Posts for Guide News

Mt. Everest: Team Ready for First Camp 1 Rotation

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall, Mark Tucker | April 16, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Guide News *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

Mark Tucker here at Everest Basecamp (EBC).  Home away from home.  I recently completed an Everest Basecamp Trek and Island Peak climb. Always a pleasure to share this amazing place with adventure travelers.  I had a great time.  Hope the return home for my team went smooth.  Thank you all.

Back at EBC, I am settling in.  Getting organized is always a bit of work but much appreciated as our team’s prepare for the rotations to the upper camps.  Now that the organizing is done, I opened up the local grocery store for the team. They went shopping for their food to be consumed at Camp 1 on their upcoming nights.  They plan to head full force thru the Icefall in the early AM, looking at three nights on the hill.  The team looks great, ready to get into meat of the climb. We did take time out to build the horseshoe pits and get in a couple games.  Burrito night tonight.  A favorite meal here at EBC.

RMI Guide Mark Tucker

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

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Carstensz Pyramid: Creating the Sugapa Route Visitor Protocols

Posted by: Alex Van Steen | April 01, 2013
Categories: *Guide News *Carstensz Pyramid *Responsible Climbing

In February 2013, I spent several weeks in West Papua with the express intention of connecting with villagers who live along the trek followed by our Carstensz Pyramid climbing programs. I traveled with two translators - one a long-time friend who grew up in West Papua and the other a member of the Moni tribe, a man who truly has a good heart for his people.

I visited about ten villages and had numerous trailside chats. I spent many hours chatting (as well as eating, and playing soccer & table tennis!) and had opportunities to share our vision with various folks: government officials, village elders, tribal chiefs, pastors and school teachers.

The constant thread throughout the conversations involved villagers expressing frustration with tourists who came to “take photographs” and “take summits” but who did not (as it was described to me) “give relationship.” It is understandable that folks were upset when they weren’t paid as promised by unscrupulous outfitters or when they felt unsafe being asked to porter into the high country (the tribal peoples have not traditionally traveled above the jungles, see story below), but it truly resonated with me that when they felt most disrespected was when they were treated as if they were nothing more than pack animals. Quite frankly, they explained, why should they leave their tribal community and upset their daily lives only to be mistreated or underpaid?

The Moni name for Carstensz is Mbai Ngela. It means “Forbidden Egg.” The story is that in years gone by when the mountain was snow covered, it resembled an egg, and the fore-fathers forbade their people from going there because it was the hunting grounds of evil spirits and those spirits always killed those who ventured there. Even today, villagers have a very difficult time understanding the science of hypothermia and often will point to and tell of places along the way where the spirits have killed a poor wayfarer!


I knew that in order to eat this elephant, I would need to take it one bite at a time, so I started with small bites of “giving relationship.” I found that when I played soccer (which I am convinced is the lingua franca of relationship) with the local men and boys on village airstrips, that we had laughs to share (mostly at me tripping on the uneven surface!); when I offered to show folks photos of my family, they showed me their village (!); and for all my “otherness” (some folks, I was told,  had never seen white-skinned people), I was never denied the hospitality of a meal or a hut as respite from the rain.

Another small bite was the creation of the protocols (below) to be posted in a church along our route. The pastor in this village of twenty people, a good man named Atan, had initially wanted to run me off. I agreed to keep walking, but in deepening the conversation as to why, I learned that an earlier group of tourists had – in his word – “desecrated” the church by leaving garbage there. I whole-heartedly agreed that such practices were unacceptable, and offered to create protocols to instruct tourists how to behave. Through my translators I was able to build a simple list of what it would take for his village to feel respected. They fully wanted tourists to stop for the night but they also needed tourists to respect that privilege.

As I look forward to my next trip, I hope to take a few more bites of the elephant!

THE SUGAPA ROUTE VISITOR PROTOCOLS

This church serves an important role in the community. Guests are welcomed to find refuge here and are asked respect the following requests. This will help ensure use of the building for future travelers.

• Please stay off of the raised area which surrounds the altar. This area is for local religious personnel only and it is considered offensive if others trespass there.

• Please keep hot water, stoves & cookware out of the building. This helps keep the area clean.

• Please hang a trash bag just outside the building to collect your garbage. Villagers will burn your trash for you.

• Because of the importance of Sunday worship, travelers should not expect access to the building on Saturday evenings or Sundays.

• Please do not use the church grounds or property for toilet needs. Ask the Pastor of the church where it is appropriate to wash and use the bathroom.

• Please offer a donation for your use of the church. This is an appropriate and considerate way of expressing thanks.

Download a multi-lingual copy of the Sugapa Route Visitor Protocols here.

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).
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The RMI Difference in Papua: Preparations for our September climb of Carstensz Pyramid

Posted by: Alex Van Steen | March 20, 2013
Categories: *Guide News *Carstensz Pyramid *Responsible Climbing

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.   

Amakane!

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!
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RMI Guide Robby Young Completes the AMGA Ski Guide Course in the Wasatch Mountains

Posted by: Robby Young | March 07, 2013
Categories: *Guide News

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!

Snow anchor practice in the Brighton Backcountry. Photo: Robby Young Student-led tour in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Photo: Robby Young Tour planning at the Steam Mill Yurt. Photo: Robby Young

RMI Guide Mike King Takes in Avalanche Level 2 Training in Oregon

Posted by: Mike King | March 05, 2013
Categories: *Guide News

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.

RMI Guide Mike King

Mike King beginning his snow pit profiling. Photo: Mike King Analyzing the snow pack profile. Photo: Mike King

RMI Guides Tyler Reid and Solveig Waterfall Make First Ski Descent of The Pipeline

Posted by: Tyler Reid, Solveig Waterfall | January 29, 2013
Categories: *Guide News

RMI Guides Tyler Reid and Solveig Waterfall make first ski descent of The Pipeline on Mt. Angeles in the Olympic Mountains of Washington.

Follow this link to Tyler’s blog for more exciting photos!

RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall drops in. Photo: Tyler Reid

RMI’S TOP TEN BLOG POSTS OF 2012

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!

10. RMI GUIDE SETH WATERFALL RECEIVES VALUABLE AVY 3 TRAINING

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…

9. MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING | NUTRITION FOR MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING

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…

8. MT. EVEREST EXPEDITION: RMI TEAM REACHES SUMMIT!

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…

7. MT. EVEREST EXPEDITION: REST DAY AT ABC

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…

6. MT EVEREST EXPEDITION: DAVE HAHN AND TEAM AT CAMP 3 ON LHOTSE FACE

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…

5. RMI GUIDE KATIE BONO RECOUNTS MT. RAINIER SPEED ASCENT

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…

4. MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING | SETTING A BASELINE: EVALUATING YOUR CURRENT FITNESS

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…

3. LOU WHITTAKER INTERVIEW

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…

2. MOUNTAINEERING TRAINING | INTERVAL TRAINING

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…

1. RMI GUIDE KATIE BONO MAKES SPEED ASCENT

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…


RMI’S TOP TEN VIDEOS OF 2012

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

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RMI Guide Katie Bono Recounts Mt. Rainier Speed Ascent

Posted by: Katie Bono | July 29, 2012
Categories: *Guide News

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 arrives at Camp Muir on the ascent. Courtesy Stephen Coker. Katie takes off running across the Cowlitz Glacier. Courtesy Stephen Coker. Katie's stopwatch after reaching the parking lot back at Paradise.
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RMI Guide Katie Bono Makes Speed Ascent

Posted by: Katie Bono | July 25, 2012
Categories: *Guide News
Elevation: 14,410'

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.

RMI Guide Katie Bono RMI Guide Katie Bono on speed ascent of Mt. Rainier.  Photo: Steve Coker
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