Friday, January 30, 2009

Jan 30 Aconcagua Expedition Update

Robert Montague called us today around noon PST to report that everything was going well and that the group was taking a rest day at Plaza Argentina, the 14,000 base camp for the Northwest Mountain School's Aconcagua Expedition.  At this point the group is on the schedule we had planned for and tomorrow they plan to carry to camp 1 at 16,200.  Their loads will consist primarily of food, fuel, and cold weather clothing for the upper mountain.  After carrying to 16,200 they plan to take a rest day at Plaza Argentina before moving up to Camp 1 to spend the night around February 2.

We hope to talk to Robert again in the near future and will be sure to get as much detail as possible about the group's progress on Aconcagua.  Good night.

09 Aconcagua Expedition w/ Northwest Mountain School

Northwest Mountain School Guide Robert Montague is currently leading Terry and Scott Ruhland on an expedition attempting Aconcagua's False Polish Glacier Route.  The team met in Mendoza, Argentina on January 25 and picked up their climbing permits on the same day.  They then drove to Penitentes on Jan 26 where they packed their mule loads and started the process of acclimating for the three-day trek into Plaza Argentina, base camp for the False Polish (aka Polish Glacier Traverse) Route.

We were pleased to get Robert's call yesterday from base camp confirming that they had made it to Plaza Argentina and that everyone was doing well.  On January 27 they hiked to the La Lena Camp, on January 28 they continued up the long Vacas Valley to the Casa Piedra Camp, and then yesterday they would have turned North from the Vacas and headed up the steeper Relinchos Valley, gateway to Aconcagua Base camp.

The plan from here is to rest for a full day (or more if needed) before carrying a load to 16,200, site of Camp 1 on the False Polish Route.  Aconcagua Base camp (Plaza Argentina) is located at around 14,000.  On my first visit to this route in 1993 this was a lonely, remote, and quiet place.  Today it is quieter than Plaza Mulas, base camp for Aconcagua's Ruta Normal, but still a very busy place.  In addition to access to Satellite phones, you can purchase hot showers, hot meals, hire porters, and even watch a movie if you have the right equipment.  The place always has an international feel as there are generally climbers from all over the world either starting or finishing their Aconcagua Expeditions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Chillin" in Ouray, CO - Ice Climbing Mecca

Olivia arrived a week ago and I made it here this past Monday.  Olivia drove and I flew after finishing up our recent string of AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses in Leavenworth and at Mount Rainier.  The cheapest one-way tickets from Seattle were into Telluride, CO, and the gut wrenching, miraculous landing that we made in a crosswind confirmed my suspicion that the extra cost to fly to Montrose, CO or Grand Junction, CO might be the way to go.

Ice climbing conditions have been good.  Overall there is less ice than at this time last year and south facing climbs are getting too much heat.  The Dexter slabs were in good conditions, Stairway to Heaven (WI4) is climbing well, and the routes up at Skylight (WI 3-5) are in, albeit a tad thin.  A quick drive up to look at Gravity's Rainbow confirmed that this is probably not the time to go there as it looks wet and detached in spots.  The weather is cold enough to form good ice, and the current avalanche conditions in the high country are allowing us to get out of the Ouray Ice Park and out to some spots that we were unable to visit last year.  Overall things seem "normal" for this time of year. 

Olivia started her stay here by working for WL Gore during the ice fest.  This was quite a feat as she broke a bone in her hand about 6 weeks back and was in the last days of needing to wear her cast when the clinics occurred.  The folks at Gore provided her with a belayer and she was able to "coach" participants from the ground.  Her cast came off 3 days ago and we plan to give her hand a test run over the weekend.

I have been guiding for International Mountain Guides, which is currently hosting a Veterans Ice Climbing Seminar.  We enjoyed a few days in the ice park and then today Rex, Bobby, and I headed out to climb the Dexter slabs, an fun WI 3+ romp near town.  We have Stairway (WI 4), teed up for tomorrow if everyone recovers from the past few days.

We plan to be here through mid-February.  There are still spaces available on our Ouray Ice Climbing Programs, so give us a call if you are looking for a nice 2-5 day outing with guaranteed fantastic ice climbing.  There is no limit of things to do for those with no climbing experience or those who are new to the sport.  One attribute of the climbing scene in Ouray is that you can always schedule a break and go either back country skiing up at Red Mountain Pass, or head over to ride the lifts in Telluride.

All Northwest Mountain School trips run in Ouray will be run with access provided by San Juan Mountain Guides, International Mountain Guides, or Southwest Adventures.