RMI Expeditions Blog
Standing in the Taggert Lake parking lot of Grand Teton National Park, we gather for one of the last morning guide meetings of our AMGA Ski Guide Course. Everybody smiles and chuckles as our meeting leader reads the weather report. Over the last 9 days we have received over 80 inches of snow containing more than 8 inches of water equivalency. The avalanche forecast is high and predicted to hit extreme after a rain event starts this evening. We all talk about dialing back our terrain choices…way back. This storm has been relentless for many days, altering our objectives, creating whiteout conditions to navigate, forcing meticulous terrain selection, and making for some great skiing. We have all learned many tools for creating a positive and safe mountain experience amidst a dangerous snowpack. Today we talk about our tour plan, a planned route up a 3000 vertical foot feature in Grand Teton National Park. Through mapping tools, some math, and a little technology, we know what we’re getting into and have a plan to manage the risks. We talk about who will take the lead for our group on each climb and each descent, as well as our pacing, timing, emergency plans, equipment, and weather forecast. We break our meeting, beacons checked, skins on, click in, it’s time to go skiing!
In February with the help of the RMI guide grant I attended this 12-day AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) Ski Guide Course in Jackson, Wyoming. This is the second course in the four courses and exams that lead to becoming a certified AMGA ski guide. The course covers numerous factors of guiding in the winter environment. Managing terrain, instruction and modeling, and putting clients in the safest, best snow is the primary focus of our techniques on the down. Creating efficient tracks, navigation, and terrain selection is a big focus of our time guiding the climb. We cover many technical factors as well, including adding security in 3rd class terrain using our rope, technical lowers and rappels into steep ski terrain, crevasse rescue on skis, travel with an improvised emergency sled, and construction of winter emergency shelters.
Many thanks to RMI and the RMI guide grant for their financial and mentorship support. Another big thanks to our instructors Christian Santelices and Rob Hess for their dedication to growing the professionalism of our guiding community.
Chris Ebeling has been guiding with RMI since 2015. He grew up in the Northwest, climbing, skiing, and riding around Oregon and Washington before making the move to the Northern Rockies of Montana. He returned from Montana to join RMI, but still returns to Montana to explore the remote corners of his home range during the winter.
March 22, 2017
It was another beautiful day here in the Khumbu Valley, and finally we had our first views of Everest. Just above Namche you can see Everest far off in the distance, still about 20-30 miles away. You can also see the 4th highest mountain, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam, which is one of the Himalayan’s most iconic.
We hiked for about 6 hours today up and down, dropping all the way down to the river, which is a stunning turquoise, then climbed slowing up the hill before the famous Tengboche Monastery. You wouldn’t believe how hot it can get hiking in the middle of the Himalayas at 12’000, but let me tell you, it was so hot we had to break in the shade to stay cool. All in all it was a really enjoyable day here in the Khumbu Valley.
We’ve settled in to a nice and warm tea house called Rivendale that’s full of trekkers from all over the world. Cribbage and good conversations have rounded out the evening and now it’s time for bed.
RMI Guide Casey Grom & Crew
March 21, 2017
Today was a special day where our group was fortunate enough to get off the main trail and see an all women’s Buddist monastery in the small village of Thamo. Seven young girls who are new to the monastery greeted us with laughter and sweet tea. On our tour of the beautiful building the girls showed off to us by reading Buddist prayers and performing their pujas. We were all laughing and playing by the end of our visit. The joy and happiness of the Sherpa people is shown in how welcoming they are to everyone. We all felt lucky to see this unique place and meet some of the women there. After group photos and funny face photos they said goodbye by gifting us each a Kata scarf which is a silk scarf that is given as a token of thanks and blessings. Then we walked the two hours back to Namche where we are packing up to move up valley tomorrow.
Hello Christina and the rest of the team. Thanks for posting these great pictures, it is nice to follow along. What a beautiful place and people. Enjoy your trip, hope you have great weather.
Posted by: David Clemmons on 3/22/2017 at 8:47 am
March 20, 2017
Hello from the Khumbu everyone!
This morning we left the tea house in Phakding and headed up this beautiful valley toward Namche Bazaar, which is the largest village in this famous valley. We had a slight rain delay this morning as we woke to some light precip, but hit the trail right around 8:30 as the rain tapered off. Everyone enjoyed the hike, and no one seemed to mind pausing often for the endless mules and yaks carrying loads headed for basecamp as we made our way down, but mostly up this rocky trail. It was reasonably busy on the route with trekkers and climbers, but the traffic seemed to flow pretty smoothly.
The team crossed a number of high suspension bridges without a problem, but I did notice no one stopped in the middle to take photos. Overall it was a really enjoyable day as we climbed up to just over 11,200’ where Namche sits. There was a little snow falling as we pulled in, so we’ll have a few better photos tomorrow.
That is all for now.
On The Map
Good luck Casey!
Posted by: Giulia Graber on 3/21/2017 at 5:00 am
March 19, 2017
Today we headed out while all of Kathmandu was still sleeping and got onto a small Twin Otter plane as the sun was rising. By 6:30 we were airborne and treated to the smoothest flight I’ve ever had to Lukla. After a perfect landing on one of the world’s shortest runways, we finally sat down to breakfast in Lukla. Surrounded by mountains the group had a wonderful day walking to Phakding. Once at our Lodge for the night we played some heated cribbage games (where the ladies won) and went for a walk up to an old monastery. We are all happy to be in this amazing place of rich culture and big mountains. Looking forward to getting to Namche tomorrow and into the heart of the Himalayas.
On The Map
March 18, 2017
The team has arrived after some very long and tiring flights. Everyone is doing well after a well deserved night of rest here at the tranquil Yak & Yeti Hotel.
Today we met for breakfast and a team meeting to discuss all the gear and the adventure that we are about to take. After our meeting we headed out on a tour of Kathmandu where we visited the beautiful Monkey Temple and the famous Boudhanath Stupa.
It’s quite the culture shock visiting this busy city packed with nearly four million people. The streets are packed with people, motorcycles, and cars that honk endlessly.
I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the peace and quietness of the Khumbu where we head tomorrow.
RMI Guide Casey Grom and crew
That’s a good looking team! Enjoy the wonders of the Himalaya with invaluable Casey’s and Christina’s expertise in the area, plus their wonderful personalities!!!!
Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos on 3/19/2017 at 1:01 pm
Everyone at home in Minnesota is excited and thankful for your updates! We love you Gary and Jan and are praying for a great trip for you and your team!!
Posted by: Vicky on 3/19/2017 at 11:17 am
March 11, 2017
Summit! All team members with RMI Guides Eric Frank and Jenny Konway reached el Pico de Orizaba’s summit today. Unfortunately the team was not able to call from the summit but they are back in Tlachichuca safe and sound.
On The Map
Posted by: Duncan Mckinnon on 3/12/2017 at 4:56 am
March 10, 2017
Hello, this is Eric Frank and the Mexican Volcanoes team. We are at the Refugio at the base of Orizaba. We left Puebla this morning and make a quick stop at Tlachichuca, the small town next to Orizaba, where we had enchiladas for lunch. Got packed up, and then got in the back of some big 4x4 trucks and road up here to the Refugio. The weather is clearing up and hopefully things will turn out for us in the morning. Everyone’s in good spirits. We just had a big dinner of spaghetti and getting ready to bed down so that we can get up in just a few hours to launch for our climb in the middle of the night. Wish us luck on our last big objective, and we’ll be back in the states with family before too long.
RMI Guide Eric Frank calls in from Orizaba's high camp.
Hello, this is Eric. I’m checking-in from the comforts of Hotel Colonial in Puebla. Today the team is resting after our major effort to get to the summit of Ixtaccihuatl yesterday. It is a very abrupt change to go from the challenge of a grueling descent straight to the luxuries of a major city. After a lazy morning, we met to explore a local market, eat gelato and soak in the stunning architecture of the city.
Tonight the team will have a group dinner and then get in bed to rest before we launch early tomorrow for our next major objective, Orizaba.
Here are a few shots from our climb of Ixta.
Good morning everyone, this is Eric Frank and the Mexico’s Volcanoes Expedition checking in from the summit of Ixta. It’s 7:30 a.m., local time here. We had a wonderful climb this morning after a little bit of rain a little bit of snow and some passing thunder storms last night, we actually woke up to starry skies and beautiful blue sky above us at this point with just a few cloud lingering down below. So we’re going to hang out here and enjoy the sunshine and spend some time on top. Then we will get headed back down and move to Puebla for our rest day tomorrow, that is very well deserved. Thanks for following along. Talk to you soon.
RMI Guide Eric Frank checks in from the summit of Ixtaccihuatl.
On The Map
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Congrats to everyone! We can’t wait to see the pictures. Thank you to the terrific guides for safely leading the group.
Posted by: Anne Coats on 3/8/2017 at 12:47 pm