipping coffee.  At 8 o’clock sharp we began and the mood eased exponentially over the day; by 2pm there were dirty jokes being thrown around.  The three instructors were not out to judge or be hardcore; they were clearly there to mentor because they love guiding. 

The first part of the RIC was used to make sure we were all on the same page with the basics and begin to learn a few more advanced skills we would need later in the week.  By the end of the second day it was becoming clear that some foul weather was in store, so we decided to get on the rock and start tugging as soon as possible.  Over the next two and a half days we split into teams of four and got in well over 1000 vertical feet of climbing on a few classic routes.  Our management of three ropes and four people on a hanging belay quickly went from obnoxiously poor to…….well…..not half bad.  The stoke was high, and we were all excited to be learning from and climbing with some of the best guides in the business.  As I was two pitches up on the four pitch “Big Bad Wolf”, I looked over my shoulder and saw huge bands of rain pummeling Las Vegas in the valley below.  We made the hasty call to link the last two pitches and bring a few ropes at a time to finish the climb before the rain hit us.  As the last climber was cresting the top I felt the first drop hit my forehead.  We continued with a crash course in short roping off the backside.  As the dust turned to mud before my eyes I couldn’t have known that the climbing portion of the course would be over.  We were in the desert, right?

Climbers in Red Rocks during the course (Ben Liken).

Over the next three days we practiced and perfected rescue and rope skills as the rain fell nonstop all around the pavilion we were under. It was fun to focus purely on the timed drills and creating one handed hitches as they were called out.  Looking out we could see the rock getting wetter than it had been in months.  The sandstone in Red Rocks is porous and thus absorbs water like a sponge.  Even in the warmest months the rock needs 24-48 hours to dry after a soaking rain and we had a lot of soaking rain with cool temps and low sun.  The issue with climbing on the damp rock was not going to be its slipperiness but rather the danger of holds breaking and a leader falling onto protection in that same type of rock that just broke.  As the sun rose for the last three days of the course we had to turn down perfect climbing weather because of poor route conditions.  I sympathized with the climbers I work with on Mount Rainier: they come from across the country after months of training, time, and money spent, only to be shut down by avalanche hazard or icy conditions on a beautiful, sunny day.  All was not lost however; we were able to learn and practice new skills in the horizontal plane, on very sunny aspects, and in steep off trail terrain.  We agreed that we learned just as much if not more in this manner than we would have high on the rock. 

Horizontal Rappel Practice (Ben Liken).
Ben's harness rigged and ready to rappel (Ben Liken).

This was my first AMGA experience and it could not have been a better one.  It solidified many skills that I can put to use in my current guiding and climbing.  It was a great opportunity to develop myself in my profession and has opened the door for more courses and certifications.  These courses and certifications are not required for guiding in the United States and many great guides are fully qualified through experience.  This program and others offered by the AMGA however, get guides on the same page and forces us to be the best we can be, whether it be on Red Rocks sandstone, Mount Rainier Glaciers, or a remote peak in the Andes.  Thanks to RMI, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent guide grant, and all the guides on the course for making this possible.  Climb On!

Climbers on the Lotta Balls Wall in Red Rocks during the course (Ben Liken). Looking up the Red Rock's Solar Slab Wall (Ben Liken). Practicing horizontal rappel techniques after the rain storm (Ben Liken). Ben's harness rigged and ready to rappel during the course (Ben Liken).

Life at The Creek: RMI guides check in from Indian Creek, UT

Posted by: Robby Young, Sean Collon, Steve Gately | December 05, 2013
Categories: *Guide News

October marks the end of the guiding season on Rainier, and the beginning of some of the best rock climbing weather and conditions throughout the Rocky Mountain West. RMI guides Steve Gately, Robby Young and Sean Collon celebrated “Rocktober” this year by spending their time down in Indian Creek near Moab, Utah. “The Creek” is home to some of the best pure crack climbing in the world, with fissures ranging from too small for fingers up to chimneys large enough for your entire body; running a hundred feet up otherwise featureless sandstone walls. It attracts climbers from around the world and is a popular hangout for guides in the October off-season. Sean, Steve and Robby documented their time in The Creek through film, and recount their experiences:

Robby Young:  There is no place like Indian Creek.  The abundance of stunning cracks splitting through vertical sandstone walls appear otherworldly amongst the beautiful desert landscape of Southern Utah, located just a few hours from my home in Park City, UT.  I was very excited to have the opportunity to spend some time in this wonderful place with some good friends, and fellow RMI guides.  The vibrancy of the red rock offers a dramatic contrast to the snow and glacier covered landscape of Mt. Rainier in which we spend much of our summer.  I was also lucky to be able shoot photographs and capture film of some of friends as they pushed their climbing skills in the never-ending pursuit to become better climbers and alpinists.

Sean Collong climbing in Indian Creek (Robby Young).

Sean Collon:  Rock climbing and mountaineering have a large number of common skills, techniques and physical requirements. Approaching rock climbs with heavy packs full of gear builds stamina, and the climbing itself requires total body strength; all of which contributes to success in the big mountains. When guiding, or on personal mountaineering trips, I rely heavily on the rope skills I have developed largely in the vertical world of rock climbing. But more than all of this, rock climbing, in and of itself, is fun. Like any type of climbing, it is physically and mentally demanding.  It can be pure enjoyment, often scary and painful, but always tremendously rewarding.

Steve Gately: After a busy Rainier season, trips like this provide us with some welcomed vacation time, while also allowing us a great opportunity for continued training. With back-to-back trips to Aconcagua coming up this winter, keeping my skills sharp is important to me. One aspect that goes consistently overlooked is not only the mental capacity but also the situational awareness needed for such long expeditions. For me, rock climbing is a way to keep my assessment skills sharp. There is some inherent risk in rock climbing, similarly to anytime that we step out into the mountains. This requires you to be constantly assessing situations, risk, hazards, terrain etc. This level of awareness is invaluable. You can be as strong as the best climbers out there, but without that ability to constantly assess your surroundings and problem solve when needed, well, you won’t last very long in the mountains. For me, as a guide, this is one of the most important contributions I can bring to my trips and rock climbing provides an excellent way to stay strong, keep my skills sharp, and have a ton of fun while doing it!

______
Robby Young is as talented on rock as he is on glaciers and skis. He is spending the winter ski patrolling and teaching several avalanche courses in Utah and planning on a ski trip to Iceland this spring before his Denali expedition. See more of Robby’s photography at www.robbyyoungphotography.com.

Sean Collon is an RMI guide, originally from Michigan, spending this winter season in Utah ski instructing at Canyons Resort and training for the AMGA Rock and Ski Instructor Courses. He has climbed rock and alpine routes all around the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country, and guiding with Dave Hahn next summer on Mt. McKinley.

Steve Gately is heading to the southern hemisphere this winter to guide on Aconcagua. Returning to Park City, UT, he will be found skiing, ice climbing and working on another short film about backcountry skiing in Utah’s Wasatch Range before heading north to Alaska next summer.

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RMI Guide Kel Rossiter Passes his AMGA Alpine Guide Exam

Posted by: Kel Rossiter | November 25, 2013
Categories: *Guide News *Guide Grant

“You can’t win if you don’t play” is dubious encouragement often doled out by Las Vegas casinos and the like—but it is solid counsel in the world of alpine climbing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve plodded through a milk puddle of clouds on the Muir Snowfield only to rise above it all upon reaching Camp Muir.  Indeed, even in the face of slim weather odds, you’ve got to at least put yourself into position for success and be ready to maximize it should those slim odds work in your favor.  Time and time again that alpine advice held true during my recent American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Alpine Guide Exam (AGE). 

Arriving in Seattle in mid-September for my 10-day AGE, I stared at the bright screen of my smart phone and steeled myself for the grim weather forecast it proposed…my First Ascent BC-200 had seen me through many a maelstrom on Rainier, but ten days of that?  Like any climber of peaks like Rainier, Denali, Cotopaxi, or Orizaba, the wheels on this particular bus had been set in motion many, many months before and there was far too much invested to pull it over to the side of the road due simply to predictions of a deluge.  The AMGA is the premier training path for America’s professional climbing guides and the 10-day AGE is the culminating exam that guides take in order to become Certified Alpine Guides.  Along the way toward that test, hopefuls must first take a 10-day Rock Instructor Course, a 9-day Alpine Guides Course, a 5-day Ice Instructor Course, an 8-day Advanced Alpine Guides Course, a 3-day Alpine Aspirant Exam, a 6-day American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Level 3 Course and Exam, and a then—finally—the 10-day Alpine Guide Exam. 

In case you weren’t counting, that’s 41 days of training in all—and that doesn’t even begin to include the climbing resume you have to develop in between courses.  All in all, that’s a triple wallop of a lot of tuition, a lot of travel costs, and a lot of opportunity costs in the form of lost wages.  Fortunately—and very, very thankfully—RMI, Whittaker Mountaineering, and Eddie Bauer/First Ascent helped to take some of the sting out of the tuition costs, but that aside, there was still no way I was going to let a grim weather forecast rain on my parade!  Now the only problem was: “Would the grim weather forecast rain on the whole AGE parade?”  You see, in order for an AGE to be valid, the examiners need to see you in a variety of terrain and situations—and if the weather doesn’t allow those windows to open…

RMI Guide Kel Rossiter training for his Alpine Guide Exam on the Northwest Face of Forbidden.

Fortunately, time and time again, in the face of doom, gloom, cats, and dogs we put ourselves into position for success and just barely, and just somehow, squeaked it out. For the first few days we enjoyed the relative “rain shadow” that the Washington Pass area of the North Cascades provides.  Washington Pass doesn’t allow for glacial travel though—an integral part of the AGE—so after two days we had to leave that safe harbor for the shores of Mt. Shuksan.  We arrived in the Lake Ann/Fisher Chimneys trailhead in a steady drizzle.  By the time we packed up, things had improved, but the rest of the day was something of an ongoing “fashion show” as we put on a rain shell, took it off, added a warmth layer, and tried to predict what the weather would look like in five minutes.  And in the backs of our minds all imagined how things might unfold.  Happily, we were most certainly rewarded for our efforts:  By the time we topped out on Fisher Chimneys and rolled into our bivvy site, we were high above the roiling sea of grey valley clouds.  So often it’s the case on Mount Rainier that we’ll radio down to Ashford and hear that they’re thick in the rain while up at Camp Muir we’re above it all.  Such was the case on Shuksan, and the next day we managed to circumnavigate the Upper Curtis, Sulphide, and Crystal Glaciers and climb the summit massif’s Northeast Ridge—my first time doing that particular route and highly recommended!

As the forecast shifted from grim to grimmer, we again decided to head over to Washington Pass.  Driving over Highway 20 toward our meeting point at the Cutthroat Peak trailhead, my windshield wipers clicked a steady rhythm in time with the electronic music I was listening to to try to psych myself up.  I arrived early at the trailhead and the rain continued.  I cranked more psych music as I attempted some gear-sorting-inside-the-car-yoga poses.  Then, miraculously, it began to clear.  Not the swift and sure kind of clear that let’s you know a new weather attitude is on the way—more like the resistant backing away of an angry dog that’s just been called by it’s owner, but enough to make a climb seem viable.  We racked up, packed up, and headed for Cutthroat Peak’s South Buttress.  While it is true that “you can’t win if you don’t play”, it’s also true that it’s a bad idea to climb yourself so far up an objective that retreat becomes untenable.  Fortunately, the South Buttress offers plenty of bail options, so with one eye on the clouds and the other on my rope coils, we moved upward, steadily gaining another plum Cascade peak.

By then, we’d heard reports from a group of Advanced Alpine Guide Course participants that the Boston Basin area (home to West Ridge of Forbidden, Torment-Forbidden Traverse, Sharkfin Tower, and Sahale Peak, among others) had already received six inches of the new winter’s snow.  Fresh snow poses it’s own set of problems in the alpine world, but deciding that fresh snow was more palatable than dealing with the reported dousing on the way, so up we went!

These days, I’m climbing on snow for at least a part of almost every month of the year, but it’s not often I’m dealing with fresh snow in September.  Skis or snowshoes weren’t a part of our packing list, so lift-kick-step-sink-lift was the interminable process as we moved up through the now 10 inches of fresh snow covering the Quien Sabe Glacier.  A circumnavigation/summit of Sahale Peak was our goal, and we eyed the valley clouds warily as we proceeded in dogged pursuit.  Soon the clouds enveloped us and in between breaks we attempted to plot the best path ahead.  After some steep, snow-laden slopes, a bergschrund crossing, and the final rocky summit scramble we were on top of our last AGE objective, Sahale Peak!

Breaking through the clouds on Sahale during RMI Guide Kel Rossiter's Alpine Guide Exam.

By day’s end I was back in a Bellingham motel room, enjoying the comforts of a shower, eat-in Thai Food, and 581 channels.  On every weather channel, stoic looking forecasters delivered the report with the delicacy of a cancer ward counselor:  the patient’s condition was not improving.  I spooned the last bit of tofu out of my box of green curry and grinned:  For the last ten days we’d prevailed in the face of such gloom and doom forecasts, and now, with the AGE wrapped up I was much more than just a survivor, I was finally an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide!

RMI Guide Kel Rossiter on his Alpine Guide Exam.

Achieving AMGA Alpine Guide Certification only occurred through a lot of support.  Thanks to RMI/Whittaker Mountaineering/Eddie Bauer-First Ascent for their solid support of guide professional development.  Thanks to all of the RMI guides who, through their sharing of skills, techniques, and approaches, have honed my own alpine guide skills; and particular gratitude to Andres Marin, Geoff Schellens, Jake Beren, Levi Kepsel, Eric Frank, Leon Davis, Elias De Andres Martos, and Rob Montague who shared with me their time and talents in the field as I worked toward this goal.

- RMI Guide Kel Rossiter

 

RMI Guide Kel Rossiter trains for his Alpine Guide Exam on the Northwest Face of Forbidden. Breaking through the clouds during RMI Guide Kel Rossiter's Alpine Guide Exam. RMI Guide Kel Rossiter during his Alpine Guide Exam. Fresh snow on the way to Sahale Peak.
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Recent Images From Guide News

  • Traversing the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Join RMI for classes on how to prepare for Mt. Rainier at your local REI store!
  • The RMI Dhaulagiri team meet with Ms. Hawley in Kathmandu. Photo: Elias de Andres Martos
  • (C) Jason Thompson Photography
  • (C) Jason Thompson Photography
  • (C) Jason Thompson Photography
  • (C) Jason Thompson Photography
  • Climbers on the Lotta Balls Wall in Red Rocks during the course (Ben Liken).
  • Looking up the Red Rock's Solar Slab Wall (Ben Liken).
  • Practicing horizontal rappel techniques after the rain storm (Ben Liken).
  • Ben's harness rigged and ready to rappel during the course (Ben Liken).
  • RMI Guide Kel Rossiter trains for his Alpine Guide Exam on the Northwest Face of Forbidden.
  • Breaking through the clouds during RMI Guide Kel Rossiter's Alpine Guide Exam.
  • RMI Guide Kel Rossiter during his Alpine Guide Exam.
  • Fresh snow on the way to Sahale Peak.
  • Looking up at Cho Oyu from Camp 1.
  • A hidden temple in Kathmandu.
  • Cho Oyu as seen from Advanced Base Camp.
  • A climber makes a radio call from Camp 2.
  • RMI Guide Jake Beren climbing the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter.
  • The shadow of a climber on the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Francis.
  • RMI Guides Jake Beren and Leon Davis climbing on the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Francis.
  • August 25th, 1967 - Joe Horiskey, age 16, on the Mt. Rainier summit. Photo: Joe Horiskey Collection
  • 1968 - Jim Whittaker, Joe Horiskey, and Lou Whittaker on Mt. Rainier. Photo: Joe Horiskey Collection
  • The 44-Foot Sailboat at the dock in Svolvaer.
  • The TrollfjordHyatta, part of the Norweigan Hut System.
  • RMI Guide Lindsay Mann touring into the TrollfjordHyatta with the entrance to the Trollfjord in the background.
  • RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer skiing down Storgalten.
  • JJ Justman standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier for the 200th time! Photo: JJ Justman
  • Tucker's view while sending this blog post. Photo: Mark Tucker
  • A Sherpa load to Camp 1. Photo: Mark Tucker
  • Everest BC Horseshoe Pit. Photo: Mark Tucker
  • Alex and Atan after creating and signing the protocols (Photo: Alex Van Steen).
  • Villagers wishing Alex goodbye in front of their church on the morning of their departure (Photo: Alex Van Steen).
  • Families invited us in for a traditional roast of vegetables, chicken and rabbit. Banana trees and lush gardens form the backdrop.
  • Porter and trekking guide training included Moni and Dani men from the various villages through which we trek.
  • I had the opportunity to visit both Indonesian and expat schools, from tekah (kindergarten) through high school, and several churches.
  • This 10 year old girl made a special trip to offer me a large sweet potato – a most gracious gift!