- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Gabriel Barral
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Nick Brown
- Adam Butterfield
- Anne Gilbert Chase
- Lance Colley
- 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
- Zach Lovell
- 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 for Guide News
In every part of the world where we travel, some RMI individual is tasked with developing & maintaining the quality program presented on the web. Whatever their role, that individual typically has a personal attachment, investment and history with the lands, mountains or peoples visited during the program. Their effort includes much more than simply creating an appealing itinerary and a glitzy web presence. The behind-the-scenes work includes addressing RMI’s environmental responsibilities, social responsibilities, and the development of solid logistical support, from understanding local customs to establishing a safety net. Most importantly, this effort involves building relationships with the local community, helping to ensure that we operate as partners wherever we travel with whomever we work. For Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, New Guinea, I get to be that individual.
The description of our program strikingly claims that we are the only outfit in the Western Hemisphere to partner exclusively with indigenous Papuans. Does it make you wonder how that came to pass?
Papua’s somewhat notorious reputation extends beyond the daily rain, and slick mud and logs of the jungle trek, and beyond the remote nature, sharp rock, and high altitude of the actual climb. And that’s already a lot! Truthfully, for those who research their objectives carefully, Papua’s reputation extends even beyond the uncertainty and flexibility required to visit an area where political tensions and security concerns exists. Shouldn’t you choose your outfitter most carefully?
In February I spent approximately three weeks in New Guinea’s “interior” with the intention not just to climb Carstensz Pyramid again, having guided a recent trip, but, as I enjoy saying, “I went to meet people.” Most of my time was spent among the Moni and Dani tribes of the highlands, but I also had the opportunity to shake hands with Indonesian government officials, Papuan regency representatives, folks with the Freeport mine, school teachers, pastors and missionaries, both Indonesian and expat, village elders, and even folks who were likely associated with the freedom movement (though that was difficult to tell because it seemed like politics was on everyone’s lips.)
I met a lot of people, explained what I was up to, and had many discussions with many people (with both tribal and Bahasa Indonesia translators helping me). Some folks expressed utter amazement that I was walking through their lands. This is predominantly because I was off the beaten path, i.e., not on the traditional, historical routes which have seen a good bit of use (and abuse). My presence also elicited appreciation (something I didn’t necessarily expect) because I was choosing to walk through the land rather than helicopter over it. Very practically speaking, people explained, flying over their lands excludes them from the benefits tourism can bring. I was already convinced that the model for sustainable tourism needed to include the indigenous peoples who inhabited the lands we wish to travel though en route to Carstensz, and spending all these weeks on the ground emphasized my sense for following socially responsible practices.
RMI’s commitment to Responsible Climbing pursues environmentally and socially responsible practices. This is simple enough to say, but a significant investment of time, energy & money is required to make good on those words. I have been told by many of the people with whom I connected in Papua, that my “relationship building” excursion (which included porter and trekking guide training, as well as discussions regarding tourist behaviors and expectations for each of the villages along the trek) was the first of its kind by a Western outfitter.
Sadly, the people of Papua (whether indigenous or Indonesian) have become accustomed to transactions which center solely around the exchange of money. I would suggest that for a tribal culture, where community is highly valued, to encounter trekkers & climbers with expectations to “take” home interesting stories, photographs and a summit, who repeatedly fail to “give” relationships, virtually guarantees a poor experience for both sides. I’m not trying to paint too broad of a picture because the truth is that each individual Papuan also wants what is best for his/her own person, family or tribe, just as we do in the West. I do, however, suggest that our social responsibility must encompass more than just paying porters well for work done well. Failure to build strong relationships will lead further down the present path experienced by many Western outfitters: where porters feel poorly treated and are sometimes not paid, and where tourists feel exploited and are sometimes extorted. Looking further down that path, do you wonder what it might look like? It looks just like the tensions which closed the route through Beoga years ago after hostages were taken. It looks just like the tensions which are currently threatening the Illaga route following a hostage/extortion situation in July 2012, or the abandonment and subsequent death of a sick Danish climber by a highly experienced outfitter. It looks just like an increasing number of operators who no longer have the option to peaceably travel through tribal lands and now offer helicopter transit up and over “tribal tensions.” And honestly, with some of the political and societal tensions which exist, unless outfitters work to develop relationships which are in line with indigenous tribal cultures, tourists will have no options other than to hire armed police or military to escort them through tribal lands. Wouldn’t it be more culturally and socially responsible to build relationships with the native peoples in which both parties collaborated to build a sustainable model of tourism?
I encourage you to follow my blog at http://climbcarstensz.wordpress.com as I continue to share stories of what I have learned and of what we seek to build over time.
RMI Guide, Robby Young, recently completed the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Ski Guide Course, held in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains under the tutelage of IFMGA guide Erik Liedecker and Sierra ski guide, Peter Leh. Over the duration of the 12-day course, a wide array of skills was covered including uphill and downhill ski guiding techniques, technical rope skills, snowpack evaluation, winter camping, backcountry rescue, and risk management in alpine terrain. Despite Utah’s challenging snowpack and over two feet of fresh snow that fell during the course, Robby and his colleagues were able to put these skills and techniques to use in Utah’s easy-to-access alpine world. While skill development was the primary focus of the course, the famous Utah powder skiing made for a very enjoyable educational experience!
AAIRE Avalanche Level 2 with Wallowa Alpine Huts
There has not been any recent snow accumulation in the last week leading up to my course. I am hoping to see characteristics of an intercontinental snowpack, only time will tell. The drive into the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon is flat with Oregon’s “Little Switzerland” rising out of the horizon. The temperature is in the single digits and the sky is clear. Re-crystallized snow, I think to myself, could mean good ski touring.
Through out the course the weather stayed cold and clear, which allowed our group to tour in several different areas digging snow pits and discussing travel techniques from a guide’s perspective. For me the most compelling aspect was comparing our morning observations, forecast and trip plan with what was actually happening in the field area. Our instructors, Lee and Mike stressed the need to hone our snow test skills to perform instability tests with accuracy and detail.
I leave the course with one phrase embedded in my subconscious, “does this slope have the propensity to propagate?” All I can do is continue digging and looking at snow, at least there is no shortage of that as a mountain guide.
Follow this link to Tyler’s blog for more exciting photos!
Posted by: | December 14, 2012
Categories: *Guide News
From Expedition Dispatches, to interviews, to new records set by RMI Guides, see what the this year’s top 10 most popular posts on the RMI Blog!
I’ve just returned to Washington after taking part in a six day Avalanche Level 3 course in Jackson, WY. ‘Avy 3’ is the highest level of formal avalanche training in the US. It is a professional level course designed for Guides, Ski Patrollers and other avalanche forecasters. Read more…
Mountain Climbing has a high requirement for energy. Quality nutrition is a key component of training success. In this conversation with Registered Dietician Sally Hara of Kirkland, Washington, I had a chance to ask some of the questions which often come up in training for mountaineering. Read More…
On Saturday, May 26th at 9:31 a.m. Nepali time the RMI 2012 Mt. Everest Expedition reached the summit! RMI Guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot led the team of climbers to the summit of Mt. Everest at 29,035’. Read More…
Our team enjoyed a rest day at Camp 2 (ABC) today. Their plan is to head for Camp 3 tomorrow.
This really is the start of the Mt. Everest summit push in my eyes. How the next two days go, can have real impact on the summit day. Read More…
Hello from Everest Base Camp,
I spoke with Dave and Melissa at Camp 3 and WOW did they sound great!
The climbing team left Camp 2 early this morning under perfect conditions. Read More…
I first thought of doing a speed ascent on Rainier late in the summer of 2011. I started guiding with RMI that summer and spent plenty of time that year carrying heavy loads up the Muir snowfield as quickly as possible. I come from a cross-country ski racing background and I raced professionally for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, the Rossignol Factory Team, and Dartmouth College before that. Read More…
To begin a conditioning plan for mountaineering, first establish the baseline of your current fitness level. This baseline allows you to compare your current strengths to what you’ll need on the climb. With this, we can compose a training plan that builds steady improvement between now and the day you set off for the mountains. Read More…
RMI Founder Lou Whittaker was interviewed last month by the Magic Valley Newspaper in Twin Falls, ID. Lou took some time off from skiing in Sun Valley to sit down and talk about his lifetime of climbing. Read More…
Interval Training is a training technique employed in many endurance sports. It refers to a training session where periods of high intensity effort, followed by rest, are repeated during a training session. Read More…
Katie Bono climbs Mount Rainier in 4 hours, 58 minutes on July 24, 2012.
RMI Guide Katie Bono completed a car-to-car speed ascent of the classic Disappointment Cleaver route. Her effort is significant not only because it sets the female speed record but also because it adds a female presence to a list which had been exclusively male dominated. Read More…
Posted by: | December 13, 2012
Categories: *Guide News
From videos shot by RMI Climbers to interviews with RMI Guides and clips from the world’s greatest peaks, see 2012’s top ten most viewed videos from the RMI Video Collection!
10: CONGRATULATIONS SETH WATERFALL, 100 RAINIER SUMMITS
9: MELISSA ARNOT TRAINS TO CLIMB MAKALU
8: MEET JJ JUSTMAN
7: DAVE HAHN: 14TH EVEREST SUMMIT
6: MT. McKINLEY WEATHER WITH DAVE HAHN
5. RMI CLIMBER VIDEO: PANORAMIC ECUADOR
4. MELISSA ARNOT INTERVIEW
3. CLIMBING MEXICO’S VOLCANOES: VIDEO BY JJ JUSTMAN
2. EXTREME ECUADOR: CULTURE AND CLIMB
1. ACONCAGUA SUMMIT DAY: VIDEO BY JJ JUSTMAN
RMI Guide Katie Bono completed a speed ascent of Mt. Rainier on July 24th, ascending from the Paradise Parking Lot to the summit of Mt. Rainier and returning to Paradise in 4:58. Her ascent is believed to be the fastest ascent of Mt. Rainier by a female climber. Here, Katie describes her climb:
I first thought of doing a speed ascent on Rainier late in the summer of 2011. I started guiding with RMI that summer and spent plenty of time that year carrying heavy loads up the Muir snowfield as quickly as possible. I come from a cross-country ski racing background and I raced professionally for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, the Rossignol Factory Team, and Dartmouth College before that. I quit ski racing in 2011 but soon realized that I missed the feeling of pushing myself hard and finding my limits. As a result, this summer I found myself thinking about a speed attempt more frequently. It seemed like a cool way to push myself in a way I hadn’t before. When I first started thinking about it, I was planning for something in the sub-7:00 range. As a way to test the waters, I did a hike up the Muir Snowfield in early July trying to simulate a manageable pace to the summit and ended up with a time of 1:36. My time for running back down the Muir Snowfield was 38 min, including a stop to chat with friends. After that, I sat down, did the math, and figured that if I could do 1:45 to Camp Muir (elevation gain of ~4600’), 1:45 from Camp Muir to the summit (~4400’), 1:00 back to Camp Muir, and 0:30 to Paradise, I could do it in 5 hours. The big questions were:
1. Whether I could maintain pace all the way up to 14k of altitude and 3.5 hours of uphill hiking, and
2. If taking an hour to get from the summit to Camp Muir would feel at all unsafe. I didn’t want to do the climb recklessly - it was just a fun and unique challenge.
The next step was figuring out my gear plan. Fortunately, I’ve had a very full schedule on Rainier this summer, and as a result, I had lots of time to think about logistics at Camp Muir while trying to fall asleep at 6:00 P.M. I decided the best plan would be to wear running shoes, specifically a pair of shoes with built-in gaiters I had lying around. I would wear YakTrax to Camp Muir and up to around 12,000. After that, the route gets steep enough and snowy enough that I would don aluminum strap-on crampons over my running shoes. I checked out the forecast for the summit and used my experience from ski racing to figure out clothing strategies for racing hard in the cold - I would wear lightweight climbing pants, a base layer top, a super-lightweight hooded down jacket, and belay gloves as my layering system. I also decided to bring along some gels and sports drink in a water belt.
When the day came, I woke up groggy and sleep-deprived. I had picked up my boyfriend and fellow RMI guide at the airport the previous evening and hadn’t gotten back to Ashford until the wee hours. Driving up the road to Paradise in the morning, I realized I forgot both my YakTrax, and my sunscreen. Oh well, you only live once. So I kept on driving up. I got out of the car, tuned my iPod to some electronic music, and was off and running (or, more precisely, rest-stepping). It was a beautiful morning, and perfect for climbing. I had picked that day for good weather and good route conditions - the Disappointment Cleaver route is fast, direct, and reasonably safe right now so all systems were a go. I started off around 6 a.m. so I could hit the snow conditions just right for ideal ascending and descending. Having climbed the route two days prior, I had a solid sense of how to time it. The lack of YakTrax turned out to be not an issue - the snow was just grippy enough to make it work.
I reached Camp Muir at 1:38 on the timer, grabbed my crampons that I had cached earlier (and convinced some friends to set out for me), and dropped down onto the Cowlitz Glacier. The next big hurdle was climbing the Disappointment Cleaver. The whole way up, I had been walking at a very high cadence to minimize fatigue, but the rockiness of the Cleaver made it pretty much impossible to do that and it was a difficult stretch. After the Cleaver, the upper mountain was a haze of looking alternately at my feet, the rate of ascent function on my watch, and at the remainder of the mountain to climb. I hit the crater rim at 3:30 on the time, sprinted (a.k.a. walked) across the crater rim over to Columbia Crest, did a quick gaze around the whole panorama of the Cascades, and headed down. The crampons gave me just enough purchase to feel very safe running downhill, and I made it back to Camp Muir about 45 minutes after reaching the summit. I passed the RMI groups on the way down, and they offered to radio the crew at Camp Muir to get out some Gatorade and baby wipes for me (the most uncomfortable part of the climb, hands down, was the massive salt deposits on my face. However, they possibly helped prevent the outrageous sunburn I somehow avoided).
After reaching Muir, I had 35 minutes to get back down to Paradise, but I was starting to falter. I sprinted down through the sun cupped snow, trying not to fall with all my stabilizer muscles maxed to their limit and hit the trail leading back to Paradise. At this point I was looking at my watch, fairly convinced that I was going to get to the parking lot just over 5 hours. And, not that stuff like that really matters, but it’s somehow infinitely more satisfying to dip just under than just over. So I focused in, tried not to terrify too many tourists with my mad dash, and reached the bottom of the steps at Paradise at 4:58:41. I stumbled around glassy-eyed in the parking lot for a while, and then drove back home to get ready to climb the next day. All in all, it was a great climb — I definitely surpassed my own expectations, and it was incredibly fun to be able to do it with the cheering and good vibes of all the other people on the route that day going for their own summits.
Katie Bono climbs Mount Rainier in 4 hours, 58 minutes on July 24, 2012.
RMI Guide Katie Bono completed a car-to-car speed ascent of the classic Disappointment Cleaver route. Her effort is significant not only because it sets the female speed record but also because it adds a female presence to a list which had been exclusively male dominated.
Bono described the route, which she climbed 12 times, as straight-forward and direct, minus the rocky section of Disappointment Cleaver itself, where she expressed difficulty keeping “the high-RPM, small steps” she was able to use on the remainder of the route.
The first known speed ascent was made by Lou and Jim Whittaker, with John Day, in 1959 (7 hours, 20 minutes). Craig Van Hoy (5 hours, 25 minutes; 1981), Justin Merle (4:49:35; July 9, 2008), and Liam O’Sullivan (4:46:29; August 5, 2008), all former Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. guides, successfully lowered the record times until September 17, 2008 when renowned guide Willie Benegas completed the round trip in 4:40:59. Benegas’ record currently stands.
Posted by: | June 17, 2012
Categories: *Guide News
It’s June already. Do you have a Mount Rainier climb planned this summer? If so, you are probably at the peak of your training efforts and devoting a good amount of energy and time to preparing your body for the big climb. Many people ask, “What’s the most important thing for training right now?”
If you are less than a week away from your climb, you’ll want to rest. By all means, do some activity — but just enough to keep you moving — not so much that you arrive fatigued. You’ll want to maximize your sleep and relaxation this week. Also, be sure that you’re eating plenty of carbohydrates to ensure you start the climb with a full tank.
If your climb is still a few weeks or even months away, then you have a great opportunity to add to your endurance.
I like to keep things simple. My recommendation to people training for mountaineering is to include at least one long hike each week. How long? Well, your summit day will start in the middle of the night and you may well be climbing and descending for upwards of 14 hours. So, it’s important to condition yourself to be on your feet for that long.
Practically, if you live near Mt. Rainier you can train on any number of long steep hikes in the area, or even hike up to Camp Muir for practice. One big weekly hike is my minimum, but if you can you’ll benefit from back-to-back days of hiking, or maybe even sneak in a midweek hike as well. A man I know was out of shape with only two months to go before his Mt. Rainier climb. He realized he was behind on his training, took vacation time, and hiked Mt. Si, near Seattle, eighteen times in one month! I thought it was a bit extreme and advised him to pay attention to his knees and joints, but he did it — and he made it all the way to the summit and back.
If you live in a flat city you can still get in good training. I’ve done urban hikes before to get in condition for a climb. Once, when I was getting ready for a big climb while I lived in London, UK, I would put a metal weight and some water-bottles in a pack and walk all day, stopping at restaurants to eat and visiting the occasional museum. It’s fun and a great way to see a city. This winter in Seattle I set a goal of walking three miles each day. It’s great for the feet, legs, and back and it’s easy to plan to walk places instead of driving. Arrive at work or a friend’s house and tell them you walked — you’ll inspire them too! It might be tough to get elevation in flatter regions, but don’t let that stop you from building endurance.
If you can’t hike or walk anywhere then bicycling is about as close as you can get to hiking as an alternative. It works the same energy-systems and many of the same muscle groups. If you do a lot of cycling, also do jumping exercises, perhaps even get a jump-rope and use it for a few minutes every day. That will help with the coming-down part of the climb. Cycling builds strength and endurance but doesn’t replicate the impact of stepping down. The combination of both is very effective.
Top three tips for June:
1. Make the main thing - the main thing: It’s a long endurance climb with a 35lb pack. Go long in training and wear a pack when possible.
2. Back up your long hikes with shorter sessions: 60 - 90 minute efforts at a higher intensity. Stairs, stair-master, elliptical machine, cycling or spin class are good options.
3. Mix up your training: Some long and steady ‘conversational’ pace sessions; some hard and steady; some intervals of 1 minute of very hard effort followed by 1 minute of rest.
A parting thought: I used to get close to a climb and worry that I hadn’t done enough of this or of that. Right now you’ve done what you’ve done. Its best to take out a calendar, figure out how many long hikes you can fit in, block out those time and then use the other days for shorter sessions. Take a day or two of rest as well, you’ll benefit from doing so. As the guides will tell you on the mountain, don’t worry about tomorrow or next week, just focus on now. Focus on how you can complete — and enjoy — today’s workout. You’ve trained hard and what you do now will make a difference on the mountain.
Author of Fit By Nature by Mountaineers Books.
For more information please see our resources for mountaineering fitness and training.
On Sunday, June 3, the historic Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier National Park hosted a Tribute to Nawang Gombu. The much-anticipated event promised to be a memorable gathering and, despite the fickle weather, it definitely lived up to expectations!
By 4:00PM the grand lobby was overflowing with family and friends gathered to honor the memory of the man who, all agreed, was a remarkable individual in terms of physical strength, mental determination, and above everything else, humility. Several family members even journeyed from India to attend. Gombu’s daughter, Yangdu, received a plaque from Mt. Rainier National Park Superintendent Randy King, recognizing her father’s years of service at Mt. Rainier.
Needless to say, the climbing community was well represented, with Lou & Jim Whittaker (along with their families) topping the bill. Jim recounted a story when he and Gombu were on the summit of Mt Everest in 1963: He asked the soon-to-become-famous Sherpa what he was thinking; what was going through his mind in that historic moment; and received the succinct reply, “Getting down!”
In the crowd were numerous professional mountain guides who worked with Gombu on Mt Rainier, as well as past clients of RMI fortunate enough to rope up with him during their summit climbs. Phinjo Gombu, Gombu’s son and also a former RMI guide, accepted a special plaque from RMI’s Lou Whittaker, Peter Whittaker, and myself. Phinjo then delivered a moving account of his father’s life, from boyhood to becoming a mountaineering icon. Through it all, Phinjo recalled, Gombu remained humble and unassuming. As he put it, “He [Gombu] simply loved the mountains.” Everyone in the building related to that sentiment.
2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982 American Everest Expedition, led by Lou Whittaker, of which Gombu was a member. Several former RMI guides and participants on the expedition were in attendance, including Larry Nielson, the first American to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen (1983). Gombu used to refer to Larry as “the Animal” and with good reason!
Near the great fireplace at the west end of the lobby easels displayed photos from numerous expeditions on which Gombu participated: Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, and Nanda Devi. He also guided an RMI Mt. McKinley Expedition in the late 1970’s, with his friend Phil Ershler. A silent auction was ongoing throughout the evening, bidding on famous photos and mountaineering books autographed by Lou Whittaker, Jim Whittaker, and Dee Molenaar among others.
Of course, nothing elicits memories more effectively than film and the medium was presented in abundance: Gombu as a young man on early expeditions; the electrifying final steps to the top of Everest on May 1, 1963 with Big Jim; the ’82 China-Everest North Wall and ’89 Kanchenjunga expeditions. These clips represented but a few snippets of a lifetime spent in the high mountains.
Then suddenly, shortly after 9:00PM, someone burst into Paradise Inn proclaiming, “The Mountain’s out! The Mountain’s out!” Talk about your mass exodus. The lobby all but emptied in a matter of moments as everyone grabbed cameras and cell phones or simply went outside to look for themselves. The summit of Rainier, hidden behind clouds throughout the day, was there in all its glory. The Tatoosh Range was bathed in shades of evening’s glow, while Rainier’s distant summit loomed stark and foreboding. It fit the occasion. Mt Rainier’s upper reaches are the realm of the mountaineer, of which Nawang Gombu represented the highest ideal. As guide and climber, husband and father and very special friend, his memory will be kept alive in the high mountains.
Special thanks to Ingrid & Lou Whittaker for all their efforts in organizing and promoting this truly memorable event.
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