Ice Climbing First Tracks

I got a message from my climbing buddy Ryan, from http://www.climbingreport.com suggesting we go ice climbing up Provo Canyon to our favorite spot, Stairway to Heaven. He said it was early season and thin, but that a few days more of freezing should solidify it enough to get in some decent climbing.

Sadly the next few days were on the warm and rainy side. On Friday night he messaged suggesting we shoot for Pricecicle (Dirtcicle) which at a higher elevation was in better condition overall. I had some family events to attend to over the day, and didn’t have time for the 3 hours round trip drive, so that was out of the question. We settled on going out before dawn prepared to run a mixed line if needed, just to get in some climbing before my family event deadline.

At the base of Stairway to Heaven, in the dark, with Mount Timpanogos behind and the highway below.

At the base of Stairway to Heaven, in the dark, with Mount Timpanogos behind and the highway below.

We met at the Nunn’s Park lot at just a few minutes before 6 AM, and hiked in the dark the 3/4 mile to the fork in the trail heading up the gully to the base of Stairway. I had misplaced my good headlamp, so borrowed one the kids’ and it was really dark heading up the steep gravel in the dark. Remind me to dig out my good headlamp and keep it attached to my helmet at all times.

Thin ice indeed. Darktime view of the route at Stairway to Heaven

Thin ice indeed. Darktime view of the route at Stairway to Heaven

The route was really thin looking, but doable. There were thin slicks of ice over rock with some tiny pillars like melted candle wax hanging over rock depressions. It would be interesting. I had brought some slings and lockers for setting the toprope. Ryan went up with his rope and my pro and was gone for quite a bit longer than expected. I assumed he was having trouble crossing icy patches on the sloping shelf at the top of pitch one traversing the 50 or so yard to the chains for this route. I assumed he stopped to put on his crampons. He had his TNF Ice Project backpack [HERE] and I love the top crampon pocket. Envious.

Ryan rappelling over the falls at Stairway to Heaven

Ryan rappelling over the falls at Stairway to Heaven

I heard some rocks tumbling down to the right of the route and ducked out of the way just as he rapped over the edge. The rope was slightly to the right side of the route, but that’s where the best ice was, so it would do the job. I was really frozen standing there, so took first crack at the route to warm up. It was 23 with a real-feel of 17, but there was a really cold humid damp wind that made it feel more like 5F. Dang it was cold. I went up in my OR VERT gloves [HERE in a newer version] instead of my thinner climbing gloves. I also kept my puffy jacket on. Did I say it was cold?

It's not often I get to climb this dressed up.

It’s not often I get to climb this dressed up.

My hands froze really good, but the ice was decent. More decent than I expected. I got in some good sticks, a few good hooks, saw some sparks fly from the ends of my tools and popped out some really brittle toe points. One spot in particular felt off balance, backwards leaning slightly clearing a small bulge over some candlesticks. It had bad hollow sounding feet. But I was on toprope, so it’s all good.

Ryan climbing up the right side of the one doable route at Stairway to Heaven

Ryan climbing up the right side of the one doable route at Stairway to Heaven

I went up again on the right side as soon as Ryan was thawed out enough to belay. I went up much faster and my hands were warmer, having gotten that blood rush post-screaming-barfies. If you’ve been there you know what I mean. Ryan again booked it up the right side. We were both really stoked and while the ice wasn’t that great, the climbing was.

Ryan climbs another line slightly left of our first line

Ryan climbs another line slightly left of our first line

I took off again, as far left as the thin flow of ice would allow. It was much worse ice, with small blobs of ice to stick and thin smears to scratch. I did one of those “6 inches at a time” toekick ascents, breaking off the candle I was climbing with each kick. It was tough. Ryan followed that same line and afterward said it was really good fun.

Ryan working his way up the left side at Stairway to Heaven

Ryan working his way up the left side at Stairway to Heaven

I decided on the next lap to push it even further. I tried only hooking and placing. No swings. About halfway up I felt like my right tool was bomber, my right foot bomber. My left foot was nothing and my left tool was sketchy. I tried standing up on my almost nonexistent left toe point, and popped off. Solid pop. One split second moving up, the next split second hanging ten feet lower. In that split second I realized my left tool was following me so I ducked my head low and slammed my forearm over behind my neck. Sure enough it hit my helmet and dragged along my forearm for a split second. I wondered if it had hung up there or not. I heard the clatter a few seconds later, and turned to watch it bounce into the gully about 100′ below.

Dripping ice freezing instantly on our boots, tools, gloves, clothes. Water in our bottles freezing.

Dripping ice freezing instantly on our boots, tools, gloves, clothes. Water in our bottles freezing.

Ryan lowered me and thought maybe he could lower me into the gully and I could get a boost from the rope on the way back up. I looked at my watch and it was go time anyway. We could get it on the way past down to the car. Ryan said he’d rap down after cleaning. After his last lap I started putting my gear away and helped clear the rope for his descent. We hiked down the gully to the tool, and I hung it on my backpack waist belt. I don’t recommend that on a steep gravel descent, by the way. You don’t want pointy things interrupting your tumble down the scree.

That little tiny white stripe of ice to the left of center is where we were climbing at Stairway to Heaven

That little tiny white stripe of ice to the left of center is where we were climbing at Stairway to Heaven

At the bottom I paused for a photo and gosh did it look bare. Really bare. Had I done the approach at daylight I might have turned around. So glad we had this first day of climbing Stairway to Heaven for the 2015-2016 winter ice climbing season. Hope we get plenty more really good memorable days climbing this year.

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Mount Olympus with Todd

On July 12 I went out for a short hike with Todd Gilles. Remember we went together for Orizaba, and then to Elbrus Race 2013 [BUY BOOK HERE]

We went up Mount Olympus, a Salt Lake City classic that I’ve done quite a few times over my life. I’ve used Strava for some of my hikes and trail runs over the past handful of years now, and for this one I would use it for tracking, but not really work too hard for a PR or anything. I set a 10K PR in Frisco Colorado in early June. I climbed Mount Rainier via the Emmons route in late June [PHOTOS HERE]. I did a slew of PR’s on Quandary just the week before, July 4 [PHOTOS HERE]. All in all I was pretty wasted and not fully recovered. We were going to just have fun.

Todd was staying with us on a trip as a figure skating coach to train my wife and others here in Utah. We took off around 5:30 and got to the trailhead off Wasatch Blvd and hit the trail around 6:30. It was still twilight and cool. We took it really slow up to near the creek crossing, then booked it up the rough section and up to the saddle. There we slowed down again for the scramble to the summit. In spite of our casual pace down low I got a handful of 2nd and 3rd best times to the saddle. Imagine if I booked it some down low too? I guess that’s next.


Todd Gilles and I did a Salt Lake City classic today. Mount Olympus. After this brief pause at the saddle we climbed the 600′ class 3 scramble to the summit. I should have more pics and videos in the next few days.

Posted by Seven Summits Quest on Sunday, July 12, 2015


We hung around up top for only a few minutes then returned to the saddle for our trail lunch. I had two bottles with me. The Ultimate Direction 20oz in my front pocket, and a Platypus 1 liter in the back pocket. I used the larger one to fill the smaller one, and chugged the rest. It was going to get hot soon. Then we took off downhill carefully and slowly. Todd was beat from skating and I was beat from setting a downhill PR on Quandary, knocking off nearly 30 minutes from my previous best. Downhill beats me up pretty bad so I normally don’t run that fast downhill anyway.

We discussed and shared tunes and stories and plans. Our big plan at the moment is a possible return to Rainier for me to get in a second summit this year with Todd. We’ll see how that goes. We have a few hurdles to leap for that one. If you want to stay in the loop and possibly give us a hand, or at least cheer us on, please subscribe to our newsletter [CLICK HERE].

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The Leave No Trace Seven Principles – Earth Day

Leave No Trace Principles

I don’t want you to go out into the wilderness in Colorado, or any other state, and leave it in worse condition than you found it. The sad fact is that for so many years those that have gone before us on the trails figured that the wilderness was a giant black hole and anything you dumped into it would blow away or decompose fast enough that no one would ever notice.

When I was on Carstensz Pyramid there was a huge dump at base camp. The stuff there was a mix of stuff, but a lot of it wouldn’t have been practical to haul up the 6 day trek in a porter’s bag. There was a jeep road nearby but to drive on it would be trespassing on private land. Very sad state of affairs in one of the most wild and scenic parts of the whole world.

Please don’t contribute to the destruction of our wild lands. As a Boy Scout Leader I’ve had the opportunity to teach my young campers the Leave No Trace Seven Principles, as outlined in this chapter. I highly recommend that you visit their website and read the materials there to help you make wise decisions in how you can help to prevent further damage to our valuable wild areas.

The Colorado 14ers are one of the most visited hiking destinations in the state and there are a lot of people there who have no idea about the potential damage they are doing to our mountains. Don’t be one of them.

Aside from the common sense of pack it in, pack it out, seriously consider the impact of human waste on the environment. Find the website for the government agency in charge of the area in which you’ll be hiking and read up on the rules for human waste management. On Mount Rainier, as an example, above certain camps, you are required to use plastic bags, available at the ranger stations, and dispose of the full bags in appointed bins at a few choice locations.

Garbage Dump at Lake Camp on Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia

Garbage Dump at Lake Camp on Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

  1. – Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. – Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. – Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. – Leave What You Find
  5. – Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. – Respect Wildlife
  7. – Be Considerate of Other Visitors

The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

I do have a few thoughts about these that I’d like to share. I mentioned before that you should find out what rules apply to the trail you’d like to hike on. Some trails have rules about fire and water and human waste, but there are also rules about dogs including dog waste removal and leash requirements. I’ve been tripped many times by dogs on too long a leash for them to be under control as well as dogs wandering around free and loose in places where they are not allowed. Dog waste is common all along the trails I run on, and it’s an unsightly mess that smells pretty bad and attracts insects and other pests. Please be a responsible pet owner. In the big scheme of things this is to help you to keep the trails open for other dog owners. It might take only one serious incident to get the trails closed permanently.

There is way too much garbage along the trails as well. I see lots of candy bar and granola bar wrappers, as well as plastic disposable bottles. Please manage your trash. It only takes a few seconds and an ounce or two to keep your trash on you until you get to a proper place to dispose of it. Even the pull tabs from goo packets are too common along the trails. The little foil bottle seals, juice box straw wrappers, toothpick wrappers, and lots of other tiny little stuff litters the trail, and all it takes is a glint of shiny sunlight from the right angle to reveal it all. Don’t leave it for others, or Mother Nature who might be able to dissolve it to dust in a thousand years or so.

I normally keep all my snacks in a larger zipper seal bag. When I’m done with my snack wrappers I fold them neatly and place them back inside. I fold the goo packets with the opening and tear strip in the center to keep the bag from becoming sticky from the residue. You could try this system at first and see what works best for you.

Too many people are souvenir collectors. Take pictures, not a summit rock or plant. In some areas it can be a federal offense to collect a trophy. Don’t even snag a stick from along the trail to use as a walking stick or cane in accordance with some 19th century tradition of the jolly good stroll with the boys. In the same vein, it’s disruptive when a group of kids runs down the sides of the trail waving sticks and throwing rocks at each other and screaming in some misplaced game. That’s what soccer fields are for.

Many times I’ve been up Quandary, a popular Colorado 14er and seen mountain goats and pika along the trail. I cut them a lot of slack. They live there. I don’t. I’ve seen kids chasing the pika and marmots and chipmunks. I’ve seen dozens of people trying to get within touching distance of the goats. As used to humans as they seem to be, they are still wild creatures and can be unpredictable at best. Leave them alone please. Take some distant photos and enjoy them with your friends and family.

As far as consideration of others, I’ve seen several groups splayed out along the trail preventing anyone from possibly making uphill or downhill progress without tripping over them. It’s even worse when it’s at a steep and rough section. It might look like a great place to rest, but if you can hang on for a few more minutes or twenty, there will be a great wide flat spot just made for taking a break. The people doing it generally seem ignorant that anyone would want to go around them and that they are in the way. They get all mad at you and even say rude comments when someone interrupts their rest. Don’t be those people.

Hopefully these few ideas and suggestions won’t offend you. It’s best though if you don’t represent any of the examples. Go for peace and harmony on the trail with your fellow hikers all of whom are in their own zone and have their own reasons for being on the mountain. Some will be trail runners working on setting a PR for their ascent or car-to-car times. Some will be wearing huge boots and 50 lb. packs training for Everest or Denali. Some will have sweet camera gear and trying for that perfect photo. Some will be hanging out for a day of adventure with friends. Some want to be just left alone. Some want to talk to everyone they pass. I’ve both met and been several of those people over the years. They can be pretty cool if you let them, much of the time.

Enjoy it all and try to help out the future generations by making as little negative impact as possible. If you have the energy and drive then maybe you can even add in some of your own positive energy. Take a garbage sack with you and gather up everything. Take two, one for trash and one for recycling. Wear disposable gloves and carry hand sanitizer. Wear a white Nomex suit and give everyone a scare if that appeals to you. Whatever you do though, please, make a difference, one way or another.

Article extracted from Summit Success: Training for Hiking, Mountaineering, and Peak Bagging BUY KINDLE EDITION

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Last year I took my sons to a Boy Scout Eagle Project to clean up the shore of Lake Dillon in Summit County Colorado. We took out several black trash bags, one completely full of fishing line. Please don’t be an irresponsible fisherman. Please haul out all your line and try your best to retrieve snags whenever possible. There are now Fishing Line Recycling Containers at many popular parking areas due to this project. Do your part all year round, and not just on Earth Day.

Boy Scout Eagle Project - Lake Dillon shoreline cleanup

Boy Scout Eagle Project – Lake Dillon shoreline cleanup

Discarded fishing line along Lake Dillon shoreline, cleaned up during Boy Scout Eagle Project

Discarded fishing line along Lake Dillon shoreline, cleaned up during Boy Scout Eagle Project

 

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How Much Money to do the Seven Summits?

This is a continuation of an idea presented in my previous article on How Long to Do the Seven Summits HERE

First of all, let’s look at some average prices for each of the Seven Summits. These are generally taken from major, well-established guide companies. Some could be more or less depending on your own abilities to take care of yourself within limits established by local governments, as well as finding your way around in a foreign country and reading between the lines to hook up with local small guide and logistics companies.

Kilimanjaro Summit - 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 - I"m in orange

Kilimanjaro Summit – 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 – I”m in orange

That was a mouthful for sure, but basically, most normal people will be with a major guide company.

  • Everest: $70,000
  • Vinson: $50,000
  • Carstensz: $15,000
  • Denali: $10,000
  • Aconcagua: $6,000
  • Kilimanjaro: $5,000
  • Elbrus: $4,000
  • Kosciusko: $1,000

Note that none of these include airfare, and are otherwise about mid range for that mountain. You could go cheaper or more expensive, but this is a decent average.

If you go for all 8 of the 7 Summits, you’re looking at $161,000. Add in some airfare and other miscellaneous fees, and it’s going to be another $25,000 or so bringing the total to $186,000.

Myself, Kilian Jornet, and Todd Gilles at the opening ceremony for Elbrus Race 2013

Myself, Kilian Jornet, and Todd Gilles at the opening ceremony for Elbrus Race 2013

I don’t know much about your life, but let’s assume for a second that you are able to put away $1,000 each and every month. You could do it then with about 182 months of savings. A little over 15 years. Not bad. Add in the year or two that you’re actually off to the mountains, so about 17 years.

How in the world do people do it if they’re not on the 17 year plan?

  1. Have a really really good job
  2. Trust fund “kids”
  3. Live off charity
  4. Become a guide
  5. Mortgage your, or your parents’ house

I know people in each of those groups. The most successful, oddly enough, seem to be group 3, though they are really quiet about that, since it would turn off the flow of donations. Since the mortgage “bust” 5 is a lot less lucrative than it used to be, since back in the “boom” banks would go out 140% of the value of your house with a 5 year balloon, even without equity and a current loan, no matter how silly the use of the money would be. Hence the “bust” that resulted.

Seven Summits Quest - Volume 5 - South America - from Aconcagua Base Camp

Seven Summits Quest – Volume 5 – South America – from Aconcagua Base Camp

Now for reality

Yeah, you need to get that really really good job. Or hook up with someone who has an inside track on discounted, yet reputable guides and logistics operators in the area of your summit.

While I usually try not to toot my own horn, I do have a Full Service trip to Aconcagua for about 30% off the usual price of such a trip HERE and I have an Aconcagua Light Package for about half what others charge HERE.

Fill out the form (upper right side) and I’ll send you more info about my trips as I put them together. Kili and Everest Base Camp coming soon.

It’s well worth taking a quick look at to see if you can pull it off in 2015. To be honest, it’s an experiment, and if no one takes me up on the offer I might not be able to do it in 2016. So if you can adjust your schedule at all, let’s go to Aconcagua this February.

Seven Summits Quest Volume 5 – South America

If we do go, I’ll be working on that continuation of my successful book series, and you could be taking a part in it, with or without a pseudonym. Up to you …

Here’s a video I made to introduce it to my Kickstarter Project HERE

 

 

 

 

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How Long to do the Seven Summits?

What is the average time to do the Seven Summits?

I was asked that question by a Facebook Fan HERE. My quick and simple answer is “About Ten Years” but that’s not really doing the question justice.

 

Aconcagua in storm

Aconcagua in storm

If we remove all other factors, here is a list of the Seven Summits and the standard number of days that a professional guide service lists for the itineraries.

  • Kosciuszko- 3 days
  • Kilimanjaro – 7 days
  • Elbrus – 8 days
  • Carstensz – 9 days
  • Vinson 21 days
  • Denali – 21 days
  • Aconcagua – 21 days
  • Everest – 65 days

If you allow about 4 days of back to back flying for each expedition that adds up to 155 days of expedition and 32 days of traveling for all 8 of the 7 Summits. That’s 187 days. Yep, only 6+ months.

 

Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013

Todd Gilles and myself acclimatizing for Elbrus Race 2013

How fast can the Seven Summits be done?

Sadly, each of these has seasons that are good and bad, work and don’t work, and weather can be an issue or not. Here’s a potential itinerary that gets them all done in a very compressed amount of time.

  • January: Vinson
  • February: Aconcagua
  • March: Kilimanjaro, Carstensz, and Kosciuszko
  • April & May: Everest
  • June: Denali
  • July Elbrus

So that’s a Seven Summits in Seven Months Itinerary. If you attempt this, please let me know. I totally want to follow your progress. With a bit more risk and cleverness you could knock off a month, but it greatly decreases the odds of success.

Kilimanjaro Summit - 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 - I"m in orange

Kilimanjaro Summit – 6:45 AM Jan 1, 2010 – I”m in orange

Is this speed itinerary realistic?

Unfortunately, with an itinerary this tight, you’d need to be a semi-robotic automaton and have everything handed to you at each and every step of the way. All your visa’s, all your travel, all your baggage, everything, would have to be handled by someone else. Believe me, you probably can’t do it 100% alone on this tight of an itinerary.

Carstensz Pyramid Summit Shot

Carstensz Pyramid Summit Shot

It would also require that you have a boatload of cash and a bottomless credit card. Doing it this quickly requires that you pay a lot of people a lot of money to make sure that everything happens as planned without error.

You also have to be in top physical condition and able to recover very quickly from all the stress of travel and mountaineering and trekking. You cannot get sick or weak or injured on an itinerary this tight.

Myself and Todd Gilles Orizaba Summit Thumbs Up

Myself and Todd Gilles Orizaba Summit Thumbs Up

Stay tuned for another article about this

I’ll be writing another article soon taking a more realistic approach to an itinerary that allows time to solve all those problems. Stay tuned. Subscribe (to the right) if you want to make sure you’re notified when I write it.

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