Monday, November 2, 2009

Back on Line

Hey all you Kidhammon followers out there. Sorry it's been so long since my last update but it's been a busy summer. Kim's mom Nancy had some surgery in August and Kim stayed with them in Boise and McCall for a week or so until she was back on her feet then Bob (the dog) and I drove up and picked Kim up and we then spent several days in Tim Jablonski's great condo in Red Mountain B.C. We did some fun hiking and sightseeing in really beautiful country.

This summer Kim has been busy with a lot rowing and she just returned from rowing at the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. They had a great time despite the lousy rowing weather. It snowed!

I've recently been trying to scan a lot of our old pictures to add them to my computer albums and while doing that I came across some of my old climbing pics. I don't know if anyone else is interested but I sure like looking at them and remembering some of the great times we had scaling some rather tall peaks. In any event, here are some of our old climbing shots.

Mt. Baker 10,778'

The first mountain Kim and I climbed was Mt. Baker.
We didn't know anything at all about doing something like this but our friend Dick Wahlstrom was kind enough to guide us up.  Included in our group was Dick's 15 year old daughter Becky who went on to row crew at the
University of Washington and is now a landscape architect in Portland.  Mt. Baker is 10,781' and is really a beautiful mountain with absolutley HUGE cravasses.

More on Dick Wahlstrom, he was on the 1952 Olympic crew team in Helsinki and won a bronze medal in a four.   Dick is a fairly famous mountineer in that he was on the National Geographic team that was the first to climb Mt. Vinson in Antartica. If you could find the June 1966 National Geographic magazine you would see lots of pics of Dick down in Antartica wearing the same parka you see in my pics and hauling the same Kelty backpack.  He has several first ascents on Rainier and has climbed just about everything in North America.  In addition to introducing us to climbing he also introduced our family to the sport of rowing crew.  Both of our children went on to row in college and Kim continues to row competitively today.  One of the most wonderful human beings I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Mt. Rainier 14,441'

This first shot is taken on the summit of Mt. Ranier with my climbing buddies Cory Heins on the left and Gary Parson on the right. Your's truly is in the Red jacket. Get used to the red jacket 'cause if you spend any time looking at these shots you'll see a lot of it. Ranier is 14,411' and it is snow and ice almost all the way starting from the parking lot at 5,500'.  It's not particularly
technically difficult depending on the route you take and on this day we took the "easy" way up the Disappointment Cleaver route. Easy is sort of relative considering it's about 6 hours of hard slogging about 5,000 vertical feet up the Muir Snowfied to the Muir Cabin area where you spend the night. The next morning you awaken from your slumbers in the tent and/or snow cave around 1:30 am, make something to eat, don your crampons, rope up and start climbing the glacier in the dark. You then climb mostly ice and rock for the next eight hours or so until hopefully you make the summit without you or any of your climbing partners falling into a crevasse, getting sick, or just plain wearing out. After making the summit the good news is you head downhill about 9,000 verticle feet and get back to your car about 5:00 pm or so after having been on your feet for the past 16 to 18 hours. Climbing mountains is really fun!

More on Cory Hines,  Cory is a very accomplished climber who has a resume a mile long.  He has climbed all over the world and summited peaks in Nepal, China, Africa including Mts. Kenya and Kilamanjaro, Equador including Cotapaxi, and has done the Denali Traverse (Mt. McKinley).  If any of you folks reading this know anything about climbing you'll know that doing the Traverse on Denali is some kind of feat.  He has made it past 24,000' on Choy Oyu and had to turn back due to weather.  He has been above 20k w/o oxygen more times than I can count.  He is also a great humanatarian and has provided a lot of hands on assistance to very needy people in third world countries including Cambodia and Afganistan.  Cory is a good man to climb with and I am very proud to have spent a lot of days and nights with him on some great climbs.

Here is a pic of my son Jake and me on Ranier on another climb. Ranier is absolutely spectactular when the weather is clear as is was on this day. I've been up there two other times when you couldn't see your hand in front of your face and that's not much fun.

Click here for more Ranier pics:

Mt. Adams 12,277'

Another great climb Kim, Cory and I did was Mt. Adams.  This is a non-technical climb in that you don't need to be roped up but you do need crampons, axe, etc. Once again, with good weather it is avery good time. Mt. Adams is 12,281' and from the summit there are wonderful views looking down into the crater of Mt. St. Helens and you can see to the north Mt. Ranier, and Glacier Peak. To the south are views of Mt. Hood, the Sisters and Mt. Jefferson. We had a great time with the longest glissade I ever experienced coming down. We must have slid down close to 2,000 vertical feet.

Glacier Peak 10,541'  was another good climb I did with Dick W. and Cory along with two of Dick's daughters, Becky and Julie. Glacier is 10,541' and it is sort of hidden away in the Cascades. Hidden meaning it's a 12 mile hike from the nearest road just to get to the base of the mountain and start the climb. Just when you think these mountains are sort of tame they will reach out and bite you. Two days earlier a climber died after falling into a crevasse on the same route we were on.

Mt. Hood 11,249' is a spectacular symetrical volcano that is fairly easy to climb except for the final 150' above the bergstrum and just below the summit. Jake and I climbed it in pretty bad weather when he was 14. The pics on the summit are a bit deceiving in that two steps behind where we were standing is a drop of over 1000' straight down. The summit itself is about the size of a small bedroom. No view on this day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Climbing in Mexico

Back in 1994 Cory and I did a two week trip to Central Mexico to climb the big volcanoes east of Mexico City. We linked up with some local Mexican climbers to climb Iztaccíhuatl (Izta), at 17,802' the fifth highest peak in North America. After making that summit we rode a bus back to Mexico City then took buses to eastern Mexico near Veracruz to climb Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl, at 18,840' and is the third highest peak in North America. A third peak, Popocatépetl at 17,600' was on the agenda but since it was erupting at the time the Mexican soldiers wouldn't let anyone climb the mountain. Probably a good thing for us.

This was probably my greatest guy type adventure. Cory Hines and I did the entire trip carrying everything on our backs, taking local buses to get around and did the climbs without any guides or, for that matter checking in with anyone at all. Climbing in Mexico is pretty straight forward in that there are no rangers, no radios, no safety people, no nothing. When we climbed Orizaba we were the only people on the mountain at the time and if there had been any trouble we would have been entirely alone.

Iztaccíhuatl 17,802'

The top photo is Izta from a distance and the shot to the left is taken on the flank of Izta with Popo in the background. We were probably at an elevation of around 16,000'. It was a beautiful day with great views. Most of this climb is on rock with only the final 1,000' or so on snow. We did this climb in March which is a good weather window down there. Ironically, most of the snowfall comes with the summer rainy season so the best climbing weather is in the winter and spring.

We drove from Mexico City with our Mexican friends and started the climb from La Joya at 12,000'. La Joya is situated in the Paseo de Cortes which is a pass between Popo and Izta. Legend has it that on the original Cortes expedition he and his men came through that pass and first sighted the Aztec capital of Mexico. I guess as they say, the rest is history.

The same first day we climbed up to a hut at 15,500' to spend the night. Spending the night isn't the same thing as sleeping. At that altitude and not being acclimated all you can do is try and stay warm and keep breathing. Funny thing was that hut was full of mice and they kept running across my sleeping bag. Hell, I wasn't sleeping anyway. The next day after an early start we made the summit and climbed all the way down to La Joya. More pics here:

After our friend Maximilliano dropped us off at the base of the mountain in the village of Amecameca we spent the night in an interesting hotel then hopped a bus back to Mexico City and spent a night there.

Pico de Orizaba 18,840'

The next day we took a bus to the city of Orizaba then a smaller local bus Cuidad Serdan and spent the night in another interesting establishment. The next day was yet a smaller bus with major character to the villiage of Tlachachuca. This village is at an elevation of about 8,500' and is the closest town to the base of Pico de Orizaba that has any facilities at all. There is a local guy there named Sr. Reyes who makes a side income housing climbers in an old soap factory and providing transportation from the village up to the climb starting point at Piedra Grande at 14,500'. Sr. Reyes' main man Guillermo, who was about 4' tall, drove us in an old converted Dodge PowerWagon to Piedra Grande. On the way up we passed through the tiny village of San Michele at 11,200'. We we were told this is the highest permanently inhabited village/town in North America and the link below has a couple of pics of this place. Pretty grim place to live.
There was another climbing party coming off the mountain when we arrived and Guillermo gave them a ride back to Tlachachuca leaving us on the mountain by ourselves.

We started the climbing about 2 am and for the first several hours it was just a hard slog on a rocky path up to about 16,000' where the glacier began. We strapped on our crampons and continued up the ice. I have to say that at somewhere between 17,500' and 18,000' I was on my last legs. Altitude like that when you are not well acclimated does very strange things to your metabolism and thence to your brain. I became very emotional and varied between laughing and crying. To this day, continuing to climb on from there and reaching the summit is the most difficult thing I've ever physically done. We made the summit, took a few pics and headed down. One interesting thing is in the pics you see a lot of crosses. Each one of those crosses represents someone who has died on this climb. Oh yeah, on the way up you have to pass any number of crosses for more of those who didn't make it. Anyway, on the way down it started snowing and while the crevasses aren't very big it was a concern because due to the weather coming in we were high tailing it down as fast as we could manage. When we got back to the hut at Piedra Grande Guillermo was there with a whole new group of climbers from the Yosemite Climbing Guide group. It was snowing like the dickens and we are certain that for the next few days that group could do nothing but sit in that mouse infested hut and stew.

Guillermo got us back to the old soap factory and over the next couple of days we bused it back to Mexico City for the flight back home. Great trip!