Cosley & Houston, Alpine Guides
We hope you're all enjoying some relaxation and recreation over the holidays. We realize it's been a long time since we communicated, and are taking advantage of a lull in our activity to bring you all up to date. We have lots of news.
When last we wrote we were looking forward to taking the AMGA's first Ski Mountaineering Guide certification exams. We came through this very strenuous and demanding, but rewarding experience, with various degrees of success. Mark received his Ski Mountaineering Guide certification, and Kathy a "conditional" pass. This means that while she passed all the guiding aspects of the exam, the examiners would like to see a bit more improvement in her personal skiing skills before she will receive certification. She is planning another winter of hard work on her skiing (don't feel sorry for her, anyone!) and is very confident she will pass her 3 day ski skills assessment this Spring. This will be the final step in getting her UIAGM Mountain Guide carnet. More on that below.
On November 22, the American Mountain Guides Association was voted in as a new member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (better known by its French acronym UIAGM) by a unanimous vote during its Annual General Meeting of the delegates in Austria. We were both able to attend that meeting, which took place in a tiny mountain village at the foot of the Grossglockner, Austria's highest mountain.
This is the result and culmination of many years of work, preparation and evolution on the part of our guides association, and as you all know, was a much hoped for and long anticipated event for us personally, so naturally we are very pleased.
Mark and Bela are the only American guides to have international certification, so it's quite an honor. UIAGM Mountain Guides are welcome to guide in UIAGM member countries. These include Canada, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, New Zealand, Great Britain, Peru, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Japan, and now the USA. So if you have had a hankering to visit any of these areas, Mark (and with a bit of luck this spring, Kathy too) will have much greater ease and support in guiding there.
Mark was appointed the new AMGA President at the Annual General Meeting of the AMGA in Flagstaff, AZ in October. His term begins January 1, 1998, and he is already busy getting prepared for the new responsibilities and different sphere of activities that this will entail. He gives up his former positions as Chair of the Technical Committee, and Alpine program coordinator. The new TC Chair (now officially called the Technical Director), is Jean Pavillard, of Crested Butte, Colorado.
We had another good time in the Cordilleras Blanca, Huayhuash and Vilcabamba of Peru this June. We climbed Alpamayo with a terrific group of folks comprised of Bill Beckwith, Mike Christianson, Elizabeth Moceri, and Bill Naphin. We had our share of trials and tribulations including a big, soft dump of new snow! But we prevailed and managed to summit on two consecutive days, first Bill Beckwith with Kathy and then Elizabeth with Mark. We were joined as far as base camp by Mike's wife, Jody, who profited from a few days in camp with our camp manager, Emilio, by teaching him English, and brushing up on her Spanish.
Next we went on an exploratory trip with Jean Claude Latombe, to attempt the West Face of Yerupaja in the Cordillera Huayhuash. The face has degraded in recent years, and we were unable to find a route through the areas of serac fall, that would be reasonably free of hazard. We made a couple of attempts, and then went on to Nevado Salcantay, in the Cordillera Vilcabamba, not far from Machu Picchu. Conditions were very dry, making for long sections of difficult and interesting climbing. We put in a very long day of hard climbing, but again due to conditions on the route were not able to summit! Still, we all enjoyed the quality of the climbing we did do, and the adventure of exploring this remote peak, seldom visited by climbers. We trekked out to Santa Teresa, at below 6000 feet on the Urubamba river just downstream from Machu Picchu, a steamy and jungly contrast to the environment we'd been in for the previous weeks.
The alpine climbing season started early for us this year with Chirs Kulp from Los Gatos CA venturing over to this side of the mountains for a late March ascent of Mount Morgan's Navahbe Ridge and a climb of Mount Humphreys from its north side.
Jean-Claude Latombe and his son Emanuel also made an early trip from the bay area, this time for sport climbing in the Owens Gorge in combination with some skiing fun at Mammoth Mountain. Both Kathy and Mark were able to clip a few bolts with them on this trip. As we travel to other sport climbing areas of the world we are constantly reminded of how lucky we are to have such a fine area as the Gorge so close to home. It's world class.
Jean-Claude also returned in early May for a climb of the North Arête of Bear Creek Spire. This is classic alpine rock climbing, 10 piches of clean Sierra granite leading to an impressive summit. On this climb we were able to ski in and out from the base, including all manner of alpine travel techniques.
A little later in May Gregg Esenwein from Virginia joined Kathy in the Palisades to climb the V-Notch Couloir. Gregg used this opportunity to hone some skills for a personal climbing trip he later made to Bolivia.
Returning home from Peru , Mark had a couple of days to do his laundry and fall asleep at the computer, before heading off to the Alps for 3 weeks of climbing with Chris Kulp. They had a great trip. Highlights included an ascent of the North Face of the Gran Paradiso, 11 long pitches of perfect 50 to 55 degree alpine ice, a fantastic climb of the Kuffner route (Frontier Ridge) on Mount Maudit, right next to Mont Blanc &emdash; the Kuffner is a super classic mixed climb, long, exposed, but never severe, probably the best mixed route of its grade in the Alps &emdash; and also an ascent of the Matterhorn, always a fun cultural experience.
Kathy meanwhile was busy climbing here in the Sierra. Donny Levan from Hollywood Florida came out with brother Jared and friend Terry Frank for a few days of rock climbing and instruction in August. Next, Robert Conway flew west from New York for a week of great climbing which culminated in an ascent of Mount Sill's Swiss Arete, a Sierra classic.
Mike Christianson then met Kathy in the Tetons, where they were hosted by Exum Mountain Guides for week of climbing there. The weather was a bit damp, but they still got up some of the truly outstanding rock routes of the range, between dodging lightning bolts and downpours.
Back home again, Jean-Claude Latombe drove over from the Bay area for a three day weekend with Kathy climbing Clyde Minaret, a long, sustained climb on unusual meta-volcanic rock of excellent quality. The route is steep and intimidating to look at, but is nowhere harder than 5.9. It was a great day of climbing in superb weather, and then a looong evening and night hiking out toward the car (didn't quite make it!). The next day was a leading lesson in the Owens River Gorge – Jean-Claude doesn't believe in days off!!
Melinda Fleet and James Lackey from Washington DC joined Mark for an ascent of Crystal Crag, and then went on to the Tioga Pass area for some steep snow skills. We were able to put new skills to the test on a climb of the North Face gullies on North Peak. A last minute decision to add a day of sport climbing in the Owens Gorge had to be reconsidered due to a very unusual rainstorm.
Rich Caviness then came out from Memphis to climb the East Buttress of Whitney and the northeast couloir on North Peak, among other things. He also had the unique experience of an early season storm in the Palisades, as Hurricane Linda made a detour north and dumped some snow on the High Sierra.
Mike Christianson spent another few days with Kathy, climbing Whitney's East Buttress among other things, as did Chris Kulp. They both enjoyed the climb and its excellent rock. Chris got the added bonus of climbing it post-Hurricane Linda, with significant new snow and icy conditions requiring boots and crampons to be carried up the route for use on the descent. We were glad we brought them in the end!
Each February the International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway, NH hosts an ice climbers' extravaganza, the Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival. This year's event included Alex Lowe, Jack Tackle, Greg Childs and, representing the fairer sex, was Kathy. During the weekend-long affair Kathy gave a slide show and conducted several clinics . While she was back east she also spent a few days climbing with Mary Cary and Glenn Kaufman, both of New York. Mary and Kathy climbed Pinnacle Gully on Mt. Washington and Glenn did several climbs at Frankenstein Cliff.
Finally we both were reunited to work with a group from L.A., filming a pilot for an adventure travel series for television. It was a new and interesting experience for us, working with a camera and sound crew. We both felt it adds a significant challenge to an alpine climb! A bad hair day takes on a whole new meaning when you're on camera! There is a possibility, who knows? that you might see us leering at you from a television screen one of these days.
Mark returned from the Alps only to do another load of laundry and head back out to the Bugaboos in Canada, where he ran an Alpine Guides Course and Exam for the AMGA. Later he also directed two Rock Guides Exams in the Red Rocks of Nevada and taught yet another Alpine Guides Course in the Sierra. Kathy directed and taught a Rock Guides Course in Joshua Tree at the end of October, right after the annual meeting. We both attended a Wilderness First Responder refresher medical course around that time as well, so altogether it was a pretty jam packed Fall season for us around here, and we were fairly fried (in a happy kind of way, of course) by the time we headed off for our....
Immediately following the UIAGM meeting in Austria we drove south to join some Canadian friends, Karl and Mary Klassen, in a rented villa in Spain for about 10 days. We had a wonderful time climbing in a leisurely fashion on steep, warm, well-bolted rock, coming home to cook a great dinner, choose the appropriate $3 wine to accompany the menu, and play scrabble until late into the night.... ah, the debauchery of vacation living!
Well, as we mentioned above, Kathy will be skiing her !@@#!$$% ass off again this winter, but both of us will also be available for ice guiding and winter mountaineering here in the Sierra. So far El Niño seems to be having the predicted effect of storms to the Sierra, as the snowpack is looking to be a great one this year, and already the temperatures here in Bishop seem to be consistently colder than we saw during the last two years. The ice should be great in Lee Vining Canyon and June Lake. The back country skiing should be excellent.
Mark plans to head north to Canada in February and March, now that he is internationally qualified, to guide ice there. The winter in the Rockies is off to a slow start, but it's early still. If there's one thing you can count on, it's fat ice in the Banff area in winter. March is a good time as the days tend to be longer and the temperatures pleasant. Let him know if you'd like to join him there.
We have heard from a British guide friend of ours, of the beauties of climbing in the remote and little visited Tien Sian mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Few climbers go there, and specific route information is unavailable for most of the range, but access is relatively easy by Russian 6-wheel drive vehicle. From the photos we have seen, it looks like a huge area still waiting to be explored, with a high probability of being the only climbers in the area, and even the possibility of unclimbed peaks to be done. Kathy is looking into the option of a 3 week trip there in July with Mike Christianson. Mark would be available (naturally) to guide others there at the same time, so let us know if you would be interested in joining him.
This June we are planning to return to Peru to the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayuash. Even though we have been there many times we are always amazed at the quality of climbing and the fantastic summits. If you have never seen these incredible ranges you are in for areal treat. We will most likely be returning to Alpamayo and Huascarán but would also like to consider something more remote, or perhaps a circumnavigation of the Cordillera Hyahuash, a famous trek which would include one or two peak ascents. Our plans are just developing now so if you might be interested please contact us soon.
Mark will return to the Alps late this summer, again with Chris Kulp, during the latter part of August, and into September. Kathy will be available also during August and September.