Cosley & Houston, Alpine Guides

Bishop, California

December 2000


Trips of the Past Year

Hello Friends

Joshua Tree


Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

Juncal, Chile

Illampu, Bolivia

Banff Waterfalls Huascarán

Chamonix Skiing

Alpine Summer

"Chicks with Picks" Mount Kenya

New Zealand

Sierra Nevada

So, what's next?... 2001 Schedule

January to May

Mark goes back to school

February 2 - 9

"Chicks with Picks"

Late February

New Zealand

March 25 - 30

Joshua Tree Women's Rock Climbing

April 4 - 11

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route


Peru Trips

July and August

Alps summer climbing

September and October

Cho Oyu Expedition

Information & Registration

Hello Everyone:

We've done it again, we've let an entire year go by without writing to you. We hope it’s been a fun and happy year for all of you, as it has for us. This year we spent probably a record amount of time away from home, and the coming year looks like it will be a virtual repeat of the last in that sense, though we have some new and different projects lined up as well as returning to some of our favorite haunts. We hope some of you will be able to come along and help keep us out of the bars.


Last year at this time we were each doing different trips in Chile and Argentina, again for our friend Rodrigo Mujica and his company Aventuras Patagónicas. Mark guided Aconcagua, while Kathy was about 20 miles to the southwest, on 20,163 foot Nevado Juncal. From the upper camps, she was able to see the South Face of Aconcagua quite clearly, and if we had known each others movements, we probably could have even made radio contact.

Mike on Mount Tasman, New Zealand


David Johnson of Lincoln Nebraska and Jeff Stowell of Salt Lake City joined Mark for this climb. At their high camp they played host to a lost Spanish climber, a member of the Spanish Royal National Guard trying to descend from his summit attempt. He wandered into their camp just after sundown, and the four of them spent most of the night huddled and cramped, but warm and safe, in their 3 man tent. The Spanish climber spent much of the night on the radio with his captain down in Plaza de Mulas, conferring about another teammate who was also unaccounted for (he turned up later that night, lower on the mountain). Though slightly inconvenient, it was nice to feel helpful.

In the end an extremely serious but fortunately unusual medical condition, a pulmonary embolism, forced our team to retreat without the summit. All eventually arrived safely home again.


Meanwhile, Kathy’s group on Juncal consisted of Jane Sheldon of Ashland, Oregon; Jennifer Wolfe of Bothell, Washington; and Kevin Weed of Lake Stevens, Washington. They enjoyed good health, and relatively good weather, some fun climbing and exploring, but not much better luck with their summit.

An unusually dry winter season and lots of resulting solar metamorphosis of the snow high on the peak, created amazingly developed "nevé penitentes". These toothlike flanges of frozen snow create little forests of knee to hip high, leaning fins. Too tough and thick to kick over, each one must be clambered over or around. At high altitude and on steep terrain, this adds a lot of work to the process! To make matters worse, a light, windblown snowfall virtually buried and hid the biggest ones on the steep slopes below the 18,000’ high camp. The snow did not have enough time to pack in and settle, so all it did was hide these shin-bangers, hold deep cold soft snow in the troughs, and make it impossible to step from top to top (hard enough to balance even when you can see them). The mode of travel was to swing a leg over, stomp until you found the firm bottom and could get your foot placed somewhere solid in the trough, hook the next edge with your ice axe and then haul the other leg over. Grab the next one with your mitten or hook your arm over the top, swing your leg over again, and so on. Very tedious and exhausting!

In these conditions, the group had to attempt the summit from the 15,000+ foot "camp 2.5", instead of the 18,000+ camp 3 as originally planned. This made for a summit day elevation gain of nearly 5000 feet, but was more promising than to try to haul even light weight overnight gear up these slopes from hell. Summit day being very cold with a strong icy breeze and most of the traveling in the shade, the factors keeping them from summitting were the inability to keep warm enough for a decent rest, and time running out.

Jane and Jennifer are giving it another try with Kathy this year (on the mountain as you read this!), along with Roseanne Engelhardt.

Chris at Haffner Creek, Banff, Canada

Guides Meetings & "Chicks With Picks"

Starting in mid January, a flurry of activity began which really only came to an end in mid September. We started with meetings, in Canmore, Alberta, of the Technical Commission of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (UIAGM). This might sound pretty official (read, boring), but it was actually a great "boondoggle", a chance to meet and play on the ice and snow with friends new and old from all over the world. Delegates from Japan, Germany, South Tyrol, France, Switzerland and more, compared teaching progressions, latest research, methods and news from their respective guides associations.

From Canada we drove to Salt Lake City for more skiing, more meetings (the AMGA Board of Directors meeting this time), and the Outdoor Retailer show, before Kathy headed to Ouray for the First Ever Annual "Chicks with Picks" ice climbing seminars for women. Hosted by San Juan Mountain Guides and with the proceeds benefiting a local women’s shelter, there were slide shows by Kitty Calhoun and others, and instruction provided by a great group of top women ice climbers and guides. It was a smashing success and a really good time. Kathy even ended up with a big color cover photo in the Denver Post. The event will be repeated this February, and Kathy has been invited back.

New Zealand

Kathy went straight from Ouray to Denver then to LA International Airport, where she was met by Andy Latham of Kalamazoo, MI (becoming a familiar name in these pages!) for a long flight to New Zealand. They spent about a week climbing and soaking, in the Mount Cook area of the Southern Alps. They flew in to the Tasman Saddle Hut near the head of the enormous Tasman Glacier, where they had 2 days of great weather and climbing on Hochstedter Dome and Mount Green, followed by several days of sloppy warm rain and zero visibility. The company of some very amusing Australians helped fend off cabin fever as the forecast improvement kept getting deferred.

Andy had to leave for home, and Kathy stayed on to climb some more with Mike Christianson of Bozeman, MT (another familiar name to some of you). They flew in to the Pioneer Hut on the west side of the range, and climbed Mount Tasman as well as several other peaks in the vicinity: Haidinger, Glacier Peak and Von Bulow. After that it was a few days of sight seeing around the Tasman Sea and the rainforest, before heading home.

Mark meanwhile was teaching an avalanche course for the Sierra Mountain Center here in Bishop, and later got together with Chris Kulp–yet another very familiar name and face!–for some ice climbing in the area. He also served as an instructor for an AMGA Ski Guides Course in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

Kathy skiing into the Argentière Glacier

Chamonix Skiing & Banff Waterfalls

Mark and Kathy took off together for France and Switzerland almost the moment Kathy touched down from New Zealand, in fact she didn't go home from LA. We joined Sierra Mountain Guides colleagues Chris Fellows and John Cleary for some spectacular skiing. We did a Chamonix Ski Week and another week in La Grave with a group of skiers from Chris' company, the North American Ski Training Center.

From there it was back to the home continent and straight to Canada–Kathy still getting no nearer home than LA!–where we both climbed ice for about a week. Joining us were more old friends: Jean-Claude Latombe from Stanford, CA; Mike Rhodes of Amherst, MA; Tim O'Brien from Redmond, WA, and again Chris Kulp. Among other ascents Chris and Mark had a great day climbing Polar Circus, a long Canadian classic.

Joshua Tree & Guide Training

We parted ways for a couple of weeks in April, Kathy going off to Joshua Tree to teach a women’s rock climbing seminar with Marian Marbury of Adventures in Good Company, getting in 3 days at home, the first since mid January! Mark meanwhile was helping Mountain Madness of Seattle, WA with their annual guides’ training seminars, on his way back to Bishop from Canada.

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

Later in April we was off to the Alps again for some more great ski mountaineering and off piste skiing. Joining us were Stefan Saldanha of Amsterdam, Holland; and Terry and Jonathan Hurt of Truckee, CA. Stormy weather early in the trip forced us to short cut the avalanche prone terrain at the start of the Haute Route, joining it at the Dix Hut near Arolla. After a couple more blizzard-like days we were able to push on and complete the rest of this incredible route under sunny skies and in untracked powder. Because we shortcut the start we had a few extra days to play with and used them to good advantage, first skiing the Schwarztor–a great one day outing from Zermatt–then, a ski ascent of Monte Rosa, and, finally, continuing over the Adlerpass with a fantastic 6600 foot run down to Saas Fee.

Dick, Kathy and Illampu, Bolivia

Illampu, Bolivia

Then once again home to Bishop, for a whole week this time! Kathy was joined by Hooker Hildreth and brother Tom for a springtime ascent of Mt. Whitney, before both Mark and she headed off to climb Illampu in the Cordillera Real of Bolivia with Dick Dietz of Greeley, CO; and Leigh McGuigan of Columbus, OH. Some of you may recognize Leigh’s name as Kathy’s partner in News on this front too by the way; Mountainwoman has partnered with Mountain Gear, which allows us to offer a wider and more reliable selection of technical gear while keeping our focus on advice, content, information, and networking among outdoorswomen.

We started out on nearby Pico Schulze for acclimatization and good fun. This turned out to be a technical, varied and interesting climb in its own right with both steep snow and ice slopes and moderate 5th class rock climbing on an exposed ridge crest. The climb of Illampu a couple of days later turned out to be technically easier but in other ways a real bear: a very long day starting with about 8 pitches of 40 to 45 degree neve, weathered by the sun to an interesting, "stepped" texture which made it seem both less exposed and less steep than it actually was. Fun climbing. This led to the crest of the SW ridge, which we more or less followed to the summit, spiraling around to the south and east from time to time. There was some exhausting, deep soft snow under an aggravating breakable crust, interspersed with a couple of quite strenuous steep slopes of loose, granular packing peanuts. The descent also proved to be a bit tricky, as we anticipated, due to the necessity of descending the nearly due east-facing ice pitches at the bottom, in the heat of the early afternoon. We had been able to scout a line that seemed relatively safe from rocks melting out of the ice along the edges of rock features, but it was still the occasional stone whizzing by on either side as we rappelled into the fog near the bottom of this slope, definitely unnerving, that. We puzzled over how to reduce this hazard, and concluded that a fixed rope or two on the lowest pitches would make everything go a lot faster and safer.

Kathy on Pico Schulze, Bolivia

More Bolivia and a Huascarán Climb

Kathy stayed on in Bolivia to guide a Huayna Potosí and Illimani trip for Mountain Madness. She had a great time working along with their guide Cecelia Mortenson. Mark meanwhile headed off to Peru, also working for Mountain Madness, to climb Pisco and Huascarán working with two other MM guides. They had a successful climb, but found the icefall zone approaching the high camp to be rather more active than usual–see the "Huascarán" page on our website for current conditions. Climbers attempting Huascarán must be able to move quickly through this section. Being thoroughly acclimated, and a small, fast team is especially important here.

Summer in the Alps

A few short days at home, and it was once more off to the Alps for another summer there. Kathy began the season once again with Debbie Richman, who came for a well deserved break from a new job in Chicago. They didn't have the luck of last year with the weather, in fact Debbie had the misfortune of hitting the Alps along with the worst storm of the season. It lasted a full 10 days with only a few short breaks, most of which lasted less than a day. They did manage to be in position to make several "dashes for it" in each several-hour lull, but the snowfall was copious, came with high winds creating unstable slopes up high, and cold temps brought the snow to an unseasonably low elevation, putting even rock peaks lower down out of condition. This made everything pretty challenging.

Very memorable however was their ascent of the Cosmiques Arête on the Aiguille du Midi. This is a climb we do often, and usually among crowds of other people enjoying this very scenic, accessible, short but quite challenging mixed route. This time Kathy and Debbie found themselves waking up in the Cosmiques hut after a two day blizzard, to blinding sunshine and calm blue skies, and the whole Vallée Blanche practically deserted and wintry looking. Almost as an afterthought, and with little confidence at first that they would get very far, they started up the ridge, breaking trail sometimes waist deep in steep new snow. The effort of breaking trail was made up for by the rare solitude and the unusual sense of wild remoteness and adventure. It was a beautiful and memorable day, one of those unexpected gifts from the mountains.

Climbing on the Lagginhorn South Ridge, Switzerland


George Lefont of Atlanta then joined Kathy for a "Spaghetti Tour" of the Breithorn, Castor, and Monte Rosa group. More cold wind and mixed weather, but also much enjoyable climbing in spectacular scenery.

Kathy then met friend and colleague Ramsay Thomas, for 5 days climbing in the Mont Blanc massif with a group of 4 buddies: Jim Morriss from Austin, Texas; Mark Schmittle from Pennsylvania; Stephen Fink from Dallas; Jerry Krause from Minneapolis. After acclimatizing on a peak or two they climbed Mont Blanc via the traverse, then headed over to Zermatt where the group was joined by Mark and another guide from Switzerland, Freddy Grossniklaus, for a successful "mass assault" on the Matterhorn. We had great weather and great luck, with everyone making the summit and equally importantly, catching the last lift into town in time for a beer!

Traverse of Les Courtes, Mont Blanc Massif, France

Mark climbed in the Grindelwald and Chamonix areas with Ken Duncan of Palo Alto, CA (in the same sloppy week in July as Debbie enjoyed!) and then had another fun-fest with Chris Kulp, continuing his fine alpine tradition. Their travels took them to some new heights; the Lagginhorn, Dri Horlini and Weissmies near Saas Fee; Piz Bernina–Mark says its the best AD route he has ever done!–and Piz Palu way down in the south of Switzerland near St. Moritz; back to Chamonix for the North Buttress of the Chardonnet and a traverse of the Courtes; as well as a couple of amusingly unsuccessful attempts on the fast-becoming-redoubtable "Petite Aiguille Verte". Formerly considered a short and moderate climb, doable even in bad or snowy condition shortly after storms, this peak can still show a fearsome aspect, repulsing the advances of our "dynamic duo" twice this year. There was lightning, there was fog, there was drama, there were lost climbers to rescue. The moral of this story is, never underestimate the mountains, even small ones near a lift!

Emery Dameron from San Francisco also joined Mark for the Traverse of Mont Blanc, the Midi - Plan traverse, the Matterhorn, and some great rock climbing on the South Face of the Aiguille du Midi and in the Aiguille Rouge. They had fantastic weather for this week of fun.

Kathy had more sorry luck with the weather when she headed over to Grindelwald to meet Jennifer Rood for the Mittellegi ridge on the Eiger, timing it perfectly for a very large wet storm with lightning storms, the first nasty weather for some time. They managed instead to climb the Monch the day before the storm arrived. Jennifer later got the climb done with a Swiss guide, as Kathy had to leave to meet someone else, so the Mittellegi continues to elude Kathy. Grudge match in 2001?

Mark Morgan of Tennessee and Larry Santoro of Connecticut then teamed up with Kathy and Mark in early September for another attempt on the Matterhorn late in August with . We almost made it in under the wire, but the winter was already shutting down, and we were all turned around well up on the peak in a very cold storm. This snowfall pretty much ended the season for the Matterhorn, as it stayed cold and snowy through the first half of September.

Lagginhorn South Ridge, Switzerland


Mount Kenya, this time from the North Side

In mid September Mark returned home for more guides training, while Mike Christianson and Kathy returned to Mt. Kenya. They had climbed the South Face Normal Route to the summit of Nelion in 1996, and Mike had vowed to come back and climb Batian, higher than Nelion by a mere 11 meters. They were joined for his adventure by Mike’s intrepid wife Jody. Kathy reports it was a really fun climb on challenging and steep rock, snowy and iced up in places, at a rating of up to about 5.7–though it felt harder than that at 16,000+ feet, in mountaineering boots with a pack on and sometimes slippery foot holds! They climbed to a bivouac about 1/3 of the way up the route, and leaving their packs they continued up to scout the route above for a couple of hours. After a clear and frosty night–trying to go very light made for a fairly sleepless one–they started at first light to beat the daily pattern of afternoon snow showers, and summitted at about 2:00pm. The rappel and descent took them to almost 10:00pm, and they were met at the base by their Kenyan guide and porters bearing a thermos of hot coffee prepared by Jody. The porters insisted, not meeting much argument, on carrying their gear down to the hut where dinner awaited them. Mt. Kenya is a challenging and satisfying, very big rock climb in an exotic location, and the people we've worked with there have been extremely friendly, likable, reliable, professional.

Despite the impression North Americans commonly have of uncertainties and risks involved in traveling to Africa, of which undoubtedly there are plenty, both of Kathy’s experiences there have been overwhelmingly positive. Organizing the trip ahead of time in order to spend a minimum of time in the cities helps, as does spending the money to hire a reputable and reliable agency for local travel and logistics.

Chris on the Aiguille du Chardonnet, North Buttress, France

Back Home in the Sierra Nevada

Since returning home in October, Kathy and Mark have been guiding near home and doing the usual autumn guides meetings and family visits. Steve Eggert of Sacramento CA came over for some introductory instruction and climbing on North Peak and Crystal Crag, and Hooker Hildreth was back along with Brett Lambert from Washington, DC for a long weekend. We were hoping for the V-Notch Couloir in the Palisades, but a monster autumn storm forced us to settle for a good day on North Peak as the season’s "door" slammed shut behind us as we walked hurriedly back to the car, pushed along by the new blowing snow. Brett and Hooker then retreated to sunnier rock climbing elsewhere.

Now we’re catching our breath for another year that looks pretty similar to the last, with a few notable exceptions.

Click the trips below for more information.

January to May • French School in Chamonix

Mark’s continuing education: Mark is planning on spending 4 months in France this winter and early spring, taking an intensive course in French and living in Chamonix. He’ll have plenty of time for skiing when he’s done with his homework! He plans to play hooky for a few days before and after their week-long "break", in order to do a little bit of guiding, but for the most part he will be busy with this until early May.

February 2 - 9 • "Chicks with Picks"

Kathy will return to Ouray, Colorado for this event, working for San Juan Mountain Guides.

Late February • New Zealand

Kathy returns with Andy Latham this year. They hope to climb Mt. Aspiring, if the weather is more cooperative than it was last year.

March 25 to 30 • Joshua Tree

Kathy will be working again with Marian Marbury of Adventures in Good Company, for the Women’s week of rock climbing in Joshua Tree, California.

Mark will also be returning to Banff with Chris Kulp for more waterfall fun!

April 4 -11 • Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route: Kathy will join Mark in France where they will repeat this classic hut to hut ski tour, April 4 to 11. We have 4 skiers lined up, so there is still room on this trip. Kathy will be staying on in the Alps to keep Mark company for a few weeks, and so she will be available for guiding ski tours there until mid May.

June • Peru Trips

We are both going to be back in Peru this year, and we already have our Alpamayo trip full with four climbers. Kathy will stay on with two of them to climb Huascarán or Chopicalqui, while Mark has some special Alaska plans with Chris Kulp. Kathy will also help lead an introductory alpine course in the Ishinca group of the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, again with Marian Marbury of Adventures in Good Company. If you want to sign up for any of these women’s programs, please visit her website at

Summer • Alps climbing

In July and August we will return to the Alps. We still have time available for guiding there, but it’s a shorter season than usual, so if you are thinking you would like to join us there (we hope so!), then you should contact us soon to get the dates that are best for you.

September and October • Cho Oyu

Our big new plan for this coming year is another foray into 8000 meter territory. We have a trip already booked for the fall of this year, leaving the States on August 31, and returning home October 14. Actually only Kathy will return home, as Chris Kulp will again join Mark there in Nepal for some more fun on another peak or two. Kathy can be available for guiding here in the Sierra in October.

So that's as far as we've gotten with plans for this coming year. We hope to see some of you in our travels, and wish you all a great year with plenty of time to commune with the nature gods whether in the mountains or some other landscape.

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

Midi-Plan Traverse, Chamonix Aiguille, France

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

AMGA Certified
Rock, Alpine, & Ski Mountaineering Guides

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