Cosley & Houston, Alpine Guides

Bishop, California

November 1999


Trips and Climbs of the Past Year

Hello Friends

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route


Sierra Skiing and Climbing

February in Chamonix


Banff Waterfalls

Alpine Summer

Berner Oberland Tour


So, what's next?....

2000 Schedule




Home, perhaps Patagonia?


New Zealand, or Waterfall Climbing in North America

March 5 - 10

Chamonix Ski Week

Late March

Canadian Rockies · Waterfall Climbing

April 1-8

Joshua Tree Women's Rock Climbing

April 14-21

Alps Haute Route · Chamonix to Zermatt

April 24 - 30

Bernese Oberland Ski Tour


Bolivia - Ancohuma and Illampu


Peru · Alpamayo, Huascarán & Chopicalqui

July, August & September

Alps · Mountaineering


Morocco · Climbing, Trekking and Canyoning

Information & Registration

Hello Friends:

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 .



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.

Alpine Summer

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 greedy, perhaps.

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. Photo info

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 blizzard!

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 point.

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.


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 coming year...


What's Next?

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

March (later) · Canadian Waterfall Climbing

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 Rock Climbing

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 Berner Tour

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 28.

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 you all.

Berg Heil and Happy Holidays!

Kathy & Mark
1627 Dunbar Lane
Bishop, CA 93514

phone: 760-872-3811

Skiing in the Cirque Maudit. Photo Info

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM / IFMGA Internationally Certified
Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified
Rock, Alpine, & Ski Mountaineering Guides

All images, layout and text ©1999 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved