Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Biggest Climbing & Outdoor Stories of 2008

We are now a little ways into 2009 and have had some time to reflect on the climbing and outdoor news of the year. After some serious consideration we decided that the following stories were the most interesting and intriguing of the year.
Biggest AAI Guide News of 2008

AAI had a phenomenal year. We had people summit major peaks throughout the world, including Mount Everest, Denali and Aconcagua. We also had a very successful year throughout the Cascades, the Sierra, the Alps and the Andes.

Though we had a great year throughout our programming, a few things stuck out above the rest.

AAI Guide Solos New Route in China

AAI Guide Aidan Loehr is currently on his second expedition to Aconcagua this season. He recently returned from China. After guiding one of our China programs, Aidan set out to do some personal climbing.

Initially, he made a solo attempt on China's Minya Konka. This 24,816 foot mountain is the highest peak in eastern Tibet. The first ascent of Minya Konka was made in 1932 by an American team. Since that ascent, only six expeditions have been successful the mountain, with a total of 18 people reaching the summit.

A self-portrait high on an unclimbed peak in China
Photo by Aidan Loehr

Aidan made a strong showing on the mountain, but got stuck at 17,500 feet. He repeatedly tried to move camp up higher, reclimbing the crux of the route three times, but it was not to be. The weather never really let up and the technical difficulties appeared to be too severe for a soloist.

Aidan descended and returned to the the Reddamaine region, hoping to solo a new route there. This was where the AAI team he lead initally made an attempt on the east ridge of Dogonomba (19,550'). Aidan tried a different strategy and succeeded in making the first ascent of the mountain via the west ridge.

He found the lower part of the mountain to be quite difficult. He was forced to climb a loose and exposed fourth-class ridge while keeping an eye out for rockfall from above.

Once he was on the snow and ice, the route became more moderate. He worked his way up 30-40 degree snow slopes until he reached the summit ridge. At that point he was required to traverse sixty-degree snow on a corniced ridge. Aidan indicated that the snow was quite bad at "inappropriate times." Snow conditions on the upper mountain made the traverse incredibly cruxy.

The summit of the mountain was unbelievably small. Aidan stated that, "I had to kneel on the tippy-top of the mountain because it was so tiny. If I stood up and the wind blew, I would have been blown off and they would never have found me."

To see photos of the trip, click here.

AAI Guide Receives the AMGA President's Award

In October, AAI guide Dawn Glanc received the American Mountain Guide's Association President's Award. This is a great honor. Each year, the President of the AMGA selects someone in recognition of their guiding, their skill, and their love of the mountains.

Dawn climbing in the Alps
From the Dawn Glanc Collection

Dawn, along with three other guides (Matt Farmer, Kevin Mahoney, and Bayard Russell) were received the award for their commitment and contribution to the profession of mountain guiding through their efforts on The Big Expedition for Cancer Research. The Big Expedition was a trip to an unclimbed peak in a little explored region of Alaska. The trip was intended to show that seemingly insurmountable challenges are attainable and that they can lead to successes such as finding a cure for cancer.

And though it didn't take place in 2008, yesterday we reported on another piece of interesting news about Dawn. Over the weekend, she took first place in the women's competition at the Ouray Ice Festival. Way to go Dawn!!!

100 Percent Expedition Success Rate on 2008 Denali Trips!

The year 2008 was one of our most successful years for our Denali programs. Every single expedition got climbers to the summit.

Descending the West Buttress
Photo by Dawn Glanc

We are looking forward to another great year. Denali teams are starting to take shape, and we are well into the process of accepting applications and registrations for the upcoming season.

Three AAI Guides have Babies

AAI Guides Richard Riquelme, Peter Kuhnlein and Jason Martin all had babies this year!

Richard and his son, Sammy
Peter's Christmas Card

Jason's babies

Biggest International Climbing News

China Summits Everest with the Olympic Torch

Or did they? There are many suspcious circumstances surrounding the "summit" of the Olympic Torch on May 9th. Following is a breakdown of the issues as they were enumerated by the Nepali blog, Blogdai:

There is a complete lack of visual reference points - peaks in the background, or immediate surrounds that might give any sense of summit dimension - photographic proof of which has been standard verification for Everest summits since Hillary and Norgay. (Interestingly, one of the few supposedly successful Everest campaigns to have returned without such evidence is the controversial 1960 Chinese summit, which, rather unfortunately, took place in the dead of night). There is also the matter of exhalation vapour apparent in the Chinese footage, which some climbers claim doesn’t readily appear above much lower altitudes (nor does it appear in other summit videos). The voices chattering in the background are implausible ("Ask anyone who’s summited Everest and they’ll tell you it’s not a place for a monologue. Short, clipped sentences are all most can manage at that altitude"), and there are lights glowing down the mountain which would not have been visible from the summit, particularly given the climbing ban.

Regardless of whether or not the team actually summitted, the press coverage of this event was unprecedented, and the story was followed all over the world.

It looks like that guy is running up the top of Mount Everest --
which seems rather implausible...

Biggest Environmental and Conservation Climbing News

Activist Stops Oil and Gas Interests from Obtaining Drilling Rights in Utah

The end of 2008 brought unprecidented bad news about the intended sale of the beautiful, untouched desert just outside Arches and Canyonlands National Parks to interests in the oil and gas industry.

Tim DeChristopher

To stop this sale, activist Tim DeChristopher accessed the BLM auction of the parcels as a private bidder. He subsequently ran up the bids on many parcels by as much as $500,000 and secured the prime parcels around the National Parks for himself.

DeChristopher does not have the money to pay for the parcels, but by the time it's all figured out, Barack Obama will be in the White House. The Obama transition team opposes the sale of these parcels.

DeChristopher is facing possible federal charges, but he's happy that he disrupted the process...and so are climbers, hikers, mountain bikers, river-runners and hunters from across the country.

To read more, click here. To donate to DeChristopher's defense fund, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story!
And cool picture with his kids :)