Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Date with Geronimo

Red Rock Canyon from the "first pull out."

As a mountain guide people often ask me if I get bored of climbing certain routes. In Red Rock Canyon I’ve climbed Cat in the Hat (5.6+ II+) thirty or more times. I’ve climbed Solar Slab (5.6 III+) at least twenty times and in the Cascades I’ve summited Mount Baker twenty-nine times. So I know the routes very well, but do I get bored…?

The answer is no.

I don’t get bored because there’s always something interesting going on. Sometimes it’s an interesting person I’m climbing with. Sometimes it’s an interesting conversation. And other times an interesting event takes place on the route.

Sometimes the events that make a trip really memorable have little to do with those of us on the climb (like ash falling on a crag from a nearby forest fire), while other times they have everything to do with the climbers I’m with. Such was the case earlier this month.

The author, AAI guide Jason Martin - Anne Marie and Ian (and dinner!)

Ian and Anne Marie were what I would call a normal climbing team. The young couple had a background that included a great deal of gym climbing and some outdoor single pitch work, but little multi-pitch experience. Upon meeting the two in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area I suggested that we climb Geronimo (5.7 II+), a fun and laid back four-pitch route with big ledges and mild exposure. Little did I know that something extraordinary would happen at the top of the route on that beautiful fall day.

This season I’ve done Geronimo four or five times. Indeed, I’ve probably done it more than any other route in the canyon this fall. Geronimo requires a forty-five minute approach, so even on the busiest weekends the classic climb only sees a few parties a day. And though the route is notorious for stuck ropes on the descent, the lure of a quieter climb like this during the busy fall season is hard to ignore.

Anne Marie climbing Straight Shooter (5.9+) - Ian approaching the Newcastle Crag

Geronimo has another interesting feature. It is perhaps the only route in the Conservation Area that has a summit register. A small rusty box is attached to the bolts on the summit with a tattered piece of webbing. Inside the box is a series of notes, photos and business cards. Most of the notes simply identify the members of the different climbing parties that sent the route.

We reached the summit after an enjoyable ascent. Both Anne Marie and Ian were excited to make the top since it was Anne Marie’s first real experience way off the deck and only Ian’s second.

We sat on the summit under the warm glow of Red Rock’s afternoon sun. Anne Marie lazily snapped photos of the steep craggy walls around us and the city in the distance. Ian dug through his backpack looking for something to eat.

Suddenly the young man had something in his hand. I struggled to see what it was. Everything became clear as he sunk to his knee and held a ring out to Anne Marie.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

The young woman was thunderstruck. She stammered, tears shimmering in her eyes. “You’re not supposed to do that,” she whispered. “You’re not supposed to do that.”

Ian smiled and looked at me, “she hates surprises.”

“Not surprises like this,” she responded. “You’re not supposed to do that…”

Once I realized the gravity of the situation I took the camera from Anne Marie. I did so just in time.

The young woman whispered her mantra once more, “you’re not supposed to do that.”

“Does that mean yes?” Ian asked.

The newly engaged couple at the top of Geronimo.

Anne Marie looked up, her cheeks streaked with tears of happiness and said “yes.” She smiled, “yes, I will marry you.”

I frantically took photos of the happy couple as they kissed and then embraced one another. As they held each other, I realized that this would definitely be one of those days that I would remember.

The moment passed and all three of us were different in some way. Each of us were better people. The happy couple made a life-changing decision before me. And I am a better person for simply having witnessed it.

Ian climbing at the Newcastle Crags

“We should write something in the summit register,” I said. The couple happily agreed.

I didn’t have a pen, so Anne Marie borrowed my knife and sliced a small piece of cardboard out of the ring box. She then carved a simple message into the cardboard. It read:

I Said Yes!
November 8, 2007

Red Rock sunset.

You can read a longer version of Jason's story on our web site here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Kilimanjaro Dispatches

As we add new dispatches from Shawn Olson describing her ascent of Kilimanjaro, you can read them on AAI's Trip Dispatch and Current News Page.

Waterfall Ice Climbing - Cold and Scary, or Quite Contrary?

When I first got into rock climbing, nearly twelve years ago now, I solemnly vowed to never go ice climbing. From what I had read about the fickle pursuit, it sounded cold, steep, scary, and dangerous. At that point in my climbing career dangling from some small rock hold in warm weather was about as much excitement as I was hoping for. The thought of strapping medieval instruments of torture to every limb and lashing myself to 10 ton chunk of frozen water for a few hours at a time seemed about as far from enjoyable as I could imagine.

The author in SW British Columbia

These days, I manage to get at least a handful of ice trips in a year, and I would say that most of my most memorable climbs have been ice climbs in the alpine environment.

I don’t recall exactly when or where I decided to throw in the towel on that promise to myself to stay away from water ice. I can say that it didn’t come until after having spent a lot of time on rock and on glaciers. I think as I worked towards progressively more involved and difficult snow and glacier climbs, I started to understand a bit more about ice climbing and started to see that it wasn’t just a sport for gymnastic psychos with a death wish. I realized that there was moderate ice that even a snow walking, rock climbing, skinny guy could have fun on without dying. Of course once your toe is in the water, you might as well have your leg in the water. One your leg is in you might as well just take the dive. And so it went with ice climbing.

AAI climber John Greco in Banff

I started dabbling and playing around with tools on small chunks of ice in and around the Washington Cascades. Then, during my first year at AAI, I took a trip to Ouray with a co-worker at the time, Cory Bennett, and my ice climbing career was officially launched. I was blown away by the quantity and quality of the ice in Ouray. It was like the pictures I had seen in magazines and nothing like the anemic smears over pick dulling rocks and mini-pillars here in Washington. It was real ice. Long, beautiful waterfalls made of perfect blue ice.

We climbed every day for a week. At the time I was using straight shaft tools. By the end of the week, my knuckles were so badly bruised and swollen than I couldn’t get my gloves on any more, and so it was time to go home. Upon returning home I bought a pair of Black Diamond Cobra’s a real ice tool, and hit the ground running. I haven’t looked back and now each year, I anticipate the coming ice season as though awaiting the arrival of an old friend. It is cooling off here in the Cascades now, and ice should be just around the corner.

An AAI group approaches the climbing area in Lee Vining

If you are considering ice climbing for the first time, here are a few tips to get started.

1. Go with a more experienced partner or a guide. Surprise advice coming from an employee of a guide service, eh? Ice climbing, much more so that many other pursuits in the climbing world, is full of weird tools, techniques, terminology, and hazards. Going with someone who knows the ropes can save you hours, if not years of doing things wrong, inefficiently, even unsafely. On my first real ice trip I got to climb with a fellow named Scott DeCapio, and before seeing him climb, I didn’t know what a real ice climber looked like. Scott moved with a fluidity and confidence that I didn’t know was possible. He rarely swung more than once and climbed a pitch in a matter of seconds that had taken me a half an hour of hacking. With a few small tips and tricks, my ability progressed leaps and bounds in the days following that experience. It could have taken me seasons of flailing to get anywhere even close to what others helped me to accomplish in days. The value of instruction and leadership in ice climbing cannot be overstated.

2. Get the right tools for the job. Having the right gear can make the difference between a frozen knuckle bashing pumpfest, and an enjoyable pitch with warm hands and pain free fingers. These days there are more tool and crampon combinations than pitches in the Ouray Ice Park and making sense of the mess can be a daunting task. Consult a guide or a gear shop professional with experience and see what they recommend. Many services offer rental tools, which can give you the chance to try several different pairs in a day. Dress warmly, but be able to shed bulky layers quickly and get into your action suit for the climb. On long routes a small, stuffable parka will make your day. A thermos of hot drink in your pack is a lifesaver.

3. Know where to go. Picking the right location for an ice trip can make the difference between a great trip and a frustrating experience. Ideally your chosen location will have easy access to a variety of terrain, and you’ll be able to top rope easy climbs and harder pitches in the same area.

In North America, here is a list of reliable ice climbing destinations that would be perfect for a first (or 50th) ice climbing trip:

  • Ouray Colorado. The country’s first, biggest, and best ice climbing park. Many people don’t realize that Ouray is a Mecca for backcountry ice climbing as well.
  • Lee Vining Canyon, Eastern Sierra, CA. Lee Vining doesn’t have the volume of ice that Ouray does, but all of the routes are close to each other, and there are great options for easy to advanced ice routes and for mixed routes.
  • The Canadian Rockies. When ice climbers die and go to heaven, the go to the Canadian Rockies. The Rockies are widely known as the best ice climbing destination on the planet. One could spend a lifetime in the place and not climb the same route, in the same condition twice. Banff and Canmore are at the center of the climbing there.
  • Cody, Wyoming. Somewhat off the beaten path, Cody has ice climbing in the Wild West. There aren’t a lot of beginner options at Cody, and it is primarily known for its super high quality multi-pitch climbs.
  • Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman has a rich history in climbing and has been the home of many a world-class alpinist. The canyons surrounding the Bozeman area and farther east to Yellowstone National Park have many hallowed American classics hidden amongst their walls.
  • Washington State and Southwest British Columbia. AAI guide Jason Martin has authored a guide book, Washington Ice, detailing the ephemeral ice in Washington State. When it gets cold enough to form, there can be some amazing climbs in Washington. Reliably there are a few good options almost every year.

AAI teaches courses and guides climbs from mid-December through March in Ouray Colorado, Lee Vining, CA, and the Canadian Rockies.

If you would prefer to climb ice in the summer time – that is right, the summer time – (did I say summer?) come check out the glacier ice options on Mount Baker!

See our web site or email me at our info address for more details and happy climbing.

Coley Gentzel
AAI Program Coordinator and Guide

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Kilimanjaro Dispatches

Shawn Olson, AAI's Communications Coordinator, called in two new dispatches from her Kilimanjaro expedition over the weekend. You can read them ("Arrival at Machame" and "Camp 1") on AAI's Current News and Dispatch Page.

Cheetah and babies, whoa!

Note: All future dispatches from Shawn's Kilimanjaro trip will be posted on AAI's Current News and Dispatch page located here:

Today was our last at Ndutu Lodge, and it was a great one. We took three safaris. In the morning, we returned to the site of the buffalo kill and actually got to witness the lioness eating....kinda gorey. She was really working hard tearing the meat and abdominal lining and was visibly tired and panting hard. She kept looking around for the other lionesses to help her eat this massive beast before the hyenas and vultures helped themselves.

Lake Ndutu with Mt. Lemagrut in the distance

The next safari was probably the highlight and was unplanned. Our guide Steven heard that there had been a cheetah sighting and came and found us to ask if we wanted to go try our luck locating it. We did try. And we were lucky. After driving around for about a half hour, Steven suddenly stopped the Land Cruiser and said, 'there they are!' We saw a mother cheetah lying in the grass with her three cubs. We watched them for quite a while as one of the cubs tried to climb a tree and wrestled with his buddies - so cute. Cheetahs are incredibly beautiful up close (we were about 15 feet away), and it’s rare to see, them, so we felt super lucky. On this drive we also saw another new animal for us: the bat-eared fox. They were very skittish, so we didn't get photos but got a good look. 

A genet living at the lodge

We just came back from the third drive, and the hit of this one was the lilac-breasted roller. I know, this sounds like a fancy car-hop (waitress on roller skates), but actually it's a bird, and a quite beautiful one at that. It's about ten inches long, with bright turquoise feathers and a lilac-colored breast. Wow. It was a startling sight to see against the dry, tan bush landscape. We also saw an elephant break a tree.

We saw a group of three young Masai boys who were tending their family's cattle at a seasonal camp. Young Masai boys are sent with the cattle to the lowlands to graze in the dry season when there is no water in the highlands. Masai are the only people who are legally allowed to walk and live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (all others must be in a vehicle or accompanied by an armed ranger). Life is very hard for these young boys who are charged with fending off the lions, buffalo, and elephants from their cattle. If they are brave in the performance of their duties, we were told they will be rewarded with the best wives. It is startling to see such young boys with such serious responsibilities.

Lovebirds are very plentiful around the lodge.

Tomorrow, we drive back to Gibb's Farm and from there I will drive north to meet my guides for Kilimanjaro while my mother (a pediatrician) begins her health assessments of children in the bush. This is probably our last emailed message for a while, but tomorrow or the next day I will start phoning in dispatches on the sat phone.

Talk to you soon,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Eat, eat, eat. Don't get eaten.

This is the mantra of the Serengeti. At least what I've seen of it. All the creatures, humans included, are busy busy busy and spend all day looking for food and water, while trying not to get eaten. And when I say humans are doing this too, I mean it. There are still loads of Masai people who live traditionally, herding cattle and living nomadically off the land. We see them every now and then on our drives from place to place - they just appear suddenly on the side of the road, with their bright red and purple dress, long staff, and sandals made out of old tires. They are very serious compared to the other Tanzanians we've seen, who seem happy and bright despite the extreme poverty they are living in. But I won't go into that now....

The Ndutu lodge

We arrived at Ndutu Lodge yesterday, after a full day of driving from Gibbs Farm thru the Ngorongoro Crater and onto the Serengeti. What a day of driving! We saw so many animals, that I am going to refer to our list that we made as we saw these incredible creatures. Here we go:

Elephants at the watering hole beside the Ndutu lodge.

Cape buffalo, warthogs, jackals (both golden and black-backed), ostrich, serval cat, zebra (my favorite), wildebeast, hartebeast, spotted hyena, Thompson gazelle, hippo, elephant, flamingos, rhino, lions, Grants gazelles, Masai giraffe, impala, dikdik, Steinback antelope, leopard tortoise....and I won't even list all the birds, but wow we saw a lot and our guide, Steven, named them all for us.

So there is the list so far, but I'm sure it will grow. A few of the encounters were especially memorable, like the three female lions that had just killed the buffalo and that were panting in the shade before eating while the buffalo slowly bloated with death and sun. Or like the giant elephant that moseyed in front of our car, each step like a meditation, and ears waggling to fan his hot hide. The giraffes tonight were possibly the best - we saw two young males fighting for dominance - they fight by what's called necking, where they twist their necks up and push against each other. It seems a very civilized way of fighting, because from what I could tell when they got tired they took a break and had a little snack to replenish their strength, then they would continue the necking. they also use their short horns as weapons and bang their heads into each other - it was fairly ferocious, in a giraffe sort of way, which is slow and graceful...

Wildebeest at Ndutu 2nd Feb 2005, photographed by one of our guests, Todd Gustasson.
Wildebeest on the drive to the Ndutu lodge.

Ndutu Lodge is quiet, beautiful, and the rooms are simple. However, we have found in all three lodges we have stayed at so far, the food is far from simple. Four course dinners, tea time (yes, I'm in heaven...there is unlimited high quality tea here WITH unlimited hot milk and raw sugar!!!!). Breakfasts and lunches are also extravagant and I am sure I am gaining weight and loving every calorie. Hopefully Kilimanjaro help in that area...

Bringing out the evening lights at Ndutu.

Speaking of, I leave in two days to meet my Kili guide! I am feeling ready. I did go for a run at 6000 feet the other day and it did kick my butt, but oh well, I'm certainly not going to be running up Kili.

OK, I will now attempt some photos, but no promises...and probably no captions for now as I am running out of time on the computer.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Update from Africa

Home town newspapers like carrying feature articles on adventures that are being pursued by residents living within the area served by the publication. Writers, who more often than not are non-climbers, usually have a challenging time trying to describe climbs to the lay public, but author Kie Relyea did a really good job with her article in the Bellingham (WA) Herald:

Kie's Article from the Bellingham Herald.

Here’s an update from Shawn that came in via e-mail:

View of Gibbs Farm
The vegetation in all the non-cultivated areas around
Gibb’s Farm is incredibly thick and lush.

Hello again from Africa! Now that I have access to a computer, I can provide a few more details, but the Internet connection is horrible. I can't upload pictures right now and I have to be very brief, but I wanted to make a quick post anyway. We are having a fabulous time. After 26 hours of traveling, we were so happy to be at the Kilimanjaro Lodge, which was very lovely and had great food. The best part, of course, was having a real bed and not a cramped airplane seat. Wow, this keyboard is really horrible...did I mention I would have to be brief?

Gibbs Farm garden
The gardens are gorgeous.

The next day, Tuesday, we left the lodge and drove the three hours to Gibb’s Farm, stopping on the way to see traditional Maasai housing, baboons, and even giraffe. Very cool. We arrived at Gibb's and promptly took a nap in our super, amazingly luxurious cottage. Our cottage is something out of my best of dreams. and so is the food. And the people, and the gardens, and the smells and flowers and views in this incredible jungle on a hill...but more on that later.

The buildings are all in remarkable settings.

We saw our first elephant today (Wednesday). It was partially obscured by bushes, but no doubt it was an elephant. We took a two-hour walk accompanied by two locals, one gun bearing, into the jungle to the elephant cave, where they roll and dig for minerals. Incredible....saw so many plants that I grow indoors at home in Bellingham - orchids, philodendron, spider plants - all growing wild of course.

While the buildings look simple on the outside,
the interiors are incredibly comfortable.

Tomorrow, we head for safari - to the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti (by the way, there is a beer here called Serengeti Lager). More later, hopefully with a better computer....file:///Users/coleygentzel/Desktop/Olson_Shawn.jpg

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AAI's Communications Coordinator heads to Africa!

Shawn Olson, AAI's Communications Coordinator, started her journey to Tanzania and South Africa last Sunday, November 11. It's a combination research trip for upcoming AAI program and a vacation, and among her many activities will be three safaris, a trip to Zanzibar (the tropical spice island off the coast of Tanzania), and a climb of Kilimanjaro. She will be traveling with her mother, Mary Ellen Shields, who is a pediatrician and who will be volunteering in a village health clinic while Shawn is climbing Kilimanjaro.

Preparing for departure: Foreign Programs
Coordinator Andy Bourne gives instruction on the use
of the SAT phone, and Shawn ponders if she’ll be able to
look nearly as cool as Andy when using it in Africa.

Shawn will be giving us updates throughout her trip, including daily satellite phone dispatches during her climb. We were excited to receive our first dispatch from her today!

9:23pm Tuesday (8:23am Wednesday in Tanzania)

Hello Everyone! This is Shawn calling from Africa. After a non-stop flight from Seattle to Amsterdam and a leisurely change of planes there, we arrived late Monday night at Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha in Tanzania. We were quickly whisked away one kilometer to Kilimanjaro lodge, which is beautiful and restful and where and we had a great meal in their outdoor restaurant.

View from Gibb’s Farm with coffee
plantings in the middle distance.

It was dark when we got in, so we didn’t see a lot to confirm we were in a wild new land, but when we awoke at six in the morning, it was to amazing birdcalls and snarls. It kind of smells like a combo of Hawaii, southern California, and Arizona desert. It’s really awesome. We got up and drove four hours up to Gibb’s Farm, which is south east of the Kilimanjaro Airport. That’s where I am right now – just woke up, had tea, and am about to have breakfast. They have amazing meals here, and they grow all of their own food. It’s really quite posh – I was really surprised. There are tons of coffee bushes all over, and it looks really tropical, surreal. It’s really beautiful.

Today we are going for a 2-hour hike to an elephant cave* nearby, and tonight I am going running with the manager. We are at six thousand feet right now, so I am starting to acclimate for my climb, which is good…. (TRANSMISSION CUT OFF)

(* cave-like structures created by elephants digging up the earth to ingest the vitamin-rich soil)

Gibb’s Farm notes:

We assume that the Gibb’s Farm foods are
part of Shawn’s rigorous acclimatization schedule.

Gibb's Farm is a working farm located on the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It lies half way between Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater, near the village of Karatu, and its lands hug nearly a mile of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, part of a 3,200 square mile reserve. It was built in 1929 and now offers accommodations in the heart of the working farm where organic coffee is grown, processed, and roasted. The farm's 10-acre organic fruit and vegetable garden provides most all of the ingredients needed for the home-cooked meals that are prepared for guests.

The farm's panoramic views of the Ngorongoro Highlands above the Great Rift Valley include the famous caldera of the Ngorongoro Crater, a range of extinct volcanoes, and the vast Serengeti Plains.

The veranda appears too be the perfect spot for
planning out final details of the Kilimanjaro ascent.

Travel notes:

Shawn will be on a Serengeti safari and trip to Ngorongoro Crater November 15-18 and will be climbing Kilimanjaro November 19-25. Then it will to on to Zanzibar and South Africa after that.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

AAI guide Peter Kuhnlein buys photography and film studio

So, what do guides do when they're not guiding? Many of them are photographers, like AAI guide Peter Kuhnlein. Peter and his wife, Lisa, just bought and moved into a new photo and film studio in Anacortes, WA. They specialize in wedding, portrait, commercial, artist, and stock photography - check out their website: Peter also does film work - one of his most interesting projects is he and Lisa's current assignment of traveling around the world and filming the traditional foods of indigenous people. This project is funded by the Center for Indigenous Peoples Nutrition and Environment. So far, they have been to Micronesia, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, China, India, Thailand, Bella Coola Canada, and the NW Territories. In May, the husband and wife team will be traveling to Baffin Island for more filming. Way to go Peter!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Successful summit on Ama Dablam!

Climbers descend for Base Camp with Ama Dablam in the background.

We received word over the weekend that the joint American Alpine Institute/Adventure Consultants expedition has summited Ama Dablam successfully! The first summit team, including three clients, AAI guide Andrew Wexler, and Sherpa guide Lhakpa Dorje, summited between 12:30 and 12:45pm Nepal time on November 2. The second summit team made it to the top as well on November 4. You can read all their dispatches and see pictures from the expedition by visiting

The two guide services, American Alpine Institute and New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants, created an international alliance years ago to offer a wide range of diverse and challenging expeditions and programs all over the world. Guides from both companies have the opportunity to expand their horizons and participate in work trades with the partner company. American Alpine Institute guide Andrew Wexler was participating on a work trade with Adventure Consultants during this Ama Dablam expedition. Congratulations to Andrew and all other guides and team members for summiting!

Monday, November 5, 2007

A tidbit of history: The Mt. Baker Marathon

A 1930s postcard of Mt. Baker

For you history buffs out there, here is a cool link to an essay written about the original Mt. Baker Marathon. The race only took place for 3 years, from 1911-1913, because of the dangers of the course. Contestants started the 120-mile race in Bellingham, where they then traveled by car or train to the base of the mountain, ran to the summit and back, then returned to town the same way they started. Though nobody was ever seriously hurt, one racer took a 40-foot crevasse fall, in which he was unhurt but got people thinking that running up the glacier in the dark unroped was probably not a very good idea.

The Ski to Sea race was started in 1972 with somewhat of the same idea as the Mt. Baker Marathon. Today, the Ski to Sea is as big as ever. It is a relay race in which each team member completes one of seven segments: cross country ski, downhill ski, run, road bike, canoe, mountain bike, and kayak. The race covers 82.5 miles, and thousands of people participate each year.

Photos from Ski to Sea 2007:

Friday, November 2, 2007

'Tis the season for seasonal ice . . .

Crossing the Coleman glacier just after sunrise. Mt. Baker
on left, Colfax Peak on right. The Cosley-Houston route
takes the right ice line up Colfax.

October is often a difficult month for those climbing in the Cascades. The uncertainties of unsettled weather, variable snow conditions, and treacherous glacier traveling conspire against the alpinist to keep him or her out of the hills. However, once in a while these challenges of alpine climbing don’t materialize, resulting in incredible early winter climbing conditions without the hassles of snowed-in approach roads, deep unconsolidated snow, and short daylight hours.

After a strong early season snow storm in the Cascades, this October produced a reasonable high pressure system that screamed “it’s alpine ice climbing season . . . NOW!” and I knew that I had to heed its call. Emails were sent with little response. Everyone had plans already. I found myself thinking, "Maybe next year I’ll finally climb the classic Cosley-Houston route on Colfax Peak (a distinct summit near Mt. Baker) because this weather pattern won’t last. Time to go rock climbing, I guess." Perhaps that’s the great thing about climbing in October, you can be rock climbing one day and ice climbing a couple days later.

Ultimately, the weather held through the weekend and a partner was found in Dylan Taylor. We were going to give the route on Colfax Peak a try. I couldn’t help but think of the similarity to the route's first ascensionists, Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston, who were both AAI guides when they established this route in the early 1980’s.

After a short drive, the dry trail was familiar underfoot as we sped along under the strange combination of LED light and a nearly full moon. Soon we were at the Hogsback camp roping up and wondering if the route would even be formed this early in the season. As we crested the first glacial rise, we could discern that the route was in fact formed. Sweet!

Another hour and we were racking up at the base of a stellar looking pitch of moderate alpine ice that marked the start of the route. This ‘warm up’ pitch did little to prepare for the technical crux, a short but overhanging pillar of ice covered with detached icicles. What a way to start the ice climbing season!

Dylan starting up the route.

Kurt leading the first (and crux) ice pitch.
Dylan Taylor photo.

Above the second ice step, the terrain eased but remained interesting. Our crampons and ice tools squeaked into the neve rhythmically as we climbed full rope lengths to the summit plateau.

Dylan leading the ice on pitch 4.

Dylan on the summit with Mt. Baker behind.

After sorting the rack and taking in a unique perspective of Mt. Baker and the other Black Buttes, an expedited descent was necessary since we wanted to get back to the car before dark. Fortunately for us, relatively easy glacier travel and the snow-free trail gave us no hassles. Just an hour or so later we were back in Bellingham, scheming all the while about ways to sneak in a few more climbing days before the winter sets in.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

AAI guide Dawn Glanc signs on for expedition to raise cancer awareness

AAI guide Dawn Glanc recently signed on to be part of an awareness-raising expedition to an unclimbed peak in Alaska next summer. This is a unique venture launched by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the intention is to raise awareness about cancer research. The Center hopes that individuals following the climb will come to appreciate the parallels between the quest to scale an unclimbed peak and the groundbreaking research being conducted at the Hutchinson Center.

Dawn, along with Matt Farmer, Kevin Mahoney, and Bayard Russell Jr. (read bios at
will be heading to Alaska next June to climb a peak that has never been climbed. The Hutchinson Center has chosen an unclimbed peak for the expedition's objective because "unclimbed mountains are analogous to conquering cancer." The mountain itself will be chosen by the Big Expedition's Mountaineering Advisory Committee and will be announced this winter.

The project's official name is the Big Expedition for Cancer Research - Unclimbed Mountains to be Conquered.

Link to the Hutchinson Center's press release on this story:

Link to the expedition's web page:


You can get in touch with Dawn at