Cosley & Houston, Alpine Guides
Trips and Climbs of the Past Year
So, what's next?....
It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since we last sent
you an update on our movements and activities. Needless to say, it's
been a busy year for us, and we've spent a large portion of it "out
of radio contact" for considerable periods of time. We hope you haven't
given up hope of ever hearing from us! We have a lot to fill you in
on from our past year and some exciting projects in the works for the
next. We want to thank all of you who came climbing with us in the recent
months, and we hope some of you will be able to join us again on an
upcoming climb, tour or trip.
As I'm sure you know by now we have a new
website location! You must have found it or
you wouldn't be here! Our email address has
also changed: write to us at .
THE PAST YEAR
We guided an Aconcagua expedition in January 1999 for our friend Rodrigo
Mujica of Aventuras Patagonicas. We were hit by a couple of possibly
record-breaking snowfalls, but made a valiant and nearly successful
bid for the summit despite them. We broke trail endlessly in deep, soft,
powdery snow (oh, for a pair of skis!), and then had to beat a hasty
retreat in a blizzard, all tracks effaced and in zero visibility. Finding
our way back to high camp became the ultimate challenge of the trip,
and as great a triumph as any summit!
February in Chamonix
In February we took a vacation in Chamonix, and our timing was impeccable:
we arrived hours in advance of the storm that sent down the killer avalanche
a few miles up the valley, destroying some 11 chalets and killing several
locals and tourists. A fire in downtown Chamonix which badly damaged
the Alpine Museum, and a truck fire which shut down the Mont Blanc tunnel
for a year, rounded out the month's tragedies for the valley. We felt
for the locals, and as tourists we did our best to recreate. We got
some great skiing done during our 3 weeks there, though we did have
to sit out a few days of such heavy snowfall that the ski areas of the
valley all shut down, unable to keep up with the volume of precipitation.
All this snow made for great conditions later in the year by the way,
which we were lucky to take advantage of - more on that below.
Les Praz during a rare clear spell in February 1999.
Photo Mark Houston Photo Info
Waterfall Climbing in the Canadian Rockies
March saw us back in the Canadian Rockies, where we had some excellent
waterfall climbing days with Chris Kulp, Jean-Claude Latombe,
and Andy Britton. We caught some good ice at the tail end of
the climbing season. A couple days into our stay warm weather began
to bring down the more sun-oriented routes, but a following cold snap
brought climbs back with incredibly stable snow conditions.
In March the ice climbing was also excellent in Lee Vining Canyon for
Tom Romary and friends Kim McElhinney and Sam
Kamel who came over the hill from the Bay area to spend a weekend
with Kathy. Ed Pezalla of Encino once again found a weekend to
climb there with Kathy as well.
Berner Oberland Ski Tour
In April Jennifer Rood joined Kathy for a ski tour in the Bernese
Oberland. Deep, heavy new snow made for challenging skiing, but the
incredible setting for hut-hopping kept us both rubbernecking and oohing
and aahing for days of beautiful sunny weather.
Haute Route skiers on our first day at the start
of the Valley Blanche descent.
Left to Right: Mark, Kathy, Mo, Ann, Nancy, Ramsay and Jay . Photo Alan
Kearney Photo Info
Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route
Later in April Mark and Kathy together skied the Chamonix to Zermatt
Haute Route with Jay Foster, Nancy Knoble, Elizabeth
"Mo" Moceri, and Ann Danieli. Also joining us were fellow
guides, friends and photographers, Alan Kearney and Ramsay
Thomas. Yet another big, rather unseasonable snowfall forced us
to reconsider our starting point, and we began the tour in Verbier (this
proved to be a good decision, as we later met a party that had a near
miss with avalanches leaving the Trient hut, during the days we would
have been there). Much fun navigating "on instruments" in white-out
conditions, huts practically to ourselves, and a fair amount of really
great powder, more than made up for missing the first two days of steep
and technical terrain. We will repeat both of these offerings this spring.
Sierra Skiing & Climbing
In May James Lackey and Melinda Fleet came out to the
Sierra for some ski touring with Kathy. We skied a variation of the
Mammoth to June Lake tour, circumnavigating San Joaquin Peak to come
out via Glass Creek. Some mixed weather and high winds came our way,
but we mostly enjoyed bright sunshine and good snow. Also in May Kathy
guided ski tours for our friends SP Parker and Todd Vogel
of the Sierra Mountain Center. She enjoyed excellent weather and corn
snow conditions in Rock Creek and on the Trans-Sierra High Route.
The first days of June were sunny and warm on Mt. Whitney, and George
Lefont of Atlanta took advantage of a long weekend to take in the
summit with Kathy.
Peru in June
June also saw us once again in Peru, where we returned to Alpamayo
with Joe Rowe, Alex Reed, Donna Brogmus and Greg
Reichhardt. Weather and conditions were superb, and we all summitted
together with no problems on a clear, calm and coooold morning.
In July Kathy headed straight from Peru to Switzerland to meet Debbie
Richman for 11 great days in the Zermatt - Saas Fee area, while
Mark stayed home just long enough for an ascent of Mt. Russell and Whitney's
East Buttress with Mo (yes, the same as above) and Bill Naphin,
before flying over to the Alps himself.
We had a great season in the Alps, and did so much good climbing it's
hard to sum it up, but we'll try to, briefly, here. In general the weather
was wet and cool this year, preserving the heavy snowfall of the late
winter and spring, throughout the summer. Therefore, snow and ice routes
were in great shape, and occasionally problematic late-season rockfall
hazard was less than in most years.
Climbing on the Zinalrothorn. Photo info
On the other hand, high altitude rock routes were snow covered for
much of the season, and long moderates like the Matterhorn saw a fraction
of the traffic and ascents that they would have in a more normal year.
The Zermatt guides reported about a week in late July and early August
when the Hörnli Ridge was in guidable shape, and again in early
September they guided a few ascents. Even then, the climb was done in
crampons almost throughout. In the end, most parties planning to climb
the Hörnli were disappointed this year. Of several people who joined
us hoping to climb the Matterhorn, only one, Craig Charlton,
managed to be there during one of these small windows of marginally
summittable conditions. He and Mark reached the top in early September,
dulling their crampons greatly in the process.
So, what else did we climb? Lots of good stuff. We enjoyed discovering
the "Spaghetti Tour" (so named because it stays over the border in Italy,
passing from one to the other of several fine Italian huts), from Zermatt
over the ridge comprising the Breithorn, Castor, Pollux, Liskamm, and
the various peaks of Monte Rosa, and back to Zermatt. We did this high
altitude tour with Peter Stock and friend Tim Wilt in
July, traversing the spectacular and mightily exposed summit ridge of
Liskamm. Kathy repeated it in September with Andy Latham. She
and Andy avoided the Liskamm summit ridge via a glacier tour to the
south. Instead they climbed the Dufourspitze (the highest summit of
Monte Rosa) from the Margherita Hut via exciting and exposed ridge scrambling.
They ended by descending the long glacier of the normal route to the
Monte Rosa hut for the last night of the trip. Having previously climbed
the Dufourspitze from the normal route on the northwest, Kathy definitively
states that the route from the Margherita hut is vastly better, and
worth the extra acclimatization time required to sleep at that hut (one
of the highest structures in Switzerland at an astounding 14,937 feet
above sea level). This is especially so since you can climb so many
other beautiful summits along the way to getting there.
Kathy did two excursions from Zermatt to Saas Fee, one with Debbie
Richman and another with Ed Pezalla. This is a very satisfying
tour, taking in several exciting summits and traveling on foot from
hut to hut and from valley to valley. It includes a stop in the charming
and tranquil village of Saas Fee for a shower and a bed when the hut
life becomes too much of a good thing. Kathy and Debbie climbed the
Alphubel from the Täsch hut, then traversed the exciting and exposed
ridge of the Feechopf, to the Brittania hut. After a rest in Saas Fee
they then made a side trip up to the Mischabel Hut and climbed the Nadelhorn
before moving over to the Almageller hut. From there they climbed the
long, scenic and challenging rock climb of Portjengrat ridge. Last,
they traversed the Weissmies by climbing up the South Ridge and descending
the normal route to the west. Ed had less time, but still got in the
Alphubel, Portjenhorn and Weissmies. Given good weather, this tour could
be extended in various directions, taking in the Allalinhorn, the Lenzspitze,
or the peaks to the north of the Weissmies! But best not to get too
Chris Kulp joined Mark for most of August.
This dynamic duo added to their growing list of accomplishments,
the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi (definitely the hardest
route they have done to date), the Contamine route on the North
Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul (phew! what a name!), the
Dent Blanche, the Zinalrothorn, and an attempt on the Biancograt
on the Piz Bernina. They spent a fair amount of time chasing the
sun during a particularly nasty spell of August weather. Even
so, both are happy with their successes, with many routes climbed
in less than ideal conditions.
Other good climbs we did this year: along with Bay area climber
Steve Shiboski, Kathy got to dust off her rock shoes and
explore some great rock climbs in the Chamonix area, including
a couple of long granite routes in the Envers des Aiguilles area
(Bienvenue au Georges V and 20,000 Leagues Under the Snow), as
well as the justly popular and famous Rebuffat route on the South
Face of the Aiguille du Midi.
Ed and Debbie McCallum from Greenwood, South Carolina
came to Chamonix to climb with Kathy. Their introduction to mountaineering
included several of the classic mixed and rock climbs of the area:
the Cosmiques Arête on the Aiguille du Midi, the Index,
and the Petite Aiguille Verte.
Chris Kulp high on the Frendo Spur, Aiguille du Midi.
Dave Greve from Pittsburgh got
in an ascent of Mont Blanc via the Traverse of Mont Blanc du Tacul
and Mont Maudit with Kathy. Next they climbed the Mönch and
the Jungfrau, the latter in a blizzard. Dave Van Patten
of Portsmouth New Hampshire brought Kathy to the summit of Mont
Blanc again later in August, again via the Traverse. Kathy and
Dave Van P. Also did the Contamine route on the North Face Triangle
of Mont Blanc du Tacul, before moving over to Zermatt where they
climbed the Breithorn traverse, and the Zinalrothorn in another
Emery Dameron of San Francisco climbed with Mark in the
Zermatt and Grindelwald areas, including the traverse of the Breithorn
ridge, a stormy attempt on the Zinalrothorn, and climbs of the
Mönch and Jungfrau. Emery then joined Kathy in Chamonix to
climb the Contamine Route on Mont Blanc du Tacul.
Jonathan Penn of Palo Alto climbed first with Kathy and
then with Mark in the Zermatt area, doing the Breithorn traverse
and an attempt on the Matterhorn, turned back because of the very
heavy recent snowfall. Wally Ruiz from Miami, brought his
two intrepid sons Jenz and Eric for some training
with Kathy, also in Zermatt, including a climb of Pollux in gorgeous
weather. Dad got to point out a couple of his previous climbs,
Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, both easily visible from our high
Contamine Route on the
Mont Blanc du Tacul. Photo info
Late in the season Jim Roberts of Connecticut and nephew Erich
Bentz, now living in Austria, arrived with North Conway guide Frank
Carus. Mark joined the threesome, climbing the Cosmiques Arête,
Mont Blanc du Tacul and the exciting left margin of the North Face of
the Petite Aiguille Verte.
The work season closed with Mark serving yet again as an examiner for
the Alpine Certification Exam of the American Mountain Guides Association.
He was joined by fellow examiner and UIAGM guide Mike Powers,
in an intense but highly successful week of climbing in the Chamonix
area with exam candidate Michael Silitch (who performed admirably).
All good things must come to an end however, and in September the snows
came down low putting the high country out of condition for good (or
close enough for us). We (Mark and Kathy) managed to take a few days
off to climb together before this happened, however, and wore ourselves
out on a traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles in a looooong 19-hour day;
and the Blüemlisalp traverse near Kandersteg in Switzerland. We
also got to the Gorge du Verdon for a couple of days of sport climbing
before heading south to.ƒƒ
Sue Kirt of the Seattle area and Nancy
Savickas from Quincy, MA joined both of us for a 12-day adventure
in the High Atlas. We started out in the little-frequented Taghia
Gorge, where we explored among the towers and canyons of limestone.
This area has seen some recent development for climbing and canyoneering,
and is now no doubt ripe for increased popularity. The potential
for this valley is enormous, with friendly villagers, and local
guides well versed in the climbing, canyoning and ski touring
possibilities of their quiet little corner of the range.
We then trekked for two and one half days over the crest of the
Atlas, through villages of mud houses and tall mosques, all the
color of the surrounding soil. The flat roofs, slit windows, rammed
earth style of the houses, the dress of the people, the sight
of dromedaries and nomad tents, were exotic to us who are new
to travel in this Muslim world. We found the people to be very
courteous, rather formal, kind and charitable to strangers. We
enjoyed our time among them very much.
Our last day of the trek took us down a dramatic narrows in a
canyon, wading for hours in the cool water of the M'goun river,
squeezed between sheer walls hundreds of feet high, and passed
along the way by local people on mule back. This liquid trail
led us to the road head at Ighrem Aqdim, where a Land Rover was
waiting to drive us to the Yasmina hotel at the Todra Gorge.
Berber architecture. Photo info
Here the Berber hospitality continued, and we dined under a huge "Caidal
tent", on hearty mutton stews, vegetables, couscous and fresh fruit
(no alcohol served, though you can bring your own). We were entertained
by the ever present rhythmic, drum-dominated folk music. During the
days we had a blast on long, multi-pitch bolt equipped climbs on excellent
limestone. The climbing was challenging, varied, and too extensive to
even scratch the surface in 3 days. Finally we had to go back to Marrakech,
where we wandered for hours among the rabbit warrens of the amazing
Berber market, before flying home.
Home! What a concept! We began to wonder if it was still standing,
after 4 months away. Well, it is. Dusting off the cobwebs and digging
through piles of mail, we turn our thoughts already to plans for the
December 1999 · Aconcagua & Juncal
In December we are once again guiding for Rodrigo Mujica of Aventuras
Patagonicas. Mark will lead an Aconcagua Polish Glacier expedition December
1 to 20, while Kathy is guiding nearby Juncal (6110 m) from December
13 to 23.
January 2000 · Home, or perhaps Patagonia
January we have no concrete plans for at the moment. We are seriously
considering a personal trip to return to Patagonia, where we haven't
been in several years now. If you would like to plan a trip to Patagonia,
or would like to discuss your wishes for a January climb or tour, give
us a call or drop us a line.
February · New Zealand, or waterfalls of North America
February, as well, our plans are fluid. We have long wished to visit
New Zealand, and have heard some interest from some of you for a trip
there. Please contact us if you want to sway us in this direction. Otherwise,
we'll be available for ice climbing here in the Sierra, in the Canadian
Rockies, or in Colorado.
March · Chamonix Ski Week
and La Grave
In March, we will be joining forces with colleague and fellow Sierra
Mountain Guide Chris Fellows, for 6 days of great skiing on and off
piste in the Chamonix valley. Together we will also offer a similar
package in La Grave, in the Massif des Ecrins. Chris runs the North
American Ski Training Center in Truckee, CA, and has been training both
ski instructors and serious recreational skiers for many years. For
more information about Chris, you can visit his website at www.skinastc.com.
March (later) · Canadian
For the last 2 weeks of March Chris Kulp will again join Mark in the
Banff area to enjoy Canadian ice. Mark is available for classic waterfall
ice climbing there after March 26.
Early April · Women's Joshua Tree
Kathy will be in Joshua Tree April 1-8 for a Women's Rock Climbing
Week of instruction and practice, together with Marian Marbury of Adventures
in Good Company (see website: Women's Programs).
Later in April ·
Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route and
April will also see us both back in the Alps for two ski tours: the
Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route April 14 - 21, and the Berner Oberland
Hut to Hut tour April 24 to 30.
May · Ancohuma
and Illampu, Bolivia
In May we have ambitious plans for South America. We hope to return
to Bolivia for an expedition to Ancohuma and Illampu. This is an 18-day
itinerary running from May 7 to 24.
June · Alpamayo,
Huascarán and Chopicalqui
Then it's back to Peru and the Cordillera Blanca for several climbs:
Alpamayo and/or Pisco
& Chopicalqui, both 14 day itineraries from May 28 to June 10.
We will offer a Huascarán add-on
to both trips, adding another 8 days, June 11 - 18. For those interested
in Huascarán alone, we will
schedule a 17-day expedition which in cludes Pisco, from June 12 to
Summer of 2000 · Mountaineering
in the Alps
July, August and September we have reserved for more climbing in the
Alps, and/or here in the Sierra. We have added some standard itinerary
options for new trips: Mont Blanc/Matterhorn; Mont Blanc/Matterhorn/Eiger;
and the "Spaghetti Tour" of Monte Rosa.
October · Morocco,
Climbing, Trekking & Canyoning
For October, we highly recommend Morocco. We had such a great time
there this year, we hope we can bring some of you back there next season.
The climbing is superb, the hospitality splendid, the scenery and culture
fascinating, the canyons dramatic and beautiful. Our trip this year
is 14 days long, running from October 2 to 14.
More Information & News
For more information about any and all of the above destinations
or expeditions, please feel free to contact us by phone, mail
or email, and also to visit.
We sincerely hope you'll be able to join us somewhere in
the mountains this year, it's always a pleasure to climb with
Berg Heil and Happy Holidays!
Kathy & Mark
1627 Dunbar Lane
Bishop, CA 93514
Skiing in the Cirque
Maudit. Photo Info
All images, layout and text ©1999 Cosley &
Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved
& Mark Houston
UIAGM / IFMGA Internationally Certified Mountain Guides
Rock, Alpine, & Ski Mountaineering Guides