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Mt. Everest Expedition: Rest Day at ABC

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot | May 22, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 21,300'

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.
It is so hard to try and maintain strength at these higher camps that you better hope the internal battery is charged, you will be drawing off of your reserves for sure.  The team is focusing on eating and hydrating, keeping their bodies strong and ready.  Four of our climbing Sherpa left Base Camp today and joined the climbers at ABC.  Everyone is doing well and looking forward to the next few days.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn is one of the best mountain guides in the business. With many expeditions under his belt, he knows how to climb this mountain.  The weather forecast still looks promising.  Good luck to the team!

RMI Guide Mark Tucker


RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from ABC on a rest day.

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Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 5

Posted by: | March 04, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 5 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (50 min) 62 min. Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Strength Circuit Training x 3 46 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 hr) 72 min. Hard
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (3 hrs) 192 min. Medium
Total 6 hrs 18 mins

BRIEFING
 
This week’s training plan looks very similar to last week’s. The day of your fitness test reverts back to your choice of cross-training. On day 7, the length of the hike increase by about an hour or lengthened about two miles. The primary training goal this week is to begin to extend your aerobic endurance, which you’ll achieve by the increase in length of the hike. 
 
Adding an hour may seem like a small increment; but you are going from a medium length hike to a longer one requiring a fairly substantial effort.
 
There are several subtle but important things to consider as you increase the length of your hike. One of the biggest ones is energy consumption. Many people can do a two hour hike without any special preparation, and you’ll probably have enough energy to complete it just fine. However, to be successful maintaining energy throughout a three hour hike, you’ll want to be diligent in preparing, specifically with nutrition, to make sure you have enough fuel in your body for the entire hike. Be sure to pack enough snacks to keep you fueled for the entire time! 
 
You’ll also want to consider what you carry in your day pack. On a two hour hike, you may never be more than an hour from the parking lot. As you go further out, this creates additional consideration for self-responsibility and risk management. You’ll want to make sure you have the ten essentials in your pack and also have an emergency plan in case a mishap should occur. This includes letting people know where you’re going, and/or also hiking with other people.
 
SUMMARY
 
Week five can be a positive breakthrough, the week where many people feel a demonstrable increase in their fitness. Often-times, the thing which people notice is an increased aerobic capacity; you simply can do more without getting out of breath. Some people also report feeling stronger. All of this makes sense. If you’ve done all the workouts, you’ll have logged 25 solid days of training. This amounts to 25 improvement cycles! As long as you’re practicing good self care, you can’t help but feel stronger. 
 
It’s important to acknowledge the progress and perhaps celebrate in some way. You should feel confident about what you’re doing; you’ve made significant gains and the foundation you’re building at this point will result in greater gains still as the next few weeks unfold!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

Sunrise high on the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier, Mt. Rainier

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Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 2

Posted by: | February 11, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Congratulations on last week’s training, you are off to a great start! How does your body feel after seven practice sessions of the Daily Dozen?

The purpose of this week’s training is to continue to practice the Daily Dozen and to add a weekend hike to round things out. Choose an easy or moderate goal for the first hike.

This is the end of the adaptation phase. Next week is the beginning of the foundation phase.

Fit to Climb: Week 2 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Daily Dozen 12 min. Recovery
2 Daily Dozen + 40 Minute Hike 52 min. Medium
3 Daily Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Daily Dozen + 40 Minute Hike 52 min. Medium
5 Daily Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Daily Dozen + 2 Hour Hike 132 min. Medium
7 Rest - Recovery
Total 4 hrs 44 mins

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

RMI Climbers on the Emmons Shoulder, Mt. Rainier.

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11

Climbers Arrive In Sherpa Capital Namche

Posted by: | March 30, 2009
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 11,296 ft.

The rain finished sometime during the night and left partly cloudy skies for our morning walk out of Phak Ding. These improved to sunny, clear and blue skies for a few hours as we wandered the trail through the small villages and farms along the Dudh Khosi. The trails were quite busy with trekking groups and heavily laden porters. There were numerous groups from Europe and Japan but none that we recognized as being from the United States.

I walked along with Erica and Ed Dohring and Seth Waterfall. We didn’t do much instructing as to how to walk or climb the steps in the trail. Ed and Erica do hike plenty, in addition to the mountaineering they’ve accomplished. I did ask them to slow down just a bit to match my pace, hoping that I’d be able to pass on a rate appropriate for all we needed to accomplish today. The main wisdom I try to impart at this stage of a long climb is simply an awareness that our performance on any given day is an integral part of our overall performance. For instance, it wouldn’t have been so useful for us to attempt to set some speed record on the day moving to Namche if that meant being wasted for our first night at a new and significant altitude. Conversely, walking too slowly toward our intended goal could tire us out just as much by keeping us on our feet with packs on our backs for too long. It isn’t like figuring solutions to the world’s financial troubles or landing spacecraft on Mars, but walking uphill is none-the-less my specialty and it turns out that getting the walk to Namche right is crucial for climbing Mount Everest.
Everest didn’t show itself for us today, but we were granted tremendous views -seemingly straight up- to the wildly fluted snow-faces guarding Thamserku’s pointy summit. There was an unreal contrast between the rock and ice we could see by tilting our heads and the lush pine forests we walked through. We passed the odd flowering rhododendron and still a number of blossoming cherry and apple trees, though not quite as many of these once we’d gone through the gates of the Sagarmatha National Park and gradually started to gain a bit of altitude. My little gang enjoyed a hot lunch at the picnic tables outside a teahouse with members of our “production team” (Jake, Cherie, John and Tom) while the other climbers continued on toward the big “Namche Hill” -anxious to get the day’s work done.

The sky clouded up again and vaguely threatened rain as we continued along the Dudh Khosi. I found myself recognizing boulders and bridges along the way and remembering the friends/partners/clients from past expeditions who’d lounged here or there and stopped to take pictures in this or that spot. As we walked I counted myself lucky that most of the people in my memories were still my friends after those expeditions. In these days when I have to so often justify going back to the same mountains year after year, I wonder if I’d get away with that as a worthy argument… that they remind me of good people.

Of course the big Namche Hill reminds me of a lot of good and sweaty people. We gained over two thousand vertical feet on the dusty switchbacks, passing lots and lots of porters straining under loads of hand-hewn lumber. Someone up-valley must be building a wooden WalMart. In mid-afternoon, we crested the hills and rolled into Namche, the Sherpa capital. I bumped into a number of Sherpa friends in the narrow streets and as we passed along I just got in the habit of saying “Namaste” to all the shopkeepers, whether I recognized them or not. We caught up with the rest of our team enjoying the lemon tea at the Camp de Base guest house, where we’ll spend the next three nights. And now I’m sitting at the comfy dining room tables looking up at the usual posters of Hans Kammerlander, Hillary and Tenzing, and the Dalai Lama. We are home in the Khumbu.

Bridge over Dudh Kosi River Mt. Thanserku Grueling 2,000 ft. climb to Namche Bazaar Dave Hahn in Namche Bazaar

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Kilimanjaro: Last Day on Safari

Posted by: Seth Waterfall | September 22, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Kilimanjaro

This is Seth and the safari crew checking in from the Kikoti Camp at Tarangire National Park. This was our last full day of safari and it was a good one. We managed to see several big cats again including a leopard. That was the last one we needed to complete our finding of the ‘Big Five’. The Big Five includes: lions, elephants, water buffalo, leopard and the rhino. The game viewing has been outstanding for us. Tomorrow we are heading back to town as several folks have an afternoon flight from Arusha heading home.

Our trip has been awesome and we will enjoy this last day before we board planes tomorrow and head back to our friends and family.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Linden Mallory Describes His First Summit of Mt. Everest

Posted by: | May 24, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

It has been three days since Dave, Tshering, Kaji and I reached the summit of Everest. Our short and fast summit bid was a whirlwind of a climb, an exciting and tiring endeavor up and back down the mountain’s upper reaches.

Leaving Camp 2 in the early hours of the 20th I was full of excitement and anticipation,  eager to finally be setting out on our summit bid after so much time here on the mountain but also nervous about heading to altitudes far higher than I had been to before, uncertain of how my body would react.  Within minutes of leaving Camp 2 those thoughts were pushed from my mind, replaced by nothing but pleasure: it was an incredible time to be climbing.  The waning moon was still so bright that the entire Lhotse Face shone above us, our shadows stretching across the glacier of the upper Cwm. We switched off our headlamps and climbed by nothing but the light of the moon, easily making out the ice and snow features of the Face as we ascended. We managed to climb at the same rate as the moon’s descent so that the moon hung just above Nuptse’s Ridge, never managing to slip behind it until daylight was well upon us. Dawn found us reaching Camp 3, passing by the tents of groggy climbers just waking up for the day.

Strapping on oxygen at Camp 3 changed the game. Dave, Tshering, Dawa, Kaji and I cruised past other teams that were just leaving Camp 3. I was amazed by how much stronger I felt, even at the relatively low flow rates we were using. Before long we had crested the Yellow Band and navigated through the Geneva Spur, arriving at the South Col by late morning. Above us clouds gently swirled off of Everest’s South Summit and we could pick out climbers descending from the summit. Dave spent some time explaining the route above to me, pointing out notable landmarks and their elevations and what to look for as we passing them in the dark. Soon we crawled into our tent for some much needed rest after our push up from Camp 2, now sitting a vertical mile below us.

We spent the day melting snow and doing our best to recover from the climb.  The winds picked up in the late afternoon, gusts shaking the tent walls, but I managed to drift off for an hour or two of restless sleep. Before I knew it we were firing up the stoves, filling our waterbottles with boiling water, and choking down a little bit of food before heading out. Above us we could see a string of lights bobbing up the Triangular Face - climbers who departed a few hours before us. By midnight the evening winds died and we set out - walking across the Col to the base of the Triangular Face. The approach to the Face is far longer than it looks from Camp and I felt like we were making hardly any progress, the silhouette of the mountain above us in the darkness seemed to retreat with each step towards it. But as soon as we hit the Triangular Face and began to gain elevation the mountain side slipped quickly by as we climbed. Before long we had passed the climbers we had seen on the Face from camp and were cresting onto the ridge, pausing on a small bench known as the Balcony, no bigger than the backseat of most SUVs.

After swapping out our partially used oxygen bottles we continued up the ridge towards the South Summit, still some 1,200’ above us. We continued upwards, bracing against sporadic gusts of wind sweeping down from above, and battling the frozen condensation that formed on the masks, occasionally freezing the valves. Entering the rock bands below the South Summit Dave stopped and pointed off to the east where a thin line of purple and red was spreading across the horizon. The sky gradually lightened while we navigated the short rock steps and soon the sun found us, suddenly turning the snow and rock brilliant orange around us. The sun brought me a new wave of energy, we were just a handful of vertical meters shy of the south summit and my excitement was growing with each step. The sharp cold we battled throughout the night dulled slightly and my fingers and toes pulsed with warm. Within minutes we were standing at 28,700’ on the South Summit looking across the narrow ridge line to the top of Everest just a few hundred feet above.

The final portion of the climb was a blur. Traversing the ridge line to the Hillary Step demanded intense focus with the 8,000’ of exposure on each side. We followed the route crossing back and forth across several rock outcroppings, and up the narrow choke of rock and snow up the Hillary Step, moving over the awkward step around at the top of the Step, and up the gentle snow slopes to the summit. The views from the top were stunning, it was incredible to gaze northwards into the Tibetan Plateau, to the south into the middle hills of Nepal, and to the east and west ran the Himalayas, a jagged white strip piercing into the horizon in both directions. Below I could make out the peaks surrounding Base Camp - Pumori, Lingtren, Khumbutse - looking tiny compared to the prominence they hold from below. We spent some time on the summit, snapping a few photos and exchanging celebratory hugs before heading down, reaching camp back at the South Col by late morning.

We rested for a short moment at the South Col before breaking camp and heading back across the Geneva Spur and down the Lhotse Face into a high altitude furnace. Clouds settled on the face, trapping the sun that bounced off the face and rocketing the temperatures. Wearing down suits and carrying big loads, it felt like as much of a battle to descend the face in a couple of hours as it had to ascend it the day before.

Camp 2, at 21,300’, never felt so good. We covered a lot of ground in the 36 hours since we left Camp 2 and my legs felt the effort, my toes screamed from the 8,000’ descent that day, but the grin on the faces of Dave, Dawa, Kaji, Tshering - and doubtlessly me-  told the the bigger story: we were all elated to have had such an incredible climb.

We slept soundly that night and it took us a long time to get moving in the morning, lethargically packing our gear before leaving Camp 2. By the time we walked into the sun while descending the Western Cwm I began feeling stronger, the sun again bringing much needed warmth and energy. We made a furious and fast descent back down through the Khumbu Ice fall, well acquainted with the ladders crossings and tricky sections of the route by now. Emerging from the Ice fall our pace quickened as we climbed up and down the dozens of large pressure ridges of ice back to Base Camp, despite our tiredness we were eager to put the final stretch behind us and just make it back to Camp.  Cokes, flip flops and a big meal awaited us.

We’ve been back at Base Camp for two days now, drying out our gear, sitting in the sun, eating, drinking and recovering from the climb. Melissa Arnot and Dave Morton arrived in Base Camp today; already acclimated from 45 days spent climbing on Makalu, they are hoping to make a fast attempt on Everest before the end of the season. It has been a blast to sit around today swapping stories from the past month and a half of climbing on our respective mountains and catching up with them - it has been a spring full of adventure.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

Dave, Dawa, Linden, Tshherring, Kaji...... 2 AM start from Camp 2.  Photo: Linden Mallory Linden and Tshherring topping out the Geneva Spur, 25,900 ft.  Photo: Dave Hahn View back along ridge to South Summit from Hillary Step.  Photo: Dave Hahn

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9

Mountaineering Training | 5 Packing Tips From RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer | August 12, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Between training and the climb itself, climbers spend a lot of time with a pack on their backs.  Somewhat of a necessary evil, the goal is to make your pack carry comfortably and efficiently so that it doesn’t work against you.  A few tips that will result in a more enjoyable pack to carry:

1. Minimize dead space in the pack
2. Try to fit everything (except the ice axe) inside the pack
3. Keep the mass of the pack close to your body
4. Frequently adjust the straps to carry the load more comfortably
5. Have a system

Minimizing dead space in the pack will help the pack ride in a more balanced way, and allow you to fit everything inside.  A big factor that creates dead space is too many stuff sacks packed together.  Round or barrel shaped stuff sacks don’t nest together well, instead leaving large gaps between them (like a cup full of marbles).  To minimize this effect, try to limit the number of stuff sacks you use.  A compression stuff sack for your sleeping bag is important, as it dramatically reduces the volume of the sleeping bag, but most of the other items can be packed loose, without stuff sacks.  The down parka and spare insulating layers do a great job of packing around the sleeping bag to fill any spaces.  Some guides go so far as to pack their pack partway, and then (taking care not to crush anything breakable) insert their foot into the pack and squish everything down to squeeze out all of the air.  In addition, if climbers have packs with dedicated sleeping bag compartments, I often recommend that they detach the shelf that separates the compartment from the main pack, and treat the pack as one large tube.  Sleeping bag compartments tend to create dead space where we want it least, right near the center of mass of our bodies. 

Minimize the number of items that are attached to the outside of the pack.  The ice axe generally has a dedicated attachment point (the ice axe loops), and is really the only exception to this rule.  The rest of our equipment should fit inside the pack.  With a little bit of thought, items that seem to take up a lot of space can be packed more efficiently.  For example, by stuffing the helmet with extra socks and food before packing it, the volume of the helmet itself becomes very little.  Crampons can be put together so that the tines cover each other, and they too can be placed in the pack.  Items clipped to the outside of the pack tend to swing, get damaged, and make a ruckus.  By minimizing the number of items clipped to the outside of the pack, your pack will carry more comfortably and with less noise!

In general when you are packing, place items that you won’t need or use that stretch to the bottom of the pack, while items that you would like to keep handy (food, sunscreen, etc) stay near the top.  Additionally, place heavier items closer to the back panel of the pack, keeping them nearer your center of mass.

There is no perfect fit for a pack, and comfort and fit of your pack will change throughout the course of a climb or training session.  In general, try to carry the majority of the weight on your hips.  When putting on a pack, hitch the pack up higher on your back than it will ride, and cinch down the waist strap.  Then tighten the shoulder straps until they just make contact with your shoulders.  Next, lightly tighten the load lifter straps on the shoulder straps and waist belt.  This helps to pull the weight of the pack in closer to your back and helps with balance.  Lastly, constantly adjust throughout the day as discomforts arise!

Have a system to your pack so that you have a good idea where each item is.  This will save you time and frustration throughout the climb, if you can reach straight to a warmer pair of gloves for example, rather than unpack most of your pack each time you need an item.  With a well-organized system, you will spend more time at each break resting and recovering, and less time digging for items in your pack. 

With a little bit of time and practice your pack won’t be such a burden and your training sessions, and ultimately the climb, will be more enjoyable!

________
Pete Van Deventer is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions. A former collegiate nordic skier, Pete climbs and guides around the world, from the Andes to Alaska. Read about Pete’s recent sailing and ski mountaineering trip to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on the RMI Blog.

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

RMI Guide Robby Young leads a rope team around Mt. McKinley's Windy Corner. Photo: Pete Van Deventer.

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Mountaineering Training | Cross Training

Posted by: | January 21, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

As we focus forward on the training for this year’s climbing adventures, we know we’ll be hiking, climbing, probably doing some stair interval training with heavy packs, and developing strength training routines.

The training adventures need not be boring though, cross-training keeps us both balanced and motivated.

I like to categorize my cross training by asking, “Is this a direct benefit to mountain climbing or is this activity more general conditioning focused?” Sports like cycling, cross-country skiing or skating have a very direct benefit in building endurance for the mountains, in fact a bike ride can be a perfect substitute for a hike.

Other sports like soccer, kickboxing, or activities like dancing and yoga, while perhaps not as directly related to mountain climbing, can have wonderful benefits for overall conditioning.

Thinking out of the box completely, I met a person last week who did remarkably well on a training hike despite not having ‘trained’ very much. I asked him where he thought his fitness came from and he said, “I’m a UPS driver, I use a pedometer to track my steps and generally do 15,000 steps each day - most of them carrying boxes.” 15,000 steps equals about 5 miles walking! I think he’s going to have a big head-start on his 16 week training program!

Cross training is an important part of your training program, keeping you mentally engaged and physically healthy. Beyond the cornerstones of your regular training program that includes long hikes, short intense sessions, and strength training, what fun things do you enjoy to do to which add to your fitness? Are you lucky enough to have one of those jobs which gets you walking during the day? How can you plan your days to add an activity or sneak in a few extra miles from place to place? 

Get outside and be creative with your cross training!

- John Colver

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with John and other readers on the RMI Blog!

An RMI Team climbing the Ingraham Direct at sunrise, Mt. Rainier.

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Dave Hahn Recaps the Summit Climb

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 30, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 4,383'

Before sunup on the 24th of May, the RMI Everest climbing team left Camp III at 24,000 ft on the Lhotse Face, bound for a shot at the top of Mount Everest.  The only trouble was that everybody else on the mountain had the same idea at the very same time.  We were shocked to see how many climbers were already on the fixed lines.  Estimates ran to as many as two hundred, although it was later figured that a fair proportion were simply doing carries to the upper camps and weren’t intent on staying at Camp IV or climbing for the summit.  Suffice to say that we couldn’t set our own pace for climbing, but eventually, by keeping going when other teams elected to take breaks, we made it into the open above the difficult Yellow Band at 25,000 ft.  The Geneva Spur didn’t present a significant barrier to our reaching 26,000 ft by late morning.  There we found a steady wind and our Sherpa team building tents on the South Col.  It was easy enough for our team to get in and start re-hydrating and resting for a summit climb, but it was tougher trying to get a read on the conditions that climb would be undertaken in.  A quick count revealed about fifty other tents pitched on the Col, and a few impromptu meetings with other climb leaders decided us that perhaps in excess of a hundred climbers would be going for the summit that night.  The winds continued and the latest forecasts confirmed that a ribbon of 50 mile-per-hour air would still be menacing the mountain for a further 24 hours.  We looked at the steep triangular face and saw that its middle third would entail loose rock with a good chance for some of that getting kicked loose onto teams below.  So there were three things that didn’t work well for us… rock, crowds and wind.  We made preparations for a climb, but we also began to explore the possibility of delaying 24 hours and shooting for May 26th as a summit day.  We each knew that we’d be putting all our eggs in one final basket by doing such a thing.  We had resources for such a delay, but we didn’t have unlimited resources.  If we skipped the 25th, with its known problems, we’d have to take the 26th with its unknown problems… or go home without a summit.  We tried to hedge our bets, telling our Sherpa team that we’d still prepare to get up in the night unless the winds were still blowing.  At 10 PM, long after the other teams had left for the top and were to be seen as a Christmas parade all up and down the Triangular Face, the winds were still strong.  We committed to the next night.
It was a slightly surreal day, as always, hanging out at 8000 meters on May 25th.  We wondered whether we’d missed our shot as the neighboring teams came down with a summit under their belts and not too many bad stories to tell, after all.  Yes it had been windy and cold and crowded, but most seemed to have done ok and there certainly weren’t new tragedies to report.  Finally, in the late afternoon of the 25th, the winds began to die down.  That was encouraging, but our headcount for the coming summit day was less encouraging.  We’d assumed we’d be up the hill with perhaps fifty climbers, but as we prepared dinner and turned in, we’d become aware of about 80 or 90.  And nearly all of these climbers were leaving quite early for the top (as in about 7 or 8 PM).  There was no way to beat them out the door without simply aiming to summit in the middle of the night (a bitterly cold and slightly unrewarding proposition).  We’d set out afterward and take our chances on being able to pass people when we needed to.  Our alarms rang at 10 PM and we ate, drank and geared up for two hours in delightful stillness.  The South Col was dead calm and quiet with the wind absent and the vast majority of the climbers already well up toward the balcony.  Lam Babu Sherpa would stay at the South Col, just in case, while Tsherring, Kadji and Passang accompanied the four person climbing team.  We set out at midnight and four hours later topped the balcony in perfect conditions.  A half hour later we experienced an incredibly colorful sunrise and things got slightly easier, even as we took on the steep slopes below the South Summit.  At the South Summit around 7 AM we crested to see an amazing and at first, frightening, phenomenon.  There were at least a hundred climbers lined up waiting to descend the summit ridge.  At any given point there seemed to be about 8 climbers simultaneously on the Hillary Step and dozens upon dozens on the tricky rock features between us and the step.  We decided we had no choice but to sit and wait patiently in the small dip past the South Summit.  There was no practical way that we could pass so many climbers on such awkward terrain.  The wait turned into an hour-and-a-half, which made each of us quite nervous… since such a thing is very much the definition of not being in control of one’s climb… but then we each had to remind ourselves that conditions were benign.  There was zero wind, the sun was shining and there was plenty of time left in the day.  Also, we salivated at the prospect of having the mountain to ourselves after the long conga line of climbers passed on their way down.  Finally we stood up, shouldered our packs and shook off the cold.  It didn’t take long then to scramble across the ridge, up the Hillary Step and onto the summit.  It turned out that three or four climbers were on the summit from the Tibet side, but that didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying about 55 minutes on top.  We had unlimited views and a very happy team as we connected with Lam back at the South Col, Yuberaj at Camp II and Mark Tucker down at Basecamp.
The descent took just a matter of hours, since there was virtually no traffic left high on the mountain.  We came back into the South Col feeling satisfied, but also knowing that the big work of the day was yet-to-come.  We needed to pack up camp and descend a mile to ABC in the Western Cwm.  With heavy packs and hot down suits we slid down the ropes for hours and hours.  Past the Geneva Spur, past the Yellow Band, past Lhotse Camp IV and Everest Camp III… down to the part of the face that suddenly seemed to be melting under our very crampons.  In the space of two days, spring had turned to summer and it seemed the climbing season was supposed to be over.  We were greatly relieved to hit the bottom of the wall in safety and to trudge into ABC just after sunset.
Morning still held a little anxiety for us as we each knew we’d have to successfully wend our way through the Khumbu Icefall one more time.  The word was that it was crumbling and collapsing and heating up.  And that turned out to be true, but we saw that the Icefall Doctors were doing a magnificent job keeping a route cobbled together through the mess.  We took our time and placed our feet carefully and eventually hit all of the comfort and safety of base camp by mid-afternoon on the 27th of May.
The 28th was shower-and-pack-and-keep-fingers-crossed-day for the climbing team.  Showering and packing for the obvious reasons, but keeping fingers crossed because the Sherpa team still had a final day of working in the Icefall to get all the gear down.  Their strength and skill and our finger-crossing worked because they emerged victorious and unscathed by mid-day.  The climb was over.  By the morning of the 29th, we’d heard that there were long delays for those attempting to get fixed-wing flights from Lukla.  The monsoon had worked its way into the lower valleys already and the weather was sloppy with cloud and rain.  Instead we arranged a series of memorable helicopter rides from base camp to Kathmandu.  There was plenty of hurry-up and wait… there was awe at the beauty of mountains and gorges seen from the air, there was sheer terror at the power of thunderstorms on small aircraft, there was gratitude for the skill of the pilots we’d watched performing miraculous rescues all season long… and at the end of the day yesterday, there was an easy dinner in a Kathmandu restaurant and a comfy hotel bed.  Soon there will be home.
Thank You Very Much for keeping track of our expedition.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Mt. Everest.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. Rainier: The Tradition Continues

Posted by: | September 19, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

Long time RMI Guide and Owner Joe Horiskey may have 235 summits of Mt. Rainier via nearly a dozen routes in forty-two years of guiding, but he was even happier to congratulate his 19 year-old son, Robert, who successfully reached Columbia Crest for his very first time on September 8th! Congratulations, Robert! (And congratulations, Joe!)

Robert Horiskey (RT) on the summit of Mt. Rainier on September 8th with his rope team.  Photo: Andrew Charness Robert and Joe Horiskey at Camp Muir.  Photo: Andrew Charness

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