Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Solstice Celebrations

Val Bois is the pointy mini-needle right of Fitz Roy
The ice line spills through the obvious chimney

A good day

The ice line on Val Bois, melting rapidly

Friends at Rio

Mountain moments

Paso sunrise

As the planet's tilt maxes out, Antarctica receives eternal energy from the sun, the Arctic remains encased in frigid darkness. Imagine living directly on the Equator for an entire lifespan and never seeing the shift; it must be quite an abstract concept! Here at -49 degrees south, near the tip of South America, we're experiencing 18 hours of light during this incredible phenomenon. It seems a sense of calm fills the people of El Chalten, for there is no doubt enough time for to do it all, or do nothing.Yesterday our crew went sport climbing across the Rio Vueltas, t'was a warm, sunny day. We marveled at stacking lenticulars, and the wispy, ghost-like apparitions that darted through the needles of the Fitz Roy Massif. Cerro Torre appeared and disappeared through the ephemeral mists. Eventually, the sun descended behind the mountains and we headed home. An excellent solstice celebration!

Last week, Joel and I headed into the mountains under clear and windy skies with about five days of food; our mission was living at the Rio Blanco base camp and going higher to Paso Superior on climbing days. Rio is a protected beech forest with lots of life: birds, bugs, and plants, and climbers. Paso is the high camp, perched precariously on the Fitz Roy glacier; life here is only climbers and maybe a stray bird.
We had two days for climbing out of Paso, starting from Rio its over 4000ft and 3-4 hours, yeah! The first day was incredibly warm on the glacier, melting the snow, our intended ice line, and brains. We spent a few hours scoping routes and gazing at the jaw-dropping NE Pilar of Fitz Roy. Home to the big bad climbs like Royal Flush, El Corazon, and Linea de Eleganza, this immaculate buttress of the best rock in the world gets you psyched! The North Pilar was about
as dry as it gets and ready for action. We stashed our gear and headed back to Rio to rest for the next weather window.
We played chess with our Bulgarian friend, tried very unsuccessfully to read his newspaper, ate lots of food, listened to music, did lots of yoga, made bird calls, and slept quite a bit.
For the next climb, we left Rio at 8pm, rocked out to the I-pods the whole way up, and made it to Paso at 12am. As we left the warmth of the snow cave, we could see our friends Mikey Shaefer and Jens Holsten high on Mermoz attempting a new route. Shortly after this moment, full on white-out conditions descended upon us. "Well maybe this will let up pretty soon,
right?" After all the forecast was for a full day of excellent weather, that's why we came. Turns out the forecast totally missed this one; by the time we made it to the first crevasse starting the Whillans route on Poincenot half a meter of light fluffy was accumulating without end. Pretty simple decision here, BAIL! On our way down we met our Austrian friends huddled in a bivy sack "waiting it out". The situation was comical, what else can you do but laugh?

Joel has left El Chalten for guiding on Aconcagua with John Race and the Northwest Mountain School; they're planning on finishing by mid-Jan at the latest.
Check it out here,

Stay tuned for adventures in the 'pine with...

Jim Toman!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jared's Nepal Photos

Practicing our snow-swimming-on-slabs skills while getting used to the altitude.

We were standing on the false summit of Lobuche East just as the sun was threatening to come up and provide some much needed warmth. I was trying to look mean... We simul-soloed the ridge without using the fixed lines. Our decision not to continue to the true summit allowed for a more interesting traverse when we climbed the SW face.

Descending the Normal Route, Lobuche East. Our high point on this first attempt was the second sunlight false summit from the right. It took us about 8 hours to traverse the ridge when we climbed the SW face...

That's me attached to the headlamp out there. This was the final alpine ice traverse to the weakness on the Southwest Face of Lobuche East.

These are the opening mixed pitches that granted us access to the upper water ice.

Topping out the first bit of WI 5+. Nice lead Jared!!!

I kept the down jacket on for this belay, not because it was cold, but because there was no where to hide from the assault from falling ice. When will clothing manufacturers realize that we need padded shoulders too?

This was the final water ice pitch. Fortunately it had been baking in the sun for a few hours!! The biggest challenge was the section just above where I am now in the picture. The ice all but disappeared and revealed the chossy weak rock below.

That's me coaxing the stove to make some water at 19,800ft. after climbing a lot and drinking a little.

Ben, Kevin, and Freddie tagged the bar saying, "Snow climbing sucks Bullocks." Jared tagged just left of theirs.

Big THANKS to Jared for sending me some of his photos and allowing us to post them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Around Kathmandu

Jared and I spent four days in the "mandu" before flying to Phaplu. Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Out of the filth rise 2500 year old Bhuddist stupas. This one is Hannuman's Monkey Temple.

The monkeys play a game called, put the prayer flags in your mouth, spin, and then try to knock each other off.

Kathmandu as seen from the monkey temple.

I really like the saying on this wishing well. "May Peace Prevail on Earth!!!!!"

The Buddha's eyes seen in all four directions and are always watching...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Khumbu Beyal

This tree caught my attention because it symbolizes the Solu Khumbu. The lower and middle hills are inhabited by Rias and Tamang people who use their surrounding resources, sometimes almost to the point of exhaustion. The mountains are inaccessible to most people and therefore remain untrammeled (with the exception of the normal routes on the most popular peaks which contain exuberant amounts of fixed rope). This is similar to this tree which has been stripped of nearly all it's branches except for those inaccessible at the top.

These mani stone are carved with Bhuddist mantras. It is customary to walk past these stones on the left, clockwise, as a reminder to incorporate ceremony in our daily lives.

Our Rias porter passing mani stone on the left.

We hiked past this really old stupa on the day after flying into a dirt airstrip at Phaplu. When the Khumbu Beyal (a safe haven that exists as a metaphysical location) was opened to the outside world in the 1950's, the only way in was the 80 mile hike from Jiri. Phaplu is a little less than half the distance to Lukla from Jiri.

The two 12 hour days of hiking from Phaplu took us up to 9,000ft. and down to the jungle at 2,500ft. repeatedly. The trail was never flat. It was possible see to where we would spend the night shortly after starting, only to arrive there 10 hours later.

Our Rias porters, these guys carried our 30kg duffle bags in sandals using a tumpline while we carried our 20kg packs. The trip from Phaplu to Lukla in two days would have been impossible without their help.

Two goraks above Namche.

Sherpa culture is a mixture of ancient ways (notice the stone carvings) and more modern ones Our cook is caught talking on his cell phone as we walk past mani stones.

Two sherpanis harvest late season potatoes in Pheriche.

A hydrolic powered prayer wheel endlessly spins blessings.


Ben and I acclimating in the Blue Room.

Full moon on Taboche.

Ama Dablam bathing in the moonlight.

Tawoche, Cholatse, and Lobuche.

Kantega North Face.

Seasonal Yak herder dwellings.

Chomolungma (Everest) catches the last rays of sun.

Jared excavates the crack on our acclimitization climb.

Ama Dablam.

Jared didn't pose for this photo...

The summit (far left) and false summit of Lobuche East.

Makalu, Baruntse, and Ama.

Jared greeting the new day, Lobuche East's normal route.

We established a base camp across the lake from Cholatse's North Face. Lots of Dahl Bhat!!

We spotted this line and it was love at first sight. Maybe next time...

SW face of Lobuche East. No need for a route line to be drawn in.

The entry to the weakness.

Our intention was to be off the water ice by the time the sun hit it... We all know that what we want is very different from what we get.

Jared looking pensive (hour 17) after climbing through bicep cramping and over 2,000ft. of steep water ice and mixed terrain.

Rest day in Namche! The prayer wheels were turning on this beautiful day.

Cholatse from the West.

Gokyo lakes.

Chomolungma, Nuptse, and Lhotse as seen from Gokyo Ri.

Pherilapche with our attempted ice line just left of the vertical cairn.

Detached curtains with a lot of mountain above. We walked away.


The jet-stream raking the top of Nuptse, Lhotse, and Chomolungma.

The local avians had no idea how hungry we were...

Mark brandishes his sword with gusto.
During the 8 days we spent waiting for a flight out of Lukla, Mark kept the Rockshee coming.