Full Value in the High Sierra

Darwin Canyon

I returned from some much-appreciated play time on the Eastside. I’m slowly working my way through the Sierra Peak Section’s Emblem Peaks: 15 of the Sierra’s most prominent peaks as a way of exploring new parts of the range. First up was Matterhorn Peak which was in pretty good shape despite a bit of awkward postholing on the approach.

Matterhorn Peak. I took the left chute (East Couloir).

Looking down the East Couloir to Horse Creek

Then, escaping a violent cold and wind storm, I went to the southernmost Sierra to Olancha Peak, where I had my first ever bighorn sheep encounter despite countless trips to the Williamson region and other remote parts of the Southern Sierra.

Winds swirl around the summit of Olancha

A herd of bighorn sheep saw me coming up the slope and were long gone before I crested the ridge

Olancha Pass

After a trip to Tucson for the holidays and adequate time for my blisters to heal, I returned to Bishop for a day of full-value alpine climbing on Mount Darwin, including a mountain bike to the base, a trip over Lamarck Col and a fantastic climb up perfect styrofoam on the North Face.

Darwin (L) and Mendel (R) from Lamarck Col. I climbed up the snowy north face to the summit

Looking down my route from high on Darwin’s North Face

The Palisades look amazing from every angle! Agassiz, Sill and North Pal (L to R) make up the skyline.

The casual thirteen hours car-to-car from Aspendell showed me that my fitness is right where I want it to be and my approach to the mountains is as solid as ever. Here’s to 2018!

Goddard stands tall over the Evolution Valley

Down and Out

K2 in evening light. Typically, we’d only be able to see the entire face after sunset

I’m back home eating like crazy and getting over my jetlag. The cuts, scrapes and bruises are all healing in the abundant oxygenated atmosphere. More reflection will be coming from my attempt on K2, but in the meantime, here’s a photo essay from the journey back home. In short, I think I set a speed record back home from Camp 2 as I barely even had time to stop and shower in Islamabad before catching my international flight:

July 26: Descend from Camp 2 to Base Camp

July 27: Base Camp to Ali Camp

July 28: (Well, technically we started climbing at 10:45PM on the 27th and crested the 18,400 ft Gondogoro La at 1:30AM) Ali Camp to Hushe (this is about 25 excruciatingly hard, trailless miles) covered in about 14 hours. Then 6 hour drive to Skardu

July 29: Flight from Skardu to Islamabad followed by Islamabad – Abu Dhabi – San Francisco

A huge congratulations to all of my teammates who were successful on K2. These were the first summits of K2 since 2014 and under 400 people have ever stood on top! Many thanks to Mountain Equipment, Dreamers Destination and Nazir Sabir Expeditions for making the trip possible!

Broad Peak, the world’s 12th highest mountain

Climbing in awful ground blizzard conditions

The view down during my solo descent/bail from camp two

Rotten ice conditions in the icefall. Some of the sketchiest moves I pulled all trip were the running jumps on house-sized melting popcorn perched over bottomless crevasses. Ice screws were completely melted out…psychological protection only!

Showing off my shredded Mountain Equipment Super Alpine gloves. Casualties of bailing down the fixed lines. Since snow conditions were so bad, my crampons were balled up the entire time forcing me to rappel even the easy terrain.

Mesmerizing K2

Views of K2 as I climb up the Vigne Glacier towards Ali Camp. Our team was in the cloud at the time.

I’d been waiting to see Laila Peak for at least 15 years

Part of the “trail” down from Gondogoro La

Rupert descending towards Saicho

Without the aid of porters, I had to pack not only for conditions to climb over 18,000 ft at night, but also the brutal 100+ degree heat of the lower elevations AND the air travel back to the US.

My legs were a mess by the end. Here I show off the crushed left knee from hitting a huge rock

Picturesque Pakistan

Hushe. At last, the end of the trek and start of the jeep ride back to civilization.