Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mexico Volcanoes Trip Underway

Olivia flew to Mexico on Saturday and linked up with Bryan Desloge and Randy Hanna.  Their plan is to first climb Ixta at over 17,000 and then climb of Orizaba, which is 18,500'  The beauty of these mountains is that you can leave the US on a Saturday, climb North America's 7th and 3rd highest mountains, spend a relaxing day in Mexico City the following Saturday, and then fly home on Sunday.  A lot of people use this as training for Denali or Aconcagua as it gets them up over 18,000 in a short period of time and lets them see how they do at higher elevations.

Olivia called me this evening from the hotel in Amecameca and said that everything was going well and they were enjoying the town.  When I first went to Mexico in 1988 you could still climb Popo, and I enjoyed shopping in the simple markets of Amecameca.  In teh mid 1990's Popo began to violently erupt in the mid 1990.s and was subsequently closed to climbing.  With Popo closed we quit going to Amecameca in favor of an approach to Ixta over a series of dirt roads leading in from the NW.  These roads have since washed out and access has become difficult so we are now using the road from Amecameca to the Paseo Cortez.  Both approaches are beautiful.  Perhaps someday we will be able to climb Popo again.

Today the group hiked on trails leading up to the hut at 13,000.  Tomorrow they will drive to this spot via a different route and then hike out to the Ayoloco Hut at over 15,000 and return to sleep in the hut at 13,000.  This sets them up for a night the following day at the Ayoloco Hut and then a summit on the last day.  All of this hiking up and down serves as acclimatization for the climb of Orizaba, which is similar to a big climb of Mt. Rainier.

Olivia reports that she has run into George Dunn of International Mountain Guides, and Kurt Wedberg of Sierra Mountaineering International, and a variety of other guides as everyone is generally on the same circuit throughout the climbing season.  A lot of groups go to Mexico in November because it is too early to ski and ice climb, but getting to cold in most spots for rock climbing.  Also rumored to be in the area is Mike Horst, working for Alpine Ascents International  

Helping us with logistics is the Reyes Family.  On my first trip to Mexico I worked with Francisco Reyes of Tlachichuca, Mexico, but now he is retired and living in Mexico City.  Francisco's sons Gerardo and Luis have taken over the family outfitting business.  They always do a great job and it is a pleasure to see them each time we go down.

Hopefully Olivia will send us some photos and I will post news as I get it.  They plan to summit Ixta on Wednesday and Orizaba on Friday.

Buenos Noches

Related Climbs:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Amazing Denali Summit Photo

Our friend Tor recently forwarded us some amazing shots of our group on the summit of Denali (aka Mount McKinley) this past July.  Olivia and I were both on our second trip to the top of Denali for the summer of 2008 and this summit day was proving to be almost perfect.  As we cruised up the final slopes to the summit a local flight seeing plane was buzzing overhead.  Often this sort of thing would annoy me, but on such a sunny summit day it seemed a nic, albeit surreal, addition to our climb.

As we neared the summit you could almost feel the excitement of the people in the plane as they made several passes to get a good look.  We were at 20,320 and climbing under our own power and we could see them wearing oxygen masks and holding up cameras as they buzzed back and forth.  We all stood on the top of North America and waved as they flew by.

It took a few months, but Tor and the air service managed to track down the passengers in the plane on that day and they eventually sent us some photos.  A novelty to have these sorts of photos, but also an interesting experience to be looking over at a plane full of O2 sucking passengers as you stand on the summit of one of North America's more remote summits.

Year's ago Eric Simonson described standing on Denali's summit and seeing an F-16 fly by so close, and so slowly that he could see the pilot, the pilots glove, and could tell that there was a name written on the pilot's helmet.   

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cho Oyu in the rearview mirror

Olivia and I arrived home in the US on October 10.  Our exit from ABC went very smoothly and we enjoyed a few days of rest and relaxation in Kathmandu before flying home via Bangkok and LA.  Overall we were very pleased with the outcome of the trip.  Team members reaching the summit include: Bob Meyer, John Dahlem, Ryan Dahlem, Hamish Walton, Vladamir Gretchka, Danuru, Dawa, Mingma Tenzing, Ang Karma, Penjo, Ben Kurdt, Eben Reckord, Olivia Cussen, and John Race.  Our trip was not without its difficulties, but in general things went very smoothly.  What we witnessed on other many expeditions was, however, very disappointing and sad.

On the day before our summit day we watched three different climbers fall from just below the yellow band to a spot well below our high camp.  It appeared that a combination of fatigue, and inability to crampon well caused these climbers to fall from just below the yellow band to the old site of camp 3, in the basin below the new camp 3.  Miraculously none were seriously injured, but oddly, nobody outside our group made any effort to render aid.  On the night of our summit bid we were begged by a guide from another group to go and aid one of his clients, a man being helped down by his guide.  After Ben and Eben successfully delivered oxygen to these two climbers, the guide and client continued to descend and at some point the client (unattached to his guide) fell over 2000 feet to his death.  Evidently this man had reached the summit late the afternoon before and had become exhausted on the way down.

Perhaps most personally painful for us was the death of a 29 year old Slovenian climber named Miha Valic.  Throughout the expedition Miha would drop into our camp to discuss the weather or climbing strategy and we had all become fond of his smiling face and funny stories.  Miha summitted without oxygen on the same day that we did and then came down to camp 2 to spend the night.  When he rolled into camp 2, he seemed tired, but happy, and we helped him find his gear and then he set up his tent.  The next morning I stuck my head into his tent to say goodbye and exchange contact info.  That would be the last time I saw him as he later fell during rappel from the lower ice cliff and died after hitting the anchor at the bottom.  Miha was a very accomplished climber and Cho Oyu was much more technically straight forward than most of his previous climbs.  I think of him almost daily now that I am back home and still find his death to be a point of deep sadness.

Once home we unpacked, cleaned up our gear and started to repack for an extended road trip that would take us to Smith Rock, Joshua Tree, Jack Canyon (AZ), and Moab.  After less than a week at home we loaded up our almost 13 year old dog, Bear, into our 15 year old truck and headed south to rediscover the joys of climbing warm rock routes.  Attached are some photos from the trip.