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Ama

Projection: Cylindrical (1) FOV: 122 x 19 Ev: 16.30

Panorama from the summit of Ama Dablam. Five of the world’s six highest peaks (Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga) shape the skyline.

Climbers and trekkers have long considered Ama Dablam to be among the world’s most beautiful mountains. You could disagree, but alas, you’d be wrong. It says a lot about a mountain that in a range filled with giants, a shorter, slender fin of rock and ice has captured the imagination of those who walk beneath it for centuries. Ama is the mother. The dablam, represented by the hanging serac below the summit, is her amulet. Ironically, for climbers, it has been a source of fear. A collapse in 2006 that killed six is a harsh reminder of the realities of climbing big mountains. It’s also why Furtemba and I made the decision to leverage our acclimatization and summit in a long push from camp 2. And needless to say, on a mountain this steep and technical, I wore the amulet Lama Geshe had blessed for me from start to finish.

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Smeared with tsampa (barley flour) following our puja. A lama from Pangboche came up to base camp to bless us.

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Looking back down into the Khumbu from above the clouds.

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I wasn’t kidding myself thinking Ama would be easy, but I was definitely surprised by the amount of steep, technical traversing. Here, Furtemba negotiates somewhat typical terrain between camp 1 and 2.

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Furtemba on the Yellow Tower. OK, this was hard with a pack on at nearly 20,000 ft.

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We’d delayed our summit bid due to high winds one day. Then the weather was looking like it could take a cold snap. At camp 1, Furtemba and I agreed to continue upwards even though our potential summit day was forecasted to be significantly colder.

Camp 2 on Ama Dablam. Outrageous location.

Camp 2 on Ama Dablam. Outrageous location.

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I think I was smiling mostly because I could feel my toes again! Everest and Lhotse looked spectacular from our vantage point. It’s a bit of a tradition to have summit photos taken with Lama Geshe’s blessing card.

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Furte starts down the face. Base camp, which we reached under 10 hours later, is at the confluence of creeks below.

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Yours truly rapping the face. There are quite a few steep ice sections on summit day.

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Scattering mom's ashes, Everest and Lhotse behind.

Scattering mom’s ashes

Resilience: A year and a half of recovery since the Great Earthquake

On April 25, 2015, Nepal was struck by a massive magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some quick facts and figures : This event and subsequent aftershocks left over half a million households homeless, 1.4 million in need of immediate food assistance, and 5.6 million in need of immediate medical services. Nearly 9000 died and the economic cost was about $10 billion, roughly 50% of Nepal’s GDP.
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Below, I survey the science behind this event, summarize the consequences, and take a more personal look at its ramifications in just one region, the Rolwaling Valley.

Accumulation and Release 

Most who’ve been exposed to earth science concepts can tell you that the Himalayas are the product of a tectonic collision between the Indian Subcontinent and Asia. Far fewer, however, can describe how this process manifests. Earthquakes are the product of accumulated strain, or the deformation of rocks, which is then released suddenly. So in the case of the India-Asia collision, huge blocks of rock are deformed, storing elastic energy, which is then released suddenly through slip along a fault plane. The April 25 earthquake represented the release of a tremendous amount of energy along one of these main faults making up the structure of the Himalaya. It’s important to note that earthquakes aren’t like a bomb going off at a single point source, they occur along a plane which slips over a period of time. The point where the slip begins is called the focus…the point on the earth’s surface directly above the focus is called the epicenter.

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These concepts aren’t just important to scientists. Rather, they have real, life or death consequences for humans inhabiting earthquake prone areas. Let’s explore a few of the factors that shaped this event:

  1. Depth. Earthquakes always happen at depth. The shallower they are, the more you feel shaking on the surface. Makes sense right? This event had a focus of just 8 km, extremely shallow for an event of its size. Many earthquakes off the coast of Japan, for example, are 80 – 100 km or even deeper. The recent Haiti quake was 10 km.
  1. Direction of slip. Slip starts at a point, in this case in the Gorkha region about 77 km west of Kathmandu. But the slip propagated to the east. Thus, the regions most heavily hit were just to the east such as Sindhupalchok and Dolakha where over 95% of structures were destroyed.
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The 2015 earthquake focus was in the Gorkha region (red star) but the slip propagated to the east through time. The numbered contours are the number of seconds since the slip began. So the slip (not necessarily the shaking) took about 60 seconds to occur, and the maximum slip along the fault plane was up to 3 meters in the region north of Kathmandu!

  1. Rock type. It sounds counterintuitive, but the stronger the rock you’re on, the less the shaking. Unfortunately, in a country as mountainous as Nepal, the Kathmandu valley provides one of the few flat areas to build a large city. And flat areas surrounded by mountains are usually sedimentary basins, made of soft rock. Kathmandu itself is an ancient lake, so the shaking was amplified in this region…particularly heavily hit were historic buildings such as the Durbar Squares in Kathmandu, Patan and Baktipur…UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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Kathmandu is built on ancient lake sediment…soft and prone to amplified shaking

  1. Date and time. Hey, it’s not all geology. The earthquake happened at noon on a Saturday. In other words, absolutely ideal timing for minimizing human suffering. In a country with many stacked rock or brick structures that are prone to collapse, the fact that people were out and about instead of sleeping, at work or in school was a huge factor. A night or weekday could have made this event ten times more devastating.
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While the April 25 event was the main shock, aftershocks up to magnitude 7.3 rocked Nepal.

Long road to recovery in Rolwaling

 

The Rolwaling Valley lies at the eastern end of Dolakha, just west of Solukhumbu, home to Mount Everest. People here are seminomadic (not sure if that’s a real term). A couple hundred inhabitants move up and down the valley with the seasons to tend to their farms and to let their livestock graze. In the photo essay below, I’ll show you a bit of my trip from Kathmandu to the end of the road and then the trek through Rolwaling. Heaviest hit was Simi Gaun, Furtemba’s home village, where he estimates over 95% of buildings collapsed. Some residents are still living in temporary housing (think: camping). People here are resilient, after all, they’ve been farming at over 15,000 feet for centuries, but they still need help. Everyone here has a story. I’ve been taken aback by how I’ve seen the houses of friends here like Angdu, Dawa Gyaljen, Mingma Gyalje destroyed. And our cook, Rajendra, showed me a huge scar on the center of his forehead, a tangible reminder of the massive icefall that killed 21 in Everest Base Camp.

The rebuilding effort is inspiring. People have come from all over the country to help build a new monastery in Beding. But it’s a tremendous effort: everything in this valley has to be carried by people for three days to reach Beding from the end of the road at a cost of 80 rupees (80 cents) per kilo. So these tremendously important community buildings like schools, health posts, and monasteries represent an enormous economic cost of about $200,000. Ultimately, this adds up to a long road to recovery for the people of Nepal.

The American Himalayan Foundation continues to take donations for earthquake relief.

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We crossed many landslides like this on the road from Kathmandu. These made the initial relief efforts to villages extremely challenging, slow and dangerous.

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Furtemba points to the remains of Simi Gaun’s community lodge

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Remains of Simi Gaun’s health post

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There’s something profoundly sad about seeing medicine and stretchers amongst the rubble

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Remains of the gompa (monastery). While the school has been rebuilt with funding from 6 Japanese climbing organizations, the health post and monastery are far from even starting to be rebuilt.

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People are still living under tarps

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Furte shows damage to his house

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The view from Furtemba’s house. What you’re not seeing is the two stories above this one that he had prior to the earthquake.

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Danu (r) is a key figure in Simi Gaun. We stayed in his gorgeous new lodge. He and Furtemba’s father lobbied very hard to install micro hydropower…a huge accomplishment!

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Look closely and you will see homes swallowed up by this landslide. This entire village, the winter homes below Beding, was wiped out. Luckily, everyone was in Beding or Na further up the valley for the spring season.

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Truck-sized boulders came down during this landslide.

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Construction of the new monastery in Beding. Keep in mind that everything is either sourced locally or carried here by people. Here, boards are chopped into shape by with handheld axes!

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The new monastery is exquisite (and reinforced with concrete and rebar).

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Hand woodworking

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Alpine Exploration in the Ripimo Shar

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Sometime earlier this year, I started taking a much closer look at the Rolwaling and which side valleys remained least explored. In particular, the Ripimo and Ripimo Shar (East) glaciers seemed like a gigantic hole, with few prior expeditions exploring their upper reaches. Those who did, the likes of Chris Bonington and Bruce Normand, reported giant peaks, natural beauty and wildness.

A week ago, I set off from Na with what felt like a huge amount of support: Furtemba as the guide and climbing partner, Rajendra as cook, and three porters: Babu Ram, Purna and Buskar. It became clear pretty early on, however, that given the ruggedness of the upper reaches of the valley, that the resources we had were definitely not excessive. Our first day, we established camp at Omi Tso, a gorgeous alpine lake at the base of Nachugo and Omi Tso Go, one of the peaks for which I had a permit. The next day, we carried gear up the moraine and around the corner to an elevation of ~17,200 ft, where unfortunately, we discovered an astonishing lack of water on the upper reaches of the glacier. This meant a heartbreaking and super tricky descent down some of the tippiest talus I’ve ever encountered. Now that I’ve covered this stretch six times, I’d be happy to put the upper Ripimo Shar up against anything in a “World’s Sketchiest Talus” competition. It’s not an understatement that in certain stretches up to half a mile long, roughly 80% of the rocks (all of which ranged in size from volleyball to sofa) would suddenly shift. Often this would trigger a chain reaction. Heinous!

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What started as easy moraine (above) turned to this…
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We ended up having to do two carries to establish our base camp at ~16,500 ft. The next day, Furtemba and I established a route to ~18,500 ft on our main objective, unclimbed 20,856 ft Langdung. The highlight of the lower route (after a tremendous amount of talus of course!) was a few hundred meters of 4th and low 5th class sparkly granite. We soloed the whole section but did establish two rappels to make descent with heavy packs easier.

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Classic butt shot. The rock was pretty good!

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Following a rest day, Furte and I returned to high camp on the summit push. We had a gorgeous bivy spot with spectacular views of the Ripimo Shar. Just after sunrise, we moved up on summit day, which involved a short glacier crossing, then ascent of a broad couloir and short traverse to the upper glacier. This was like entering a different world. A huge flat expanse extended to the Tibetan border, with the south face of Langdung, the highest objective around, towering over us on the right. We ascended this glacier to the base of the face, choosing a direct and fairly straightforward, if not monotonous, line up steep snow and alpine ice toward the summit. From the glacier, the face was ~600m (2000 ft). The face was in pretty good condition, allowing us to simul-solo nearly the entire route until it steepened to about 75 degrees for the last couple pitches. It was hard work, with little opportunity for rest or hydration. As we approached the last ridge, tantalizingly close to the true summit, things changed dramatically. Furtemba, usually steadily making upward progress, was now scraping his axes through horribly sketchy, unconsolidated snow in between bouts of profanity-laced outbursts. I took stock of my situation…one picket placed between us was the only thing keeping us on the mountain. After a lot of searching, Furte made an awkward move over a crevasse and onto the corniced ridge. I followed. It was there that we realized both how close and far we were from our objective. Probably 25 vertical meters and just 50-100 horizontal meters separated us from the snowcapped summit, yet the way was blocked by snow mushrooms on one side and overhanging, unconsolidated powder beneath the cornices on the other. Assuming this section were passable, we still had some mixed climbing of unknown difficulty to yet another cornice at the summit. It was just way too much risk for our liking. So I ascended the final couple meters of cornice and as I peeked my head over the edge I was met with thousands of meters of air down into Tibet. In the not-so-far distance, the world’s highest mountains stood before me: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu made up just a small part of the spectacular skyline.

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Everest, Lhotse and Makalu framed by peaks of the Ripimo Sharimg_5760

Langdung’s true summit just 25 or so meters higher

Returning to our measly picket, we backed it up with another, and Furte stood on them to add some additional psychological protection. I made the first of 8 or so rope-stretcher rappels off the face, mostly snow anchors but a few v-threads where we could find decent ice. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful…hard work into the frigid evening, but not the most tiring or epic descent I’ve made. A few hours later, after breaking down our high camp, we returned to the rocky Ripimo Shar. Soon, we spotted the headlamps of Purna and Buskar, who gave us some tea and juice and shouldered our heavy packs for the boulder-hop back to camp.

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Nachugo and Omi Tso Go from high on Langdung. Jagat, Charikot and Kathmandu are out in the distance on the right.img_5803

Our last look at Langdung’s south faceimg_5808

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Some more photos to tell the story:

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Tidbits from the Trail

All we do is laugh our way up the trail. This is a sawmill by the way. Everything here has been carried up the valley by local people.

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The waterfall situation in Rolwaling is ourtrageous. I think by the end of this post, you’ll agree.img_5098

We came up through the jungle from the valley floor. We’ve got close to 18,000 vertical feet to go!

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I think this is when Furtemba casually told me that people occasionally run into tigers here. Like actual tiger tigers.img_5129 img_5133 img_5134img_5144 img_5149

Furtemba’s cousin’s house is the close one. She cooked us the most amazing meal over a wood burning stove.img_5154 img_5158 img_5163 img_5164 img_5181

There are like people-sized holes in most of these bridges.

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Remote, holy and unclimbed: the incomparable Gauri Shankar (Tseringma if you’re a Sherpa)
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So, so wobbly!

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The view down the last three days of trekking

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Beding, the largest village in Rolwaling. People here move up and down the valley with the seasons.img_5230

Tseringma…steep from this side too!

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The entrance to Na, the highest settlement in Rolwaling at just under 14,000 ft.img_5287 img_5288 img_5294

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Yakyakyak

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Rajendra (orange jacket, our cook) and porters getting ready for a day of trekking

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hmix is back

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. The past year has been a wild ride, filled with ups and downs in professional, climbing and personal life. I got an NSF grant to study the biggest storms in the American West. I attended a workshop in the Dolomites and topped the trip off with some mixed and alpine climbing in Chamonix. I built a lab and have three wonderful research assistants. I fell in love. And in March, I moved home to Virginia and took care of my mom until her death last month.

So now I write with mixed emotions from my tent at 15,500 ft or so in a remote, seldom-explored side glacier of the Rolwaling Valley, Nepal. Rolwaling is exquisite. The natural beauty and changing landscape along the way was remarkable.

You can follow my daily check-ins by clicking on the “Where’s Hari?” tab at the top right of the page. We’ll explore this valley and try up to two climbs over the next ten or so days. After that, we’ll head back down to Na, the last village below and embark on the next stage of the trip.

Over the next few days, I’ll release some photo essays from different portions of the trip. Below is a taste of what it took to get into the mountains…

Shiva looks over Coca Cola

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Our axle (or something that sounded similarly awful!) broke on the way up. The guys were laughing while fixing it. Mingma, the government representative for Simi Gaun is beneath the broken part as the guys rock vigorously

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The long, winding road to Charikot

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You see the best paint jobs in Asiaimg_5027 img_5030

Hell yeah we drove through that waterfall!img_5035

The way down to Jagat from Simi Gaon. The zigzagging road is for the construction of the first major hydro project in Nepal. After a 12 hour drive from Kathmandu, we started in the dark up 2000 ft of stairs through terraced fields of millet.

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Danu’s gorgeous new lodge in Simi Gaon. More on the people of SImi Gaon later.

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Simi Gaun is Furtemba’s home, so I think we had to have tea with just about everyone in the village!

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Black Kaweah: Earning an adventure

 

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Black Kaweah (L) above Little Five Lakes. It’s so far away it’s not even worth re-living it!

The wild Kaweahs of the southern Sierra Nevada have long been on my mind. Their reputation for remoteness, lightning strikes, loose rock make even approaching these peaks a challenging and rewarding experience. Jonathan and I set off from the Bay Area for Sequoia National Park’s Mineral King late in the evening to miss traffic. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was 2:30 AM and we were delirious. I did my standard bivouac on top of a picnic table, slept like a rock and woke up at 7 to get packing. Fortunately, Jonathan and I were on the same page with our gear…no tent, trail running shoes, and 3oz windbreakers would be our weapons of choice. Offsetting the lightweight clothing, we opted to take a ton of food and a full climbing rope and rack for an shot at the seldom-attempted Kaweah traverse, a notoriously heinous, loose climbing objective. After a long talking to by the rangers, we set off cross country over two high ranges, crossing Glacier Pass and Hands and Knees Pass before dropping down to our bivy spot on Big Arroyo.

Spring Lake

Spring Lake

Foxtail Pine

Foxtail Pine

It was a tough day, but Little Five Lakes are as beautiful as they’re talked up to be! We got to bed early in order to accommodate a 3AM start up Black Kaweah. From the beginning, I could tell my lack of sleep and nutrition were affecting things. Both of us felt the altitude during the night, but as we ascended above the spectacular tarns en route to Black Kaweah, my altitude symptoms worsened. By the time we were scrambling and soloing the challenging rock high on the peak, I was definitely feeling it. Nonetheless, we reached Black Kaweah’s remote and tiny summit and were rewarded with sweeping views of the entire range. We also learned we were the first visitors here since September of last year. Given how remote (probably 20+ miles of mostly cross country travel to reach the peak alone) and challenging the climb, that’s not too surprising.

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Jonathan on the summit. It was cold...glad we brought the puffies.

Jonathan on the summit. It was cold…glad we brought the puffies.

Typical loose, thought-provoking bowling alley terrain on Black Kaweah

Typical loose, thought-provoking bowling alley terrain on Black Kaweah

But the ridge looked far too loose and questionable to be fun, so we descended and charged out of the range, crossing the Great Western Divide at Black Rock Pass along the way. Black Kaweah in a weekend was no joke (carrying a 60m rope all the way up it didn’t make it any easier), but it’s hard to complain with a beautiful, challenging and rewarding experience in sunny California. We got our money’s worth!

The ridge traverse looked too loose and committing for my taste.

The ridge traverse looked too loose and committing for my taste.

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The view west from atop Black Kaweah. We crossed all these peaks.

Guest Post: Brad’s Pika Glacier Trip Report!

Obligatory editor’s note: Brad and I have returned from the Pika Glacier and “Little Switzerland” and are now in Anchorage awaiting flights back to CA. We had an incredible time and I have much more on the way. In the mean time, here’s Brad’s excellent trip report, written in part for the American Alpine Club’s Live Your Dream Grant which partially supported his trip. You may remember I received this same form of generous AAC funding for my Snow Leopard Peaks of the Pamir expedition in 2012. Here’s Brad…

The purpose of this trip, for me, was to break into technical climbing in the Alaska Range. The Pika Glacier seemed like the perfect place to do this. I could use this trip to learn about the weather patterns in the Range, figure out trip logistics, and grow my geographical knowledge. My thinking was: “With moderate routes and simple logistics, this should be easy, right?”

There were some complications. Unseasonable snowfall had just dropped 36” of new snow as we flew into the Pika glacier on June 28, 2014. On board was Chris from K2 Aviation, myself (Brad), Hari, and our stuffed Pika mascot named Jackson. As we flew in we saw avalanches everywhere. Warm temperatures after the storms cleared had resulted in alarming avy conditions. We would later watch as an entire snow field slid, at once, over an established route on the East Face of the Throne. “What are we doing out here?” I asked myself.

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There was a high level of avalanche activity during our trip

As our plane flew overhead, we felt the “Alaska Factor.” “What is our safety net out here?” I wondered. We had a satellite phone for emergencies, but evacuations are only possible in good weather. To thrive in this setting requires competence, self reliance, and hard work. Although I’ve visited the Alaska Range several times, I still feel drawn to the wildness of the place, and everything it entails.

We made camp and discussed our options. 

The Trolls

The Trolls

We decided to proceed with caution up the South Face of Middle Troll. We climbed a variation to the standard route with two deviations: a fun 5.9 dihedral above the bergschrund and a great 5.7 chimney below the summit block. Getting over the bergschrund consisted of an 1m wide crevasse on a ~60 degree slope of mushy snow. When prodded, the slope would set loose an avalanche that would tumble into the pit, taking any foolish climbers along with it. We finally made it over using a technique that felt like swimming but looked much goofier.

Crossing the bergschrund and the base of the Trolls

Crossing the bergschrund and the base of the Trolls

On the summit, we sat back and enjoyed the views of the big mountains. With 24 hours of sunlight, we were in no hurry to start our descent.

On the summit of Middle Troll

On the summit of Middle Troll

On the Troll we noticed a troubling pattern: TONS unnecessary amount of rappel stations. Although the Troll could be rappelled using only four stations with two 60m ropes, we found dozens of rappel stations. Some of the stations were even located horizontally next to each other. On this trip we removed over 50m of old rappel station garbage. 

What’s going on with all the trash rap stations? Is it because an ethic of under-reporting means that people don’t know about the presence of good stations? Or maybe it’s just because lots of noobs (like me) go to Little Switzerland? Would it help if the Park allowed hand drilled bolts? I’m not sure what the solution is.

Anyways, on Sunday we were tent-bound in a rain storm. This was the low point of the trip, but fortunately it would turn out to be our only bad-weather day of the entire expedition. One of our single-walled tent flooded. During breaks in the storm we would get out and fortify our camp.

A break in the storm

A break in the storm

On Monday the weather cleared as a beautiful weather system moved in. We climbed the Munchkin. This was a nice, short, and easy climb with an incredible topout. We didn’t get the summit because we were lazy and didn’t want to traverse a sketchy looking snow field. 

View from our high point on the Munchkin

View from our high point on the Munchkin

There was also a fun knife-edge ridge.

Starting on this day of good weather, we also realized how busy our airstrip would be. The Pika Glacier is a preferred spot for pilots to take tourists. They generally land, walk around for 10-20 minutes, and then fly away. 

The de Havilland Beaver is the iconic Alaska bush plane. You can put floats on it to land on water or skis to land on snow. It’s the little brother of the de Havilland Otter but larger than the Cessna 185. It’s also incredibly loud. Loud like when you cover your ears you can feel your chest vibrate. I’m surprised that they allow these things in the Park. Doesn’t this noise bother wildlife?

I’ll focus on the climbing now and stop complaining…

On Tuesday we hiked over to the base of the Gargoyle Buttress but decided not to climb it because of the snow conditions. Not only was the base of this route being showered by avalanches almost constantly, but most of the low fifth class (easy) pitches were covered in loose, unconsolidated snow.

We'll have to climb Gargoyle Buttress next time.

We’ll have to climb Gargoyle Buttress next time.

On Wednesday we climbed the Hobbit’s Footstool by a nice, clean rock route up the South (climbers’ right) ridge. 

We took full advantage of the 24 hours of Alaskan sunlight and gradually became nocturnal over the trip. The main reason for this was to avoid the sweltering temperatures on the glacier during the day. There were also fewer avalanches and tourist planes at night. By our last climbs, we were returning to camp at 2am. This also had the nice benefit of warm temperatures while sleeping and the ability to dry our boots over breakfast (at 2 pm).

The Hobbit's Footstool

The Hobbit’s Footstool

On Thursday we climbed the Lost Marsupial route on the Throne. This route involved high quality granite crack systems with some wandering third class terrain. Some lower angle terrain was snowy. Our upward progress was halted at the summit ridge by enormous cornices.

The Throne!

The Throne!

The base of The Lost Marsupial

The base of The Lost Marsupial

Splitter!

Splitter!

On Friday we packed up camp and flew back to Talkeetna. We took extra flight time to look at the classics of the Range: the Cassin Ridge, the Infinite Spur, the Moonflower Buttress, and Ham and Eggs.

Cassin!

Cassin!

Our original flight out was scheduled for Sunday but we decided to head back early for a variety of reasons. It turns out that a weather system moved into the region on Sunday, so it was good luck that we decided to head out when we did.

Beyond Everest

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Hi! Approaching the summit of the Grand Teton, Wyoming

The events of this spring are still with me, and each day this spring my mind would wander to where I was expecting to be around that time. In fact, I was planning on returning from the trip a just few days ago. I took some much needed time for reflection and finally got back to the mountains. Our research group spent a week doing fieldwork together in Wyoming, after which I stuck around the Tetons to do some climbing with my old friend Mike. We did a few alpine classics, an alpine not-so-classic sufferfest, and a day of sport climbing on spectacular conglomerate in Maple Canyon, Utah.

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Antelope Rim, Wyoming

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Trenching a ~50 million year old soil profile

Trenching a ~50 million year old soil profile, Dubois, WY

This summer, I’ll be going on some spectacular adventures, lesser than Everest only in elevation. They will be in wild places. They will be shared with good friends. And they will be awesome. Since I hardly got to show any climbing with the Everest video series, here’s the first installment of this summer’s stories…

Simulclimbing up the Grand

Simulclimbing up the Grand

Sea Level

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This past weekend, a few friends and I caught up with my good friend Zach, who’s currently on his way to Alaska the not-so-easy way. Part celebration (he just finished his PhD), part promotion for his dream to build and operate an earth system science experiential learning paradise near his home in southeast Alaska and part personal journey, Zach is walking from Stanford to Port Angeles, Washington, then kayaking the Inside Passage back home to Glacier Bay.

Fran, Ronan, Zach and I at Needle Rock

Fran, Ronan, Zach and I at Needle Rock

Elk grazing on eucalyptus

Elk grazing on eucalyptus

We drove up to share a day on the trail together in northern California’s fabled Lost Coast and bring him some much needed camping fuel (and leftover pizza!). You can follow his five-month journey at inianislandsinstitute.org and check in on Zach’s exact whereabouts here.

This man is going to Alaska!

This man is going to Alaska!

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Stormy start

Bad weather has affected things here in many ways. While it’s good to know there are still some places in the world where our human desires are subject to the day to day constraints of the natural world, the last few days have taken their toll. Some specifics:

Our bags were delayed with the weather, so our warm clothing and climbing gear are not yet here. Result: We’re freezing! I have hardly slept the past two nights and now have a cold and cough. Can’t wait for my -40 bag to arrive. Even with hot water bottles my current setup isn’t getting the job done in the early season Khumbu weather. We are sleeping on ice at 17,600 ft after all! Hopefully night 3 will treat me better.

Snowfall has hampered our ability to charge electronics off solar so posts will have to be dialed back for the time being. I’ve spent the last two days unsuccessfully trying to submit my phd online and making some revisions for a scientific article. Work takes priority here!

The snowfall also means I haven’t had a shower or been able to do laundry in quite some time. Thankfully if you’re reading this you don’t have to experience the consequences of this firsthand!

First world problems, I know, but the cell tower in gorak shep isn’t functioning so I haven’t been able to talk with my family which is a bit of a morale drag.

Realistically, we probably have a few more days here acclimatizing and doing some training climbs before anything major happens. Hopefully that will give me time to bounce back in time for our first climbing rotation on the mountain. The adventure continues!
Hari