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Entries from Expedition Dispatches

Alaska Seminar: Davis & Team Land on the Kahiltna Glacier

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 10:03 p.m.

Greetings Blog Followers!

Our first Alaska Mountaineering Seminar - Expedition is doing fine at Kahiltna Base Camp! Our morning in Talkeetna, AK was anything but slow and leisurely as we performed many logistic moves in order to get ahead of the changing weather forecast. We made it onto K2 Aviation’s Otters by noon and made camp quickly in great weather. Despite being thrust into action on a compressed time schedule, the team worked very well together displaying great work ethic and sense if humor. It’s 9:00 p.m and we are all warm and happy in tents looking forward to fortifying camp tomorrow.

Good night friends and family from the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier; we’ll check in again tomorrow.

RMI Guides Leon Davis and Mike King

On The Map

Mt. Rainier: The Winter Seminar Reaches 13,000’

The Winter Seminar aborted their summit attempt this morning.  At 13,000’ the team came upon a crevasse making that elevation their high point. RMI Guide Brent Okita reported that winds were about 30-35 mph and some blue skies were peeking through cloud layers above and below them on the mountain.
The guides said everyone on the team did an amazing job and all are safely back at Camp Muir enjoying some hot drinks. Once the team refuels, they are going to do some more training before calling it a day.

RMI Guides Brent Okita and Elias de Andres Martos

Way to go Jason!

Posted by: Brian on 4/15/2016 at 8:22 am

I’m so proud of you JoshuaBlu! I can’t wait to hear all about this trip!

Posted by: Melinda on 4/15/2016 at 7:54 am

Mt. Rainier: The Winter Seminar Enjoy Spectacular Views to Camp Muir

The April 10th Winter Seminar had a beautiful day on the Muir Snowfield. The strong crew made their way up to Camp Muir taking in the Cascades and surrounding views. The team, being led by RMI Guides Brent Okita and Elias de Andres Martos, checked in this morning. The winds during the night at Camp Muir had some strong gusts but are currently tapering off. The team checked in via radio while having breakfast and getting ready for a day of training.

WoW !!!! What an amazing landscape !!!! Hope you’ll be able to climb up to the summit :)

Posted by: Marika, Philipe, Rémy & Mayla on 4/13/2016 at 3:23 pm

Kyajo Ri and Ama Dablam: Successful Fall Expedition to the Khumbu

RMI guide Elías de Andrés-Martos and office member Bridget Schletty returned last fall from a 5-week expedition the Himalaya, completing and exploratory climb of Kyajo Ri as well as climbing Ama Dablam.

By Bridget Schletty

We headed to Nepal in early October with the intention of climbing and exploring in the Khumbu region. In this, our 4th trip to the highest mountain range in the world, our objectives weren’t going to be any of the 8,000m peaks in the range, but smaller peaks in the 6,000m vicinity, focusing more on the style we used to climb them.

Our trip started with an exploratory trek to the base of the Mahalangur Himal, a subrange that encompasses Cho Oyu, and that contains a few unclimbed peaks we wanted to check out for a potential future climb. Reaching the rarely frequented southern base camp of Cho Oyu, the 6th tallest mountain in the world, provided great acclimatization, and spending several days in this secluded area was an incomparable experience. After breathing the thin air, looking at the Tibetan border, photographing wild yaks, and circumnavigating alpine lakes at 18,000ft, our time was up; we were ready for our first climbing objective: Kyajo Ri, which rises to 20,295’ between the trekking routes to Gokyo and Thame.

Camp 1 on Kyajo Ri.   Elias de Andres Martos

We headed to the Kyajo Dranka, a valley between the renowned Cholatse Peak and the Rolwaling mountains. We did not see a single soul, save our team of porters, from the moment we left the standard trail between Namche and the presumed Base Camp around 14,400ft. At that point, we waved goodbye to them as well, pitched a tent and spent the night; the next morning we’d start our one-push climb of this remote peak. While we were focused on attempting this peak in alpine style (only the stuff we could carry in our packs, climbing straight up without doing carries or fixing any of the route), it turned out that the discoveries of beauty along the 4-day push to the summit were the true reward. We did climb an incredible, steep ridgeline guarded by a few technical pitches of rock and mixed terrain, but the hanging glacial lakes, the vertical rock walls protecting the access to the valleys, and the solitude we encountered were more captivating than our success in style and technique.

Bridgett and teammate Lonnie on the summit of Kyajo Ri.   Elias de Andres Martos

With this objective tackled, we could have headed home satisfied with our climbing ambitions; however, we had laid eyes on another peak on previous expeditions, often recognized as the most beautiful peak in the Khumbu: Ama Dablam (“The Mother’s Jewel Box”), a 22,349-ft tower of rock, snow, and ice. Perfectly acclimatized now, we were charged up to try and move as quickly as we could. With a few days rest in Namche Bazaar, we had 2 days to make it to BC. Once there, we corroborated the weather forecast, and with no extra time to hang out, we had to start climbing and use the following 3 days to go up.

Steep and involved from just a few hours out of Base Camp, the route only seems to be more impenetrable as you move up it. Making it to C1 proved to be a heads-up as to why this mountain is only successfully summited by less than 25% of the people who try it. Focusing on our plan, we settled in for the night, knowing the most difficult terrain lay ahead. An early start the next morning was mandatory; getting stuffed along the fixed terrain near the Yellow Tower could be a drag, and arriving there with no space to pitch a tent, a nightmare. Despite being the first party to arrive at this iconic landmark, with only 6 or 7 feasible tent spots, it was disheartening to find other teams had already claimed the prime real estate during previous carries. Luckily our minimalist style had us travelling with a small Bibler tent, which we made fit on the only remaining spindrift, a good portion of which was sticking out over the almost 5,000’ cliff of the SW face.

Bridgett en route to Camp 2 on Ama Dablam.   Elias de Andres Martos

Clearly we had no choice but to spend the least amount of time possible there. We decided to forego Camp 3 and attempt the summit that very night, from Camp 2. A 9pm wake-up was delayed by high winds, but by 11:45pm, we were on the move. Ascending through mixed terrain (nearly vertical snow slopes and incredibly exposed rock traverses) proved to be demanding and involved. Fixed lines protected the exposed terrain which allowed us to push the pace to stay on schedule, moving as quickly as we could. By 4am we reached Camp 3 to the amazed, yet encouraging eyes of the team that, at that time, was preparing to depart.

“Where are you coming from?” asked one climber.
“Camp 2,” Elías responded.
“You continuing up?”

At that point, the high winds that had delayed our departure came back with a vengeance, and the most bitterly cold temps we’ve ever experienced convinced me to stay put, keep all my fingers and toes, and allow Elías to have a quick crack at the summit. (It would only be “a few hours.”)

Benefitting from the ultimate gesture of Sherpa hospitality, I was welcomed into a small frosty tent, where 5 local climbing guides were sipping their last cup of warm milk and eating handfuls of champa (roasted barley grits) before departing for their summit bid. There was something a bit surreal about being handed a hot beverage from strangers in puffy down suits and 8,000-m boots at 4AM and dozing off to the comforting aroma of incense burning over a tiny camp stove.

Just as the sun hit the tent, a voice woke me up from my slumber. Elías was back from the summit, urging me to grab gear and continue down; accomplished but tired, he was eager to return to the comforts of lower elevations. An uneventful but quick descent took us to Camp 2, with enough time to continue farther down. After a 16 hour day, Elías had gone from Camp 2 to the summit (foregoing C3) and all the way down to C1. Perhaps it was the promise of chocolate cake and a real bed that kept us speeding along towards the finish line! Three days later, we reached the Lukla airstrip, where the adventures had begun 5 weeks before.

Following the obligatory “duffle shuffle” day back in Kathmandu, we arranged to spend our last day in Nepal volunteering with TRIFC, an NGO based in Bellevue, WA. This group focuses on children with disabilities. We gathered with an eager group of blind children and adults at the climbing gym in the central tourist district of Thamel. The morning was filled with encouraging cheers, lighthearted giggles, and proud smiles, as we coached our excited athletes up and down the wall. After a pleasant group meal, in which many of our assumptions about physical limits were restructured, we were shuttled to a home and rehab center for physically impaired youth.

There were, no doubt, plenty of signs of adversity: cracks in the walls from the recent earthquakes, transportation complications, and the social stigma and financial struggles that families with disabled children face in Nepal. Yet spirits were high as we witnessed how well these children had learned to cope despite the odds being against them. Prosthetic limbs and other physical deformities didn’t keep any of these youngsters from going to school, playing their favorite sports, doing household chores, and even hosting a dance performance for us!

We will strive to hold these memories close the next time we find ourselves wallowing in self-pity high on a frozen mountain. We are so fortunate to be able to push our bodies to their limit and venture into the serenity of remote Himalayan regions – and to do so among people who welcome visitors with open hearts and doors.
Bridget Schletty and Elias de Andres Martos are a husband and wife climbing team. Elias guides worldwide from the Himalaya to Peru for RMI Expeditions, and Bridget spends the summers helping out climbers in the front office of RMI. This was their fourth expedition to the Himalaya, with previous expeditions including a successful climb of Shishapangma. Elias will be guiding an expedition to Kyajo Ri this fall! They call Ridgeway, CO home when they aren’t traveling the world.

Enjoyed this post immensely. Had read Lonnie’s account previously, so your perspective added great detail.

Posted by: Dennis Mashue on 4/4/2016 at 8:02 am

Great read. Loved it.  As I know your and Elias’s climbing attitude, reading this was all the more enjoyable.

Posted by: Kenzie Campbell on 4/2/2016 at 7:36 pm

Mt. Rainier: The Winter Seminar Trains at Camp Muir in Between Winter Storms

The first Expedition Skill Seminar - Winter gathered in Ashford on Sunday for a day of technical training and gear checks.  With large packs and a daunting weather forecast the team headed for Paradise as soon as the park gate opened.  The team camped above Paradise for their first night out with better than expected weather.  After breakfast the following morning the team broke camp and made the ascent to Camp Muir. They have spent the remaining days training at 10,000’.  Unfortunately the weather forecast did become accurate and the team experienced a full winter storm on Mt. Rainier which prevented them from climbing higher than Camp Muir.

The seminar wraps up tomorrow. We look forward to seeing them at Rainier BaseCamp tomorrow afternoon.

I’m sure the storm was pretty wild because the wind was whipping in Royal City and the pass was getting pretty heavy snow!  So the other day I went flying around the mountain to see how much snow she got.  She was getting getting wind whipped pretty had and has a pretty good pack.  Let me know if you want to see pictures!

Posted by: Paul Davies on 3/18/2016 at 7:33 am

Mexico’s Volcanoes: Schellens, Frank & Team Hunker Down

It’s been a mixed day of weather here on the flanks of Ixta. The group awoke to clear skies and pleasant temps this morning, but an ominous forecast threatened that the good weather would probably not last.
We loaded our packs after breakfast and began climbing toward our high camp at 15,000ft. Slowly the wind began to pick up as we gained altitude until it was blowing 25-30mph when we arrived at camp. It was an easy decision to leave our tents packed and we opted instead to move into the nearby Refugio De Los Cien.
We are currently spread inside the Refugio listening to the wind blow in strong gusts. Every so often someone builds up the courage to venture outside to go to the bathroom but is quickly forced back inside.
We have our fingers crossed for improving weather, but the conditions right now don’t give us much hope for a summit bid tomorrow.

RMI Guides Geoff Schellens and Eric Frank


Mexico’s Volcanoes: Schellens, Frank & Team Head to Ixta

This morning we woke up, packed, and loaded into our van without coffee!! We made this bold move knowing that 40 minutes down the road we would be rewarded with perhaps the best breakfast buffet in Mexico. We ate our fill and loaded back in the van, now fully caffeinated, to drive onto Amecameca to resupply on water and fresh food. Here we also met our local guide, Alfreado, and our support team. After an hour we were back in the van winding up the mountain roads to Paso De Cortez and onto the Altzomoni Hut at the foot of Ixta. Our home in the clouds, at close to 13,000’ the Altzomoni Hut is a great step in our overall acclimatization schedule.

Unfortunately the weather is cloudy and windy so we haven’t yet been able to see Ixta; hopefully tomorrow. We are currently enjoying a delicious authentic taco dinner and discussing logistics of our hike to high camp tomorrow. Everyone is doing very well and having fun.  Keep your fingers crossed for good weather for us and thanks for following along.

The RMI Mexico Volcanoes Team
RMI Guides Geoff Schellens and Eric Frank

On The Map

Mexico’s Volcanoes: Schellens & Team Acclimate at La Malinche

The Mexican Volcanoes team got an early start this morning, and by 10am we were above the Mexico City fog and enjoying the mountains around us. A two-hour drive brought us to the high altitude resort of Malintzi, a collection of rustic cabins with million dollar views of the valley below.
Towering above Malintzi is the peak, La Malinche at 14,640ft. Recent storms have covered the upper flanks of the mountain with snow and as we hiked uphill this afternoon we noticed more and more snow. Eventually, around 13,300 ft, we felt that we had gone far enough and decided to head downhill.
Back in Malintzi we enjoyed an incredible dinner of carne asada.

Thanks for following along on our adventure.

RMI Guide Geoff Schellens

Mexico’s Volcanoes: Schellens, Frank & Team Gather in Mexico City

After long journeys from all over the US we finally gathered at our hotel in Mexico City.  Excitement and anticipation were high throughout the group as we discussed the upcoming trip. We then made our way through the noise Saturday night streets of Zona Rosa, Mexico City, to an authentic Mexican restaurant called, El Refugio Fonda. After a decadent meal, we picked our way back to the hotel to pack and get some rest before we set off on the first leg of our trip tomorrow. Thanks for following along with us here in Mexico.

RMI Guides Geoff Schellens & Eric Frank

Ecuador Seminar: Nugent & Team Travel Back to Quito for a Celebration and Flights Home

Yesterday was a big day for all of us up on Chimborazo and thankfully the near perfect weather allowed us to stand on top! All in all our summit day took 13 some hours round trip including a deceptively difficult two-hour walk across the summit plateau from the Veintimilla summit to the barely higher Whymper summit. Riddled with deep trenches and fantastic snow mushrooms, what should have taken no more than an hour was a brutal two hour jaunt back and forth. We were fortunate enough to enjoy perfectly calm winds and clear skies on top, which made it not so bad. We even got to peep some views of Cotopaxi smoking in the distance before gearing up for our descent. We were greeted warmly back at the Estrella de Chimborazo where we ate a celebratory dinner and promptly crashed in their cozy beds. Right now we are on the bus headed back for Quito where we hope to have one last celebratory dinner as a team before at least half of us head for the airport to catch a red-eye flight home. All in all it was a quite an adventure and I’d like to thank the team for rolling with the punches the whole trip and hanging in there til the end. And I’d also like to thank the other guides, Chase, David, and Diego along with Victor, our driver, for all the help along the way.

Until next time…

RMI Guide Billy Nugent

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