Month: March 2012

World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day 2012. According to this report:

There are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today … each of us drinks from 2 to 4 litres of water every day, however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat: producing 1 kilo of beef for example consumes 15,000 litres of water while 1 kilo of wheat ’drinks up’ 1,500 litres –

Elbrus water source needs to be boiled
Water Pipe above blue building below Elbrus summits. Use at own risk.

And naturally, there’s a solution available for all of us:

Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:
· follow a healthier, sustainable diet
· consume less water-intensive products
· reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten…
· produce more food, of better quality, with less water.

Having been in regions with serious major clean water issues, and having suffered the debilitating effects myself, I have to offer my own opinion on this. On Kilimanjaro, the highest point of Africa, one of the Seven Summits, as well as one of the Seven Volcanic Summits, the cooks supposedly treated the abundant surface water by boiling, but it became apparent quite quickly that they did not want to waste porters on carrying stove fuel, so they actually didn’t treat it. As a result, I ended up with diarrhea on summit day and my tentmate ended up puking in the tent all night on the eve of summit day. We both managed to summit.

On Elbrus (the highest point of Europe and also a Seven Summits and Seven Volcanic Summits) in the Spring, they had to melt snow for water, so it was fairly safe, but in the Summer they got their water from a pipe tapped into the water runoff from the glacier. A lazy cook with very poor English skills who wasn’t really all that considerate of the long-term effects just gave me some water right out of the pipe. I ended up with serious diarrhea that lasted for four days and I barely finished the qualifier with one pit stop in the rocks, but was so wasted that I contracted AMS and could not complete the Elbrus Race 2010.

Water is abundant on Kilimanjaro
Abundant water along the trail for drinking on Kilimanjaro

On Aconcagua, another Seven Summits peak, highest point of South America, water came off the glacier in a large pipe that forked all over the camp to each of the outfitters. My outfitter let it collect in a barrel so the sediment could settle out, and we were each on our own for treating it. I used a SteriPEN Classic on mine, and that worked well enough.

Aconcagua Base Camp water supply
Water tubing and tanks at Aconcagua Plaza de Mulas Basecamp

I’ve suffered from the effects of unclean water, so I know it exists. For myself, I will carry the Steripen with me wherever I go, but worldwide, I’m not quite certain how to fix this problem, aside from a treatment plant on both Elbrus and Kili, or maybe education, if it will stick, or somehow making the guides and porters and cooks really care one way or the other, which probably has less chance of sticking. That would have the longest-lasting effects, IMHO – getting people to even care.

Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay on Elbrus and in Space?

Advance speculation shows that this will be the most spectacular Olympic Torch Relay ever, intended to be four times longer than the Turin relay, covering all 83 Russian entities, allowing 90% of the population to enjoy the spectacle.

It has also been confirmed that the torch will be taken to Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake with a depth of 1,600 metres, in the south of Russia near Irkutsk, and also travel to Mount Elbrus, the tallest mountain in Europe at a height of 5,642m.
“We promise a spectacular event,” [Sochi 2014 President Dmitry] Chernyshenko told insidethegames.

From the bottom of Lake Baikal to the top of Elbrus, highest mountain of Europe, one of the Seven Summits, and one of my favorite mountains. That alone is a feat of amazing proportions.

According to Chernyshenko, this relay will be the longest in history, both in terms of time – 123 days – and in distance – covering more than 40,000 kilometers which is the length of the Earth’s equator.
“I don’t think anyone will be able to replicate this record – Sochi 2014 will be in a league of their own” Chernyshenko said.

Even more amazingly, they’re going to send it to space, something that only Russia can do.

“Russia was the first country to send a man into space some 50 years ago. So, we are proud that now we have the opportunity to be the first nation to send the Olympic torch into space.”
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov – Washington Post

Why I bring this all up now, is that this could be a great time to plan your trip to the Elbrus region for one of your Seven Summits, assuming of course they don’t close the entire area, like an infamous Olympics mountain top torch run in a previous year.

Elbrus World Race – Premier August 2012

New this year is the Elbrus World Race which is primarily a trail race in the vicinity of Elbrus, highest point of Europe, a volcano, and one of the Seven Summits.

EWR creation was driven by love and a dream. Two founders of EWR – Sergey and Ivan spent many days on Elbrus and Elbrus area since childhood and dreamed to make big event on Elbrus. Inspiration came from big events around the world like a race around Mont Blanc and also from desire to do something own, something special.
Elbrus World Race 2012 – Planet Ultramarathon

Angie at Barrels Huts on Elbrus
Angie at Barrels Huts below Elbrus Summits

It sounds really interesting to me, since I already qualified for the Elbrus Race 2010, a different semi-annual event with a history from the early 90’s. The qualifying race I ran was from the Barrels Huts (about 12,000′) to a point somewhat above Pastukhov Rocks (about 15,500′). I managed to make the cutoff despite serious water-borne illness resulting in pretty severe diarrhea and cramps. I even stopped along the course near the shelter of some rocks on the way down. The event organizers put up a youtube video showing my odd duck-like waddle during the qualifier (from the rear about 1:35 – I also helped with the fluff piece at about 1:04 and 1:12 – bib #24).


The main event was a run to the summit from either Azau (about 8,000′) or the Barrels to the summit (about 18,400′). As a result of recovering from the diarrhea, and the resulting malnutrition and dehydration, I had a horrible night the night before, having to sit up most of the night with sleep apnea and AMS. The team doctor gave me some Russian medicine and pulled me from the race.

The Elbrus World Race is a totally different race, with only one event, the Traverse, actually on the mountain. The other events are on a circuitous course in the foothills surrounding Elbrus. Sadly the Traverse is a team event, or I would be more interested.

EWR consists of:
Elbrus Ultra Trail – mountain ultra-marathon; 81 km over 7 mountain passes with individual participation.
Elbrus Traverse – mountaineering contest, for twos or threes, traverse over the summit of Elbrus.
Elbrus Adventure Race – Adventure Race in the foothills of Mount Elbrus.
Elbrus Trail – a running contest 28 km with individual participation.
Elbrus World Race Website

Also, it’s going to be the first week of August, and the Elbrus Race 2012 is tentatively scheduled for the last week of August, and if it happens (it was cancelled in 2011 for the anti-terrorism programs in the area) I would like to go. I could of course get a multi-entry visa and spend the rest of August in Chamonix …

Myself at Elbrus Race 2010 - number 24
Bib number 24 at Elbrus Race 2010

8-year-old to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Tyler Armstrong of Yorba Linda, California will attempt Mount Kilimanjaro to increase awareness to the 300k boys worldwide suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. DMD is considered an “orphan” disease as pharmaceutical companies don’t find it profitable to do research for a cure. A somewhat “accomplished” climber

[as a 7 year old, he] summited Mount Whitney [14,505 feet (4,421 m)] in Sierra Nevada, California with his father Kevin Armstrong. He may have unofficially broken the record for the youngest person to ever summit Mount Whitney. Tyler reached the summit in 7 hours and 50 minutes.
7-year-old summits Mount Whitney the highest peak in the continental US – Examiner

Source: via Charles on Pinterest

If Armstrong summits Kilimanjaro, he will become the second youngest to summit one of the highest mountains of the world at age eight. This eight-day challenge and adventure will begin on June 23, 2012.
“I am doing this climb to help Suhail and other boys my age that have Duchenne because most of them have a hard time even walking,” stated Tyler Armstrong.
8-year-old to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Duchenne muscular dystrophy awareness – Examiner

I’ve had the great adventure in the past to have taken several youth up several mountains. I’ve taken a handful of 10 year olds up Colorado Fourteeners [Quandary With Dallin], and a 5 and 8 year old up an 8000′ peak [Squaw Peak With The Kids].

I have a pretty good idea what it takes to motivate and encourage a child up a peak under a variety of conditions. For one-day hikes. I’m about to try a two or three day this summer with a ten and maybe an eight year old. I know from experience that a week on a muddy rocky wet trek to the Roof of Africa is a much bigger endeavor. I myself wish the Armstrongs the best of luck.

So how does everyone else feel about this? Do I need to ask the typical questions about Everest at age 10 after Vinson and Elbrus at 9, etc? Or do you have your own views on this one?

Where is Everest Again?

How can Everest suddenly appear in the UK? According to a recent poll, roughly 20% of the British population is “clueless” about several important features of their geography. Stonehenge, Everest, Ayers Rock, London and Balmoral Castle all fell prey to mass relocation in the poll. Many think that Everest is in Britain.

Source: via Charles on Pinterest

The poll of 2,000 was carried out by tour firm Journeys of Distinction. Managing Director Karen Gee said: “We were astounded.”
The firm said the internet may be partly to blame …
Who’s in UK? One in five Brits clueless – The Sun

Dang internet …

Is This Your Brain on Adventure?

In June of 2009 I had a pivotal experience on Liberty Ridge on a trip guided by IMG guides Mark Allen and Jeff Ward. We barely survived summiting in 60 + MPH winds, wandering along steep cliffs and crevasses in a whiteout to spend the night in a moat (ice cave) 120′ below the surface of the glacier. Over the course of the trip I realized my own comfort level was off a bit compared to “normal” people, including sleeping 6″ overhanging the edge of a 75 degree ice slope:

The camp is basically a couple of tent platforms on a 45 degrees slope, beautiful and exposed; with very little room to move around. Blue-bagging will be a challenge here; but we all do our duties. We cook dinner, and I try to eat as much as I can. Little that I knew at the time, I would not have another meal in 30 hours. We settle again for the night, I am glad I am sleeping on the uphill side; Ann is in the middle and Rick just over the edge. His position does nothing to prevent him to quickly fall sleep and soundly snore throughout the short night. Thankfully I am well equipped with drugs and earplugs. Jeff announces start time for 2:00am. – Dodging Bullets on Liberty Ridge – Claudio Argento – Alpine Lines Blog

I also realized my own comfort level on Alpine Mixed terrain of steep slopey blocks of rock and ice and mud, and shallow (AI 2-3) ice. My climbing friends all say this is not normal. I normally don’t think about this too much, and just take it for granted, but today I received a notification for an article on Outside Online Magazine about the differences in brain chemistry or physiology for abnormal risk takers, quoted here:

There are three major emotional ingredients to risk taking … all driven by individual brain chemistry. One is desire for adventure (“sensation seeking”), in what’s known as the reward pathway of the brain, the mysterious mechanisms where happiness juices flow; high-risk takers may simply get a bigger bang than other people, leading them to seek more intense experiences. Another is a relative disregard for harm, meaning, basically, that they’re not as afraid of negative consequences as regular folks. The third is impulsivity, or acting on your desires without fully thinking them through. — What distinguishes an everyday adventurer from an extreme or foolhardy one lies in the interplay of these factors. Mountaineers may be adventurous and well able to handle stress, but they tend not to be impulsive, often carefully planning their expeditions for months. – This Is Your Brain on Adventure – Outside Magazine

While on my Seven Summits Quest, I have had all 10 fingers nearly to the wooden stage, been stopped dead in my tracks unable to breath, been struck by the static discharge of close lightning, been up all night gasping for breath, had nearly non-stop diarrhea for days, spent the night in a tent with a puking partner, twisted my ankle with a 16 mile hike out, frost-nipped my face so I stopped shaving, lost and blackened toenails, endured bleeding blisters, nearly exploded gall bladder. Yet I persist on this pursuit, and have plans for more summits in the coming years.

While training Mixed Climbing (dry tooling) in Ouray last week, I managed to pop off a very vertical (read: overhanging) cliff face and swung out inverted (upside down) about 60′ from the ground, and as I swung out, still hanging onto my ice tools, silent, I thought to myself “I don’t seem to be sliding out of my loosely-worn harness. Good. So if I can tap the wall when I come back in, maybe I can straighten up and sit right.” It worked and I managed to come back into the wall on a shelf and shake it out. Picture below is just after I tapped my right foot, flagging my left foot as I swung back upright at the end of the pendulum. I had fallen from the left wall under the ice curtain.

Was/am I in denial? Are you in denial? If you’re going to consider the Seven Summits, please consider the risk with an open mind. People die every year on almost every one of the Seven Summits, even the so-called easy ones. I was saddened to hear about some recent deaths on Elbrus, for climbers I met during the Elbrus Race 2010:

Rescuers have found a body of a Ukrainian climber, Maryna Khytriakova, at the height of 4,700 meters on Mount Elbrus – Ukrainian female climber found dead on Elbrus – Kyiv Post

Anyone who climbs for a long time will eventually have lists of friends and acquaintances who were crippled, maimed or killed while climbing. Denali and Everest are particularly notorious among the Seven Summits for annual deaths. Aconcagua has many deaths as well, though not being so much in the headlines. Do yourself a favor and think, consider where you are on these lists, where you could be, and plan appropriately.

SSX on the Seven Summits?

The video game franchise SSX takes on a new challenge. The Seven Summits. Well, a lot of them anyway.

“Real-world mountains, such as Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro, are now your playground — though they have some crazy jumps and rails tossed in.” — It’s got ‘SSX’-appeal – Washington Examiner

Is it at all realistic to the idea of climbing the Seven Summits? Can you learn anything useful from playing it? Well, the idea of using the right equipment at the right time is sure applicable.

“Some of the Deadly Descents get very intense and will try your patience until you’ve mastered the use of the necessary survival equipment.” — It’s got ‘SSX’-appeal – Washington Examiner

But really? Can this be any worse for Everest or Kilimanjaro or Denali? Mont Blanc? With all the apparent nutcases already trying to take their extreme sport or cause into the Death Zone, will this inspire further craziness in people who believe that playing a few video games and practicing in a Terrain Park will be enough to earn them passage to the basecamp of choice, where they die a miserable painful protracted death, possibly taking their entire team with them and causing governments around the world a knee-jerk overreaction and the closure of the mountains to all?

Or am I just being mildly facetious?