Entries By zeb blais

Expedition Tajikistan: A Ski Traverse of the Fedchenko Glacier

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

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

Map of Tajikistan (RMI Collection)

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

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

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

Zeb Blais on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

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

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

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

Camp on the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Traversing the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

Skiing above the Fedchenko Glacier (Zeb Blais)

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Rainier: Climbs Unable to Summit due to weather

Posted by: Mike Walter, Zeb Blais | August 13, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 11,500'

The Four Day Summit Climb teams led by RMI Guides Mike Walter and Zeb Blais were unable to summit Mt. Rainier this morning, poor weather forced the groups to turn around at the bottom of Disappointment Cleaver.  The teams tried to wait out the weather and left Camp Muir later than normal but the ran and wet snow still forced them to abort their summit attempt of Mt. Rainier.  The teams will begin their descent from Camp Muir around 8:30 am en route to Paradise.

The Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons led by RMI Guide Geoff Schellens was unable to make their summit attempt today due to poor weather conditions.

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so thankful to our guides, who got me to Muir safely through a lightning and thunderstorm, to my sisters for their support, and to my fellow climbers, who were inspiring… read more

Posted by: Linda on 8/15/2014 at 8:19 am

I was one of the climbers and am glad our guides elected to let us go out and “poke our nose in” the inclement weather and actually get a little… read more

Posted by: KB on 8/14/2014 at 8:15 pm


Mt. Rainier: August 3rd Summit

Posted by: Zeb Blais | August 03, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

RMI Guide Zeb Blais and the Four Day Summit Climb reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  Zeb reported light winds while on the summit.  The team departed the crater rim around 7:30 am and is making their descent to Camp Muir where they will pack up before continuing their descent.  We look forward to seeing the team in Ashford this afternoon.

Congratulations Climbers!


Mt. Rainier: July 30th Summit

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Zeb Blais | July 30, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Billy Nugent and the Five Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Zeb Blais reached the summit of Mt. Rainier earlier this morning.  The team has descended safely to Camp Muir where they will pack up before continuing their descent to Paradise.  We look forward to greeting the teams when they arrive in Ashford later this afternoon.

Congratulations to today’s climbers!

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Congratulations to Jessica and Denise - Top of the World! - as far as I am concerned!

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Posted by: Michael Rose on 8/2/2014 at 2:00 pm

OUTSTANDING! WHAT’S NEXT?

Love, Dad

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Posted by: Dad on 7/31/2014 at 4:48 am


Mt. Rainier: Four Day Summit Climbs Team Remain at Camp Muir

Posted by: Jake Beren, Zeb Blais | July 24, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 10,060'

The Four Day Summit Climb teams led by RMI Guides Zeb Blais and Jake Beren were unable to make a summit attempt of Mt. Rainier this morning due to weather conditions.  Jake reported steady winds of 50 mph overnight with gusts to 70 mph.  As of 7:30 am conditions had improved slightly with decreased winds and partial clearing.  Snow accumulation at Muir was estimated at 6-10 inches.

The teams will depart Camp Muir around 9:15 en route to Paradise and then continue down to Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford.


Mt. Rainier: Four Day Summit Climb Teams Reach Summit!

Posted by: Lindsay Fixmer, Zeb Blais | July 19, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climbs led by RMI Guides Zeb Blais and Lindsay Fixmer reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  The teams experienced very high winds upon approaching the crater rim.  The team enjoyed some time on top before starting their descent around 7 am.  The teams will return to Camp Muir for a short break before continuing down to Paradise.  We look forward to seeing them at Rainier BaseCamp this afternoon.

Congratulations to today’s Summit Climb teams!

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I’m not sure we entirely “Enjoyed some time on top”... but at least we made it.

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Posted by: Christian Bruhn on 7/21/2014 at 6:29 am

Is this Bruhn/Garth/Andrews et al? If so, nice job! If not, congrats to whomever.

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Posted by: Drew on 7/19/2014 at 8:33 am


Mt. Rainier: July 10th Summit!

Posted by: Jake Beren, Zeb Blais, Walter Hailes | July 10, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The RMI Four Day Summit Climbs led by RMI Guides Jake Beren and Zeb Blais reached the top of Mt. Rainier early this morning.  At 7:15 the teams were descending Disappointment Cleaver en route back to Camp Muir.  The teams are doing well and enjoying the blue skies and calm weather.

The Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons led by RMI Guide Walter Hailes reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning via the Emmons Glacier route.  The team has descended to Camp Schurman where they will spend the night before returning to Ashford tomorrow.

Congratulations to Today’s Teams!

A RMI Team practicing rope travel on Mt. Rainier.  Photo: Win Whittaker Snow School on Mt. Rainier in July. Photo: Win Whittaker Learning basic mountaineering techniques on Mt. Rainier in July. Photo: Win Whittaker The view of Mt. Rainier and the Emmons Glacier from Sunrise. Photo: Mt. Rainier Web Cam
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Way to go Jason (and team).  You set a goal, worked hard, and stood at the summit.  Thanks for letting us be a part of the experience!

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Posted by: Kathy and Denny Meyers on 7/13/2014 at 2:47 pm

Way to go KH. You’re not so old after all!  How about Denali at 59?

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Posted by: Beth Parmley on 7/11/2014 at 7:11 pm


Mt. Rainier: July 5th Summit!

Posted by: Jake Beren, Zeb Blais | July 05, 2014
Categories:
Elevation: 14,410'

Today’s Mt. Rainier Summit Climb teams, led by Jake Beren and Zeb Blais, reached the top around 6 a.m.  The guides reported steady winds at 15 mph and overcast skies.  Both teams are back at Camp Muir and will continue their descent shortly.

Congratulations to the summit climbers!

Mt. Rainier climbers at sunrise. Photo: RMI Collection

Mt. Rainier: June 26th Summit

Posted by: Mike Soucy, Zeb Blais, JJ Justman | June 26, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb of Mt. Rainier led by RMI Guides JJ Justman and Mike Soucy stood on top of Columbia Crest this morning.  JJ reported that the teams were in and out of a cloud cap all morning but enjoyed light winds and pleasant conditions on the summit.  The teams will descend to Camp Muir where they will pack up and refuel before making their way to Paradise.  We look forward to seeing them in Ashford this afternoon.

The Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz led by RMI Guide Zeb Blais also reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  They enjoyed a light breeze while on the summit.  The team will descend back to high camp for the night and will return to Ashford tomorrow.

Congratulations to today’s climbers!

An RMI rope team on their ascent of Mt. Rainier, WA this morning.  Photo: JJ Justman RMI climbers on their descent of Mt. Rainier, WA this morning. Photo: JJ Justman
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Congratulations everyone.  Great reward for all
the training and hard work.  So proud of you, Paul!!
A special thank you to the guides.

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Posted by: Vicki on 6/26/2014 at 8:59 pm

WAY TO GO JIM AND KATHERINE !!!!!  Congratulations to all.  Truly an experience.  Love you :)

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Posted by: Mary Kruse on 6/26/2014 at 4:48 pm


Mt. Rainier: June 21st Update

Posted by: Kel Rossiter, Zeb Blais | June 21, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

At 7:20 a.m. PT the Mount Rainier Four Day Summit Climbs led by Kel Rossiter and Zeb Blais were just about to crest the crater rim. They reported 10 mph winds from the north and perfectly blue skies. 

Congratulations to today’s summit climb teams!

RMI Guide Kel Rossiter cresting the Mt. Rainier crater rim. Photo: RMI Collection
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Just want to acknowledge the great experience we had with our RMI guides. Zeb, Christina and Nick were absolute aces guiding us to the top. They were spot on from… read more

Posted by: Tom on 7/1/2014 at 4:08 pm

Yay, Daddy!  Did you have fun?
Love, Lilia and Nina

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Posted by: Nina and Lilia on 6/21/2014 at 9:25 am


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