- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- 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
- Stoney Molina
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Robby Young
Entries By pete van deventer
Today we took the place of the mules and shouldered our first heavy packs of the trip. Our goal was to get as much of our food, fuel, and equipment uphill as possible, so that when we move to Aconcagua’s Camp 1, our loads are reasonable. We succeeded at that goal in fine form, and now everything is ready for us to make the next step uphill to 16,000’ the day after tomorrow.
We woke up to the helicopter over our heads, shuttling propane tanks, building materials, and the full toilet cans in and out of camp. A pretty expensive alarm clock! We ate breakfast, and then quickly got ready to depart so that we could minimize the amount of time that we were in the true heat of the day. The group moved really well today, even on the final 600-foot scree slope, where the uphill track disappeared and every step sent you sliding backwards. We left our gear at camp and then turned to descend. The same slope that was so heinous on the way up, had people hooting and yelling as we skied back down. We were back in time for an afternoon siesta, and to feel safe from the rain clouds that had started to build and were threatening. Though we heard some rumbles of thunder this afternoon, the clouds stayed away and we stayed dry. On the schedule for tomorrow is another rest day, one last chance to enjoy the comforts of base camp before we head up to higher elevations.
Thanks for reading,
On The Map
We took a well deserved rest day today at Plaza Argentina. Though most woke early, everyone opted to stay in their sleeping bags until the sun hit the tents. Our long morning continued with a scrambled egg breakfast and some joke and story telling over coffee. We roused ourselves in the late morning to head to the camp doctor’s building for our obligatory medical check. We are happy to report that everyone is as healthy as they look and we are all clear to keep climbing!
It wasn’t all fun and games, as we all had to sort through the duffels that the mules have been carrying to organize our gear for our carry to Camp 1 tomorrow. Unfortunately, Base Camp is the end of the road for the mules, and from here on up we take over their job.
An afternoon siesta led into another delicious dinner, which led to a spectacular sunset that turned the whole sky a variety of red and purple shades. A large thunderhead that has been hanging to the east provided a canvas for the painting, and dusk is just now beginning to overtake the brilliant hues. We are lucky to be in such a beautiful place.
We’ll let you know how the carry goes tomorrow. Hasta mañana,
RMI Guides Pete, Alex, Juan, and team
On The Map
We are settled in to our camp for the next several days in a situation that in mountain terms is very plush. We woke up early this morning to get our bags packed for the arryaros, and then prepared to cross the Vacas river. Some opted to brave the chilly temps, cold water, and multiple channels, rolling up their pant legs and wading right in. Others took the unique opportunity to ride a mule across. We all learned something new from our Norwegian teammate, who showed up with ultralight waders and cruised across without getting the least bit damp.
The sun was shining again today, but the increasing altitude and another welcome breeze kept things mostly comfortable. We saw more Guanacos today (the team no longer believes us when we tell them it’s pretty rare), this time either playing or arguing with a game of king of the hill. As we came through the top of the Relinchos valley, we got our first really unobstructed views of Aconcagua and its sister peak Amegino. A dining tent, lemonade, and an assortment of peanuts, crackers, cheese, and olives greeted us when we walked into Plaza Argentina. With tents up, it was time for the afternoon siesta before a delicious chicken dinner prepared by Anita, the wonderful base camp cook. We’re off to bed shortly, and after a lot of miles and hours the last three days, everyone is looking forward to a rest day tomorrow.
We send our best to everyone back home,
RMI Guides Pete, Juan, Alex, and crew
On The Map
Today was another perfect day in the Vacas Valley. Several of us slept out last night under a stunning Milky Way while the southern cross worked its way across the horizon. We woke to clear skies, and cool temps, and motivated to get the miles ahead of us under way. We kept a breeze with us most of the way, but nonetheless, after two days in the strong southern sun, everyone is a little bit crispier. About an hour before camp, we came over a rise to see a family of 9 guanacos (a wild relative of the llama) grazing along the trail ahead. Normally very shy, they were about as curious towards us as we were towards them and we were able to snap a bunch of photos. It’s pretty rare to get to see them, and especially so close, so we felt really lucky. We arrived in the mid afternoon, so there was plenty of time for a siesta before we filled our bellies, with pasta tonight. Everyone was a bit relieved for the break from huge portions of steak.
Tomorrow we climb through the Relinchos valley to base camp at Plaza Argentina. We’ll check in from there. Hopefully this gorgeous weather continues to hold for us.
RMI Guides Pete, Alex, Juan, and team
On The Map
We had a fantastic walk in yesterday to get the trip started finally! Though everyone agreed it was very hot, a breeze for most of the way kept it much more comfortable than it could have been. We had a leisurely start from Penitentes, and we were comfortably settled into camp by late afternoon. As the shadows lengthened, JJ’s team marched triumphantly into camp, and we shared another delicious asado with them and swapped stories. Tomorrow, it’s onward, following the dusty mule trail, to Casa de Piedras. The group is doing a great job, and it looks as though it will be another warm sunny day tomorrow, just the way we like it.
RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Alex Barber, Juan, and Team
It’s been a really busy 36 hours, getting everyone here, buying food, securing permits, traveling to Penitentes, and packing our gear for the mules, but we have gotten it all done! The bags are packed and we are ready to hit the dusty trail tomorrow and start up Aconcagua! In all of that bustling around, we still found time for our first of several delicious steak and wine dinners in Mendoza. This can be the most stressful part of the trip, making sure that everyone arrives, and with all of their bags. Tomorrow we move into the rhythm of the mountains, things slow down, and we take a deep breath. We’ll be in touch tomorrow from Pampa de Lenas, where we hope to see JJ and his team as they make their way out from a successful trip. We’re hoping ours is as well.
Ciao for now.
I remember when I first stepped into the mountains. I was 11 years old and I had never seen a mountain before, let alone thought of climbing one. My father, older brother, and I traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to climb Mt. Washington (6,288’). I remember finally standing on top of the boulder pile that comprises the summit and feeling the accomplishment. “I did it, I’m on top!” It was windy—a wet cold cloud had moved in during the final hour of tedious boulder hoping to the top—and even at that age I remember quickly coming to the realization that I needed to turn around and walk back down! Mt. Washington is unique in that it has a paved road to the summit along with the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway train. My brother insisted that we descend via the train. Luckily for me, my father obliged and shortly after the train started it’s descent it began pouring. Although I was cozy in a train cabin watching the rain patter off the windows, I didn’t soon forget my realization: the summit is only halfway.
You hear this quite often in the climbing world. The ability to efficiently descend is a crucial skill in regards to staying safe in the vertical world. Just as with standing on top of Mt. Rainier, Denali, or Mt. Everest, getting down off of a rock climb requires the same amount of focus and effort as climbing it, and in a lot of ways requires much more.
Days 5 and 6 of our Rock Guide Course were focused on becoming proficient in our technical descent systems. I was paired up with RMI guide Pete Van Deventer and former RMI guide and current AMGA instructor Jeff Ward, and we traveled over to the Bunny Face Wall of Smith Rocks. On the easy and moderate multi-pitch sport climbs this area had to offer we discussed and practiced rappelling and lowering our climbers: the pro’s and con’s of each, when and why to use one over the other and a myriad of ways to be more efficient and provide the best experience possible for our climbers. Over the course of the next few days, we climbed a number of different routes and really got the opportunity to apply these techniques in mock guiding scenarios.
When you practice these skills for the first time—or any skill for that matter—it’s usually done so in the “best-case scenario.” You start out easy so you can concentrate on the learning. In rock climbing the “best-case scenario” is pretty straightforward and easy to mitigate. Over the next several days of climbing, we learned that the best scenario rarely occurs. As guides, we need to always be prepared for the difficult scenario, and we had the benefit of climbing into some terrain that posed plenty of guiding challenges. This allowed for lots of hands on learning and problem solving. As guides, it’s important that we keep our skills sharp and this course was a great reminder that that process truly never ends. 16 years ago I learned that getting to the top is only half way and 16 years later I’m still being reminded of that fact!
Steve Gately grew up in Boston, MA, and found his love for the mountains in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In 2012, Steve combined his passion for teaching, climbing, and the mountains when he started guiding for RMI. Steve now guides year round for RMI, from Argentina to Alaska. Steve will be guiding not one, not two, but three trips to Aconcagua this winter!
Day three of the AMGA Rock Guide Course started a little less comfortably than we had hoped. Our course’s venue was located in the heart of central Oregon and early November often offers a mixed bag of weather. For the four of us who were camping near the park, this meant we awoke to find ourselves shivering and scraping a light layer of frost off of the inside of our tents.
As mountain guides, we often deal with inclement weather, but even our familiarity with discomfort didn’t stop all the grumbling that morning as we made coffee. Luckily for us, our instructor team was equally apprehensive about climbing in freezing temperatures and had called a quick audible. The day’s goals shifted to learning rescue techniques and skills in the ‘comfort’ of a covered cooking space.
After just finishing my first year with RMI, I was excited to see how our in-house rescue training would compare to the official AMGA equivalent. As the morning progressed, the instructor team grew equally excited as it became clear that much of the rescue curriculum was review, albeit, made a bit more difficult by the vertical orientation and the small working zones that the rock environment demands. Despite the cold temps and biting wind, we were able to fly through hauling techniques and knot passes. That morning’s training concretely highlighted for me how well RMI trains their guides. Because of our familiarity with many of the techniques, we were able to open the book and learn a couple new tricks and subtleties that may have otherwise been lost on a less experienced crew.
Once we had mastered new slack management tricks and practiced the variety of haul systems, we changed venues and tried to warm ourselves up with some rope ascending. Ascending is one of those skills that any basic crevasse rescue course will teach you, yet even our most experienced guides were able to walk away with a new trick or two. This again speaks to the level of experience and expertise that our instructors brought to the course.
The day’s training finished with a variety of skills that we will be tested on in our next course. A large part of the AMGA course curriculum is a series of examinations that aspiring guides go through to prove their proficiency. For many, these examinations can be stressful and difficult. However, this course has shown me that as long as I continue to work with the incredible fellow guides and instructors that make up the AMGA and RMI, this will be a process I am excited to continue on.
With my first year at RMI finished and my first AMGA course completed, I am more enthused than ever at the prospect of continuing my education. Without a doubt, my most profound take away from this course has been how much of a pleasure it is to work with professional mountain guides. In all my time in the mountains, I’ve never found a group who equals the enthusiasm and commitment to perfecting their craft that RMI guides have.
Finally, I want to echo Seth’s thanks to RMI for investing in their guides and allowing these courses to happen. I’m already looking forward to my next AMGA course and my next season with RMI!
Caleb Ladue just finished his first season guiding with RMI. He grew up in Vermont, where he learned to love the mountains for all that they offered, and that passion has taken him throughout the US and to the Peruvian Andes. He’ll be hanging his hat in Jackson Hole this winter, and will return to Mt. Rainier in the Spring, excited to share his passion with many more climbers!
In late October, RMI guides Pete Van Deventer, Caleb Ladue, Billy Haas, Steve Gately and myself took part in a Rock Guide Course conducted by the American Mountain Guides Association. The course was contracted and sponsored by the RMI Expeditions/First Ascent Guide Grant, and the instructors included former RMI Guide Jeff Ward, RMI and Colorado Mountain School Guide Mike Soucy and CMS Guide Mark Hammond.
As a guide staff, we felt very fortunate that both RMI and the AMGA instructors were able to plan the course during a timeframe that allowed us to work a full summer schedule on Rainier and still have a few weeks to prepare and train in the rock realm after a long season of alpine climbing in the Cascades. After completing my Ski Exam and becoming a Certified Ski Mountaineering Guide in April of this last year, I am personally very grateful to RMI for sponsoring the course, which allowed me to complete a second financially committing segment of my
continuing education and progression toward full IFMGA certification.
The 10-day course took place at Smith Rock State Park near Bend, OR. Over the years I have spent a fair bit of time climbing at Smith and I knew the venue would provide some unique challenges from both a climbing and guiding perspective. While Smith is known for it’s high quality sport climbing, on this course we would be dialing our focus more towards traditional climbing. Lucky for us, many of the ‘trad’ routes at Smith are notorious for having less than stellar rock quality, adding another complex element to the guiding objective.
The course kicked off on the last week of October. The weather looked to be good for the first couple of days, so we postponed the ground-work until a later date, and got right into the climbing. For me, the learning process brought me right back to my apprenticeship days at RMI, when I had to change the filter on my perspective. I quickly learned to transition my thinking from that of an advanced recreational climber to approaching a climbing objective from the viewpoint of a guide. It’s a subtle change, but it makes a huge difference in your mindset, risk management, and the decision making process.
The instructor team did a great job of leading by example. They started right off with a very professional and competent course opening discussion and several demonstrations on belaying and anchoring techniques, as well as various ways to increase both guide and client security. As outdoor professionals, we don’t sit still well or for very long, and so were very thankful when we even got to climb a few pitches at the end of the first day!
The fair weather held on into our second day, but as the forecast looked to be deteriorating later in the week, the instructors opted to keep us in the field climbing in the event that we got shut down by rain and wind over the following days. This strategy worked quite well, as we were able to practice more of the techniques and rope trickery we learned the previous day while spending time off the ground in the vertical orientation.
By nature, guides tend to be kinesthetic learners, and as a group we all commented on the fact that we were able to process and retain the information with higher success if we could get our hands on the rope.
After the first few days, the course continued to ramped up both physically and mentally. For me it just got better as it went on, and the final day was by far the best, culminating in a lead of the aesthetic final pitch of Zebra Zion.
I can’t say enough about the both the quality and caliber of the AMGA instructors, and I’d like to especially thank my co-workers for a great time and creating an environment that was positive and fun, all while staying engaged and eager to learn every day.
Finally, a big thank you RMI, for investing in your guides and organizing this opportunity to allow us to further our professional education!
Seth Waterfall has been guiding trips for RMI for over a decade, and leads trips to destinations the world round. He lives in Enumclaw, WA, were he spends his spare time skiing, road biking, and climbing throughout the Cascades.
The Four Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Seth Waterfall and the Five Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer reached the summit of Mt. Rainier shortly after 7 a.m. The team spent about 90 minutes on the summit enjoying light winds and clear skies before beginning their descent to Camp Muir. Once back at Camp Muir, the team will rest and re-fuel before continuing their descent. We look forward to greeting them in Ashford this afternoon.
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