Tag: Volcanic Seven Summits

Waffling on Elbrus Race 2014

Elbrus Race 2014 is being held the week of September 6-13, according to the itinerary posted below and HERE.

IX international (2014) Elbrus Race program :

Date Days Day’s program
06.09.2014 day 01 Flight arrival to Min Vody. Transfer to Baksan Valley, Azau station. Accommodation in the Hotel Elba.
07.09.2014 day 02 Acclimatization walking nearby. Accommodation in the Hotel Elba.
08.09.2014 day 03 Transfer to Azau lift station. The opening of the competition. Going up to refuge “Barrels” ~3710m. Night at refuge “Barrels”
09.09.2014 day04 Qualifying speed climb from Barrels hut to the Pastukov rocks, 4800 m.
10.09.2014 day 05
(full moon at 15:00 pm)
Relax day. Night at the refuge “Barrels”
11.09.2014 day 06 Speed Climb of Mt. Elbrus West 5642 m. “Classic” from hut Barrels (3710) & “Extreme” from Azau 2400m Descent from Barrels to the Valley
12.09.2014 day 07 spare day for the Race or Awards Ceremony at the morning & The farewell party at the evening
13.09.2014 day 08 Transfer to airport. Flight from Min Vody..

I was forming a team of 3 to go DETAILS but over the past year since the 2013 Race a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Some of us were really sick for quite some time. Some of us had endured injuries. Some of us had endured financial hardship. I myself was involved in legal finagling to extricate myself from a series of business partnerships and investments. That took up a great deal of stress and in spite of any other factors contributed greatly to a deficit in training hours.

In other words, I wasn’t able to train the way I had for the 2013 Race, in which I took 5th place. Sadly though, since it wasn’t all the way to the summit due to weather I wasn’t able to achieve my Seven Summits Quest goal with Elbrus, the highest mountain and highest volcano in Europe. After a lot of deliberation I sent an email to my friend in Russia asking if there were a trip in August that I could attach myself to so that I could share expenses at the Barrels (cook/food) and he sent an itinerary for me that seemed to fit in with my own plans so I agreed and sent the deposit. I received the Invitation and Voucher and not coincidentally I happened to be in Seattle where I could go in person to the Visa Center.

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

At the Center I was informed that a technicality in the requirements for available Visa Pages in my Passport prevented my application from being processed. Thankfully it was not rejected, which would unnecessarily complicate future applications. I needed to get additional pages inserted into my Passport, which isn’t a very complicated process, but can take up to 6 weeks plus additional time for shipping back and forth both ways. They recommended Overnight mail, but in this county there really isn’t such a thing. Long complicated story. USPS won’t even deliver to most of the resort units even to full time residents.

STP - 13 year old rode with Puget Sound Mini 200 + miles
STP – 13 year old rode with Puget Sound Mini 200 + miles

In the middle of that process of course, I spent a week traveling to Utah and Seattle to drop off my 13 year old who would be riding in the Seattle to Portland 200+ mile cycling ride with his uncle. Immediately after returning home to Colorado I spent a week at the Boy Scout camp near Castle Rock Colorado as the Assistant Scoutmaster for my Frisco CO Boy Scouts. It rained a lot, and I was really happy that my son and I had done a lot of camping in a variety of conditions so that at least one of the boys had good morale during the week. Seriously though, it was great fun to help the boys earn a slew of merit badges, including the Wilderness Survival, which required them to spend a night out in a low impact shelter built on the spot.

BSA camp activity - dueling on the ropes near Castle Rock CO
BSA camp activity – dueling on the ropes near Castle Rock CO

To make things even more fun I had a house listed in Utah and it expired without being sold so am in the middle of dealing with the legal implications and handling the repairs necessary to list it again in a different price bracket so that we can appeal to a different market. That’s going to require several trips to Utah over the next month added to the other fun things I need to do. Full plate!

Of course, all of this wasn’t enough time for the whole 6+ weeks to pass. Once I do have my passport in hand it takes a minimum of 30 days to process a Visa Application to Russia by mail (for those centers that accept mail). Going in person is an option that cuts the time down to a week to 10 days depending on the Visa you’re applying for. In any case, as it is, I am getting close to the deadline necessary to go to the 2014 Race. The 30 day window closes in a few days. The 10 day window closes in a couple weeks. I am hoping that my Passport arrives quickly and that all goes well. In the past couple months of training I’ve achieved quite a few PR (PB) and top-3 personal records for some of the Strava segments I’ve run on. I even got a Male KOM (ascent speed best) for a segment on Rainier up to Pebble Creek. And I was “walking” it with a heart rate of 100. That inspired me that maybe I could go back to Elbrus Race and make a decent attempt. On the other hand, going up with the Photographers to the summit to await the champions (possibly with another attempt by Kilian) sounds enticing as well. Not sure yet. Still have to get that Passport back in enough time for the rest of the process.

I’m not telling you all of this so that you can pity me, or so that I can excuse myself. Rather I tell you all of this so that you can understand that I am working hard to overcome all the difficulties that the world is tossing at me seemingly to prevent my success. I fully believe that you are able to overcome your own difficulties even when it seems there is no way to do so.

The Qualifier in whiteout conditions for Elbrus Race 2013
The Qualifier in whiteout conditions for Elbrus Race 2013

I really want to go to Russia this year and get this one done!

Orizaba Mountain Clothing for Upper Body

When Todd and I climbed Orizaba on May 5 2013 it was a pretty warm day with very good conditions. The mountain clothing we were able to wear that day probably won’t reflect average conditions.

Mountain Clothing for Orizaba highest mountain in Mexico
Todd and I on the Summit of Orizaba at 18,500′ highest mountain in Mexico

Previously I discussed the mountain clothing I wore on my lower body during our summit attempt. This time I will focus on my upper body. It was very warm, and we were only planning to do an acclimatization hike. We didn’t have a lot of warmer clothing that we would normally take. Usually you start a summit attempt at 1:00 AM when it’s much colder. This of course meant we had lighter packs.

upper body mountain clothing base layers
Layers put on at the beginning of our hike

Upper Body Mountain Clothing

I began with a Nike tech short sleeve shirt from a half marathon I ran in American Fork Utah. Over this I wore a Patagonia R1 Hoodie. The way it fits is almost like a medium weight base layer but the waffle pattern lets it breathe very well. I started out with a Buff around my neck in case it gets cold or windy. I wore a new Patagonia Cap 4 beanie. Very light waffle polyester for excellent moisture control. I can wear the hood from the R1 if I get cold. The gloves pictured are First Ascent fleece gloves. I wear them for almost everything I do.

Orizaba Glacier Mountain Clothing Second Layers
Second layer clothing on the glacier

We stopped at the bottom of the glacier at roughly 16,400′ to decide what to do. We ate some food and drank water. We looked up at the glacier with decent conditions. We decided to just try to summit. Since we would now be on snow I put on some more layers of mountain clothing. I added a Patagonia R2 fleece (like thin monkey fleece as it’s often called). I like this because it breathes very well and is pretty warm with a wind layer. For the wind layer I used a First Ascent hooded wind jacket. I don’t think they make it anymore, but it’s pretty similar to the Marmot Trail Wind Hoody. That’s all I added or changed.

upper body mountain clothing on Orizaba in Mexico
At the top of the labyrinth with Orizaba summit above.

At about 18,000′, not too far from the summit, I became a little cool. I knew the summit was not too far away. It would be harder to stop, open my pack, and add layers while standing on a 50 degree ice slope. I stuck it out till we hit the top at 5:10 PM. Then I quickly opened my pack and pulled out my Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket to keep my core warm. When looking for a thin down hoody I searched for quite a while to find this excellent item of mountain clothing. I especially love the sleeve fit. Long enough for my monkey arms and form fitting enough not to be too baggy in backpack straps.

Orizaba Summit Mountain Clothing
Final layer for Orizaba Summit

With all the photography and videography going on up top my hands became cold. I have a pair of Mountain Hardwear climbing gloves with removable fleece liners. I don’t like the liners all that much but my First Ascent liners fit well in them. I slid the shells over my fleece gloves to keep the wind off as the sun set and the temperatures dropped.

Descending at sunset in the cold with mountain clothing on Orizaba
Descending Orizaba with a setting sun.

The temperatures dropped. We got lost in the labyrinth in the dark. We made our way through a maze of cliffs with failing batteries. Finally we saw headlamps from climbers at the hut preparing for their summit. We found our way to a cairn we recognized and arrived at the hut passing the first wave of climbers ascending. We knew even if we had to sit huddled behind a rock till sunrise that we’d be okay. The right mountain clothing can make all the difference.

Orizaba – The Highest Mountain in Mexico: clothing below the belt

Orizaba, at approximately 18,500′ is the highest mountain in Mexico. I went to climb it with my friend Todd Gilles in March of 2013. It was quite warm, and after only one night at base camp, in our little tent, we went on an acclimatization hike starting at about 10:30 AM. Quite late. We ended up on the summit six and a half hours later, which includes about 45 minutes being lost in the Labyrinth – a steep area of mixed rocks and snow and ice.

Orizaba Summit the highest mountain in Mexico
On the Summit of the highest mountain in Mexico – Orizaba

I have been asked what I wore to climb the highest mountain in Mexico. I decided to post a few articles about it here for simplicity. As I stated in my disclaimer, I use Amazon links so you can see pictures and read reviews from other people, so you don’t have to just take my word for it. Remember the car commercial disclaimer: Your Mileage May Vary! This is just a list of what I wore, on the day I wore them, in the weather I wore them. If it were any colder I probably would have done a few things different.

Footwear to climb the highest mountain in Mexico - Orizaba
Footwear for Climbing on Orizaba

Footwear to climb the highest mountain in Mexico

I took double boots with me for warmth while climbing the Jamapa Glacier, about 1800′ of steep ice and snow. I ended up doing it in my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoe. In these shoes I like to use the Sole Ed Viesturs Signature Edition Insole. I use some version of the Sole insole in most of my shoes, as it gives me the proper footbed for my oddly shaped feet. For socks I wore Bridgedale Trail Socks over Injnji Performance Lightweight Crew. For me these are great liner socks. I use them to help prevent blisters between my toes. I used to get them pretty bad before.

lower body wear for the highest mountain in Mexico
Lower body wear for climbing Orizaba March 2013

Lower Body clothing to climb the highest mountain in Mexico

I like the way that the Men’s Under Armour Boxerjock fit and feel. They also resist odors well – something to seriously consider on a long expedition. Though our climb of the highest mountain in Mexico was fairly short. Over these I wore a thin base layer bottom made by The North Face. This was a generic bottom I got on clearance at The Sports Authority and I can’t find anything like it online. It’s fairly similar to Capilene 1 from Patagonia, but actually fits people with leg muscles. Over these I wore a MontBell Nomad Pant. I love these softshell pants. They’re my go-to pant for ice climbing and glacier hiking, including the highest mountain in Mexico. We had great weather.

That wraps up this short “lower body clothing” article. I’ll be back soon with the upper body, then the hardware, articles. I had a great time climbing Orizaba, third highest mountain in North America, highest volcano in North America, and the highest mountain in Mexico. I hope you get a chance to go and enjoy the culture and people. I hope you get to see the sunrise, or as we did, sunset, on this beautiful peak.

the Labyrinth on Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico
Me below the Labyrinth. Truly amazing scenery. On summit day.

Elbrus FAQ – Elevations

While preparing for Elbrus, I made a quick Cheat Card to haul with me. I printed it up and laminated it, much like time splits for a marathon, except marker on the forearm won’t work under layers. Here is what I have, in case you’re interested in planning your own trip to Elbrus from the South

Here are some current Elevation Markers for Elbrus in Meters and Feet

Location: Meters Feet Difference Ft
Cheget 2079 6,820.87
Azau (Tram Station) 2359 7,739.50 918.64
Stari Krugozor (Tram Xfer) 2937 9,635.83 1,896.33
Mir (Tram Top) 3469 11,381.23 1,745.41
Barrels 3703 12,148.95 767.72
Diesel Hut 4062 13,326.77 1,177.82
Pastukhov Rocks 4720 15,485.56 2,158.79
Saddle 5350 17,552.49 2,066.93
West Peak 5642 18,510.50 958.01
East Peak* 5621 18,441.60 889.11

* East Peak Difference is based on hiking from the Saddle

And for those who might be interested, here are some stats left over from the Elbrus Race 2010 for what equates to a Top Ten Finish in that year.

Race Vert Ft Miles Avg grade Top 10 Minutes vert/min MPH
Qualifier 3570 2.5 27.05% 01:19:22 79.4 45.0 1.9
Classic 6334 4.6 26.08% 03:45:15 225.3 28.1 1.2
Extreme 10660 7.6 26.56% 05:29:34 329.6 32.3 1.4
Elbrus Race 2010 Qualifier
Lined up ready to leave for the Elbrus Race 2010 Qualifier (I’m #24 rear upper right)

Qualifier is from the Barrels Huts to Pastukhov Rocks (P-Rocks is what I call them). Classic is from the Barrels Huts to the West Summit. Extreme is from the Azau Lift Station to the West Summit.

Kilimanjaro Summit January 1 2010 – Photo Gallery Rerun

In December of 2009 I flew through Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, and was shuttled to the hotel in Moshi for Zara Tours. The next day our small group boarded a bus with our gear and headed to the Machame Gate. Over the next 5 days we ascended through daily rain to the Barafu Camp and that night, New Years Eve, we took off for the summit shortly after midnight, accompanied by the singing and pan-beating of the celebrating porters.

After a fairly steep climb in rocks and snow we hit the relatively gentle final grade to the summit just after sunrise. We took a few pictures then headed back down to camp for lunch and a nap. I was a little under-dressed, wearing old ski and hiking clothes to donate to the porters, and had to borrow some softshell pants, as mine were soaked from the rainy day hikes. I had to wiggle my toes a lot in my three-season hiking boots, but I think it only got down to maybe 10 degrees F that night at the coldest – about 3 AM.

Kilimanjaro is the highest point of Africa, and is also the highest volcano in Africa, so is a member of both the Seven Summits and the Volcanic Seven Summits. I’d love to do it again, and have contemplated putting together various groups of friends or relatives, or even charity contributors. Oh, well. Enjoy these selected pics from my “rerun” gallery.

KPICASA_GALLERY(KiliRecap)

If you want to read a summary I wrote after the fact here’s a link to the “expose”

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 – Unwater.org

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.
– Unwater.org

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.

How tall is Aconcagua now?

Recently I read an article pointing out that Aconcagua, being in an area along the Chile/Argentina border with very high seismic activity that generally has caused many of the nearby peaks to gain elevation, is probably higher than the currently accepted height of 6,962 meters (22,841 ft), which is somewhat higher than the last official measurement (in 1956) of 6,959 meters (22,831 feet).

[pin url=”http://www.pinterest.com/pin/156851999491915358/”]

In the article it mentions that an expedition is currently on the mountain attempting to use the latest technology to get an accurate measurement. There are a lot of reasons why both barometric and GPS based measurements can be inaccurate, so we’ll see. Interestingly, the second tallest peak in South America is also along the Chile/Argentina border, Ojos del Salado at 6,893 meters (22,615 ft) – less than 100 meters difference. Every few years some measurement comes up a couple hundred meters higher, making it the second highest peak in South America. This is a recently active volcano, considered the highest volcano on Earth, and is grouped in both The Second Seven Summits, and the Volcanic Seven Summits list.

Orizaba or Bust

Nearly four years ago I did a test of my solo big mountain skills by attempting Orizaba. At the time I thought I was in much better shape than I actually was, and after a rushed, poorly executed acclimatization plan, I ended up unable to breath at 17,300′ (my high point at the time), and added up the minutes left to me as I rushed back to the pickup at the Piedra Grande Hut, and the bus rides back to the Mexico City airport, and bailed.

If you want to go back and read my tales about the trip, here you go: Orizaba March 2008 Trip Report (sadly, in reverse chronological order) [published as Orizaba, My Almost Free Mexico Adventure on Amazon]

At the time, I ended up a little dissatisfied with the logistics company I had used, for various reasons, not that they didn’t do what they basically promised, mind you. They were slow to answer emails, the food was decent enough, and the accommodations were “adequate enough”.

This time I opted for the other option (there are only two options for general logistics support for Orizaba). They answered the first handful of emails fairly quickly, and ended with “let us know your dates and times so we can make the reservation”. I had originally planned on going November 13-19, but Angie had a USFS test on the 13th, so I just dropped it – since with the holidays and travel, most of November and December are booked up with no really open 8-day blocks.

That changed a bit, leaving an opening for November 15-22, providing I depart and arrive in two different cities to catch up on the travel scheduled for Thanksgiving. I got the flights and sent the email with my dates and times to make the reservation. No response. For several days. I resent the email, and got a response of “who are you and what do you want? we only provide services for our climbers. do you have a reservation?”

I copied/pasted the series of conversations we’d emailed, and said “I’m sending you the dates and times as requested so I can make the reservation – there is only one day to go before I get on the plane.” No response. At. All…

I weighed the options. I was pretty much packed, and had a plan. Tent outside the basecamp area. 30 liters of water (plenty!) and stove fuel from the logistics company. Drop off at basecamp with duffels.

Assuming no logistics support, there is a way to do it. It would require an extra day on either end, cutting into my acclimatization and extra summit days. I’d have to take a taxi to Walmart (stove fuel) in either Puebla or Mexico City (depending on flight arrival time), and stay at a hotel near the Capu (bus station) in Puebla. I’d have to take a taxi to Hidalgo (about 4 miles from Piedra Grande Hut, 11,300′) and hike up carrying all my stuff (precludes the 30 liters of water and the duffels).

This is fine, and some major US Guide services do something similar for their acclimatization, but it would require two extra days, carrying 80 lb in a large backpack (it’s not really that far or tough – it’s a low-level 4×4 road by US standards), and my flight times would need to be adjusted slightly. Also, that would not be a fair test of the system I intend to use on Aconcagua, which is what this shakedown cruise was supposed to be.

I waited all day, still no answer, so I cancelled the flight and got a voucher. Now, 4 days later, still no answer. I think I’ll follow the self-supported option if I attempt this again, and plan accordingly. Alas…

Self Portrait on Orizaba 2008 - 15,600'
Orizaba 2008 – 15,600′ – First High Point – acclimatization hike

Friends tell me I made the right decision to bail. What do you think?