- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Megan Budge
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- James Easley
- Chris Ebeling
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Lindsay Fixmer
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- JM Gorum
- Casey Grom
- Billy Haas
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- JJ Justman
- Andrew Kiefer
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Caleb Ladue
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Jeff Martin
- Jess Matthews
- Bryan Mazaika
- Hannah McGowan
- Stoney Molina
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Sid Pattison
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Hannah Smith
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Sarah Strattan
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Blake Votilla
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Robby Young
Posts for Guide News
This spring, while another hot and dry winter in Utah began to wind to a close, my friend, and fellow RMI Guide, Steve Gately and I were desperate to find a real winter. The island country of Iceland, once an isolated and expensive island destination to visit, has made a big effort to attract foreign tourists, since the 2008 collapse of their economy, by subsidizing direct flights from Europe and N. America. Lucky for us skiers, this presented an opportunity to explore and ski the volcanic peaks and fjords that Iceland harbors amongst its wild and otherworldly landscape.
It being both of our first time to the island, Steve and I made our goal to ski as many of the coastal mountain ranges as we could. Arriving in the city of Reykjavik after a red-eye flight, we spent that first day battling heavy eyelids, touring the walkable capital city, sampling the wide array of fresh seafood and local brews, and beginning our feeble attempt to learn a few Icelandic phrases to help get us by for the next two weeks. “Tveir bjora, takk”, meaning, “two more beers, thank you”, was the only phrase we could retain well enough to use during that first day.
Car rentals are notoriously expensive, but we found a deal on an old Toyota Rav4 with decent tires that seemed to be held together well enough for half the price, and we were off. We drove the length of the main highway on the south side of the island, also known as the Ring Road, passing by the active and massively glaciated volcanoes along the southern coastline. Finally reaching the Eastfjords, we were a bit discouraged by the high snow levels in these broad fjords, but found charm and beauty in the tiny and isolated fishing villages. We spent a couple days skiing spring “corn” snow as it slowly softened with the warmth of the low angled sun of the springtime. An experience of a lifetime, the clear nighttime skies lit up with the Northern Lights like we could have never imagined. Domes of vibrant green and purple rocketed over our heads while we camped in the empty Neskaupstadur town campground, taking in the show in awe.
Moving northward and then west, we drove across the volcanically active rift valley where the Earth’s crust was being created in real time, creating hundreds of miniature volcanoes, steam vents, and rugged lava fields. Eventually, we reached the Troll Peninsula, the skiing mecca of Iceland. In recent years, the “Troll” has increased in popularity with skiers through recent ski films and the presence of Arctic Heli Skiing. The popularity of this place was well justified; we found some of the best spring corn skiing we’d ever experienced, with the Arctic Ocean serving as our backdrop. The aesthetics and quality of skiing was only matched by the hospitality of the people we met in the small village of Dalvik. Our days here were spent skiing while evenings were filled mingling with locals and tourist skiers alike on the front steps of the local Kaffihaus (Coffeehouse), which doubled as a pub in the later hours of the evening. As with many of the small communities in Iceland, the owners of our hostel also ran this Kaffihaus, serving their own fish stew from their friends’ fishing boats, and serving beer brewed a couple doors down the street.
Traveling onward, we drove the barren and isolated roads from Dalvik to the northwest corner of the island: a series of peninsulas collectively referred to as the Westfjords. We hunkered down in the town of Isafjordur, surrounded by hundreds of steep ski runs that plummet to the ocean, as the snow began to fall. We spent the next six days drinking coffee, while the snow pounded down outside, immediately jumping in the car as soon as the sun made one of a few brief appearances. In a neighboring fjord near the village of Flateyri, we found the siren that had drawn us to Iceland: a beautiful fjord that held the deepest and driest powder of the trip; a long series of steep chutes looming above the ocean. After a winter of scraping and scratching by in Utah, this mythical run made our ski season whole!
During these rare moments of sun the formula looked something like: drive around the fjords looking for ski runs (the best were steep rock-lined couloirs), climb up, ski right back down to the car, manage to drive our manual transmission Rav4 in ski boots to another ski run, and repeat.
The snow in the Westfjords did not let up for days, even as our time to return to Reykjavik approached. The most hair-raising adventure of the trip was driving the fjords and passes back to civilization in southern Iceland. Over one particular pass, we had to put our rental to the test, busting through snowdrifts until we found a lineup of cars waiting to follow a supersized snowplow the rest of the way back to the main highway. Back in the capital, Steve and I celebrated the end of our trip just like we did at the start; enjoying the fresh fish and brews of Reykjavik, knowing that we had only scratched the surface of the skiing that this country has to offer.
Robby Young is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions, leading trips in Washington, Alaska, and Peru. Robby calls Park City, UT home, where he is a ski patroller at the Canyons Resort. When not guiding, Robby is found chasing splitter crack climbing and perfect powder around the globe. He is also a talented photographer: view his images at www.robbyyoungphotography.com.
Thank you to everyone who followed the climb. I deeply appreciate all the support I felt from this community!
You can view photos of my trip to Nepal in my Dropbox gallery. Included are a few from working with the local people after the quake. As for what the immediate future holds for me, today I’m packing for my yearly pilgrimage to guide on Mt. Rainier for RMI. I am psyched to get back up to the Pacific Northwest, share the experience of mountaineering with others, and see my many good friends there. Again, thank you all for your support.
Over the last week we’ve been trekking in the mountainous area above Gorkha. This area was at the epicenter of the quake. The villages we were getting “eyes on” had previously been declared “OK” by the Indian Army by helicopter observations. But these villages were anything but OK. Most were almost totally flattened.
Don Bowie has been our fearless leader. His ability to coordinate with large NGOs, and even the UN, to facilitate supply drops to these hard hit and hard to reach areas has been amazing. And when I say hard to reach I’m NOT kidding. Our first day from Baluwa to Laprak was another precarious scramble up a 10,000′ vertical gain and unknown linear mileage over rough, broken, and treacherous terrain. The heat had us all hurting and in many places landslides made the trek in very precarious. Descending down from Laprak, through the villages of Lapu and Bhirkuna, was straight-up steep no-fall terrain through a thick prickly jungle. Landslides in this area took the trail out, so we had to bushwhack a new trail. All in all, though, we were able to deliver accurate needs assessment reports from these remote villages. Once we made our assessments we would then forward these by SAT phone to the NGOs incident command with the ability to respond by arranging to helicopter in the supplies which was our objective.
Today Don Bowie, Ben Erdmann, Jess Roskelley and Cody Tuttle left to work with the UN’s World Food Program headquarters in Gorkha to assist in coordinating overland aid distribution. For more information, on Don and team check out donbowie.com.
Whats next? Soon I’m headed back to Kathmandu then stateside to begin the guiding season on Mt Rainier with RMI.
RMI Guide Alex Barber
Trekked out to Tatopani yesterday (5/1) without too much difficulty. The UN affiliated NGO has supplied us with jeeps and equipment and we’ve started the effort to access remote areas of Nepal in need of assistance. Don’t know how often I’ll be able to provide updates, but I will when possible.
Since the earthquake I have been mostly holed up at Annapurna Base Camp. After the quake I couldn’t let go of my desire to finish what I’ve started with Annapurna. I’d put in so much focus and taken on so much risk to be in a position to make a nO’s ascent, especially as a team of one. But the reports of the destruction and hardship kept flooding in. Then one morning I could feel myself having let go of Annapurna and my interest shifted to seeing if I could get out of here to assist the people of Nepal. So that’s it, my Annapurna expedition is finished.
Yesterday I went back up on the mountain to pull my cached equipment at Camp 1. I have another cache at Camp 3, but it’s unsafe to go that high on the mountain now, so I’ll be abandoning that cache.
I’ve teamed up with a few other Americans here in Nepal to work with a NGO affiliated with the UN. The plan is to meet up in Pokhara, then head out from there with equipment and jeeps supplied by the NGO. My first hurdle is it get out of base camp and down to Pokhara; which is easier said than done. Naturally, the government here has commandeered all the helicopters for rescue efforts. But we flew into base camp in helicopters for a reason, the trek out is sketchy. The US embassy has offered to airlift Americans out of remote areas, but I’m fit and able so I intend to walk out on my own. Tomorrow morning I and some others from the Annapurna Base Camp will be attempting this trek. We’re headed for Pokhara. Once we arrive there, I’ll meet up with the other American climbers. Our current directive from the NGO is to access some of the remote villages in this region and to report back on their situation, conditions, and immediate needs. Hopefully this will help expedite resources to the people in need.
All of us at RMI are truly grateful for the support shown in regards to our Everest climbing team, Sherpa team, and guides—Dave Hahn, JJ Justman, and Mark Tucker. Our thoughts are with our team, the people of Nepal, and all those affected by this tragedy.
It may be weeks before we really can comprehend the damage and devastation caused by this earthquake. While the rugged and mountainous terrain are a big part of what makes Nepal beautiful, this terrain also makes it very difficult to help those in need after such a major catastrophe.
There are many great organizations helping out with disaster relief efforts in Nepal, and more help and money is definitely needed. We feel the best way to help is by donating to organizations that are directly involved with the disaster response. The organizations listed below have staff members in Nepal and are working hard to provide clean water, food, shelter, and medical aid to those in need. These selected organizations have also been vetted on the charity rating site Charity Navigator and score well for their accountability, transparency, and financial standards.
We want to encourage everyone to do what they can to help the people of Nepal.
We thank you for your continued support as our team, and many others, begin their journey home.
Just a quick note to you that everyone here at Annapurna is safe. Yesterday everyone came down off the mountain to wait out some heavy storms. It had been snowing steadily all day today when the large earthquake struck just before noon. It was so forceful! It felt as if we were inside a snow globe being shaken by God. The storm kept us from seeing much but we could hear avalanches ripping down the mountains all around us. The roar was so loud I thought we’d surely be hit. Annapurna Base Camp is situated on a muddy ridge clinging to an adjacent mountain. During the earthquake large sections peeled off and cascaded down some 800ft to the glacier below. Totally insane, but nothing made it to us, and everyone is safe here.
My thoughts go out to everyone in Nepal, especially my friends in Kathmandu and over on Everest.
The 24th of April I descend all the way from Camp 4 at 7000m on Annapurna to base camp.
But before I get into why I descended without attempting the summit I’ll talk about the earthquake. It had been snowing steadily all morning today when, at around noon, a large earthquake struck. The earthquake was so forceful, it felt as if we were inside a snow globe being shaken by God. The storm kept us from seeing much but we could hear avalanches ripping down everywhere. The roar was so loud I thought we’d surely be hit. Annapurna Base Camp is situated on a muddy ridge clinging to a adjacent mountain. During the earthquake large sections peeled off and cascaded down some 800ft to the glacier below. Totally insane.
As I write this another roar of what sounds to be a massive avalanche rips down Annapurna.
On the 23rd I made my way up from Camp 3 to Camp 4. The route is straight-forward. It starts with a low angle section of ice up a serac out of camp 3. To a traversing section of steep snow then a long ramp to C4. The ramp connects the German Rib with the summit area of Annapurna. The ramp is a slope of 30 to 45 degrees and it was covered in fresh deep snow up to waist deep.
That afternoon myself and another team set up camp underneath a serac at 7000m. Their plan was to start out that same night with their 4 Sherpa guides to leave at 8pm to break the route and the 4 members of their group to follow at 9pm.
I decided not to attempt the summit because:
- Too cold of a night to climb without supplemental oxygen
- Retreat would be difficult at night as the wind was blowing too much snow and covering the track.
- no previous time spent above 18,000’, so I was not properly acclimatized.
- too much technical ground below us - with forecasted storm by Noon the next day.
- high risk of avalanche if caught above camp 2 after the storm.
I descended from C4 the morning of the 23rd. As I was leaving, the members of the team that had attempted to summit started straggling in from their failed summit attempt. They were too tired to descend from C4. I re-broke the route to C3 in sketchy and quite heavy deep snow. As I dropped down a final steep descent before Camp 3 on an arm wrap rappel, I plunged into a concealed crevasse. I was already feeling quite sick from overheating in my down suit. The sun had come out and started slowly deep frying me in the down suit. But luckily I was stable enough that I could wriggle out of the suit without falling any further. Half way in a hole, about to vomit from overheating and my arm wrap biting into my forearm, I comically rolled down into C3. I was moaning in discomfort, dry heaved a few times, and laid there motionless for a time.
I had to get moving again though, because the weather was coming in fast. I cached a few things at Camp 3 and started rappelling off the serac whose top forms the flat surface of camp 3. The route down the German Rib is steep and riddled with crevasses and alpine ice. But large areas of the route had deep snow blown in from the night prior.
... Another large avalanche is ripping down Annapurna… this place is quite unstable since the earthquake.
Soon after completing my descent from the serac I, twice, stuck a leg into a concealed crevasse while rappelling down the further slope. I shouted to a Sherpa named Pemba from the summit team that we’d better employ the buddy system and re-break the route together. As we started down the visibility went to zero and a heavy fall of snow started.
About midway down we lost our rappel lines and started carefully climbing down without the safety of the lines. Searching the snow with our ice tools for the rappel lines while slowly inching our way down. We were In a couloir with seracs all around and above us, my mind kept telling me we were in a very dangerous place to be moving so slowly. A few minutes before finding the lines again we set off a small slab slide 3 ft to our right. Things were getting spooky!
Finally, we made the last rappel onto the glacier below the German Rib. Now the last hurdle was finding camp 2 in a whiteout. An island of safety in the insanely dangerous glacial field below the crosshairs couloir and sickle ice cliffs. In the reduced visibility we wove through large ice blocks of avalanche debris by GPS. We moved with baited breath - hoping not to hear that tell tale rumble that has become such a familiar sound to me here at Annapurna.
The Korean team a day earlier had had a near miss right in this area.
After having been on the move on a very scary mountain, in terrible weather, for 11 hours I finally arrived at Base Camp at 8:40pm that night. Descending through deep snow and limited visibility all day. At Base Camp I found out that an avalanche had hit the team at camp 4 earlier that night. No one was hurt but they had to cut their way out of their tents. They were also all exhausted from their summit attempt. Including one climber who had frostbite on his hands and one suffering from HAPE. They would later be rescued via helicopter. Three of the 5 teams here at Base Camp are leaving, The team that attempted the summit blew their oxygen supply. Another team’s Sherpas bailed because of concerns that Annapurna wasn’t to be climbed this year. The mountain is angry. Yet another small team’s permit has run out.
I was planning to stay until mid-May as now I am acclimatized and my equipment is cached. However, with recent events I’m not sure what will happen, there’s a lot of hearsay… and Annapurna sounds extremely unstable right now. I’ve heard at least three avalanches while I was writing this.
Climbed up and established Annapurna Camp 4 today.
The other climbers here at Camp 4 are talking about continuing on and making a try at the summit this evening (leaving here at ~9pm), because there is a storm forecast for tomorrow afternoon. This is not for me, so I’ll have to decide whether to make my summit attempt early tomorrow morning and risk being in a storm as I descend, or turn back and wait for a better weather window.
Tonight I’m in Camp 3. This camp is hands down the most ridiculous camp I’ve ever made. It’s perched atop a small serac maybe 20’ by 20’ with huge drops on three sides. A 150 feet overhanging ice cliff is what I’m tucked under… to protect from avalanches. Yikes!
The past three days I’ve spent making my way up Annapurna. The first day (the 19th) I left Base Camp with two Sherpa guides to re-open the route after a week of snow. But on the way to Camp 1 and after arriving in Camp 1, I was observing avalanche activity that was just too frequent for my comfort to continue pushing on to Camp 2 (as was our original plan). Shortly after making the call to stop for the day at Camp 1, a massive avalanche broke high on Annapurna. Rumbling toward us, I thought, for a moment, it was gonna hit us but luckily it just dusted Camp 1 with a cloud of snow and a large gust of wind.
The 20th I made my way to Camp 2 and found my tent, that I had set up on April 4th when I first established the camp, buried under 7ft of snow. Three and a half hours later I had my tent unburied and patched up. Today, the 21st, I tackled the most technical and dangerous section of Annapurna. Namely, a 3,200-foot climb through steep alpine ice with large seracs always above you. Just think of ice blocks the size of tractor trailers just waiting their turn to rumble down the mountain side. About mid-way through the climb I broke one of the straps on my Millet 8000m boots. Taking refuge beneath a massive serac I quickly jimmy-rigged a fix and kept climbing. The key in these regions is to move as fast as is safe and possible for you.
This evening at Camp 3 I’m sharing this small ice pedestal with another team. We barely fit. Just as dark set in a large stove fire erupted in a tent adjacent to mine. Luckily I had my down suit and inner boots on and could rush out to help reduce the fire. Myself and a few other climbers rushed to kick gas canisters and oxygen bottles out of the fire; throwing snow on it, and principally focusing on preventing the other tents from catching fire. Unbelievably no one was injured! The tent and many of the occupant’s belongings were lost to the fire, but everyone is safe now.
It’s quite windy here tonight. Not sustained, but you can hear the gusts approaching from the distance. Not sure what my game plan is for tomorrow, either head to Camp 4 and make a summit attempt tomorrow evening; in which case I’d be racing a forecasted storm to the summit, or head back to Base Camp and wait for a more stable window.
It’s been awhile here at Annapurna Base Camp waiting out the bad weather. Today dawned clear and warm which sent the mountain into an impressive cycle of purging excessive snow as shown in the photo below.
The forecast is showing a period of reasonably stable weather. The next few days will be clear but windy. As the winds subside on the 22nd the snow returns the 24th. Currently my plan is to head directly to Camp 2 tomorrow with two Sherpa mountain guides. We’re going to attempt to break the route in all the way to Camp 4 over the next three days. The western climbers associated with these Sherpas will be following us up one day behind, eyeing the 23rd for a possible summit attempt. I’m skeptical that the 23rd will remain stable and/or that the conditions (deep snow) will allow a summit. Either way, I need more time spent up high, see the route past C2 (see photos below). And also, I just feel the need to stretch my legs and do some climbing after this long wait at BC.