Thursday, April 30, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/30/15


--Following are some of the best reports from the tragedy in Nepal and on Everest:
--The following video was taken from Basecamp as the earthquake shakes and then the avalanche blasts down the mountain and into camp. It's a terrifying video...

--If you would like to make a donation to help the Nepali people, consider the American Himalayan Foundation or the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.

--The north side of Mt. Everest and Tibet are officially closed for the rest of the climbing season. To read more, click here.

--And finally the Washington Post has released an editorial that we totally disagree with. They argue that Mt. Everest should be permanently closed...


--Figuring Mount Baker won’t get a big dump of snow this spring, the state Department of Transportation started plowing the road to Artist Point on Monday, April 20. The popular destination at the end of Mount Baker Highway should be open by early May, DOT officials said. To read more, click here.

--Historically we haven't had to worry about lyme disease in Washington State. But that may be changing.

Read more here:

--One of the superheroes of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite --  Kevin Jorgeson -- has a Duracel Battery TV Commercial.

--A California skier wrote an excellent article entitled, The Winter of His Disbelief, about the Sierra, global warming and this year's lack of snow. To read the story, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--An election in the Navajo Nation may have stopped the tourist development of the upper Grand Canyon. To read about it, click here.

--Visitors can now join Zion National Park rangers in an effort to promote clean air and clear skies by taking the wheel behind an electric vehicle to visit the park. Park officials from Zion and Pipe Spring National Monument joined with local elected leaders Saturday to celebrate the opening of two new level-two electric vehicle charging stations at the entrance to the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, part of a larger project that will eventually include 10 stations located throughout Zion and Pipe Spring. To read more, click here.

--Internationally renowned graffiti artists appear to be tagging the National Parks more and more. To read an article about this phenomenon, click here.


--Despite a 2.8 percent drop in skier visits and a devastating drought in the west, Vail Resorts still reported modest increases in revenue compared to last year. The latest season metrics compared this season to the previous year through April 20, 2014. And while everyone knows that Vail Resorts' is king when it comes to breaking records andmaking money in the ski industry, this spring (especially March) was notoriously bad in many of Vail's nine mountain resorts. To read more, click here.


At 20,320-feet, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America.

--AAI Denali Team 1, lead by Paul Rosser and Quino Gonzalez is prepping to start their Denali climb on Sunday! Follow the action on our dispatches page.

--A wolf killed by a trapper was found inside the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve last month, causing renewed interest among wolf advocates in banning trapping outside the park. The wolf was a 1-year-old male, a member of the East Fork Pack, which lives inside the park but spends time outside its boundaries. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Outside Online has published an important article on mountain guiding. The piece is entitled, How Much (and why) Should I Tip My Guide.

--Yeah, so...someone stole a whole ski lift.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Route Profile: Kilimanjaro - Machame Route

Kilimanjaro - 19,341 ft (5895 m)

Route: Machame

Kilimanjaro from the plains of Africa. AAI Collection

The picturesque Machame Route is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful routes on the Kilimanjaro. Most of the climb is actually trekking on well-formed trails, but there are a few sections of steeper, non-technical terrain. Our camps are at sites established by the Tanzanian National Park Service, and each camp provides outhouses and is staffed by a rescue team in case emergency evacuations are necessary.

Climbing above tree line and in the
clouds on Kilimanjaro.
Shawn Olson.
Five camps are used as we gradually move up the mountain, and their altitude (ranging from 9,843 to 15,100 feet) will help us acclimatize gradually before making our summit bid. A typical day includes three to six hours of climbing. Summit day is typically between five and eight hours, and begins just after midnight with a plan to enjoy the magnificent colors of sunrise near the summit.

Besides its beauty, a benefit of the Machame Route is that it includes two days of "hiking high and sleeping low," a strategy proven to help with successful acclimatization.

Day 1: Arrival/Mbahe Farm House

Your trip leader will pick you up upon your arrival at the Kilimanjaro International Airport. A private car will take you to Mbahe Village, located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, approximately 2 hours from the airport. Accommodations are in cottages at the beautiful Mbahe Farm House.

Day 2: Mbahe Farm House (6,000’)

You have the morning to rest and relax. You can enjoy delicious “homebrew” coffee, grown and roasted on the farm, and meals made with fruits and vegetables from the garden. Your trip leader will provide an orientation on the climb and do an equipment check. This is also a day to take a guided tour around Mbahe Village, the Mtuy family farm, and to swim in the waterfall on farm’s land. We will all gather together for dinner.

Day 3: Machame Gate (6,000’) to Machame Camp (9,950’)

Entering the national park. Shawn Olson.
After breakfast we will drive to the Machame Gate, where you will meet your other guides and mountain crew and enter the Kilimanjaro National Park. We begin our climb at 6,000 feet, walking for a few hours through thick and undisturbed tropical forest. With luck, we may see the colobus monkeys that live in the forest. Quick Stats: 6.6 miles, 3950’ of elevation gain.

Day 4: Machame Camp (9,950’) to Shira Camp (12,620’)

Today is an easy paced acclimatization day. We will hike over streams, a river gorge, and moorlands. Camp is located on the Shira Plateau, providing expansive views of Kilimanjaro. We will do a conditioning hike in the afternoon on which you can enjoy clusters of giant lobelia and senecios that grow at this elevation. Quick Stats: 3.5 miles, 2670’ of elevation gain.

Day 5: Shira Camp (12,620’) to Lava Tower Camp (15,230’)

Today is another acclimatization day as we have a mostly uphill climb of 5 hours to an elevation over 15,000 feet. We will pass through the alpine moorland zone where plants are extremely hardy and consist of lichens, grasses, and heather, to reach Kilimanjaro’s alpine desert zone. You will have a spectacular view of the steep Western Breach. After an early afternoon rest we will take a two-hour round-trip adventure climb up the Lava Tower. This scramble is fun and will help prepare you for the climb tomorrow. Quick Stats: 4.4 miles, 2690’ of elevation gain.

The upper slopes of Kilimanjaro still have
some receding glaciers. Shawn Olson.

Day 6: Lava Tower Camp (15,230’) to Karanga Valley Camp (13,250’)

Today we will climb the Great Barranco rock wall - not too steep but challenging for some – which our guides make comfortable and accessible for everyone. We will go pole pole (meaning “slowly” in Kiswahili). You will be able to see the breathtaking Heim Glacier. We descend into the Karanga Valley and then to our camp on a ridge above the valley, where you will be able to enjoy a rest and have refreshing a sponge bath with warm water. Quick Stats: 5.9 miles, 1980’ of elevation loss.

The upper mountain provides an incredible
backdrop for our camps. Shawn Olson.

Day 7: Karanga Valley Camp (13,250’) to Barafu Camp (15,360’)

As we begin trekking today the trail turns steadily uphill. The temperature will grow colder and the landscape more sparse as we work our way to Barafu Camp. Barafu means “ice” in Kiswahili. Hiking time is 4 to 5 hours. The Camp is set on an exposed ridge and is the staging point for our push to the summit. After an early dinner we will go to bed for some sleep. At midnight, hopefully under the stars, we will begin the final ascent. We are going to go pole pole and drink plenty of water and tea along the way, refueling with small snacks regularly to keep our energy high and to help us enjoy this final climb to the summit. Quick Stats: 2.4 miles, 2110’ of elevation gain.

Day 8: Barafu Camp (15,360’) to Uhuru Peak (19,340’) to Millennium Camp (12,530’)

The roof of Africa. AAI Collection.
We will reach Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet, around 8am At this early hour, before any possible clouds close in, you will have spectacular views of Africa in all directions. The hiking time is 7 to 8 hours. Tea and snacks will be served on the top. After a stay of about 30 minutes and photos all around, we will descend 2 to 3 hours to our Barafu Camp for lunch, rest, and to pack up belongings. Then we continue downhill 3 to 4 hours to the edge of the Mweka Forest. Tonight’s camp is 7,000 feet below the summit! It is a long descent and trekking poles are recommended. Eat, share your experiences of the climb, and sleep soundly! Congratulations, you made it to the Roof of Africa! Quick Stats: 8.3 miles, 3980’ of elevation gain and 6810’ of elevation

Day 9: Millennium Camp (12,530’) to Mweka Gate (5,380’); Mbahe Farm House

Our last day is another descent of 7,000 feet with 4 to 5 hours of hiking to the trailhead at Mweka Gate. The trail is steep in places and may be slippery if wet; again we recommend that you use trekking poles. At the gate we will temporarily say goodbye to our mountain crew and enjoy a picnic lunch. The trip leaders will take you back to Arusha for a hot shower and a celebration dinner with the whole team. Depart Tanzania after dinner or remain for rest day or remain for safari. Quick Stats: 8.5 miles, 7150’ of elevation loss.

Descending after a successful summit bid.
Shawn Olson.

Day 10: Mbahe Farm House/Departure

Today is a rest and relaxation day at the farmhouse. Optional activities include light hiking, swimming, exploring the village and local school, visiting with the neighbors, drumming, tasting homemade banana beer, and shopping in Moshi Town. For those returning home, you will be transferred to the Kilimanjaro International Airport to catch your flight (most people fly out in the evening on KLM to Amsterdam). Those continuing on safari will pack lightly for the continuation of your African adventure tomorrow. If you are continuing on safari, you will depart in the morning for your first day of safari.

Kilimanjaro is a great way to enter into the world of high altitude trekking and climbing. It also serves as the first mountain for many climbers interested in pursuing the Seven Summits. Combine Kilimanjaro with a climb on Elbrus or Aconcagua in the same year and you'll receive a discount! For the upcoming climbing season in Africa, you can join trips departing every month from June to October.

Climbing the upper slopes of Mount Elbrus, Russia.
AAI Collection.
Morning sunlight on Aconcagua, Argentina.
AAI Collection.

See you in the mountains soon!

Wyatt Evenson
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Epic TV has put together a group 4 world class climbers, Tommy Caldwell, Hazel Findlay, Alexander Megos, and Emily Harrington, each with their own strengths and specialties.  But then what happens when you put a bigwall climber in an undeveloped boulder field?  Or a hard sport climber in the alpine?

Pamela Shanti Pack just established a new 5.13 off-width in Indian Creek that she named "American Horror Story."  Here's a video from last fall where she talks about her love of off-width climbing and for putting up first ascents.

You can now watch the full version of Alex Honnold's and Hazel Findlay's feature "African Fusion" on Vimeo on demand.  The duo traveled to Namibia and various locations in South Africa, climbing everything from red desert towers to jagged sea-side cliffs.

Have a great weekend! - James

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#PeggyMcKinley Drives to Alaska

So some of you may be aware from previous posts that a small doll made by Bellingham Girl Scouts making her way up to Alaska this week. Peggy McKinley is going to climb Denali with AAI Team 1, lead by AAI Gudie Paul Rosser.

Peggy had some adventures on her trip up.

As Peggy passed Hope, BC, the driving team sent back
this photo and a text stating that Peggy has lost hope...

After "losing hope," she apparently regained it by bungie jumping...

We can't wait to see what the guides put Peggy through next!

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Follow the Adventures of #PeggyMcKinley

We have sent a very special team member to Alaska with our Talkeetna team. Peggy McKinley left with the AAI van full of Denali gear yesterday afternoon.

Peggy is a girl scout. She was made by girl scout troop 44373 in Bellingham and will travel with her cookies from Bellingham to Talkeetna, AK by van. Then from there by plane to Kahiltna Base Camp on Denali. And then she will continue up to the top of the highest point in North America.

The participants on the trip will partake in the famous girl scout cookies while climbing the mountain.

Peggy is mounted on the dashboard of the AAI Van.

Peggy is a very happy girl scout and you can follow her adventures here on this blog and on other social media with the hashtag: #PeggyMcKinley.

The AAI van left Bellingham yesterday at approximately 1:30pm. It is a four day drive from Washington state to Talkeetna, Alaska. Hopefully, Peggy won't get too bored...

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Prior to even leaving, locals suggested they should not attempt their journey.  They were coming to the end of the brief summer, and the fjords around Baffin Island were still choked with ice. But Paul McSorely, Tony Richardson, Joshua Lavigne and Crosby Johnston were still drawn to unclimbed 1,300 m North Face of Beluga Spire.

No-handed climbing?  Sure, it may be a bit on the pointless side.  But as Johnny Dawes points out, some people feel that way about climbing in general.  But after you watch Johnny dance up this gritstone problem, you might think differently.  If nothing else, it will help improve your footwork!

Since winter decided to come back (or in some cases, arrive) last weekend here in the Cascades, I thought I'd throw in a ski vid for you this weekend. Here's a season edit from Sam Schwartz as he backflipped through the 2014 - 2015 winter.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, April 17, 2015

Red Rock Rendezvous Round-Up - 2015

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, it's likely that you already know what I'm about to say...

This year was the best Red Rock Rendezvous ever!

I know. I know.

I say that every year. And last year in particular was crazy fun. But beyond all expectations, this year's event managed to beat out last years.

What can I say?
  1. The athletes and guides were awesome.
  2. There wasn't a wisp of wind.
  3. It was 80-degrees every day. 
  4. There were awesome clinics.
  5. There were awesome games at the sponsor booths and parties.
  6. There was a spectacular dyno comp.
  7. There were great performances by bands and even a crazy karaoke guy.
It was awesome...!

Check out the photo essay below, and click on photos to enlarge.

 A group of excited participants on a bus headed out to the crags.

Sameer and AAI Program Coordinator Lily Hickenbottom at the AAI Booth. 

Climbers enjoying the desert sandstone at a beginner clinic. 

AAI Guide Alasdair Turner teaches rock rescue. 

AAI Guide Chad Cochran teaches rescue techniques. 

A participant works through his rescue skills. 

A tent city in front of the Red Rock Escarpment. 

The Red Rock Rendezvous poster signed by the athletes and guides. 

Just another pushup contest. They were everywhere this year. 


Rope Coiling Contests! 

The Dyno Comp! 

Yours truly getting ready to do battle with AAI Guide Tad McCrea in a pseudo sumo matchup.

 Tad won...several times...


Doyle Wheeler, the social media manager at the event, brought a drone and got this picture.

 Rappel Practice!

AAI Family Photo 
From left to right, back row: Shelby Carpenter, Mike Pond, Jeremy Devine, Chad Chochran, 
Aiden Loehr,Zach Lovell, Lily Hickenbottom, Andy Stephen, Jared Drapala, Ben Traxler, Aili 
Farquar, Tad McCrea, Doug Foust, James Pierson, Jason Martin. Front row, left to right: Jim 
Mediatore, Quino Gonzalez, Richard Riquelme, Mike Powers, Dustin Byrne, Ian McEleney, 
Andrew Yasso, and Angela Seidling.

Here's a comprehensive photo album from the event, shot by Eric Odenthal. He is a waaaayyyy beter photographer than I am and his photo album really gives you a great taste of the event!

And here is a video from my favorite part of the whole event this year, a crazy Karaoke guy brought in by New Belgium Brewery.

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mountains to Sound Greenway Petition

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from the Access Fund and the Outdoor Alliance. I've already personally signed:

Right now we have a unique opportunity to protect 1.5 million acres of land in the Mountains to Sound Greenway — but to make it happen, Congress needs to hear from people like you who love this region.

Extending from the Seattle waterfront to Ellensburg, the Greenway is an outdoor recreation paradise with 1,600 miles of trails, the stunning Cascade Crest, excellent whitewater runs, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, rock climbing routes and mountain biking.

And right now, there’s an opportunity to have the Greenway designated as a National Heritage Area by introducing a bill in the next month, which would protect this phenomenal landscape and enhance our ability to climb there.

Because there's power in numbers, we’re partnering with other outdoor recreation groups in Washington to encourage people who love the outdoors to sign this petition.

As a climber who lives in this region, your voice is incredibly powerful with our decision-makers in Washington, DC. Will you sign our petition calling on Congress to pass a bill designating the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area?
Our goal is to gather 1,000 petition signatures from the human-powered recreation community by May 15. Please sign the petition today.

Last Congress, a bill to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area was introduced, but it never made it to a vote before the full Congress.
Please take one minute to sign the petition right now.


Joe Sambataro

Northwest Regional Director, Access Fund
Board Member, Washington Climbers Coalition

P.S. It took 20 years of collaboration and conservation work to create the Mountains to Sound Greenway with stunning wilderness, working farms and forests, prime wildlife habitat and world-class outdoor recreation. Right now, we can protect it and enhance the outdoor experience for generations to come. Add your name to the petition to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway as a National Heritage Area today.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Jeff Lowe was one of the greatest alpine climbers to come out of North America.  His bold lines and first ascents sky-rocketed him into climbing spotlight, but that was quickly followed up by a debilitating downfall.  "Metanoia" is the story of Jeff's will and determination, both in the alpine realm and in his battle against a much more challenging objective.

The next film here is a compilation of years of climbing throughout Patagonia, but also more than just climbing.  Mikey Shaefer has endured many adventures (and misadventures) in the area, including 7 First Ascents - one for each of the 7 iconic skyline spires - and along the way he has developed an amazing attachment to not just the people and the culture of the area, but to the place itself.  (Warning:  contains expletives)

Have a great weekend! - James

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

This week, we've got a special April Fools Edition of the Weekend Warrior.  There were a bunch of great April Fools gags out there on Wednesday, and here a just a few to give you a laugh!

First up is OR's newest clothing option, and they're bringing back an old classic!

The snowboarding folks at Rusty Toothbrush fast-forwarded to the future to give us an idea of what shredding will be like in the years to come.

Here's Salomon's newest release - the Mountain Blade "what could be the single greatest innovation in ski technology in the last 20 years!"

Ibex has finally developed a new fiber, one to rival merino.  And it has been been right under our noses all along (and also on our laps, and on our couches...)

Have a great weekend! - James