Entries By linden mallory
When the alarm clock went off last night we were already intermittently awake, listening to the winds blowing up the Ruth Gorge and pelting our tent with snow. Sure enough, when we poked our heads out of the tent it was hard to see more than a dozen yards through the snow in the beams of our headlamps. We knew that again today wasn’t a summit day so we crawled back into our sleeping bags for a few more hours of sleep.
When we woke up around 5:30 the conditions hadn’t improved much so we set about making breakfast and breaking camp at a leisurely pace, hoping that the clouds would lift a bit before we were done. Unfortunately, that never happened and with our packs and sleds fully loaded with our gear, we set off back up the Ruth Glacier into the fog, snow and wind. The return to Mountain House went smoothly, although the views were lacking a bit. We spent most of the time walking through the Gorge navigating by compass, GPS, and a bit of sheer reckoning. By the time we entered the Amphitheater and rounded the north side of Mt. Barille, the clouds began to lift enough for us to get a look around and we even caught glimpses of some sunshine as we made the final ascent to the landing strip at Mountain House.
Once at Mountain House we set up our camp and then took advantage of the clearing in the weather to go for a short ski tour above camp before the clouds settled back in. We are back in camp now and cooking up dinner. Tomorrow morning if the clouds lift we’ll get another short ski in above camp before we catch our ride in a ski plane back to Talkeetna. Keep your fingers crossed that the clouds lift enough for the plane to get in and get us!
RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team
Yikes! Good luck, sounds cold.
Posted by: M. Homme on 5/6/2014 at 8:50 pm
Thick clouds rolled into the Alaska Range overnight and when we woke up shortly before 3am, we found ourselves in the midst of a thick fog bank. It was thick enough that we even needed our headlamps to get around camp, an uncommon occurrence in Alaska this time of year. The fog bank acted like a thick warm down comforter, keeping the temperatures hovering around freezing, even at the coldest part of the night. We caught several glimpses of breaks in the clouds above and decided to venture out of camp to see if we could find some colder temperatures and more supportable snow above the valley floor. We set out through the mist, following the track that we scouted yesterday evening, and navigating the crevasse field that guards the entrance to the side valley leading up to 747 Pass.
The scene was awe inspiring while we climbed the valley. As a flat light began to illuminate our surroundings, we passed the foot of huge rock faces that stretched vertically into the air above us until they disappeared into the clouds. At the head of the valley loomed the headwall and seracs that mark the top of the pass. The views would come and go with the clouds, occasionally spitting hail and almost rain on us. After climbing a little more than a 1,000’ up that pass we were dismayed to find that the temperatures had not cooled and we were sinking to mid thigh in the soft isothermic snow when we climbed the steeper pitches. Around us running water ran down the cliff faces, telling us that even the snow slopes high above had not frozen overnight. With more clouds blowing in and spits of rain coming down, we knew that today wasn’t our summit day as the conditions made for exceedingly slow progress and the warm temperatures and rain increased the chance for rockfall and snow sluffs above us while also weakening the snow bridges that allow us to cross the heavily-crevassed glacier.
We pulled our climbing skins from our skis and descended back down our route, making a few fun turns in the soft, punchy snow and returned to camp. We spent the rest of the morning catching up on the few missed hours of sleep from our early start, reading, and keeping a general light-hearted banter going in the tent.
By mid afternoon the clouds lifted a bit and we decided to stretch our legs with a little tour across to the east side of the Ruth Glacier before returning to camp for the evening.
We are hoping that the clouds will continue to lift and bring in some cold temperatures to provide a good freeze for the glacier. If we get a cold night and a good freeze of the snow surface, we will make another attempt on Mt. Dickey tomorrow morning. If the weather stays warm we’ll pack up camp and move back up the glacier towards Mountain House to get some ski touring in on some of the more gentle slopes in that area.
RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team
A thin covering of clouds rolled into the Ruth Glacier last night just low enough to brush the summits of the surrounding peaks. The clouds acted as an insulating layer, preventing the previous day’s heat from fully dissipating overnight and we awoke early to relatively mild temperatures. The warmer temps softened the blow of waking up early and breaking camp - not the most pleasant experience when the thermometer hovers in the single digits - and soon we had everything packed into our backpacks and sleds and were skiing down the Ruth Glacier as the first ray of sunlight reached us. We spent the day traveling downhill, dropping from Mountain House northwards into the center of the Ruth Amphitheater before veering to the east and making a large 180-degree turn until we were eventually headed south down the Ruth Glacier and into the heart of the Ruth Gorge. This early in the season the glacier is still covered in a thick layer of winter snow, smoothing over the crevasses and undulations in the glacier and among the travel very smooth and straightforward.
Soon we entered the Ruth Gorge proper, a “narrow” stretch of glacier (still almost a mile wide) that is reported to be close to 3,000’ deep, and walled by massive rock walls on both sides, the highest being the East Face of Mt. Dickey which rises an impressive almost 5,000’+ above us, whose summit remained shrouded in clouds. We traveled down the Gorge, occasionally stopping in awe to admire the landscape around us, until we reached an altitude of about 4,600’ at the entrance to a side valley that is framed by “747 Pass” - a gap in the rock walls purported to be large enough to fly its Boeing namesake through. Here, we established our camp, just as the temperatures warmed enough to begin softening the surface snow and slowing our progress across the glacier. We spent the remainder of the afternoon establishing our camp in the center of the flat glacier that runs through the Gorge and brushing up on various climbing skills and techniques. If the weather holds, we are in a good position to make a push through 747 Pass and climb the glaciated West Face of Mt. Dickey tomorrow morning before returning to our camp here in the Gorge.
RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team
May 4, 2014
The little town of Talkeetna, Alaska, was beginning to wake from its quiet winter slumber when we arrived yesterday evening. The long warm evening calling out locals and climbers alike to relax on the outdoor patios along the main strip. After dropping off our gear we grabbed a quick bite at the legendary West Rib Pub, enjoying some excellent caribou burgers as our last meal before heading into the mountains.
The morning was perfectly clear and calm and after checking in with the National Park Service we headed over to the airplane hangar at the Talkeetna Airport to finalize our gear preparations - spreading warm clothes, bags of food, skis, and climbing gear across the floor of the hangar, taking careful count of everything, and then miraculously packing it all back up into our bags. By early afternoon we were ready. We traded out our jeans and flip flips for high tech synthetic shells, pulled on our boots, and clambered into the ski plane - a turbo prop with skis known locally as a Beaver - and took off for the Alaska Range.
As soon as we climbed above Talkeetna, the incredible mass of the Alaska Range loomed in front of us over the dash board of the plane, crowned by the recognizable summits of Denali, Mt. Hunter, and Mt. Foraker. We flew above the landscape of thinning forests and lakes and gradually the formidable wall of mountains began to fade into series of valleys, ridges, peaks, and glaciers. When we reached the toe of the Ruth Glacier we made a gradual turn to the north and flew right up the center into the Ruth Gorge - a stunning stretch of glacier lined by the massive granite walls of Moose’s Tooth, Mt. Dickey, and Mt. Braille. North of the Gorge stands the Ruth Amphitheater - a huge glacial cirque surrounded by massive peaks, including the summit of Denali high above. After making a few extra circles because the views were simply too stunning to pass up, we landed on the glacier near the Mountain House, a small hut perched on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the glacier.
We unloaded the plane, said goodbye to the pilot, and opting for the true McKinley experience, set to work establishing our camp on a shallow ridge to the west of the Mountain House. After getting ourselves settled in, we took advantage of the good weather to spend a few hours reviewing glacier travel skills and crevasse rescue techniques. Once the sun finally began to creep behind the nearby ridgelines, the temperatures began to sink and we found ourselves pulling out our parkas and adding layers - despite the warm weather it is still early season in the Alaska Range.
We are all settled into camp after an excellent dinner and getting ready for bed despite the sun still being high in the horizon, not much darkness up here this time of year. We are planning on leaving our Base Camp here early tomorrow morning and traveling back into the Gorge to scope out some potential climbing objectives before we set up camp. We are all doing well and very excited to be in the mountains!
RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team
On The Map
Feliz Navidad from Mendoza! Yesterday was a whirlwind day for our team. We woke up at high camp after a much needed night’s sleep. Still tired from our push the day before, it was an effort to haul ourselves out of the sleeping bags and begin packing up - despite the call of the little luxuries found at lower altitudes. A round of coffee helped motivate us (Via tastes amazing at 19,000’+!!) and we soon had our pack loaded up and began walking downhill.
Descending all the way to Base Camp put into perspective the distances and elevations we covered over the past week. It was a long walk down the sides of Aconcagua and we were more than relieved to finally hit flat ground when we stepped into Base Camp. We dropped our packs and sought out shade underneath the tents, along with some deliciously cold instant orange juice!
We were fortunate to spend only a few hours at Base Camp before catching a ride in helicopter out to the trailhead. Within a few minutes we were bound for Mendoza as the sun was setting over the Andes. We reached Mendoza well after dark but town was buzzing with Christmas Eve festivities. The courtyard of a church just down from our street was filled with practitioners sharing a meal beneath strings of lights and decorations, families strolling through the main square, and palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights. After well-earned showers, we collapsed into our beds and promptly fell asleep, relishing the feel of sheets and pillows!
This morning we took full advantage of the breakfast buffet before Tom and Thomas left for the airport. It was a wonderful Christmas morning and we enjoyed all of the little things like cotton t-shirts, fresh fruit, and warm sunshine. It’s always a strange experience to step off of a mountain as big as Aconcagua back into the hustle of life in town, but a pleasant one. The expedition over the past few weeks was a true adventure and we’re looking forward to heading home to share more stories.
You are a Champ. Glad all are safe. Feliz Navidad
Posted by: b lee Mallory on 12/26/2013 at 8:47 am
December 23, 2013
Posted by: Linden Mallory
Just as we hoped, we awoke to a beautiful morning here at high camp. After a quick breakfast we started climbing just after 4am. The waning moon cast enough of a glow we could follow the trail without lights for certain portions and the southern cross hung above Aconcagua’s summit pyramid. We climbed well through the darkness, reaching ~20,500’ just as the glow in the eastern sky finally erupted into sunrise. The brief sun was welcome as we passed into the shadows on the western side of the summit massif. Daybreak also brought some consistent winds which chilled us to the bone, despite the multiple layers of down and gore tex we wore while climbed.
We soon passed the forsaken Independencia Hut, now not much more that a few 2x4s echoing the shape of an A frame and crested the aptly named Windy Ridge at 21,000’. From here we began traversing the giant scree slope with bowling ball sized rocks sitting right at the angle of repose known as the Gran Acarero. The path started gently but soon began climbing steeply through the loose stones, occasionally covered in stretches of icy snow that required crampons to cross. The climbing became very challenging, steep loose rocks and ice patches slowed our progress and after several hours our legs began to tire. By midday we reached 21,700’ at
the base of the final couloir to the summit ridge. It was getting later in the day than we hoped and the challenging terrain behind us took more energy than we planned. We decided to call that our high point, a bit dismayed but still thrilled to have reached 21,700’, a good stretch higher than any point in North America.
After catching our breaths and enjoying the views, we retraced our path back to high camp, arriving in the early evening. We’re tired, but certainly not disappointed as the expedition provided everything we’d hoped. After a much deserved nights rest we will descend back to Base Camp tomorrow.
THIS SOUNDS ASTOUNDING.
BE SAFE. YOU MUST BE ON YOUR WAY BACK BY NOW.
Posted by: phyllis bronson on 12/29/2013 at 2:18 pm
Wow!!!! Thats higher than any point on North America, Africa, Europe or Antarctica. GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT!!!! Be safe and enjoy the steak in Argentina!! Very jealous of the experience.
Posted by: Bill McGahan on 12/24/2013 at 2:38 pm
December 22, 2013
Posted by: Linden Mallory
We’re fortunate to be in the midst of a very stable and almost perfect weather pattern here on Aconcagua: the days are clear and calm and today was no exception. After a great night’s sleep at Camp 2 we packed up our gear and left for high camp by mid-morning. The trail to high camp ascends a broad north facing gulley, occasionally intersected by small cliff bands and large boulders. We weaved our way up, crossing sporadic patches of snow and across pockets of yellow dirt and rocks that smelled of sulfur. After a few hours of climbing we reached a small cliff band and followed a natural weakness in it to scramble up and over our final obstacle and right into our high camp.
Sitting at 19,540’, Camp 3 is a small flat area ringed by rock towers on nearly all sides. Between the towers we can catch views over the Vacas Valley to the east into Argentina and all the way around to the west over the Horocones Valley and into Chile. Above us stands the final 3,000’+ of Aconcagua with the first portion of our route visible from Camp.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon in camp, finalizing our gear for the summit push and trying to rest up and hydrate as much as possible. We are sharing camp with a few other teams and we traded notes on conditions and forecasts: we all agreed, tomorrow is predicted to be a great summit day!
We’ve retired to the tents even though the sun is still quite high in the sky in hopes of getting some rest tomorrow. We are planning on making a pre-dawn alpine start tomorrow morning and going for the top! We’re all doing well, feeling strong, and excited to make an attempt! We’ll check in tomorrow after the climb.
Wahoo! Wishing everyone a safe summit and decent. Merry Christmas!
Posted by: Nookster on 12/23/2013 at 10:52 am
December 21, 2013
Posted by: Linden Mallory
The southern solstice treated us to a long, restful, and relaxing day here at Camp 2. We waited until the sun reached camp before stirring and then had a relaxed morning, watching the long shadows coming off the mountain above us gradually fade as the sun rose higher. From camp, we have perfect views of a good portion of our climbing route on summit day. There was hardly a puff of wind coming off of the top of Aconcagua and we could make out our trail crossing the wide scree slope called the Acarero and up the gully known as the Canaleta to reach the summit ridge. The perfect weather, views of the route, and time to rest and recover has motivated us and we are excited about the coming days. Tomorrow we plan to move up to Camp 3 at 19,500’ in hopes of making a push for the summit in the following days. We are all feeling strong, rested, and ready for the next push. We’ll check in tomorrow from high camp.
Bill Dorn- Wishing you a Merry Christmas from Rita and Carol in sunny, hot Florida.
Posted by: Rita Powella on 12/22/2013 at 9:21 am
Bill Dorn! We are so proud of you and your entire team. Can’t wait until we can hug you on January 23 (our next breakfast club) and get all the stories. Climb safely. Love, Dav’ne
Posted by: Dav'ne Stahley on 12/22/2013 at 8:34 am
December 20, 2013
Posted by: Linden Mallory
We were treated to another wonderfully calm, clear ... and cold night last night at Camp 1. The almost full moon hung huge in the western sky, just above the edges of the Horocones Glacier below us when we poked our heads out of the tents this morning. We dragged our feet a bit getting out of the tents but once the sun reached us we warmed right up and soon had our packs loaded and were heading up the trail. The climbing today was perfect, not too warm and hardly a breeze. Our acclimatization at Camp 1 was noticeable as we moved smoothly across the difficult sections of trail where the bedrock is covered by a thin veneer of gravel and loose stones. The time and the altitude ticked by with us hardly noticing until we found ourselves weaving between the large boulders that mark the entrance to Camp 2 at 18,330’.
No afternoon clouds were forming in the west and the weather was perfect so we took our time setting up camp, soaking in the views, sipping on water, and erecting large rock walls around our tents in case the do winds pick up. The rest of the afternoon passed with little action other than relaxing in camp and getting used to the new elevations. The approach of the longest day of the year down here (tomorrow!) means that even approaching 8 o’clock in the evening the sun still hangs high in the sky right now and is keeping the tents pleasantly warm.
We are all definite feeling the new jump in altitude up here - everything takes just a bit more effort - but are all feeling good. It is exciting to be moving higher on the mountain and suddenly the summit doesn’t look, or feel, as far away now. We are planning on taking a stroll above Camp tomorrow but largely using it as a rest day to adjust to the new elevations and recover a bit from the days we’ve had since leaving Base Camp. We’ll check in tomorrow afternoon.
Happy winter solstice!! Stay strong and take lots of wide angle shots of Aconcagua. You can never have too many (-;
Posted by: Monsieur Homme on 12/21/2013 at 8:28 am
2,200’ higher in the Andes is a noticeable change in temperature! While our mornings at Base Camp were chilly before the sun reached us, it was downright cold this morning at Camp 1 as we prepared to leave. The cold nip was softened a bit by the views: there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we watched the entire range around us soak in the morning light as we packed our bags. Once again we hit the trail as the sun reached us, following a long traverse out of Camp 1 towards a shallow basin at the head of the slope. After a few minutes we settled back into the rhythm of climbing and the time ticked by as we ascended. After several hours of climbing, traversing rock slopes, crossing small snowfields, and weaving around large boulders, we crested the gentle saddle on the Northwest Ridge of Aconcagua and arrived at Camp 2.
Known as Nido de Condores, or Nest of the Condors, Camp 2 sits along a ridge line of distinct rock towers and the views are impressive: to the north stands Mercedario, another 6000m Andean peak, to the east lies Chile, and to our south: our climbing route up Aconcagua. We sat up there in the good weather for a few minutes after unpacking our gear just to enjoy the panorama and get used to the ever higher altitudes. Once satisfied, and with our packs nearly empty, we descended back to our tents at Camp 1. Yesterday’s snow squalls are a thing off the past and we’ve enjoyed sunshine all afternoon.
Tomorrow we will pack our gear and move up to Camp 2.