photo information

I am in the process of changing the way in which this page works. Eventually with all the photos in our site, when you click on the "photo info" at the bottom of each photo you will link to another page which contains that photo (held in your computer's cache) and info about it. You won't come here. But setting it up is a big job and I'm only about half way through.

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Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides Welcome Page

Sierra Nevada Mountaineering

Argentina & Patagonia


Newsletter - Winter 1997-8

Newsletter - April 1998

Newsletter - December 1998

Newsletter - November 1999

This shot is of Jirishanca in the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru. The Huayhuash is a compact group of spectacular peaks not far form the Cordillera Blanca. On our first trip there Kathy and I bivouaced beside the trail leading up to nearby Yerupaja. We spent a beautiful night in the open which is fortunate otherwise we might have missed this view. Its easier to leave your camera set up on the tripod and roll over to trip the shutter, than to get out of a tent to do the same thing.

The single visible star track is the product of one of the wonderful things about Peruvian mountain sunsets. For reasons I will probably never understand the peaks retain their alpenglow even as the stars begin to fill the sky. Because we are close to the equator, the sun sets quickly, permitting a long exposure (with star tracks) along with good color on the peaks.


Sierra Nevada Mountaineering

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Conness, North Ridge

In this image Kathy is seen guiding on the North Ridge of Mount Conness near Tioga Pass in California. The North Ridge is a great alpine climb, exposed, long, never too hard, varied and scenic. It can easily be done in a day round trip from the car. This particular pitch is a little known and very hidden variation where the climber moves out on the north and steep side of the crest. The glacier is straight down, a long way down, beneath your feet.

Third, Day and Keeler Needles

Third, Day and Keeler Needles as seen from the trail up to Iceberg Lake below Mount Whitney's East Face. These peaks are typical of the High Sierra. A clean sweep of light colored granite lead up to spectacular summits. As climbers we are fortunate that Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, offers such superb and varied climbing possibilities. Even were it not the highest, the great climbs of the East Face and East Buttress would be popular classics.

North Peak couloir

In addition to the alpine granite, the Sierra is known for its steep gully climbs on hard snow and ice. Here, Mike Christianson belays Kathy on a 50° couloir on the north side of North Peak. About 6 pitches in the couloir lead to several hundred feet of steep class 4 rock climbing, ending abruptly right on the summit. These gully climbs are best done in the Fall when the snow is bullet-proof in hardness and the days are crisp and cool. Like Conness above, this peak is normally done in a day from the car. It can be, and often is, combined with an ascent of Mount Conness' North Ridge for a great 2 day outing.

Lone Pine Peak's North Ridge

Climbing on the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak near Mount Whitney. Even though this is a classic long ridge climb on great rock up to 5.7, its unlikely you'll see anyone else on it. The route can be done in one long day (it helps if you're familiar with it) or with a high bivouac, carrying your gear over the summit. Lone Pine Peak rises directly out of the Owens Valley (which can be readily seen in the background), right on the edge of the scarp which defines the uplift of the Sierra. This photo was taken on an AMGA guides training course in 1996.

Cardinal Pinnacle

Just outside of Bishop, California, Cardinal Pinnacle has both the ease of access of a local rock crag and the alpine feel and definitive summit of the surrounding high peaks. Chris Kulp is seen here on the Regular Route, 5.6, 5 pitches in length. There are about 16 lines on this peak ranging in difficulty from 5.6 to 5.12. Most of the routes face northwest, so on a cold day you might not want to start too early. It's a good idea to bring a helmet if there are other climbers above you. For the single long rappel off the back you'll want to consider a 60 meter rope!

Argentina & Patagonia

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Aconcagua's South Face

In 1992 Kathy and I climbed the Messner variation on the South Face of Aconcagua. Though a little hard to pick out in this photo, the route generally climbs the rounded buttress just left of Kathy's silhouette. Taking advantage of good acclimatization from guiding a previous ascent of the Polish Glacier Route, we were able travel very light and fast, climbing the face with only one bivouac on the glacier at about two thirds height. Climbing by headlamp we reached the summit ridge at about 11 pm on our second day, spent the rest of the night hiking down the normal route, and arrived in the Plaza de Mulas base camp at 8 in the morning, very tired.

High Camp on Aconcagua

This shot shows a high camp at about 20,000 feet on Aconcagua. This particular camp belongs to a Mountain Travel group led by Sergio Fitzwatkins. They ascended from the east, or Rio Vacas side of the peak, climbed up to the base of the Polish Glacier and then traversed over to the Ruta Normal for their summit day. This route, also known as the Falso Polacas, is a great way to get away from the crowds on the northwest side. Especially fun is, after summitting, to descend the Ruta Normal to Plaza de Mulas, and hike out the Horcones Valley. This accomplishes an almost total circumnavigation of the peak, and also saves a day of hiking as the trek out from Mulas is only one day. Doing a traverse requires a bit more logistics, and it helps to use a radio from high on the peak to coordinate with the park rangers the pick up of your base camp, which you'll have left behind on the Vacas side. These complications are well worth it. It is a shame to miss the scenery on either side of the mountain.

Fitzroy Sunrise

Sunrise on the Fitzroy massif from the village of Chalten, Argentina. This is an incredible place to climb. Super alpine, great rock in a beautiful semi-wilderness setting, with, of course the horrendous weather for which the area is justly famous. What you don't always hear, however, is that when the weather is good, it can be extremely good. The trick is to watch your barometer and not get caught up high when the winds begin to blow. Climbing trips to Patagonia are a bit of a gamble, but even on trips where we've been denied our summit, we have always had a great time.

Aguja Guillaumet

In 1990, while we were waiting for the conditions to improve on the Cassarotto Pillar on Fitzroy (they never did, at least not enough for us to summit) we decided to do a one day climb of Aguja Guillaumet, one of the two impressive peaks just to the north of Fitzroy. What a great day. A steep snow couloir, as seen in the photo, led to the north ridge which we followed in about 8 or 10 pitches to the top. Because of the somewhat icy conditions, the rock, up to about 5.7 in difficulty, had to be climbed in crampons. I can't recommend this climb highly enough. It had a little of everything, and perhaps best of all, it only took one day from our bivy at Col Superior. Finding spells of good weather long enough to do really big objectives can be frustrating. If your willing to dash up a few smaller peaks like Guillaumet, you can still get in some superb climbing, even if the good weather only comes one day at a time.


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Looking down on the village of Taghia from up on the J'bel Oujdat. Taghia is only about a quarter mile from our base camp in the Gorge of the same name, which is just out of site to the right. On the day I took this photo Sue, Nancy, Kathy and I were trying to climb the west ridge of the Oujdat. Unfortunately we encountered too much loose rock for our tastes and rappelled after about 3 pitches. But the view down on the village below was spectacular, as was simply hiking the exposed goat herder tracks on the approach. After descending we hiked around the peak via a most incredible route.

On the last day of our trek over the Atlas Mountains we descended sown through the M'goun gorge here. In this section of the gorge there is no possible escape to high ground for about 3 hours walking time. Fortunately in the fall thunderstorms, and consequent flash floods are quite rare. We left our camp that day early, and were through the narrowest part of the gorge before afternoon cloud buildup.

The M'goun gorge is a major transport route to the wide and fertile upper valley. We passed many locals riding mules both up and down. I'm always so impressed to see such a developed economy so far from roads and motorized vehicles. Given the depth of the gorge, it will likely be a long time before cars make it into the upper reaches of the valley.

In this photo Nancy Savickas, stems up toward the 5.10b crux of the Chibania Route on the Aiguille du Couchant in the Todra Gorge. This long route climbs a very steep wall on superb limestone. The route was recently equipped with good bolts, though as always on a long route like this its a good idea to bring a small rack. I know we were glad we did. The Todra gorge is a wonderful place to rock climb. There are 2 nice hotels in the gorge just out of view to the right. Long routes, short routes, easy and hard, there is something for everyone.

Down in the river below a large crowd of tourists strolls downstream. The Todra Gorge is so famous for its impressive walls and huge spring (the river emerges in full force right out of the gravel near the hotels) that we often saw tour buses. Climbers most definitely are a celebrated minority there.

Newsletter Winter 1997-8

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This photo was taken on an exploratory climbing day with Mark and Jean-Claude Latombe while scouting out a possible route on the left edge of the Yerupaja's West Face in the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru. We named this point "Promontoire Internationale" in honor of French, American and Peruvian elements. Though not much of a summit in its own right, it is a splendid vantage point from which to view Jirishanca and Rondoy, visible behind. Unfortunately we were unable to find a feasible route up the West Face.

Chris Kulp is just finishing pitch 9 of 11 on the North Face of the Gran Paradiso, Italy. This great ice climb tilts up at about 50 degrees for its entire length. The face is wide and it is possible to climb most anywhere you want, all being about the same steepness. Its a great climb, objectively safe (as north faces go) smooth and uncrowded. Unusual for many routes in the Alps, we had this one all to ourselves on a perfect August day. The climb finishes with enjoyable mixed climbing on the ridge to the rocky summit, then an easy descent down the normal route back to the hut, wild ibex and a cold beer.

Soglio, Switzerland, is perched high on a warm and sunny alpine bench directly across from the famous peaks of Bregaglia. These peaks are very reminiscent of the Bugaboos of Canada, clean granite towers rising directly from crevassed glaciers. The famous Piz Badile is one of these towers and is just out of view on the right. Great routes on the Badile include the Cassin Route on the NE Face and the incomparable North Ridge, described in some guide books as the best ridge climb in Europe. You have to climb it to believe it - about 3000 feet of clean granite, never harder than 5.7.

In this photo Robert Conway of New York stands on a rocky promontory near the foot of the Riffelhorn, Switzerland, with Monte Rosa behind. As with many peaks in Europe, the views from the Riffelhorn are impressive. The Matterhorn is just behind us and the long alpine north wall of Liskamm, Castor, Pollux and the Breithorn all stretch out to the right of Monte Rosa. The Riffelhorn is a great little training climb, not hard or long, but thoroughly enjoyable on good rock.

Newsletter April 1998

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This shot, from the summit of the Matterhorn, is a black and white version of our home page cover photo. Though compressed and a bit foreshortened, the peaks in the background form a giant alpine wall dividing Switzerland on the left from Italy on the right. Closest to us are the Breithorn, then Castor and Pollux, Liskamm and finally the many summits of Monte Rosa. All of these peaks are well over 4000 meters tall, with the highest, the Dufourspitze being the tallest peak in Switzerland at 4634 meters.

This shot is taken in cave behind the crux pillar on Louise Falls, just above Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada. The pillar sports about 60 feet of near vertical ice. Sometimes the best line climbs straight up the outside face while at other times you can come into this cave and climb around onto the face just to the left of the climber. In any case it is worth looking for a groove in which you can stem, taking weight off the arms. Either way, it can be an intimidating pitch though the ice is generally very good and takes protection well (assuming you have the strength to place it!) From the climbers position it is probably possible to see the famous Chateau lake Louise at the far end of the lake. This is only one of the many incredible waterfall routes in the Canadian Rockies.

Newsletter December 1998

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Here, Kathy and friends are making their way up to the great slopes below Bear Creek Spire in the Sierra Nevada. The basin above them holds snow to very late in the year, with a small pocket glacier and hard ice visible in the fall season. Bear Creek Spire lies at the head of the Rock Creek valley. This is a great place to tour with normally very easy access and a wealth of skiing and hiking terrain. There are a number of very fine routes on the Spire, including the North Arête (climbing the clean rock just ahead of the second skier), the Northeast Ridge (just behind the first skier) and the East Arête, forming the left skyline.

Chopicalqui, at 20,812 feet, is seen behind from the normal high camp on Pisco Oeste, itself an 18,867 foot summit. The normal route on Chopicalqui lies on the right hand skyline, after traversing across the glacier below the west face, seen here. It is a classic snow and ice route, with a few belayed steeper sections in a fabulous position. The ring of peaks surrounding the Llanganuco Valley (the approach for both Chopicalqui and Pisco) include Huascarán, Chacraraju, and the multiple summits of Huandoy - some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world.

Kathy is just arriving at high camp at about 19,000 feet on Khan Tengri in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The views from this camp are incredible. To the south is the highest backbone of the Tien Shan, a long string of peaks over 20,000 feet in elevation, including the highest in the area, Pik Pobeda at 24,400 feet. Khan Tengri is perhaps the most spectacular with a rock, classic pyramidal shape. We never did get enough stable weather to make a serious attempt on the summit. One this trip, Jean-Claude Latombe, Kathy and I waited for several days, hoping it would stop snowing. The day this photo was taken was by far the best we had. Descent in whiteout and avalanche hazard was interesting, to say the least. Maybe next time.......

Two climbers are just arriving at the summit of the Jungfrau in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. On this particular day the fog followed us to only a couple hundred feet from the top, and we never know if we were going to break clear. The Jungfrau is a classic mixed route. It begins in the predawn hors crossing the glacier, to a lower rock buttress which is climbed on 3rd and 4th class rock to more snow. The final tower of the peak is mixed snow and rock, typically belayed but never extreme.

This photo is fairly old. Back in the winter of '84 Kathy and I did the Haute Route. We skied it on our old skinny 3-pin gear in the mid winter month of February. None of the huts had guardians, but they all have winter rooms open should some poor lost soul need shelter. We had to carry all our food and cooking supplies (hence the rather large pack Kathy is sporting), and every evening we snuggled under blankets piled high to keep us warm in the freezing cold huts.

The Dolomites with a light dusting of November snow. The Dolomites are a large and complex sub range of the Alps. There are many different and distinct sections separated by passes and deep valleys. One completely unique aspect of the Dolomites are the large number of via ferrata. These are "climbing routes" equipped with ladders, cables and other hardware to permit passage by non belayed climbing in areas which would otherwise be completely beyond the reach of a normally skilled scrambler.

This photo shows Kathy skiing up toward the Col du Chardonnet above the Argentière Glacier, Mont Blanc Massif, on the second day of the classic Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. Having left the Argentière hut, below and to the left, we will cross the Col above us, cross another high pass, the Fenêtre de Saleina, and continue to the Trient hut for the night. The Col du Chardonnet is fairly steep on the east side and normally requires the use of the rope. The skier can either rappel with skis on or down climb the short steep slope, cross the bergschrund below to gain the glacier. The Aiguille Verte is behind.

Newsletter November 1999

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In February of 1999, the entire chain of the Alps received record snowfall, and with it, extreme avalanche hazard. Not long after this photo was taken, the valley received another meter of snow in about a 40 hour period. This brought down numerous huge avalanches, one of which destroyed some 11 chalets near the town of Le Tour, killing about a dozen people. This photo, taken in Les Praz, just a few Kilometers up valley from Chamonix, shows an unusual amount of snow on the valley floor. Behind is the Aiguille du Midi. We have to admit beautiful sunny days like this, just after a good storm, are an irresistible temptation to hit the slopes.

A photo by Alan Kearney, this shot is of the group that joined us on the Haute Route of April 1999. Left to right are Mark, Kathy, "Mo" Moceri, Anne Danieli, Nancy Knoble, Ramsay Thomas and Jay Foster. On this day we are skiing the Vallée Blanche. The day before it snowed a meter of new but this day was absolutely perfect. Because of the unusual amount of new snow we decided to skip the first part of the Haute Route which includes some steep and avalanche-prone slopes and begin our tour in Verbier. The photo here is shot form the terrace of the Aiguille du Midi upper téléphérique station. Mont Blanc and Mount Maudit are in the background.

This photo shows part of the ridge very near the summit of the Zinalrothorn, near Zermatt, Switzerland. On the day that this shop was taken, Chris and I left the hut in the rain. The forecast called for improving weather but hiking up the glacier in the predawn drizzle was not encouraging. The higher we got, however, the better the weather became. We climbed the technical rock sections in crampons because of the slippery new snow on the route. The old motto "put yourself in a position to be lucky" seemed to work for us that day. The Zinalrothorn is a great climb, much better rock and higher quality that the nearby Matterhorn.

Chris Kulp works his way up a crack high on the Frendo Spur of the Aiguille du Midi. The Frendo has a bit of a fearsome reputation. It's quite long and involves a wide range of climbing skills, lots of rock, but also a good helping of ice and snow. After many hours on the lower rock buttress we encountered the snow arête. Moving together as high as we could we still ended up pitching 6 long rope lengths of 45 to 60 degree ice to reach the easy crest of the ridge. It is a super classic hard route nonetheless, requiring all around good mountaineering skill - never extreme, but always serious.

Be sure the forecast is good and the rock on the upper part is relatively dry. On the day we climbed, in August of 1999, there was still a bit of new snow on the rock high on the route (only in protected pockets). It had been several days since the snow fell and all the steep rock had cleared.

This shows the entrance couloir to the Contamine route on the North Face Triangle of the Mont Blanc du Tacul. The climb starts with about 5 or 6 pitches in the couloir (this looks to be about pitch 2 or 3), before gaining the mixed climbing on the ridge crest above. A wonderful route, it is never very hard, but offers great moderate mixed climbing with a lot of exposure. On routes such as these, climbers need to be more efficient than anything else. The important thing is to keep moving, to keep the flow of the climb going. After a couple hours and many pitches of mixed ground, the route gains the occasionally corniced snowy ridge with leads to the summit of the Tacul at almost 14,000 feet. By catching an early téléphérique from Chamonix, this route is perfectly feasible in a day round trip from the valley. The contrast of high alpine routes with comfortable hotels and good dining is what makes climbing in the Alps so memorable.

Wall detail on a building in Zaouia-Ahanesal in Morocco. Z-A, as we came to call it, is the start of our trek into the Taghia gorge area. A 7 hour drive from Marrakech Z-A is only about 3 hours of beautiful waking from Taghia. One of the things that impressed us most about Morocco was the organic look to the towns and villages. With most building made out of local stone and mud, they appear as if they grew out of the earth, mimicking color and texture. Surrounding buildings such as this were others in various states of decay, dying, returning to the earth. In the river beds endless groves of very green date palms contrasted wildly with the browns of the building. This was especially so near Tinerhir and the Todra Gorge where the river valley looks like a giant green snake with its head in brown limestone cliffs and its tail flowing out to the dry desert.

Kathy is skiing down the Cirque Maudit with the Tour Ronde in the background. While the popular Vallée Blanche descent is only out of view and down to the left, if you are willing to slap on a pair of skins and tour up into one of the many unvisited cirques you'll be rewarded with untracked snow and lots of solitude. There are lots of places in the Alps with great skiing and climbing, and few other people. All you have to do is expend slightly more energy than the next guy. In the case of this tour, what set us apart was the fact that, unlike the downhill skier of the Vallée Blanche, we had touring gear and could skin uphill. Less than an hour of skinning up the gentle glacier brought us to this lonely place. We did the same thing on another day skinning up the Leschaux Glacier high under the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, laying tracks down perfect virgin powder.

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