Entries By walter hailes

Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Arrive in BaseCamp

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 08, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 13,800'

Hello everyone out there following along in RMI Expeditions blogland… Our team made short work of today’s hike and arrived at Plaza Argentina (our basecamp) early this afternoon. We started off early early, firing the stoves before sunrise because we needed to hitch a ride on muleback over the river. The herrieros were planning on running the rest of our gear up to basecamp and then running the mules all the way back out to the road so they requested the early start. Normally we’d cross the river on foot but it’s running pretty deep this year and the mule option seemed like a safer one especially considering my lifeguard certification expired about 15 years ago.. . Anyway, the team is settling in to life at just under 14k feet and hoping for a good night of sleep after three consecutive hot and dusty days on the trail.

Hasta mañana,
RMI Guide Billy Nugent

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Trek to Casa de Piedra

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 07, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua
Elevation: 10,550'

Checking in from Casa de Piedra, aka trekking camp 2 here in the Vacas Valley. Our crew had another great day moving well and enjoying near perfect weather. While the terrain was very similar to yesterday’s hike the temperatures were considerably lower and there was a pleasant breeze all day that lessened the onslaught of the sun. Right before the Refugio we caught our first glimpses of the mountain without a cloud in the sky. The mountain looks a bit more dusty and dry than normal. The Polish Glacier also appears more broken up than normal. Still, we took a break to shoot some photos and let the size and grandeur soak in a little. After arriving in camp around 2:30 pm, we spent the afternoon lounging and some adventurous folks even went for a swim in the river. The river is running a fair bit deeper than normal so our team is going to ford it tomorrow on mules instead of on foot which will be a new experience for all of us.

All for now, will check in again tomorrow from basecamp…

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

A team of mules reaching Casa de Piedra. Photo: Linden Mallory

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Aconcagua: Nugent & Team from Pampa de Leñas

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 07, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua

Today was hot… Our team woke up after a last night under a roof and in a real bed and loaded up on coffee and scrambled eggs before heading back over to Grajales’ packing facility. We put the finishing touches on our packing job for the mules and caught a transfer from Penitentes over to Punta de Vacas where our journey truly began. We took off from the trailhead a little after 10 am and it was already blazing. Strong sun and high temperatures made for a hard day but our team showed a lot of strength by dispensing the first stretch of the trek to basecamp in good time and with strong form. Occasional breezes and some late afternoon wind made the heat bearable. We got moved in to our first camp at Pampa de Leñas after the mule drivers unloaded our gear and waited for a rendezvous with Jake’s descending RMI team. Our minestrone soup was supplemented by delicious beef from the asado that the muleteers had prepared for Jake’s crew. It turns out that our friends at Grajales knew that Gabi, Jake, and myself would all be in Leñas tonight and sent up extra meat for a celebration. Now, I’m laying under the stars with a full belly thankful for great friends and excited for tomorrow’s continued adventure with a great crew!

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

The trailhead at Punta de Vacas and the beginning of the approach to Aconcagua. Photo: Linden Mallory

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Aconcagua: Billy Nugent & Team Begin Their Expedition!

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Walter Hailes, Katrina Bloemsma | January 07, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Aconcagua

Whew. It’s been a busy couple of days for this newly assembled team of climbers… The whole gang made it down to Argentina yesterday safe and sound and with all of our luggage! Travel-weary but excited we held a team meeting to formally get to know one another and hash out some of the many logistical details that getting out of town and on the mountain involves. Then we went out on the town in Mendoza for a wild and crazy night. Just kidding. But we did get to see some street performers and walk through the Saturday night crowds on our way to a fine Argentine restaurant. Now’s where I’m supposed to brag about the delicious beef we ate and Malbec we imbibed.

The following morning we got our act together after a couple hiccups at the permit office and then caught a quick lunch before transferring out to Penitentes. We spent the afternoon getting our gear ready for the mules and are about to enjoy one last night with a filling meal and a warm bed. Well, at least for the foreseeable future…

Hitting the dusty trail tomorrow, everyone’s a little anxious but psyched to find the rhythm of the expedition.

All for now,
RMI Guide Billy Nugent and Friends

The Andes Mountains from the flight into Argentina. Photo: Linden Mallory

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Mt. Rainier: June 22, 2013 Summit!

Posted by: Brent Okita, Walter Hailes, JJ Justman, Win Whittaker | June 22, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb Teams Led by RMI Guides Brent Okita and Walter Hailes called as they reached the Summit of Mt. Rainier at 6:59am this morning.  The teams have clear weather with light winds, but cold temperatures.  They spent some time on the summit before starting their descent back to Camp Muir.

Congratulations to today’s teams!

RMI Guide JJ Justman’s team was awarded with a beautiful day of climbing up to Camp Muir. The team is keeping their fingers crossed for good weather tomorrow morning!

Climbing School. Photo: Win Whittaker Today's ascending summit climb headed to Camp Muir. Photo: JJ Justman

Mt. Rainier: June 19th - Team on Summit!

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Walter Hailes | June 19, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb teams led by RMI Guides Elias de Andres Martos and Walter Hailes reached the summit of Mt. Rainier around 7 a.m. PT.  The teams reported really good weather and climbing conditions.  Mostly blue skies above them with a thick cloud layer down around 9,500’.  They will enjoy some time on the summit before starting their descent to Camp Muir and continue down to Paradise this afternoon. 

The Liberty Ridge climb led by RMI Guides Casey Grom and Andres Marin will be returning to Ashford today.  The team was unable to climb due to poor weather and route conditions.

We look forward to seeing the teams this afternoon at Rainier BaseCamp. 

Congratulations to today’s summit climb teams!

Sunrise on Mt. Rainier's Disappointment Cleaver Route. Photo: Pete Van Deventer

Mountaineering Training | High Altitude Physiology and Climbing

Posted by: Walter Hailes | June 03, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Adjusting to the low oxygen of high altitude environments is a natural process that we will all experience if we travel or live at high altitudes.  Like all things in life, some people are better at adjusting to high altitude than others.  Fortunately, there are ways that each of us can prepare at home and in the early stages of mountain travel before going to the big peaks.

We all experience the low oxygen of high altitude a little differently, but the most prominent symptoms of going to high altitude are categorized as the condition Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  AMS is composed of a group of symptoms that can present themselves after spending some time at high altitude.  Symptoms of AMS include headache, fatigue, anorexia, nausea and insomnia.  While the severity of these symptoms can vary, AMS does not have to end your climb but should be used as an indication that your body is struggling to acclimatize.
The most important aspect of performing well and staying healthy in the mountains under the stress of low oxygen is by being physically fit.  If you have been following a rigorous training program then you are well on your way to being physically fit for your climb.  Fitness cannot prevent the symptoms of AMS but if the daily physical tasks of climbing are easier due to your high fitness level, then you have more energy reserves to battle the stress of the low oxygen environment.

Proper nutrition and hydration are also important variables leading up to and during your climb.  While you may avoid simple carbohydrates during daily life, at altitude simple carbohydrates are the most efficient and most preferred form of energy for your acclimatizing body.  Don’t be afraid to eat those high glycemic foods while working hard at altitude! Dehydration can certainly be detrimental to your performance and health at high altitude, but you do not need to constantly consume water.  Listen to your body, specifically you thirst, it has been finely tuned over many generations to keep you hydrated. 

The prescription medication acetazolamide (Diamox) can help with acclimatization to high altitude, but it is not a magic pill that will solve all your high altitude problems. Diamox has repeatedly reduced AMS symptoms and hastened acclimatization during multi-day clinical and laboratory studies. It can work and is a great tool to use if you are not acclimatizing during an expedition even though you are using a standard acclimatization schedule, but its efficacy is less known for a quick overnight summit attempt such as Mt. Rainier. Remember: all medications have side effects that you need to understand before using and Diamox will not make up for a lack of fitness when headed into the mountains. 

The bottom line is make sure that your body is fit enough to handle the stress of a high altitude mountain trip, and listen to your body while you are at altitude.  If you pay attention, your body will tell you what fuel you need to keep going and how well you are adjusting to the high altitude environment.  Have fun and climb safe!

Walter Hailes is a senior guide at RMI and has guided extensively in North and South America.  He also works as an exercise physiologist at the University of Montana, primarily studying the human capacity to endure/excel in difficult environments including high altitude, extreme heat and cold.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts on the RMI Blog!

Dave Hahn climbs through Mt. Everest's Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Linden Mallory

Mt. Rainier: June 2nd Update

Posted by: Linden Mallory, Walter Hailes | June 02, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 11,200'

The Four Day Summit Climb led by Walter Hailes and the Five Day Summit Climb led by Linden Mallory reached Ingraham Flats (11,200’) this morning before making the decision to turn the teams around due to unstable snow conditions.

The teams will descend from Camp Muir and return to Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford this afternoon.

Watching the sunrise from 12,000 ft on Mt. Rainier today.  Photo: Linden Mallory

Mt. Rainier: May 27th Update

Posted by: Adam Knoff, Walter Hailes | May 27, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier

The Four Day Summit Climb led by Adam Knoff and Walter Hailes turned at the top of Disappointment Cleaver as a weather system quickly moved in on them making for an exciting descent back to Camp Muir.  Both teams will continue their descent to Paradise and then to Rainier Basecamp this afternoon.

Mt. Rainier: May 18th Update - Summit!

Posted by: Adam Knoff, Pete Van Deventer, Walter Hailes, Robby Young | May 18, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

Congratulations to the Four Day Summit Climb team led by Adam Knoff!  They reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning!  The team left Camp Muir with clear and pleasant weather.  As the climb progressed a front moved in and the team experienced some light snowfall and 10 mph winds.  They spent some time on the summit and began their descent at 9:15 a.m.

Climber at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier. Photo: RMI Collection

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