Progress Towards High Camp
Elias and his team are making good progress on Alpamayo. On the 4th of July they checked in from basecamp, and were planning to do a carry to moraine camp the following day. Everyone was doing well and in good spirits.
Two days later Elias called in with another report. Elías reported that they did a carry yesterday and today they are camping at the moraine camp at 5,000 m.
Tomorrow they will rest and the following day head to high camp. The weather has been good in the am, with rain in the afternoons. The forecast is showing favorable weather upcoming for the next five or so days, hopefully fine summiting weather. Climbers that he has spoken to that have climbed the peak recently have said that the route is in good shape.
This morning, Elias called in again with another update and reported that they took a mandatory weather day yesterday, after taking a rest day the day before. The weather is looking beautiful Andean blue today. The team is planning to move to high camp today and summit tomorrow or the next day. Today is Rich Doren’s 53rd birthday!
Our second Alpamayo Expedition of the season starts on Thursday and is being led by SJMG Senior Guide Andres Marin. Stay tuned for more updates!
Bruce and I climbed Wilson Peak near Telluride last week. We left the Rock of Ages trail head at 6am and were on the summit at 10am, and were back at the trail head by 1pm for a 7 hour car to car trip. Thanks for the great trip Bruce!
Alpamayo Expedition #1 Begins
The team is finaly in the capital of Peruvian Andinismo! After a late arrival into Lima due to a flight cancellation out of Houston, we made it to Lima just on time to grab some rest and be headed for the bus. Yesterday, and 8h bus drive towards the Andes, over 12,000ft high mountain roads put us in Huaraz in the late afternoon. The town greeted us with light rain and covered skies that prevented us from seen the “rajus” or snow covered peaks, as named in the local Quechua languaje.
This morning, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Olaza´s rooftop, with views of ther majestic Huascaran, Huandoy and Ranrapalca behind.
We’re headed now to arrange some logistics and doing the final shoping before our anticipated big andeand meal this asfternoon. We’re getting excited of leaving the urban life and travelling to put our feet at the Alpamayo trailhead tomorrow.
Alpamayo Expedition #1 Team Members
Guide: Elias de Andres Martos
Clients: Asgeir Jonsson, Richard Doren
A Brief History and Essential Equipment
Via Ferrata is the Italian name for what might fairly be called extreme hiking. First built in the Italian Dolomites during World War 1 these “iron roads” were intended to facilitate the rapid movement of troops through technical mountain terrain. Today, these systems of cables and iron rungs climbing up cliff faces make for an excellent mountain adventure for those not necessarily inclined to make the significant investment of money and time into gear and know-how to participate in traditional outdoor climbing and mountaineering. Consequently, the via ferrata is one of the best ways to get all of the excitement of high mountain adventure for the least investment. Fortunately, we happen to have one right in our backyard – just outside the beautiful town of Telluride.
Chuck Kroger was a world adventurer, climber, philanthropist, and ironworker who settled in Telluride in the late 70’s. He began building the via ferrata in 2006 but an untimely death from cancer left completion of the project to others. Tellurides via ferrata is affectionately known as the Krogeratta in his memory.
The Krogeratta is a fantastic introduction to the sport – with spectacular positions and views with enough air and exposure for the most experienced climbers while also being completely accessible to those with only hiking experience. Via Ferrattas are simple on the grand scale but definitely deserve respect as specialized systems and knowledge are required to complete them safely.
First, everyone needs a traditional climbing harness and helmet – falls and rock fall are a real possibility on these routes. Second, a via ferrata “rig” is required. These are made by many companies but the Black Diamond Easy Rider Via Ferrata set up is particularly nice.
What distinguishes the via ferrata rig from other climbing systems is that it builds a “shock absorber” to the system – that is, if you fall, the system, rather than your body, absorbs all the shock from a fall and you end up making a soft landing just a foot or two below where you fell. A serious mistake that many people make is simply clipping traditional runners or short pieces of rope into the via ferrata cables and ladders. This has the potential to be a serious error because forces multiply in extreme an unexpected ways on climbing systems in short falls without the shock absorbers found in the proper via ferrata rigs.
Never attempt a via ferrata without a rigging system designed specifically for that purpose. Another consideration is that via ferrata’s frequently have sections that are exposed to serious falls, but do not offer cable or rungs for you to clip into, it is important that you consider how you will maintain you and your group’s security through these sections. One way is to move very carefully and/or employ the use of a leader and a rope. Another, is the engage the services of a certified guide with knowledge of the route and a variety of techniques to manage risk.
Finally, I would suggest that everyone wear the same footwear on a via ferrata that they would on a traditional mountain climb or hike. The terrain is uneven and rough and often requires that you stand delicately on small foot stances (while safely clipped into the system of course) when moving through the route.
Via Ferrata’s, while an old approach to mountaineering, are an exciting new development for adventure and exploration of the Rocky Mountains!
AMGA Certified Ski Guide
As I was riding the coal powered steam train up to Elk Park I was checking the weather and it didn’t look good. NOAA was predicting 70% chance of precipatation and a chance of snow. Luckily NOAA doesn’t always get it right! We ended up summiting Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak with great weather the whole time. Beautiful weather, fun people, and great suroundings made for an amazing 3 days in the Weminuche Wilderness.
Tim had climbed Mount Sneffels before via the standard route and was looking for a little more of a challenge. The SW ridge is an amazing route on an iconic Colorado 14er. Climbing up the SW Ridge and down the standard route gave us a great tour of the mountain.
As always, it was great climbing with you Tim!
David and I left the Los Pinos trail head with food for ten days, not 100% sure where we were going. We knew we wanted to try to climb Mt. Oso but besides that we were going to play it by ear. We ended seeing people on day 1,2,9 and 10; but on days 3-8 we saw no one. We hiked up the Los Pinos River drainage then up Lake Creek past Emerald Lake, Moon Lake, and Half Moon Lake. Then over ‘Moon Rock Pass’ to Rock Lake. Then to Flint Lake and down Flint Creek past the ‘Popes Nose’ to Los Pinos River and back to the trail head. We saw an elk, moose, and a bear print.
Thanks for the great trip David!
Moving Fast in the Alpine
by Nate Disser – AMGA Rock & Alpine Guide
Managing risk and objective hazard in alpine environments is clearly a top priority for all comers – guided or not. Surely this is always the case for all outdoor activities, but doing so in alpine environments in the summer requires heightened awareness and skill development in some key areas which can limit your overall exposure to hazards such as afternoon lightning/thunderstorms or rockfall and soft snow conditions on glaciers.
Below are a few tips and considerations for increasing your speed in the mountains. Though not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of suggested practices, the correct application of these practices will help you to move faster and manage your risk in the mountains progressively and proactively rather than reactively.
Be In Shape
It seems obvious, but in order to move quickly on approaches, climbs, and descents you need to be in good cardiovascular fitness and then have the ability to apply that fitness and energy level over the course of a long (sometimes 10 – 12 hour) day, moving consistently with limited rests. Unfortunately, there is no real substitute for getting out and developing your fitness in the mountains. However, running, biking, stair master etc. can help with your cardio foundation, and aid in your ability to transition that fitness in the mountains with some style.
The increased work load in the mountains is largely due to the more varied muscle groups required for hiking and climbing with a heavy pack, and when combined with the mental fatigue/stress of being in new or unfamiliar terrain even the most prepared athlete will have some challenge adjusting to the athletic demands of the sport. Take solace though, if it were easy then everyone would do it. You’ve got to start somewhere and there’s no better way to gauge your level of fitness than a true mountain day.
For those who don’t live near the mountains, then you have to work with what you’ve got and do as much cross-training as you can. These days, any training regimen should include a focus in core intensive workouts such as those taught by Steve Ilg and Wholistic Fitness.
Remember though, there is no training for climbing/hiking/backpacking etc. like actually doing it for real. So plan a lot of trips and don’t be afraid to shut the phone off and dial yourself in for some hard work in the mountains. You’ll build perceptible strength, stamina, and fitness with each endeavor.
Get Up Early
Take a great deal of care thinking about what time you want to be up and off the summit of your climb or peak, and then work backwards to determine what time you should leave that night/early morning. Typically in area’s such as the San Juans or the Tetons, one of the most prevalent objective hazards to contend with are afternoon thunderstorms. In such case it is a good practice to be off the summit of the peaks no later than 11am – 12pm, and perhaps earlier if you expect a complicated or time consuming descent. In mountain areas where snow and/or glacier conditions are more important (such as the Cascades/N.Cascades) then the goal is to summit early in the morning around 6 or 7 am, taking advantage of optimal snow conditions for both the ascent and descent and avoid rockfall or icefall hazard which generally is expected during the warmer hours of the day (though to be fair these can happen at any hour).
Knowing how long a particular route is going to take to climb can be challenging and requires a good deal of experience to develop accurate predictions that you can then reliably use to plan your day with.
A very general rule of thumb is to plan for about 1000′ – 1500′ per hour walking up hill, and then halve that time for the down. Of course, this does not take into account any technical pitches or transitions that may occur along the way, so you’ll want to factor the time spent on those challenges as well since they will eat your time faster than you expect. The only way to get better at this is to do it consistently, and reflect each time on how close you were to your original prediction and then adjust accordingly for subsequent trips or climbs.
Over time you will learn how to quickly develop a time plan in your head and utilize an intuitive process for predicting how long it will take you to climb a given route, which in turn frees up your mental energy levels to focus on other aspects of risk management and hazard recognition – or just more time to stop and smell the roses as they say…….
Don’t Take Long Breaks
Nothing eats up your time like a long break in the mountains. I recommend planning your day so that you are consistently moving for 1 – 1.5 hours at a time, and then stop/break for no longer than 10 – 15 minutes. During that break you should hydrate, eat, and generally take care of yourself (different layers, sunscreen etc.) in anticipation of the weather or conditions on the next stretch. If you have a 6 – 8 hour climb ahead of you, and you take 20 minute breaks every hour then you will arrive back to camp almost 1.5 hours later than someone who moves at the same pace but only takes a 10 minute break.
In the mountains, 1.5 hours is a great deal of time so you can clearly see that taking the extra 10 minutes during a break may feel great but it puts you up against the clock should a storm move in earlier than expected. Make sure to factor your breaks into your time plan as well.
Buy Lightweight Gear
The improvement in gear technology and weight in the last 10 years has been impressive. It may cost a little bit more to go with the generally nicer, lighter weight gear when outfitting your adventures, but in my experience you will always thank yourself for it later. Do you need the big gore-tex jacket or will something like the OR Helium II Jacket suffice? Do you need a full length down sleeping pad, or will the Therm-A-Rest 3/4 length Neo Air do the trick? These are questions only you can answer as they apply to your trip and the type of terrain you are venturing into, but almost always there is a lightweight option for gear these days.
Consider the implication of carrying a 35 lb pack instead of a 40lb pack over the course of a 6 – 8 hour approach or successive camp establishment. Each step you take is 5 less pounds of weight you are carrying on your body/frame, translating into thousands of pounds over the course of a long day.
Extrapolate that over the course of many trips in the mountains and we are talking about some serious reduction in wear-and-tear. I don’t care how fit you are. Show me the person who has figured out how to carry the lightest pack possible and they will almost always be able to move faster in the mountains. Unless you are built like a dinosaur (which some people certainly are), shave the weight and you will shave time off your climb.
Learn from Someone that Knows
You can shorten your learning curve on moving fast in the mountains (as well as a number of other topics) by taking a course from an AMGA Certified Guide or Accredited Guide Service. That’s not to say you can’t also develop these skills and knowledge base on your own or with friends.
Obligatory shamless self-promotion part of this post:
However, climbing with a mountain professional can be a worthwhile investment and you will be guaranteed to learn time-tested, peer-reviewed information that will contribute to you building a solid foundation of skills that can then be applied on your own trips. For more information about hiring an AMGA Certified Guide or AMGA Accredited Guide Service in your area, visit www.amga.com.
AMGA Certified Rock & Alpine Guide
SJMG Guide Interview
Bill Grasse – AMGA Certified Rock Guide
The Featured Guide section is a new element of our newsletter and SJMG Blog intended to provide you with an in-depth look at some of our world-class guides. This issue’s Featured Guide is Bill Grasse - an AMGA Certified Rock Guide and SJMG Guide since 2007.
Bill has been described by a past client as “a valuable demon of a climbing guide” and he is easily one of our most requested guides for his friendly, easy-going attitude, coupled with a climbing ability and technical know-how that’s second to none. He also happens to be a veritable zen master of desert tower climbing. Read more about Bill below!
1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Denver and lived there until I was 8 or so. I then spent 2 years in LA which were interesting. Especially because I was there during the riots. Then we moved to Colorado Springs where I spent the rest of my time until coming to Durango for college in 2000.
2. What is your rock climbing experience?
I have climbed all around the west but my love is the desert. I wish I could say that I have climbed in exotic places all over the world but the truth is that I have had no reason to branch out beyond the western United States. There’s just too much to climb around here. As far as experience: I have climbed big walls and long free climbs in Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon and have spent a significant amount of time climbing towers on the Colorado Plateau. I have a goal of climbing 100 towers… I’m at 99.
3. What is your training background?
As far as official training: I have a Rock Guide Certification from the AMGA, a WFR, and am Avalanche level 1. Unofficially, I have been teaching people to climb for almost 14 years both as friends and for my college climbing club.
4. What are your favorite places to guide?
My favorite places to guide are Moab, Red Rocks, Black Canyon, the Ouray Ice Park, and the good old San Juans…
5. What is your favorite part about this job?
My favorite part of the job is the ability to affect people in a positive way. Guiding gives me a chance to push people to do things that they didn’t know that they could do. To have a part in that experience and to witness the exuberance and exhilaration that then follows for them is like a drug for me. It makes me remember my first climbing experiences and how free I then felt. Guiding gives me an avenue to remind people that it all doesn’t matter in the end and that enjoying the moment is all you need.
6. What makes you a good guide?
What makes me a good guide: besides my really really ridiculously good looks. My experience in wilderness therapy has taught me of the power of just making a connection with people. So I try to guide from the standpoint that i’m just a person that has learned some lessons and gained some experience who is just teaching another equal person those lessons and how to gain their own experience with hopefully less cost… did I mention my good looks.
7. What is your most memorable guiding experience?
I don’t know that I have one particular experience that stands out but rather, all of the friends I have made from my experiences guiding. I have met so many people and learned so much and grown myself. That’s what comes to mind when I think about the guiding experience.
8. Best/coolest climb you have ever done? Anywhere.
Best route I have ever done is either the Salathe on El Cap, or climbing a wall in Zion with great friends during Thanksgiving… we had beer, banana bread, and a whole smoked turkey… on the portaledges… It was awesome! Really though, there are so many experiences, it’s hard to choose one. Not much can beat sitting by a fire in Indian Creek with good friends, full bellies, and some guitar after a great day of climbing… so good!
9. What’s on your iPod right now?
“Idaho” by Down Like Silver; “Blood” by the Middle East; “Grace Hill” by the Pines; “As the Rush Comes” by Motorcycle; and “Blue” by Gemini.
10. 3 most Crucial Elements of a guide-client relationship?
Respect, communication, and an open mind.