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RMI Guide Robby Young Achieves His Avalanche Level 3 Certification

As a professional mountain guide, not only does my job involve spending most of my days in the mountains doing what I love, but also includes a substantial amount of continued coursework and education in order to review and enhance my knowledge and skills.  This winter, with the help of the First Ascent / RMI Expeditions Guide Grant, I was able to participate in the American Avalanche Institute (AAI) Level 3 Avalanche Course, completing the highest level of avalanche certification in the United States. 

The course was held near my home in the Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah, home of the “Greatest Snow of Earth”; a claim to fame that surely proved true for the duration of the class.  Multiple feet of snow fell over the course of the week, resulting in a widespread natural avalanche cycle that provided us with a fantastic setting for learning, while we observed large destructive avalanches in real time. 

The course covered a wide array of topics important for guiding climbers and skiers in avalanche terrain, including snowpack assessment (through snowpit investigations), advanced backcountry travel, mountain weather forecasting, and professional forecasting applications for recreational guiding operations, ski areas, or highways. 

Completing the highest level of avalanche education in the US has been a long-time goal of mine and I felt a great sense of accomplishment in doing so.  I look forward to using these skills in guiding future RMI climbers around the world.
Robby Young is a Michigan native, graduate of the University of Michegan (Go Wolverines!), and Utah transplant.  Robby guides around the world, from Alaska to Peru, for RMI.  In the winter, Robby patrols at The Canyons Resort and calls Park City home.  When he isn’t wearing a uniform, his feet are in ski boots, chasing steep lines and powder wherever they may be found.  Robby will be headed to Mexico later this month, and to Mt. McKinley in May.

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Posted by: KIP on 10/23/2014 at 11:32 pm

Congratulations Robby a big achievement.

Posted by: Wally Young on 10/22/2014 at 5:26 am

RMI Guide Alex Barber Summits Manaslu!

Alex called from the summit of Manaslu on October 1st 10:50 a.m. Nepali time (September 30th 10:32 pm PT)

“It was a really chilly morning. Keeping moving on the summit to keep my fingers and toes warm. There are some clouds starting to come in and it’s starting to snow. Hoping to go all the way down to Basecamp today. Looking forward to some good food and a decent mattress. The pace was pretty grueling: Base to Camp 2 in 8 hours, Camp 3 to Camp 4 in 3 hours and 45 minutes, and Camp 4 to summit in just over 4 hours.  I have the summit almost entirely to himself. Just one other climber up here. Pretty cool. Going to start making my way down. I’ll check in when I hit base. Ciao.”

Email from Alex received October 1st 8:25 pm Nepali time (7:40 a.m. PT)
I stood on the peak of Manaslu at 11am on October 1st! Funny thing is that exactly one year ago to the day I was at the summit of Cho Oyu.
Tired and cold, I just arrived back at Camp 3. I’m going to have something warm to drink and bundle up here for the night. I’ll post something more descriptive tomorrow from Basecamp.

To those who have been following my trek, thanks for all your thoughts (and words) of encouragement.

RMI Guide Alex Barber


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Alex B - CONGRATS!!!!  My son Eric and I climbed Rainier with you in July, 2012.  We’ve been excited and inspired to follow (and root you on, telepathically?) on your Himalayan adventure.  Eric (without father) will climb Denali in May ‘15 with RMI.  Hoping our mountain paths cross again.  Best - Alex A

Posted by: Alex Alimanestianu on 10/2/2014 at 9:44 am

Alex. Congratulations getting to the summit. Particularly after having to retreat at first. And then to get it all together to try again. Lots of determination.

Posted by: Wally Young on 10/2/2014 at 5:17 am

Manaslu Expedition: RMI Guide Alex Barber Checks in

Last time I posted I was waiting out bad weather at base camp. Prior to that, I stayed in camp 3 (22,300ft) for four and a half days. However, a good enough window for a no oxygen ascent never appeared.

On the 27th I dropped back down to Base camp and took a single day’s rest. Today, the 29th, I went from base camp to Camp 3 in a single 8 hour push. I’m positioned again to take advantage of some “reasonably” stable weather. Tomorrow the 30th I hope to make Camp 4 and “fingers crossed” summit the 1st of October.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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Manaslu Expedition: RMI Guide Alex Barber Checks in

On the morning of Saturday, the 27th, I had been pined down at Camp 3 by high winds for two days. Camp 3 in is in a wind-exposed location, and for the previous 48 hours I’d had to go out and dig out every two to three hours from the wind-drifted snow that built up around my tent. In the morning the wind had finally died down, and I had decided to push on to Camp 4 and started packing up to make the move up to Camp 4—but then I got an updated forecast that predicted heavy snow later Saturday and through Sunday morning. With the delay at Camp 3, I was running low on provisions, so if I couldn’t make the peak push by Sunday morning I would be forced to turn back. The forecast for the rest of the week, though, looked very promising… and I made the reluctant decision to retreat to base camp, with the plan to start back up again re-provisioned on Sunday morning.

So here I am Saturday evening, back at Manaslu Base Camp. The forecast is now for the winds to stay relatively calm and for clear skies for the rest of the week So my plan is start back up the mountain in the morning and make my summit push on Wednesday. I’m beginning to wonder how many times I’ll have to climb this mountain before it allows me it’s summit.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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RMI Guide Alex Barber Weighing His Options

Well it’s the morning of the 25th and I’m at Camp 3 (22,500ft) sipping coffee as Manaslu bangs at my door. The forecasted higher winds have me a bit pinned down at the moment. The winds are moving a lot of snow, covering my tent over and over. I’ve got two options: 1) Move to Camp 4 today battling the winds or 2) attempt a summit from Camp 3 on the 26th. A day still forecasted to be decent. Now deep snow persists on the route, so it will take a big effort to move anywhere up or down. Ah the joys of high altitude mountaineering!

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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As long as u hav enough food & fuel, sounds like heaven to me.

Posted by: Mary on 9/26/2014 at 3:20 pm

Manaslu Expedition: RMI Guide Alex Barber Readies for His Summit Attempt

“Analysis paralysis” is an accurate summation of my last few days here at Manaslu Base Camp. I’ve been reviewing weather information for the coming week collected from different teams and sources, paid forecasts, free forecasts, second hand forecasts. Of course, they all project different weather conditions. There is a general trend though… starting Thursday the 25th to Sunday the 28th looks like it might be a decent window for my summit day. The 25th being the worst day with 30+mph winds at the peak. Saturday, the 27th, is forecast to have 5 to 10mph winds but possibly precipitation. That precipitation could just be the result of a few days of good weather causing afternoon snow showers or a larger deposit. In this part of the Himalaya it can be hard to predict - and this is too many days out for a mountain weather forecast to be highly reliable.

Decision time - It all comes down to this, the time, the money, and the mental dedication.

I will depart in the morning tomorrow, the 23rd, for Camp 1, the 24th I’ll climb directly to Camp 3 then if the weather window looks decent the 25th I’ll move Camp 3 to Camp 4 and push to the summit the morning of the 26th. I’ll keep the 27th as a backup day as it is currently forecasted to be the best day. I do not plan to stop at camp 2 on purpose because the entire area around camp 2 is unstable and dangerous. The many seracs and ice cliffs higher up the mountain - with large slopes below to accumulate snow - is a bad day just waiting to happen. This site is not for me. I’ll just push through to camp 3, which is in a much safer location - as I described in an earlier post.

I’ll check back in from the upper mountain in the next couple of days with a weather update and my progress up the mountain. The photo below shows a view from base camp up towards the peak of Manaslu, my objective for this week.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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Go hard and stay safe! You have a good plan, so stick to it and if it works, it works. If not, the mountain will be there next time.

Posted by: Tim Mason on 9/23/2014 at 6:37 am

Manaslu: Alex Barber Establishes Camp 3

With a good weather report I have been pushing higher the last few days on Manaslu. Tonight I am at 6,800m camp (22,300ft), my food and fuel are spent. And apparently so is my weather. At 11pm I am woken up by a loud crack of thunder. It is now snowing moderately heavy with light winds and consistent electrical activity. It’s a strange feeling up here. I was the first climber to make Camp 3 today breaking trail with some Sherpas working for another group that plans to come up the mountain later this week. And whew, 45-pound pack, knee deep sugar snow, it reminded me of the pain high altitude brings. I seem to have forgotten that aspect of 8,000m ascents.

Tomorrow I’ll be descending to BC as my supplies are spent. The next time I come up I’ll be summit bound. But for now I’ll sit tight and see what Manaslu deals out this night to its highest established camp! Everything in mountaineering has risk involved, and it’s up to the climber to judge that risk versus his skill and experience to come up with the safest decision. My camp placement is solid, sheltered by a large bergschrund and with a sub peak of Manaslu not far away. While giant flashes and the associated boom of thunder is unnerving this high up and being alone can heighten this feeling, I know my camp placement is good and my best play is to sit tight for tonight. Mountains deliver a fluid situation, so my decision making reflects the realities of the ever changing environment here.

The long term weather forecast still looks promising though, so hopefully early next week I’ll back up here and pushing for the peak! Good morning and top of the world to all of you on the other side of the globe!

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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Hope that the weather has improved & that you are doing okay after that thunder snow!

Posted by: Andrea on 9/24/2014 at 9:59 pm

Manaslu Expedition: RMI Guide Alex Barber acclimating at 5,900 M

Last time I posted I was at Camp 1 on Manaslu. That first trek up went well, and I established a High Camp 1 at 5,900 m. I also explored and familiarized myself with the ice fall traverse to Camp 2. A forecasted storm had me descend back to BC over the weekend. The intensity of the wet weather seems to be lightening up and this week’s forecast calls for a five day spell of clearing weather. I’m about to shoulder my pack and head back up to High Camp 1. My goal for this week is to push as high onto the upper mountain as possible. I’d be lying if I said the summit wasn’t on my mind, although with only one night acclimatizing at Camp 1 it’s a long shot.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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Enjoyed the feedback.  Are you solo?

Posted by: Mary on 9/16/2014 at 3:58 am

Manaslu: RMI Guide Alex Barber Establishes Camp 1

This evening I am at Camp 1 (at 5,500m, or 18,000 ft). One of only two climbers on the mountain. The weather at Base camp has been consistently light to heavy rain. I think that has kept most teams off the mountain and holed up at Base camp. But occasional windows through the bad weather had me convinced that clear skies were not too far above. Tonight I am at Camp 1, and I am enjoying great weather and my first clear views of Manaslu!

Last time I checked in I was in Jagat. I’ve been pushing hard with little rest. My gut tells me the summit window will come early and I want to be ready for it. The current weather forecast shows light snow for the next couple of days, then a heavy fall 2-3 days from now—then another clear weather window. But weather forecasts more than a day or so out in the Himalaya are very suspect, so I depend more on the reality on the ground each day.

The route from base camp to Camp 1 travels up a heavily crevassed glacier. A solo fall would mean serious trouble; there are simply too many of the seemingly bottomless black holes to take this traverse lightly. So the route to Camp 1 required careful thought and planning as a solo climber. Happily I can report no major mishaps or surprises—thanks to that good plan, and extremely careful execution. Tomorrow I will explore the route to Camp 2 and prepare a good camp here at Camp 1. Recent snow has some areas of the mountain unstable, as several natural releases made plainly evident today. So I’ll stick my neck out only so far on my exploration of the route to Camp 2 (at 6,300m, or 20,700 ft) over the next couple of days.

Best regards from snowy Nepal,
RMI Guide Alex Barber

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Thanks for the update and good to hear of your progress.

Posted by: Tim Mason on 9/13/2014 at 9:20 am

Manaslu Expedition: RMI Guide Alex Barber Checks in from Jagat

Tonight I’m in the village of Jagat. The last 4 days were comprised of a challenging bus ride and 3 days of trekking.  During the bus ride I learned why, although popular for it’s price, a bus is sub-optimal for the road to Arughat—the passengers are as much mules to help get it through the muck as paying customers. However, trekking in from Arughat has been beautiful; starting from rice fields, then through the rain forest, to now in more of a steep riverside canyon with heavy vegetation.  The highlight of the trek has been midday swims in crystal clear waterfall feed pools. The low point has been the heat, humidity and incessant mosquitoes. The climate is quite stifling. Constantly wet with sweat—day and night. Tomorrow I’m going for a bigger day to Namrung and hopefully it’ll be my escape out of this Nepalese sweat locker. The occasional glimpse of snow capped peaks has me stoked for Manaslu! Though even after 3 days of trekking, the altitude at Jagat is still only 4500ft…

At some point this trail has to start holding onto gains right?

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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