Sunday, May 31, 2009

Colorado Ice Climbing Conditions May 28, 2009: Dark Star, RMNP

Thursday, May 28 Tom and I went up to Meeker to look for ice and luckily found some, in Dark Star and Right Chimney. However the temps were much higher than forecast and the ice was far from bonding to the rock at the crux of Dark Star. A fair amount of post-holing was required to get up there (starting where you go left from the "trail" from the Loft descent - the photo with the Big Horn Sheep that Tom took shows how dry the approach in general is now, above tree line), and it was nice to see a wall neither of us had been to. We were in a full on snowstorm mixed with thunder around 13,200 feet, watch out for storms! Right Corner looks very fun.

Above is Dark Star, below Right Corner is the obvious corner system, left of center (Dark Star is off to the right)

Tom, 70m below, about to follow.

I have abandoned alpine climbing for the spring, with just a few days left til I depart for K2 I feel fit and ready. A few days of rock climbing in the sun would be nice. Final days before trips are very fun, last minute preparations include: resole favorite approach shoes, attend SCARPA sales meeting - a great way for me to see the new product coming for Spring 2009, a meeting at CAMP to pick up some new things, one last photo shoot and then a bunch of sitting and waiting for Fedex and UPS to deliver new clothes from Marmot, rope from Bluewater and goggles from Julbo. Other things might arrive if I am lucky.

Above, Fabrizio Zangrilli, me, at the crux of Dark Star. Below a storm fast approaching as seen from near the top of Meeker

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Breaking news from Lhotse summits - Gerlinde, Ralf, David and Hiro on top

Breaking news: Lhotse summits - Gerlinde, Ralf, David and Hiro on top
image story L/R: David, Gerlinde, Ralf and Hiro in Everest-Lhotse BC, some days before pushing for the summit. Image courtesy of Hiro's and Gerlinde's expedition websites (well, I got it from

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovvits, Hirotaka Takeuchi and David Götller summited Lhotse at 11:00am, local time today.

Gerlinde is now level with Edurne Pasaban: both hold the current female record with 12x8000ers summited; Ralf has become a 14x8000er summiteer.

I fisrt met Ralf when we went to Queen Maud Land, Antarctica in 2000. He is one of the great legends of Himalayan climbing and I was very happy to spend the time there with him. In 2007 we met up again at K2 basecamp when he, Gerlinde, David and Daniel were a team, but eventually all of us without Ralf but with the addition of Dodo, and the two Piotrs tried for the single push ascent. The Photo above is of me and Ralf in Gokyo, Nepal, spring 2008, after randomly being at the same lodge. I am very proud of Ralf for finishing off all 14 8000m peaks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Compagnoni Dead at 94: Report taken from

Achille Compagnoni dies at age 94
image story Image of Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, courtesy of

( Italian K2 pioneer Achille Compagnoni died today in a northern Italy hospital at age 94, media reports.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pakistan: real people and very real consequences if the army does not win in Swat

This story from Please see photos, videos and words below from my trip in 2007.

Flight from Swat as curfew lifted

A man injured in fighting between the army and militants, who received initial treatment in Mingora, 9 May 2009
Pakistani civilians have been caught in the crossfire

Thousands of people have fled Pakistan's violence-hit Swat district after the army briefly lifted a curfew.

Local residents trapped by fighting between troops and Taleban militants were given a few hours to leave.

The army is trying to reverse militant advances in the area, in what the prime minister has called a "fight for the survival of the country".

It says it has killed between 180-200 militants in the last 24 hours in Swat and other areas.

Between 50 and 60 militants were killed in Swat on Sunday and about 140 bodies had been found in neighbouring Shangla district, the military said in a statement.

Clashes were also reported in the nearby districts of Dir and Buner.

In Swat, explosive devices planted by the militants in roads and militant mortar fire were causing civilian casualties, the military said.

Due to the intensity of the fighting and the cutting of phone networks, it is difficult to get independent information on the fighting, correspondents say.

'Relying on God'

Early on Sunday, the military lifted a curfew in Swat to allow residents trapped by the fighting to get out.

Residents in the main town of Mingora and the nearby towns of Kambar and Raheemabad began leaving at 0600 (0100 GMT).

Shoaib Hasan
Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

The army has spent the last two days locating and destroying militant camps in the rural regions.

A major ground offensive now appears to be on the horizon to secure the seat of government in Swat.

The Taleban have entrenched themselves in fortified position in and around Mingora. The army is likely to use aircraft and artillery to soften up these targets before sending in ground troops.

But even then, the fighting on the ground is expected to be bloody and long drawn-out.

As dawn broke in Mingora, thousands of civilians were setting out. A local journalist described the event as something out of Doomsday, reports the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad.

Men, women, children and the elderly were seen moving along the road that leads out of the region.

The lucky ones were able to get some sort of transport, ranging from a local bus to a donkey cart.

But many plodded down the road on foot carrying what little they could gather, our reporter said.

"We are going out only with our clothes and a few things to eat on the long journey," Rehmat Alam, a 40-year-old medical technician, told the Associated Press news agency.

"We just got out relying on God because there is no one else to help us."

The curfew has now been re-imposed. Analysts say the decision to lift it for most of the day is a sign that the army offensive is likely to intensify in the coming days.

Sitting in Boulder reading about what is going in the Swat valley makes me remember the children of Khane Village - north of Swat Valley by some distance - that I and Girls Education International helped. When you think of all the work done by us, and many others including Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute, I am very saddened to read that a peaceful resolution could not be brokered. What are the answers, the only one I come up with is education. Looking at the photos I am reminded of the innocent people affected by the conflict.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Colorado Ice Climbing Conditions May 09, 2009: Halletts Chimney, Rocky Mountain National Park

Hallett's Chimney from the approach. Fabrizio Zangrilli Photo.

Tom approaching 1st belay.

Even though it is flip flop weather in Boulder, Tom and I headed into RMNP to try Hallett's Chimney, on Hallett Peak. Eli had updated Climbing life and had emailed to say he was going up to try. Unable to wait for a response - which arrived a couple of hours after we left boulder, the day after he tried - we found great conditions on the way to the base. Neither of us had done the route, so looking up we thought it looked a bit snowier than photos we had seen on mountain project - and more interesting. Eli had done a great job tunneling out the first pitch, it was spicy though, all I could think was "I hope he made it to the top of the route, I don't want to tunnel for myself".

Fabrizio leading pitch 1.

Video of Fabrizio starting the first pitch, luckily Tom stopped filming and started belaying.

Fabrizio leading Pitch 2. Avoiding the snice and climbing the rock.

Tom and Fabrizio 2nd Belay

Tom and I had a pleasant day (curiously found myself wanting to nibble reeses pieces though), and made it into the bottom of the fourth pitch in just a few hours, even though it seemed like I took forever on pitches 1 and 2 (I climbed the rock to the right of the ice - as it was not solid looking, neither is the rock it turns out, btw). I tried for a bit to tunnel through the 4th pitch but didn't have the guts, shovel nor desire. We re-rigged the raps on the way down, placing pins and adding alot of webbing, getting off from the top of the third pitch should be easy now. Hopefully the videos and photos give an idea of how much snow there is now compared to when it is normally climbed.

Fabrizio Leading Pitch 4. Just before bailing.

Fabrizio at bottom of 4th pitch.

We will return soon as conditions were "fun", but, if you want an ice route, wait over a month in my estimation. If you want a spicy snice route then email me after you dig out the fourth pitch for us!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Midwest Tour with Ames Adventure Outfitters

I was very fortunate to be asked to fly out to Minneapolis to assist Ames Adventure Outfitters with the Midwest Mountaineering Expo and then travel to climbing gyms and shops across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and then finally to attend the Erhwon Expo - where I presented two slide shows, in the suburbs of Chicago.

Helping Brian at AAO ( involved everything from carrying boxes, standing on the floor and helping customers to putting in my two cents as an athlete during clinics to store staff.

Along the way I met some amazing people, had the chance to help a first time climber get kitted out for Rainer and socialize with alot of great people. Thanks to all of the shop staff that made the trip so enjoyable and to Brian for yet another adventure!

*Photo of Steve (a great customer who if you see on Rainer later this summer say "hi"), me and Carolyn (in charge of the climbing department and climbing courses) at the amazingly successful Midwest Mountaineering Expo.