Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides

Bishop, California
October 2002 Newsletter

Skiing up to the Col du Chardonnet on our April 3-10, 2002 Haute Route tour.

Trips of the last few months
links to lower on this page

Frozen waterfalls & desert rock

Alps Ski Tours


Alps climbing

Mount Kenya
So, what's next?
Click below to go the the appropriate pages.


Ama Dablam

January to March

New Zealand

April and May

Alps Ski Tours


Peru - Alpamayo

July to September

Alps mountaineering


Mount Kenya

Dear Friends:

Once again, more than half the year has gone by since we wrote last. It's a bit cliché to repeat how much faster the time goes every year, but it's true. The last months have been especially busy, but as we take our annual pause for breath this fall, we look back on wonderful trips with great people, and feel grateful as ever for so many happy journeys and safe returns.

Chris Kulp on Wilson Falls, Banff-Jasper highway.

Frozen waterfalls & desert rock

Mark finished up the month of March once again in Canada climbing waterfalls with Chris Kulp. Rather thin conditions, but good fun on Louise Falls, Masseys, Professor Falls among many others. Chris took some turns on the "sharp end", leading sections of several of these climbs.

Chris Kulp on Cascade Falls, Banff.

Kathy meanwhile returned to Joshua Tree with Marian Marbury, to instruct rock climbing for Marian's Adventures in Good Company. A great group of women from all over the US enjoyed a week of good climbing, good eating, good times and, of course, excellent company. For more information and the dates of this annual event, contact Marian Marbury at 877 439 4042, or visit her website.

Val d'Arpette on April 15, 2002

Ken and Bill, and the Vignettes Hut, Switzerland.

Alps Ski Tours

After a romantic reunion at Los Angeles International Airport's Lufthansa check-in counter, we flew off to the Alps for several hut to hut ski tours. Europe suffered an unusual drought this winter, receiving a fraction of the usual snowfall amounts from December through February. Warm storms increased in March and continued through April and early May, and helped maintain a good snow pack on the higher glaciers. We found the usual mix of conditions, including several delirious powder days, and one precipitation phenomenon new to us: Sahara sand! (more about that below). Only on our last Chamonix to Zermatt tour did the scanty snow at the lower elevations force us to walk significantly more than usual.

Bill Hudon
of Denver and his brother-in-law Ken MacKinnon from Montreal, joined Roger Belman from Anchorage, for our first Chamonix to Zermatt tour. The "crux" day over the Plateau du Couloir was memorable for an unusual phenomenon—a strong dust storm in the Sahara Desert strong sent fine, yellowish dust into the upper atmosphere, which was deposited throughout the French and Swiss Alps during a warm, windless snowfall, to a depth of 2-3 inches. As we descended, we noticed our skis dragged badly on the surface, while gliding normally once the top layer was skimmed off. Though it was quickly buried under normal snow, this layer wrought some havoc later, as subsequent snowfalls didn't bond well with it. We saw slides down to this layer even later in the summer, and it was very visible on the lower parts of the glacier clear into August.

More photos of this trip here.

Sam, Dave, Jim and Ken - The Haute Route

Next, four friends joined us for a private tour: Ken Newton, David Ries and Jim Shaw, all from Massachusetts, along with Jim's brother Sam Shaw, from Maine. Their trip began with a long storm dropping lots of snow during the first two days. Heavy going to the Trient Hut, but the following morning, a miraculous cold, clear dawn gave us the gift of first tracks on a 6000-foot, perfect powder run down the Val d'Arpette into Champex. What a day!

Another high point of this trip was a new variation for us: from the Chanrion Hut to the Vignettes via "Les Portons"—a long corridor of snow leading up along a high ridge with spectacular views, to bypass the steep "Séracs du Brenay". This route allows relatively safe and direct access to the Pigne d'Arolla via the upper reaches of the Glacier du Brenay.

One of the benefits of a private tour is flexibility; this group had booked 10 days to ensure that we got to Zermatt as planned. Arriving on schedule with time to spare, we traveled over to Interlaken and again were among the first skiers into the mountains after a fall of fresh powder. We spent a long, beautiful sunny day skiing from the Jungfraujoch, over the Louwitor, another long powdery descent of the Kranzberg Glacier, and then over the Lötschenlücke to finish via a 6000 foot descent of the Lötschental. Rejoining the crowds at this point, we felt like we were on a virtual piste! But it was great to join the throng and catch the thrill. We caught the bus in Blatten, and were enjoying dinner in our comfy hotel by nightfall.

More photos of this trip here.

Les Portons, on the Haute Route. April 18, 2002

Marcus and Alan on the Col du Sonadon. April 27, 2002

Alan Durfee of Massachusetts, and Marcus Gallie of Ottawa teamed up for our last Chamonix to Zermatt tour. Generally more challenging snow conditions characterized this trip, with some very cold days. A bitter wind on the Plateau du Couloir caused a man in another party behind us to freeze his fingers and leave the Chanrion hut at nightfall in a helicopter! Kathy met him and his wife again this summer, and his fingers were intact, so that story ended well. The trip ended with a bonus however, as we had an extra day in Zermatt, to ski the Schwarztor tour down the steep and heavily crevassed Schwärzegletscher-the icefalls being particularly challenging this year. We caught up with a Swiss guide and his small group, just in time to see them disappear down a "rabbit hole" like Alice in Wonderland. We followed them into the end of a crevasse, through a maze of seracs and out the bottom. A wild ride!

More photos of this trip here.

The Chanrion hut, on the classic Haute Route, Switzerland.

The"Rabbit Hole" on the Schwarztor. April 30, 2002

New snow on the Wyssnollen, Berner Oberland Kathy, Clark, Ellie and Mo, putting in the track.

We finished up the ski season in the Berner Oberland, with Ellie Pryor, Elizabeth "Mo" Moceri, and Clark Fox. Once again a very mixed bag in the weather department, suffering through whiteout conditions and heavy snowfalls, then finding ourselves in a great position for first tracks on the clear powder mornings afterward. We used our GPS a fair bit on this trip, but also had stellar descents of the Wyssnollen and Gross Wannenhorn from the Finsteraarhorn hut. We exited from the Oberaarjoch hut, going down the Oberaargletscher, over the Sidelhorn to very near the headwaters of the Rhône, in the little village of Oberwald.

More photos of this trip here.

Clark, Ellie and Kathy, wondering what to do with all that snow. Grünhornlücke, Berner Oberland.

Descending Palcaraju Oeste with Ranrapalca behind. Cordillera Blanca, Peru


After a brief time at home, we headed back to Peru, where two different trips gave us an excellent opportunity to further explore the climbing and trekking possibilities in and around the Ishinca Valley. We love this area for the easy and quick accessibility of a variety of climbs.

Our first trip combined buddies Derek Porter and Jim Woodward from Atlanta along with our longtime friend Dick Dietz of Greeley, Colorado. We acclimatized by scrambling up to various high viewpoints for glimpses of potential route choices and into adjoining valleys, then moved on to a day-climb of Urus. We then climbed Tocllaraju from an incredibly scenic high camp. A tricky wall above a long crevasse gave us a strenuous anaerobic workout. We finished up with the seldom-climbed Palcaraju Oeste, via its SW Ridge. With very little information available about this route, we forged ahead, finding steep steps on the ridge with just enough ice to get belay anchors, steep and very deep snow, and complex route finding through crevasses and serac bands. A very long day, we had the good luck of perfectly clear weather—the only such day on the trip!

More photos from this trip.

Descending Palcaraju Oeste with Ranrapalca behind. Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Next Chris Kulp joined up with Ken Cooper of the Boston area for a strenuous and interesting trip starting in the Quilcayhuanca Valley to the south of Ishinca. This valley sees occasional trekkers, but very few climbers. Emilio set up our base camp in a beautiful meadow near the confluence of two valleys, with high mountains on all sides. Nearby we explored ancient ruins of extensive terraces and small buildings. Protected by virtue of being within the Huascarán National Park, these apparently await adequate funding for a more thorough scientific documentation. We traversed the West and Central peaks of Chopiraju (5513m). The climbing was not technically too difficult, but was quite tenuous and exacting, involving exposed, delicate descents of shattered rock ridges barely held together by gravity! Scanty, dated guidebook information proved to be quite inaccurate, rating this climb "F", (easy). We found it to be one of the hardest days in the mountains that we have had in quite a while. We returned by headlamp to a late dinner cooked by a very patient Emilio.

High Camp on the Ishinca-Ranrapalca Col, Cordillera Blanc, Peru. Ishinca behind.

Climbing on Ranrapalca. Tocllaraju is the pyramid on the left, Palcaraju on the right. In the middle, just above the climbers, is Ishinca.

High camp on Tocllaraju with Ranrapalca behind.

We next headed off-trail to cross the high pass northward into the Cojup valley, accompanied by porters Carlos and Peter (Emilio's eldest son). Along the way we climbed Huapi (5420m), a much shorter but still quite interesting climb with fantastic views. After descending to the Cojup river for the night, we climbed once more, up to the glaciated col between Ishinca and Ranrapalca. We made an attempt on Ranrapalca's NE Ridge, but were turned back as the ridge crest steepened, finding increasingly rotten snow and ice and unable to establish belay anchors.

After descending to a base camp and reunion with Emilio in the Ishinca Valley, we ended our trip with a climb of Tocllaraju via its West Face. Similar in difficulty to the Ferrari Route on Alpamayo, though a bit longer and without fixed anchors, this climb threads its way up a broad, icy snow face at a fairly continuous angle of about 55 to 60 degrees.

More photos of this trip here.


Joan Sutherland and Kathy on Pollux, Swiss Italian border.

Alps summer climbing

Joan Sutherland of Groton, NY was back this year to climb the Berner Oberland threesome with Kathy, but the weather gods were not with her this time. They climbed the Mönch and the Jungfrau in less than ideal conditions, but the Eiger was out of the question. Instead they headed over to Zermatt and climbed Pollux in wintry conditions.

More photos from Joan's trip.

Tod Wood on the North Face Triangle of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

Debbie Richman returned to climb with Kathy. Having done many of the better known peaks together by now, they traveled further afield to discover some new areas and climbs. In the Chamonix area they hiked in to the Couvercle hut and climbed Pointe Isabelle, a beautifully situated peak in the heart of such famous high summits as the Grandes Jorasses, the Moine and the Aiguille Verte. Next they drove south into Italy to the Gran Paradiso, which they climbed in cold but beautiful weather while the Mont Blanc massif was being hammered by a storm. From there they continued south to the Barre des Écrins, a challenging and extremely exposed rock ridge climb. This was Kathy's first visit to this famous wilderness area of France, which natives have been recommending to us for years. We hope to spend more time exploring this area in future.

Paul Venjar of Norway came to Zermatt for an introduction to alpine climbing with Kathy. Paul got a pretty intense introduction, with an ascent of Pollux. A very fit 19 year old, he walked almost fast enough to outrun his first (and hopefully last) AMS headache!

Meanwhile, Tod Wood, currently of London, joined Mark in Chamonix. They had great luck with the weather, and climbed the Contamine Route on Mont Blanc du Tacul, the Cosmiques Arête, traverse of the Aiguille d'Entrèves, and finally Mont Blanc via the Traverse route.

More photos of Tod.

Sunrise on the Traverse of Mont Blanc. We are on Mont Maudit. The sharp peak in the background is the Matterhorn.

The final slope of the Breithorn Half Traverse, from Chris and Mark's climb.

Chris Kulp was back for another good visit to the Alps, and along with Mark climbed several great routes, among which the East Face of the Petit Capucin, the SW buttress on the Pointe de Bayère near the Grands Montets, the Pilier Rouge on the Aiguille de Blaitière, the Miroir d'Argentine in Switzerland, as well as several classics in the Zermatt—Saas Fee area in winter conditions: Rimpfischhorn, Allalinhorn and Breithorn half traverse. The "Spaghetti Tour" was in super condition for their traverse of the Liskamm and the Dufourspitze on Monte Rosa.

More photos from Chris' climbs this summer.

Rick Donnelly of Albuquerque joined Kathy for a week of introductory mountaineering instruction. The curriculum was rather heavy on the whiteout navigation practice, as his visit coincided with a period of persistent stormy weather.

So persistent was this bad weather in fact, that it nearly completely shut down Andy Latham's plans for a Zermatt area grand slam with Kathy. They instead had an interesting attempt on the S. Ridge of the Weissmies during the freak storm of the year which dumped almost a meter of snow up high, and was cold enough to bring snow down to as low as 1600m (this was the same storm that flooded eastern Germany and Prague—you may have read about this in the news). Locals were quite disgusted, asking where all this snow had been during the winter, when it was wanted. After that experience, Kathy and Andy braved the deep new snow only to be blown back from the Nadelhorn in a bitter, gusty wind. But Andy did get to do the high, wild traverse of Liskamm, in stunning weather and near perfect conditions.

The view east from the Liskamm Traverse. The Margherita hut can be seen on top of the Signalkuppe, on the left.

Chris Kulp on the traverse of Monte Rosa.

Bruce Beaman on the SW Ridge of the Mönch.

Bruce Beaman of Virginia was likewise frustrated in his hopes to climb the Mittellegi Ridge with Mark, but they did get to climb the SW Ridge of the Mönch (a fun, somewhat longer and harder alternative to the normal SE route), and the Jungfrau.

More photos of Bruce's adventure.

Dave Landman came over to Zermatt from London, and was similarly frustrated in his hopes for the Hörnli Ridge on the Matterhorn, with an ill-timed snow storm frosting the route the night before his climb.

Chris Sicaras with the Nadelhorn (right) and the Lenzspitze behind.

Chris Sicaras of New Rochelle, NY was luckier, climbing the Mönch and Jungfrau with Mark, as well as the Nadelhorn above Saas Fee, and the "Eck" route: a fun rock route on the Riffelhorn near Zermatt.

More photos of Chris and his mountains.

Abigail Bach of Denver joined Kathy for a week of "alpine glacier touring" (there's probably an extremely long German word for this), culminating in an ascent of Mont Blanc via the Goûter Route. They had a great time exploring the Géant, Tour and Trient Glaciers, climbing several peaks along the way. On their Mont Blanc summit day Abigail blasted up the route so fast they were too early for sunrise photos! Abigail is lobbying Kathy to do another such high glacier tour next year, leaving room for daily coffee and pastries, frequent hotel/shower/restaurant nights in town, and less orientation toward highly technical ascents. Does this sound good to you? If so, let Kathy know, as she would like to put together a small group for next summer.

Sig on the Dri Horlini, a great climb just above the Almageller hut. Täsch and Dom behind.

Sig Pueschel of Rhode Island came to Zermatt to climb with Mark, doing the Dri Horlini and South Ridge of the Weissmies. They spent a few more days hiking, and descending Zermatt's exciting "Gletscherschlucht"; a sort of muscle-powered Disneyland ride down a limestone slot canyon, using cables, rope swings and log bridges high above the rushing glacier stream.

More photos of Sig's outing.

John Andrews of Oakland, CA joined Kathy to climb Mont Blanc via the Goûter Route. This weekend ascent in fine weather, at the end of a summer of many storms, proved to be the most crowded ascent Kathy had ever seen! It was fine given that their pace was compatible with that of the majority of the traffic, and the weather was perfect. But the hut stay was intense, with three sittings at dinner, and "standing room only" in the common area. They then traveled together to Zermatt where, the Matterhorn still being out of the question, they climbed another fun route on the Riffelhorn, slithered down the Gletscherschlucht, and had a rainy afternoon relaxing in the beer stube.

Climbing on the Rimpfischhorn. The peaks of Monte Rosa and Liskamm in the background.

More photos of Emery's Alps climbing the summer.

Emery Dameron of San Francisco was back in Zermatt for a few days, to acclimate with Mark on the Rimpfischhorn, before traveling together to.....


Two Tarn with Point John.

Mount Kenya

Mark and Emery headed straight from Switzerland to Kenya, accompanied by Kathy and Mo (Elizabeth Moceri), who managed to get time off on rather short notice. This trip was as satisfying as Kathy's previous two have been: beautiful scenery, friendly people, great rock to climb, glimpses of exotic animals, and tranquil weather.

Landing in Nairobi after an all-night flight, we went straight to the comfortable and pleasant Fairview Hotel to rest up by the pool (and wait for a left bag to arrive on the next flight). The next morning we were driven to the Sirimon Gate into the National Park with our trekking guide Sammy, porters and cook, and began our trek to the mountain, reaching Shipton's Camp at 4200m (13,770 feet) the following day. The next few days were spent slowly circumnavigating the peak, and sleeping at Top Hut, 4790m (15,700 feet), to acclimate thoroughly for the long and strenuous climb of Batian, the highest of Kenya's two summits, at 5199m (17,052 feet). On September 21, Mark, Emery and Kathy climbed via the North Face Standard Route, reaching the summit in a quick 6 and a half hours from the base. The weather and conditions that day were perfect, the best we saw during our entire trip. We felt lucky!

The following 2 days were spent hiking out via the spectacular Chogoria Route to a lodge near treeline, where we had our first hot showers in two weeks. Wild animals such as water bucks and Cape Buffalo can be seen at a nearby watering hole at dusk, Sykes monkeys hang out in nearby trees, and Mark caught a glimpse of hyenas crossing the grounds in the full moonlight. We saw wreckage and other signs of recent elephant passage in the bamboo forest, but missed catching them at their mischief.

Mark loved this trip, just as much as Kathy has in the past. We plan to offer it again in September of 2003, and hope some of you will consider joining us. You can see more details, itinerary and prices on the newly updated Kenya page.

More photos of this Kenya trip on our recent trips page and also on our Kenya page.

Rock Hyrax.

Sammie, Emery, Mo and Kathy on the summit of Point Lenana.

From left to right, Nelion, Batian and Point John. Though it does not look like it from this perspective, Batian is the highest summit and Point John the lowest.


Mount Kenya from the north. Nelion is on the left. The North Face Standard Route winds in among the towers and is impossible to describe! See our Kenya page for a route description!

WHAT'S NEXT FOR 2002 and 2003?

Ama Dablam • Nepal

Mark will be in Nepal for the month of November on a private expedition with Chris. They should have up to date information on the state of affairs there upon their return.

New Zealand • Vacation and a bit of "work"

In January we pack up our lap top for an extended stay in New Zealand. We hope for enough good weather to get lots of climbing done, and enough bad weather to finish some writing projects and keep up with correspondence. We will be available for guiding there, from January 18-31. Please write, call or email if you would like to meet us for a climb or two.

Alps ski touring • Haute Route and Berner Tours

April will see us back in the Alps, where we've scheduled two Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route tours, April 4-11, and April 24-May 1. We will also offer a time slot for private groups, April 14-21, and a Berner Oberland tour May 4-9. We are already receiving registrations for some of these programs, so if you think you might be interested, please check your calendar, and drop us a line! For more information, advice, itinerary and pricing, see our (new and improved!) Alps skiing web pages.

Peru • Alpamayo and other trips

In June we will return to Alpamayo, in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. The tentative dates for that trip are June 2-15. We already are getting registrations for this climb as well. For more information on this trip, itinerary and pricing, go to the Alpamayo page

Alps summer climbing

July will see us back in the Alps. We book up very early for summer guiding in the Alps, so please be in touch as soon as possible if you think you would like to join us there. We hope to see as many of you as possible!

Mount Kenya • Batian, 17,052'

Finally, our plans for next fall are a bit fluid at the moment, but we would like to return to Kenya. Tentative dates would be September 14-25, leaving the US September 12 and returning September 26. Again, more information, cost and itinerary are available at our Kenya web page.

Kathy and Emery on the summit ridge of Batian.

We continue to post photos from some of the trips we have done this last year. We have a special place on our web site for these. To find them, go to our recent trips page

WeÍd love to hear about your plans and dreams for your next adventure! Thank you to all who joined us for a trip this year, and we look forward to seeing you again in the mountains.

We wish you all Happy Trails, until we meet again.

Kathy & Mark
1627 Dunbar Lane
Bishop, CA 9351

phone: 760-872-3811

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

AMGA Certified
Rock, Alpine, & Ski Mountaineering Guides

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