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Entries from Expedition Dispatches


Torres del Paine: Elias & Team Trek to the French Valley Lookout

Good afternoon from “The Frances Domes Camp”. We have just returned from our hike to what might be the visual highlight of our trip- The French Valley. After two days of short stages and rainy weather, we had outstanding meteorology to surmount the trail that leads up to the amphitheater where three to four thousand feet rock faces reign majestic over the park. Needles like the Cathedral or the Sword, or massives like the Blade, the Castle, or Paine Grande are nothing but jaw dropping. Hanging glaciers, turquoise lakes, and lenticular clouds above added just the extra touch to make the eight-hour round trip worthwhile. 
We’re approaching the end of our trip, but everyone keeps enjoying the fascination that awaits around every corner like the first day.
Today we moved to geodesic domes, which at the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld, provide some sort of surreal lodging alternative; pretty cool indeed.
Tomorrow another long day awaits, as we get closer to connecting the loop we started well over a week ago.
Remain expectant to more surprises!

RMI Guide Elías de Andres Martos and team

Wow!  Sounds like some amazing scenery.  I eagerly anticipate the slideshow when you return.  It looks like everyone is doing great and really enjoying the trip.  The glacial line dance is impressive.  Hike well and stay safe.  Can’t wait to see you in 2 days!

Posted by: Carter on 2/1/2017 at 9:07 pm

Wow,  awesome pictures.  Glad you can still do a little song and dance.

Posted by: Sandy on 1/31/2017 at 1:06 pm


Kilimanjaro: Grom & Team Game Viewing at Lake Manyara National Park

Safari!

Today was the first day of safari for us and we headed east to visit Lake Manyara, which is known for its tree climbing lions, flamingos, and more than 400 different species of birds.
The day started with a slight sprinkle of rain, and slowly increased to nearly a full-on downpour. Thankfully the weather broke and we had a really nice rest of the day viewing the wildlife that hardly seemed to notice us, despite being only feet away at times.
We didn’t manage to see any of those famous lions, but we had a very close encounter with elephants. Nothing dangerous, but they passed close enough that we could have almost touched them.
We did manage to see wildebeest, zebras, Cape buffalo, giraffe, hippos, baboons, impalas and so many birds we lost count. It was a pretty nice introduction to the incredible bio-diversity that Africa has, and everyone enjoyed the day riding around in our safari vehicles.
We finished the day spending a few hours relaxing and exploring the grounds of our amazing lodge, the Plantation Lodge. Clearly, we are no longer “roughing it”.

RMI Guide Casey Grom and the Safari crew


Aconcagua: Ben Liken & Team Arrive in Mendoza

Hey all,

Our entire team has arrived in Mendoza and excited to get moving toward the mountain.  But we can’t go to Aconcagua before our inaugural steak and Malbec dinner, so we hit the town and took care of business.  Now with stuffed stomachs we are ready to get a full night’s rest after a long journey to South America.  Tomorrow we will head into the Andes!

Stay tuned,
RMI Guide Ben Liken


Ecuador Seminar: Hunt, Gately & Team Summit Cayambe!

Cumbre! Today we successfully summited Cayambe, our first big objective of this seminar.
We woke up this morning (last night?) at 11PM and were greeted with the closest thing to ideal climbing conditions: clear skies, no wind, and cool temperatures. Whatever sacrifices were made to the weather gods last night clearly worked out for us!
After a quick breakfast in the hut, we geared up, turned on the headlamps, and began our long day of climbing. We started our climb with about an hour of scrambling over rocky terrain, making our way to the toe of the glacier. Once there, we donned our crampons, ice axes and climbing ropes to begin the technical climbing. Unlike most mountaineering routes in the United States that utilize many switchbacks to ease the pain of ascending steep slopes, the route on Cayambe is fairly direct, cutting straight up “the gut” of the slopes. You gain altitude quicker, but the climbing is bit more strenuous.
Our team persevered, however, and as we neared the summit ridge, we were ready to tackle the crux of this climb: a steep, exposed traverse through a maze of seracs and crevasses. Although the traverse is relatively short, gaining roughly 200 feet of vertical elevation, managing that type of terrain at 18,800’ above sea level is never easy. This team handled it in good style, though, and we gained the summit ridge just after sunrise this morning, giving us stunning views of Antisana, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo as we walked the final 15 minutes along the ridge to the summit of Cayambe.
We successfully made our way down, and we are now relaxing at the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, giving our bodies a chance to recover as we prepare to move tomorrow to the base camp of Antisana, our second objective of this trip. I’m sure the entire team is looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight!
Until tomorrow,
RMI Guides Nick Hunt and Steve Gately, and the rest of the Ecuador team

On The Map

I am ecstatic to read this news this morning! Congrats to everyone, and sincere thank yo to the weather gods!

Posted by: Denise reynolds on 1/31/2017 at 8:20 am

Nice work ! Congrats Nick and team !

Posted by: Jim Nixon on 1/30/2017 at 8:26 pm


Kilimanjaro: Grom & Team Return to Lodge after Successful Summit

We did it!

Yesterday we had a wonderful albeit long day climbing to the “Roof of Africa”.
The team woke at the enjoyable hour of 11pm to thankfully clear skies after a very cloudy evening that had us wondering the lay ahead.
We had a brief midnight breakfast of porridge, tea and coffee before hitting the trail right around 12am.
We climbed in hour increments with 10-15 breaks in between, which we’ve been doing every day thus far. The weather was very calm allowing us to take our time and not feel too cold which we were very thankful for. The climb took about 7 1/2 hours to reach the top, and thankfully the sun had risen shortly before reaching the top to help warm us and boost morale after climbing through the night. Once there, we hugged each other, enjoyed the view and took plenty of pictures while we waited in line to get our photos of the sign that adorns the summit, as it was a pretty busy day up there. 
It was a true test of endurance for most of the crew, and I’m really proud of everyone. We descended back to high camp, had a quick lunch, repacked and continued further down the mountain to our final camp on the mountain, where we had dinner and then headed to bed for some well deserved sleep.
Today we woke at 7am feeling good, had breakfast, then enjoyed a goodbye song and dance from our gracious crew of porters, cooks, and local guides numbering 42. We finished the little celebration by handing out their well deserved tips and then hit the trail one last time.
It took a little over three hours to reach the park gate where the team had lunch then hopped aboard our awaiting bus for the ride back to the lodge.
Finally we are all safe and sound, and a little cleaner after an amazing seven-day journey up and down Kilimanjaro.
The team is currently relaxing and looking forward to Safari which starts tomorrow!

RMI Guide Casey Grom and a happy Kilimanjaro crew too

Judge Junell is an inspiration.  70th at Karanga.  Wow!
Nat and John from Kili 2023 say excelsior!
Let’s get the band back together.

Posted by: John Gallen on 1/31/2017 at 2:59 am


Aconcagua: Nugent & Team Return to Plaza Argentina

We’ve made it back to Plaza Argentina safe and sound after a successful summit bid and a subsequent long descent from Plaza Cólera. Per the norm our team worked together and made great time descending despite large loads and tired legs. Anita, Juan, and Leandro from the Grajales basecamp staff greeted us with homemade pizzas for an afternoon snack and another fabulous celebratory steak and potato dinner. Juan and Leandro both got their first summits of Aconcagua the same day we did and rallied down the hill ahead of us to provide hospitality. Between those great meals we readied our loads for the mules and got settled back in to basecamp. Tomorrow’s walk is gonna be a long one but at the end of the tunnel should be another asado dinner at Pampa de Leñas. Typically the valley is too tight for satellite phone reception here so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from us tomorrow evening. We will check in again when we hit the trailhead and transfer back to Mendoza. Not much else to report…

Tired, but with a full belly,

RMI Guide Billy Nugent


Ecuador Seminar: Hunt, Gately & Team Spend a Day Training on Cayambe

Winds plagued the mountain throughout the night, but luckily our hut kept us fairly sheltered from the raucous. The winds persisted through the morning with off and on showers as we enjoyed our breakfast of scrambled eggs, yogurt and granola. With the weather not letting up we opted to do some training inside our hut in hopes that it would dry out later and we would be able to to move up to the glacier for more training. We spent a few hours discussing anchor building and construction. The team enjoyed getting hands on and nerding out some of the more technical aspects.

Just as we had begun our second topic the skies cleared a bit and the sun popped out! We opted to gather our things, take advantage of the nicer weather and head up to the glacier for more training.

The climb up to the glacier takes about an hour and meanders its way through loose talus, sand and a few rocky steps. The wind persisted through this area and kept the temperatures cool. Once to the glacier we spent the next few hours discussing and practicing efficient walking techniques, cramponing, team and self arrest, as well as rope travel on a glacier. The winds died down shortly into our first topics and we were glad to stay warm and dry for the remainder of the session.

We started back down at around 1:30pm in hopes to get back early to rest and relax before dinner at 5:30PM. The rain has returned since our arrival back to camp and we’ll meet in a moment to discuss our summit attempt tomorrow morning! The team is excited and anxious for the challenge of their first volcano of the trip, Cayambe! It’s not uncommon to get afternoon rains here so we’re optimistic things should clear overnight, pray to the weather gods for us. Thanks for following along!

RMI Guide Steve Gately


Torres del Paine: Elias & Team Enoying the Amazing Sights and Colors of Patagonia

Our second day at Glacier Grey Camp afforded us an opportunity to get up close and personal with the bottom tip of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, a massive expanse of glacial ice spanning 270 km. A gleeful 20-minute ride in a speedboat across Lago Grey deposited us at the foot of the moraine, where we set out on our approach across smooth, rocky ledges with their painterly striated patterns, fossil imprints, and telling scrapes and scars.

After an hour of scrambling through chutes and ladders, our Skittle-colored team of alpine outerwear landed itself at the gear cache our local guide team had waiting for us at the base of the ice. We transitioned into crampon and ice axe mode, but not before receiving a quick crash course on glacier travel skills. Up the slope we went, our metal spikes crunching along the firm ice. It was hard to keep our hands off our cameras, with impressive landscapes beckoning our gaze in all directions, but walking on the irregular surface required our full attention to keep a clumsy foot from plummeting into any one of the many nooks and crannies on the icy floor beneath us.

The pools of melt water were a brilliant blue color almost too fluorescent to believe that nature could produce it. A highlight of the trek was stopping to pose like alpine goddesses at the opening of a cavern where a stream of water rushed along the the icy chute.

A warm meal back at our hut sent us off to bed dreaming about our next day’s adventure along the classic “W” route on the front side of the Park.
 
Bridget Schletty

Mama Munford - Just showed Grandele the posts and pics and she was amazed and proud of you! Forgot to get her to post a comment…but I would be willing to bet she would say: “AH WOO”. Looks unreal. Keep it up skittles-clad-badasses!!
xoxo B

Posted by: Blair on 1/31/2017 at 11:14 am

I just discovered this blog! Gorgeous photos! Looking forward to your next update. High five and big hugs to Missy!!!

Posted by: Laurie on 1/31/2017 at 6:59 am


Kilimanjaro: Grom & Team Summit!

Summit!
Casey Grom and team reached the Kilimanjaro summit this morning.  The team’s ascent took 7 1/2 hours and are back safe in camp. They will be headed to thicker air soon.

Congratulations Casey and team on your summit!

On The Map

Congratulations to Robert and Jayne. What a way to celebrate 70th birthday !  Looks like this part of the trip is a little more upscale. Continue to have fun and safe travels for all.

Posted by: Marilyn Aboussie on 1/31/2017 at 3:06 pm

Congrats Rob and Jayne ... a very successful climb !  Way to Go !!!!

Posted by: Ernie & Victoria on 1/30/2017 at 3:57 pm


Ecuador Seminar: Hunt & Team Check in from Cayambe

Hello again,

This is the Ecuador team checking in from 15,300’ on Cayambe. We have successfully made the transition from comfortable city living to our slightly less glamorous base camp, and our excitement continues to grow. Through gaps in the clouds, we are finally able to catch a few glimpses of what lies ahead, with the summit looking as good as ever!

Before heading uphill this morning, we were able to enjoy a little more of a relaxed start. We slept in a bit, partook in some fantastically hot showers, ate a good breakfast, and headed in to the Otavalo market. This market is the largest market of its kind in Ecuador, offering miles (literally) of artisanal souvenirs: paintings, textiles, wood carvings, clothing, you name it. It can almost be a bit of sensory overload when you first step in, with the endless stalls of crafts and cuisine. Our team did an admirable job of filling the extra space in the duffels with goodies!

When its all said and done, though, we were ready to move on and head to the hills. The real work starts tomorrow, so the evening tonight is all about taking it easy. We are just about to head in for a nice hot meal and then prepare for our mountaineering skills refresher course tomorrow.

Until then,
RMI Guides Nick Hunt, Steve Gately, and the rest of the RMI team

On The Map

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