The last couple weeks have flown by! Here are some of the highlights…
Shawn, Nick and I climbed Sunlight(14,059′) and Windom(14,082′) in Chicago Basin.
I met Ken, Daniel and Aaron in Telluride to climb Wilson Peak(14,017′). While waiting in the gas staion parking lot at 4:30am I got to see who was making a mess by knocking over all the trash cans, and going through the contents. We were surprised to find a 1/2″ of fresh snow on Wilson Peak. It quickly melted as the sun came up and started heating up the rock.
Lastly Bob and I hiked up Noname Basin to climb Jagged Peak. We ended up climbing the rarely attempted Peak 6(13,705′) instead.
It was great climbing with all of you! Its hard not to have fun in the San Juans this time of year. Hell any time of year is great!
Success on the French Direct
SJMG Guide Andres Marin
Our expedition was just incredible. Every moment was just fantastic, in our journey to the top of Alpamayo: from our long bus ride from Lima to Huaraz, meeting great people in Huaraz, putting all our gear together in H town, taking the bus to Cachapampa, the magic hike through the majestic canyons that took us to our first camp where we spent our first night out where we can hear the Santa Cruz River running with its clear mountain water.
Our next day hike to Base camp where the first view of our objective and lots of other just stunning mountains that captivate our attention. Once at BC the UNO games start and the scores start to accumulate. The meals that Max (our chef) made for us were out of a 5 star mountain hotel. Our way up making carries and getting and higher we got to see different parts of the incredible Cordillera Blanca mountain range and the glaciers and high alpine lakes open right to our view.
Moraine camp at the foot of the main glacier was a great place to observe our surroundings. After spending the night there it was time for us to head up and get to Col camp, where cool glacier travel and little bit of steep of climbing was waiting for us. We also witnessed the strengh of our porters Zacarias and Pelayo, and that carrying 90 pounds of stuff did not slow them down a bit to climb steep snow at 16,000′!
Once at Col/High camp the hole entire SW face of Alpamayo was just in front of us with its dreamy looking ice runnels that go from the top all the way to the base. After the rest day, it was time for us to attempt the summit climb. We woke up super early with an alpine start and started heading to the base of the route. 300M of 45 to 60 degree ice runnel was waiting for us.
The climb was just fun super sticky ice and dreamy snow took us to the top of Alpamayo where, we all enjoyed our success. All of our clients climbed the route in great style, using the techniques they learned climbing with us in the Ouray Ice Park. We took some photos and started rappelling the face.
It was a very long route 10 hours round trip of just fun climbing and rappelling, before we knew it, we found ourselves back in camp, a rest day was in order and then we started back tracking our way down to BC where Rodrigo and Max had planned a fun day of rest and eating for us.
They made a very special plate call PACHAMANCA. It takes long time to make since they make a fire first, dig a hole put all the food in the hole cover it and let it cook for 45 min. It was a great feast and a great way to celebrate the success of our trip!
The next day it was time for us to start our hike down to Huaraz. We spent couple of days there and we all flew back home safe and sound. All and all it was a superb expedition full of great times and incredible views and company. I’m totally looking forward to do it again next year. I also wanted to thank Ted, Chris, Julie, Charles, Rodrigo and company for such incredible times.
AMGA Certified Rock & Alpine Guide
Outdoor Research Guide Uniforms
SJMG Guide Ben Kiessel
As a partner guide service with Outdoor Research, each season we get a few new pieces of technical outerwear to use on our trips – part of our SJMG Guide Uniform. This year, and after a hearty bit of field work already I might add, SJMG Guide Ben Kiessel has had the chance to review this season’s gear.
Everyone gets excited at the start of the summer guiding season. Given the vast expanse and terrain types of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains – we put our gear through a lot of tough use. From multi-day backpacking trips in the Weminuche Wilderness (with plenty of afternoon thunderstorms I might add), to the alpine rock of the Grenadier Range and the Wilson/El Diente Traverse – I’ve put my technical outerwear through more than it’s fair share of mountain days. I’m pleased to report that our Outdoor Research Guide Uniform has been more than up to the task.
The Ferrosi Pants and Hoody are both super beathable yet offer excellent wind and water resistance. So whether we are guiding Telluride’s Via Ferrata or the Snake Couloir on Mt. Sneffels we are dry, warm and able to focus on our job not our layering system. The Ferrosi Hoody is light enough that I have worn it on hot, sunny days for sun protection. The Ferrosi Pant is burly enough that it doesn’t show any wear after guiding long trad routes in the Black Canyon or towers in Moab area. In addition, they are cut perfectly for alpine and rock climbing objectives alike, with minimal extraneous fabric in places you don’t need extra fabric.
I usually layer on the Sequence S/S Polo – which is both comfortable and stylish, and then the Radiant LT Zip Top over that for cool evenings or mornings. I’m particularly a fan of the thumb holes on the Radiant and find that the piece is cut perfectly so that those sleeves don’t ride up or make you feel like they are going to cut off circulation to your thumb when using the thumb holes. Seriously, I have had some other pullovers from different manufacturers who made the sleeves of the pullover too short such that the thumb holes were basically unusable for me – and I have long arms.
As our season progresess in southwest Colorado we experience daily afternoon thunderstorms in July and August that generally last for an hour or two. It’s key to have a rain coat that will keep you dry even in the heaviest rain storms yet is light as possible and compresses down for easy packing. I was impressed last year when we were wearing the Helium. The Helium II is lighter, more water poof and more breathable then its predecessor. At 6.4 oz it’s super light but is resiliant enough to thrash through dew covered willows on an alpine start for Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with anything from OR. Well built, functional, stylish – the list goes on and on. I highly recommend their technical outerwear for all of your outdoor endeavors, wherever they may be. Have fun out there!
AMGA Certified Rock Guide
Although Ken lives in Texas he is on a mission to climb Colorodo’s 54 14,000 foot peaks! Last week we went into Chicago Basin with his son and climbed the areas three semi technical 14ers; Windom, Sunlight and Eolus. I believe after our trip Ken has climbed 38 14ers! We will be seeing Ken again in a couple weeks to climb Mt. Wilson and El Diente near Telluride. Stay tuned!
Its not super common that we hike into Vestal Basin from Molas Pass. We usually take the train which cuts off about 6 miles round trip and a 2,000 foot climb from the river back to the car on the way out. Aaron, Jacob and I left Molas on Wednesday morning and made great time getting into Vestal Basin in 5 hours. We set up camp and talked about the strategy for Thursday. Vestal Peak would be first via the incredible and classic Wham Ridge. From the Vestal summit we would descend the South Face back to the base of Arrow and then climb Arrow’s Northeast Face and descend to camp. Although we woke up to clouds on Thursday the skies cleared and everything went as planned. Except that when we got back to camp Aaron and Jacob decided that they didn’t want to spend another night out as planned but would prefer to hike back out to Molas Pass. It’s amazing what two soccer players from Iowa can do when they have been at altitude for a few days! All total we hiked about 20 miles and gained 8,000′ of elevation.
We wanted to let everyone know that the team is safely back at basecamp and enjoying some rest before the final push back to Huaraz. Soon, they will be enjoying a Pachamanca! More details to come with pictures once Andres and team reach Huaraz. Nice job everyone!!
Safely Back at High Camp
Just got word that Alpamayo Team #2 summited yesterday and are safely back in high camp! We will post a full recap once we hear from Andres about the details of the climb. Great work everyone!
At Alpamayo Basecamp
Our second Alpamayo Expedition of the season is underway and going very well. Everyone in the group arrived to Lima on time, with no delays and all their bags (whew!). After a night in Lima, the group boarded the Cruz del Sur bus – with VIP seating – for the trip to Huaraz which is approximately 8 hours from Lima.
Upon their arrival in Huaraz they were picked up by our support staff and transported to The Olaza’s Guest House, where they spent the next few days acclimatizing and packing for the trip, not to mention enjoying the views of the Cordillera Blanca range from Olaza’s wonderful roof top patio. The trip preparations with our support staff went very smoothly, and after a final gear check everyone was feeling prepped and ready for the following days transport to Cashapampa, and the start of the trek into basecamp which is supported by burros.
Andres called on Monday to let us know that the team had successfully made it to Basecamp and everyone was doing fantastic. Spirits were high all around. The team was planning to do a load carry, with the help of their porters and cooks, to Moraine Camp the following day (Tuesday) and then establish themselves completely at Moraine Camp today (Wednesday). The pictures attached to this post are not from this trip but give a general sense of where they are headed in the days to come.
We will post another update as soon as we hear from Andres and the team – hopefully later today!!
Alpamayo Expedition #2
Alpamayo Summit Success!
On Tuesday July 9th, we moved to high camp after a 3 day snow storm that had us tent bouded at Morraine Camp. Upon arrival to High Camp, we struggled to set camp up with the almost 1 m of snow that had been deposited at places. But Rich and Ásgeir kept the good spirits that we had had over the entire expedition. Expectant to evealuate route conditions, we decided that after a hard day of work and given the accumulated snow, we’d take a rest day on Wednesday and shoot for the summit on Thursday, putting all our chips in one basket; summiting on the very last day possible.
Since the start of the climb, we all agreed that “we’d be patient and we were not going to quit untill our planes left…” and so we did! This would involve to summit on the last day possible and also descending to Base Camp after the climb. On Wed, I grabbed Juanito, our fenomenal porter, and we went off to break the trail to the bergschund, a task that had not been done for the last 5 days and was contemplated by many from their tents. 1m of snow made it hard to approach the base of the route, but checking its conditions was mandatory, and facilitating the next day’s progress to the climb, a must.
With 2 days of sunny weather, we knew that all this snow would pack down and transform quickly. So we just continued to rest and got ready for our summit bid. At 12:30am of Thursday the 11th, we clipped into our rope and set off to the base of the route up Alpamayo, the “Direct Basque-French”. A somehow populated high camp made us decide to be the first ones up, to avoid being expossed to ice fall from climbers above. We started the climb with a train of headlamps following our tracks 1h behind. After the first 2 pitches of semi-consolidated snow, we were swinging our tools into consistently good quality ice. About 3 rope lengths below the summit of Alpamayo, the sunrise greeted us to the 3rd bluebird sky day in a row, and literally, the 3rd in the entire expedition. By tourning our headlamps off, we entered the narrowest section of the climb, the upper gully that slightly traversing right with the only deviation of the route, grants access to the summit of Alpamayo.
Rich and Ásgeir moved along the entire climb and their sincronized progress below me was pleasant to witness. It is always a treat to climb with those who do their homework before a climb and not only show up excited, but well prepared, trained and determined. At 8:30am the team reached the narrow top of this mountain, where there was only room for 3 or 4 people. After a summit’s high five and mandatory pictures, we initiated our series of rappels down, to give room to the only couple of climbers who followed us successfully to the top and to abandon the strong winds that were hitting the top. Some 9 full 60m rope lenghts after, Rich, Ásgeir and myself were back at the base of the SW face of Alpamayo, with just a few hundred yards to walk back to our camp. It had been a serious 11h30m of climbing up and down this beatufull but challenging peak. Now our minds were set on recovering and start our descent towards Base Camp… We now had only one day left to reach the trailhead, and eventually Huaraz, so to be on time to our bus to Lima and planes back home on Saturday was the goal.
Tired, but with safety in mind, we started our descent through the opened up glacier, and it was to the lights of our headlamps that we crawled back into the dryness of our BC tents, leaving the snow that had been home for the last few days. Our always sevicial cook Francisco and loyal porter Juanito helped us enourmously with this transition, without a doubt, the hardest of all during the expedition. Now, we only had to walk back to the trailhead on the safety of a grass covered path and the thickening of the lower elevation’s air. Jumping into our bus at dusk, we were congratulated by our outfitter’s personell, who took us to Huaraz. With barely a few minutes to order dinner before closure time, we celebrated to local cuissine and went to our eraned 1st bed in 2 weeks, not without greeting SJMG’s 2nd expedition at the hotel and wishing them best of luck on their jurney. This successful San Juan Mountain Guides expedition to Alpamayo was over.
Elias de Andres Martos
Back in High Camp
Elias called to report that he and his two clients successfully summited Alpamayo and were back at high camp, preparing for the rest of their descent back towards basecamp. Elias will write up a full accounting of the summit day in the days to come. Congratulations everyone!