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Guide Shack: Anne Gilbert Chase

RMI Guide Gilbert Chase has been guiding for RMI since 2010. An accomplished rock and alpine climber, Gilbert’s winter is busy travelling the world on climbing and skiing adventures. We caught up with Gilbert after her recent Aconcagua Expedition to hear about the climb.

RMI: It’s been a busy start to the year for you with an Aconcagua Expedition and a Rainier Expeditions Skills Seminar - Winter. Tell us about it!

It has been a very busy start to 2012 for me. I flew down to Mendoza, Argentina at the start of January for my first Aconcagua Expedition.  It was a great trip overall.  Working with such a great group of folks as well as guides made the trip a very memorable experience.  I had spent time in Argentina many years ago, so I was very excited to get back down there and check things out again.  Both the mountain and the culture are beautiful and I highly recommend this trip for anyone who wants a challenging but wonderful mountain adventure mixed with great local flavor.

I flew back to the states around the 1st of February and within a couple of days I was driving out to WA for a Winter Expedition Skills Seminar on Mt. Rainier.  We had high hopes of a winter summit with a high-pressure system in the forecast.  However, the reality of winter on Mt. Rainier with high winds and lots of precipitation kept our team at Camp Muir.  Despite the bad weather, spirits were still high and we had a great week on the mountain teaching and learning skills to prepare us for future trips.  Trying to do crevasse rescue in 40 mph winds with no visibility proved very challenging and very fun for most.

RMI: Aconcagua marked your first International Expedition for RMI, what were you’re initial impressions of Aconcagua?

Overall, I thought Aconcagua was a beautiful mountain.  At 22,840’, it rises out of a colorful river valley to sit high above the surrounding mountains.  I am a rock climber at heart, so for me all of the rock on the mountain, although not very good, was amazing.  I was constantly looking for different cracks or faces that I could come back and climb.  While we were on the mountain, it snowed almost every other day so there was a fresh coat of paint making the mountain look even more striking.  I think even more than the mountain itself, I loved the local culture that surrounds every inch.  Plaza Argentina, which is our Base Camp, is filled with local porters and cooks making a living by way of the mountain.  It is such a unique and cool place to experience.   

RMI: How do you think Aconcagua compares to Denali?

I think Aconcagua and Denali are very similar in many ways.  I think Aconcagua is a good first step if people want a little more experience before Denali.  Aconcagua is a big expedition but still with a few luxuries, such as great dinners at Base Camp and mules carrying our gear into Base Camp.  Summit day on Aconcagua is a long and tiring day that requires not only physical but mental endurance.  For me, the weather on my Aconcagua Expedition was way better than Denali, so that made life much easier.  We had a pretty warm summit day, although still wearing down pants and down parka, but it is all relative when climbing in the mountains.

RMI: Did you find any big difference between guiding an international expedition and guiding here in the U.S.?

For the most part, guiding internationally and guiding stateside are very similar.  The principles of guiding are the same no matter where you go.  I think logistics can be the hardest part of an international expedition, especially when speaking a foreign language. On our expedition, we had an issue with delayed luggage and many phone calls with the local airlines that made our lives much more difficult.  However, once on the mountain, I felt at home and comfortable working with clients. 

RMI: What recommendations do you have for climbers looking to head to Aconcagua?

The route we climb on Aconcagua is not a technical route so I do not feel people need a lot of climbing experience before heading on this expedition.  Obviously the more time spent in the mountains makes any expedition easier, but everything can be learned while on this mountain.  I think being in the best shape of your life is a necessity, as we are carrying heavy loads most days and climbing at high altitude.  Being in great shape makes life easier while climbing a mountain, because it is one less thing to think about and allows you to enjoy the experience that much more.  I think everyone who is interested in climbing big mountains should head down south to Aconcagua.  Not only is it a beautiful, big mountain, but the local Argentine people and culture make this trip very rewarding.  Eating amazing beef while drinking a glass of tasty Malbec at 14,000’ after a day of climbing…what more can you ask for?

RMI: What will you definitely bring next time you return to Aconcagua?

My thermos goes with me on every expedition.  It is great to have a hot drink whenever I want and not have to wait for the stoves to boil water at 19,000’.  Also I bring my approach shoes on the mountain with me so I can get out of my boots after a long day of climbing.  A good book and iPod go a long way as well especially when you are tired of talking with your tentmate about the weather.  I pack pretty light so I can’t say there was anything extra I brought. 

RMI: Do you have a favorite memory or moment from the Expedition?

On the long two day walk out from Base Camp, we got some local beta from the Arrieros [local muleteers] about a short cut that would save us a few miles.  Although the short cut was a lot more beautiful and exciting it was definitely not shorter - in fact I think it was probably longer.  We had to cross a river at some point on our trek out and our “short cut” took us through a very swift thigh deep section of the river.  Most of the folks in our group stripped down to their skivvies to wade through the ice cold water.  It was a hilarious scene that provided us with a good amount of comic relief for the day. 

RMI: What does the rest of your winter look like?

In two weeks, fellow RMI Guide Jason Thompson and I are flying over to France to ski and climb for a few weeks.  We are going to meet up with RMI Guide Tyler Jones who is ski guiding over in La Grave for the winter.  We will be skiing and climbing in La Grave as well as Chamonix.  They are having an amazing winter so far over in that area so I am super excited to ski some super good powder and climb some sticky ice.  We fly back to Montana at the end of March and I will be ready to hang the skis up and dust off the rock climbing shoes.  Hopefully, I will head down to the desert for a few weeks of rock scrambling and warm sunshine.

RMI: What are your spring and summer climbing plans?

Even though spring seems so far away at this point, I am really looking forward to rock climbing for the month of April around the desert towers of Utah and the volcanic tuft of central Oregon.  On May 1st I fly up to Alaska to start my guiding season in the Alaskan Range.  First I will be working the Alaska Mountaineering Seminar from May 1st through May 11th.  This will be my first time working this program so I am super excited to be hanging around Base Camp for ten days and climbing some of the amazing peaks in that zone.  After the seminar, I start a McKinley West Buttress Climb on May 15.  I have not worked a trip this early on Denali before, so I am looking forward to the cold temps and easy walking on the lower Kahiltna Glacier.

I hope the spring and summer finds all of you getting outside and climbing some mountains whether big or small.  Enjoy every day and keep a smile on your face.

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