Well, another season has come and gone, and it was a busy one for us. We didn't spend much of it here in the Eastern Sierra, and we hope to remedy that in the next year. Nevertheless, we did some very fun things:
In May, Mark did a 4 day Corn Camp for SP Parker in the Rock Creek - Little Lakes Valley. Mark also ski toured in the Goethe Cirque, Evolution area, with Mark Melberg from Los Altos, CA. A rare, late fall of powder snow made the skiing unusually wintry for this time of year. In June he went to Slovakia for the UIAGM/IFMGA meeting of the delegates, which took place in the high Tatras. It was interesting to see Slovakia with its unique combination of old European and modern concrete Soviet architecture.
James Lackey and Melinda Fleet from Washington, DC did some ski touring with Kathy, visiting the Rock Creek area; Kathy also skied the Piute Pass to Tamarack Col tour with Jean-Claude Latombe from Palo Alto, CA. Kathy also worked with SP Parker on a trans-Sierra High Route trip in May, which Jean-Claude also participated in. This trip turned out to be a real adventure, complete with a massive winter blizzard and several feet of new snow, a very rare occurrence in May!
In June Todd Warner, Alex Figge and Drew Hunter from Aspen, CO, were joined in Peru by Kathy. They spent a few days visiting the historical and cultural sites in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, before continuing on to the Cordillera Blanca for some climbing.
Pisco Oeste was the first objective, which they successfully climbed after a day of skills review and practice on the glacier. The views were tantalizing rather than expansive, as the summit day was rather cloudy. An unusual (for this route) technical challenge somewhat made up for this, the summit being cut off by a short but quite challenging bergschrund problem involving overhanging snow and ice of less than solid consistency!
Next, an attempt on 20,841 foot Chopicalqui ended about 800 feet below the summit. Persistent snow storms had left the steep upper slopes unstable, as well as making for epic trail breaking in hip-high new snow. Though conditions kept them from the summit, Kathy reports that the climb was adventurous and rewarding. Despite easy access to the climb and a short approach, there was a sense of solitude and remoteness, given the scarcity of other climbers.
One of the highlights of this trip for us was making friends with the Russian staff, guides, and climbers at the base camp. We admired their toughness and endurance, good natured friendliness, and resourcefulness in making very little in the way of materials and equipment go a long way. We western climbers are very pampered in comparison! The base camp sauna would have to count as a highlight as well.
In August and early September we had a great season in the Alps. Tim O'Brien of Deerfield, IL, met Mark in Grindelwald, where they climbed the "Bernese Oberland Trilogy": the Mönch via the southeast ridge, the Eiger's Mittellegi Ridge, and the Jungfrau via the Rottalsattel. Chris Kulp of Los Gatos, CA and Mark had another productive 3 weeks this year: they climbed the south ridge of the Aiguille du Moine, made an attempt on the Aiguille Verte, did the Nollen Route on the Mönch, the Mittellegi Ridge on the Eiger, and climbed the Weisshorn via its east ridge. Mark then joined up with Ed Pezalla of Encino, CA, for 5 days of climbing including the Petite Verte, the Aiguille du Midi, the Crochues traverse, the Index, and a traverse of the Pointes Lachenal.
Meanwhile, Andy and Jan Latham of Kalamazoo, MI were joined by Kathy for several days of climbing, including the Index, the Mönch, and a beautiful, long rock route on impeccable granite in the Grimsel Pass area northeast of Grindelwald. Ed Hanrahan from Quincy, MA also climbed with Kathy in the Chamonix area, doing some great climbs including the Aiguille du Midi, and the Aiguille du Tour, among others. George LeFont from Atlanta had to cancel due to a back injury, but Ken Noack and sons Kannes and Charles managed to connect with Kathy for an attempt on Monte Rosa (weathered out again!) before returning home.
At the end of the season, Mark was extremely busy with AMGA exams. After running an Alpine Guides exam in the Alps, he returned to do three Rock Guides exams: one in Yosemite, one in North Conway, NH, and one in Red Rock, Nevada. Meanwhile, James Lackey and Melinda Fleet was met again by Kathy for several days of rock climbing and peak ascents, including Cardinal Pinnacle and Crystal Crag. Kathy also did some guiding on Temple Crag with Bishop neighbor Todd Vogel (A Taste For Adventure), and teamed up with Alan Eustace of Redwood City for another storm-off in the Palisades (Kathy says she has to admit to more than her fair share of bad luck with weather this year!) The AMGA meetings of various flavors lasted almost a week, and now we're (whew!) home.
November and December we plan to spend cleaning up the wreckage of 5 months of neglect of our home; visiting family; climbing in the Owens River Gorge; maybe taking a trip down to Potrero Chico in Mexico for some sport climbing.
In January we will climb Aconcagua, guiding for Rodrigo Mujica, of Aventuras Patagonicas. There may be room on this trip, so please give us a call if you would like to join us there. On this climb we will be ascending the mountain from the Rio Vacas side and descending on the opposite Horcones side of the peak for a complete traverse.
We will spend most of the month of February skiing, climbing and guiding in the Chamonix Alps, call us if you would like to join us there. Encouraged by friends in Chamonix we will be working for the Association Internationale des Guides du Mont Blanc, one of the 2 guides bureaus in Chamonix.
In late March Mark will be going to the Canadian Rockies for waterfall climbing and perhaps a bit of ski touring. Kathy will most likely be in the Sierra guiding ski trips and ice climbing. Let us know if you would like to meet us in any of these areas for some great winter mountaineering, ice climbing or skiing.
In April 16 - 23 we will lead the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. This is the classic ski tour of the Alps. The high mountain setting, technical col crossings and big glaciers, make this a challenging and exciting tour. Comfortable staffed and catered huts mean packs are light and the skiing even more fun. There is still room on this trip, so contact us soon if you are interested. The cost is $2100 for an 8 day itinerary, including a descent of the famous Vallée Blanche before we begin the tour, lodging and lifts, huts and transportation along the way.
April 25 - May 2 we will offer another 7 day ski tour in the Swiss Bernese Oberland, among the Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger, and other famous peaks at the source of the giant Aletsch Glacier. We will travel between three high mountain huts, and have opportunities to climb several challenging summits, such as the Finsteraarhorn, the Gross Fiescherhorn, and many easier peaks with great ski descents. While the setting is spectacular, we should have less company on this peak-oriented tour than is typical on the Haute Route.
A good friend and colleague Colin Zacharias (Canadian UIAGM guide) has has asked us to join him in guiding a rock climbing and trekking adventure in Morocco. Colin was just there as a safety manager for the recent Eco-Challenge event, and has put together an itinerary including some great climbing in the Atlas Mountains with trekking in some amazing canyons. Trip length can vary from about 10 to 14 days depending on interests of the group.
May is also an excellent month for the classic Sierra ski tours and peak ascents. Corn snow and long, warm sunny days combine to make for a relaxing (or strenuous, if that's what you're after) ski vacation away from crowds and lift lines. Please check our web site for information about local Sierra ski tours, including a Rock Creek Base Camp, Piute Pass to Lamarck Col, Piute Pass to Rock Creek, and the Sierra High Route.
In June we will return to Alpamayo and Huascarán. On our Huascarán expedition we will acclimatize on two peaks, Pisco Oeste and also on Chopicalqui. This should provide us with a very good amount of acclimatization and we'll be well prepared for the higher altitudes of Huascarán. Contact us for possible dates and costs of these programs.
We are available for climbing here in the Sierra during part of May, in July, and from the second week of September.
July is the beginning of the Sierra High Season. Classic alpine ascents such as Clyde Minaret, Bear Creek Spire, the U and V Notches in the Palisades, Mt. Sill, Temple Crag, the East Buttress of Whitney, and many more, are an ideal way to escape the mid-summer heat and have some fun in the high country.
The last half of July through August is planned for the Alps again. We should be there until the end of the first week of September. Typically, our schedules for the Alps fill up pretty early, so if you want to climb in this period, let us know as soon as you can.
This year we have put together a couple of combined itineraries. We have 5 or 7 day itineraries for the Matterhorn, as well as a 9 day itinerary for Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, or a 12 day program that includes these peaks as well as the Eiger.
In September and October these routes are all usually still in excellent shape, especially the snow couloirs which become a bit more challenging and icy in the autumn.
We are collaborating with our partners in Sierra Mountain Guides to produce a brochure. Keep your eyes peeled for us, this should be coming out around the new year.