Tag: Volcano

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.

Fall Hike on Rainier to Camp Muir

A Fall Hike on Rainier to Camp Muir should be on everyone’s list of climbing objectives as a shakedown cruise for your other adventures. Mount Rainier is a 4,000 meter volcano in the Pacific Northwest of the USA near Seattle Washington. The snow and ice can vary quite a bit from the Pebble Creek area all the way to Muir. You need a free overnight use permit to spend the night in Muir, and a climbing permit to go above Muir. Both can be gotten quite simply and quickly at the Paradise Ranger Station – not the visitor center – the climbing center across the parking lot in what looks like an old ski resort building.

The path up to Pebble Creek is pretty simple, just look at one of the maps posted at the trail heads. After Pebble Creek you might be on snow pretty quickly, and in general, there should be plenty of foot paths to follow in the snow up toward Camp Muir because of how popular this trail is. Up to Pebble Creek it’s sometimes dry and dusty, with mud and rocks and loose surface on some of it, and is easy to do in running shoes. The snow can be soft and easy enough to do in running shoes, or sometimes light boots and micro-spikes. Many climbers going for the summit will just use their heavy boots and crampons on the occasional icy spots.

We took a tent to camp in the snow near Camp Muir, though there is a hut and I’ve stayed in it, as well as in the old Guide’s Hut before they stopped letting clients and climbers use it. Camp Muir is a relatively low risk way to test your glacier clothing and gear, tents, sleeping bags, as well as your eating and drinking systems. It’s a good idea to find out ahead of time before you do any of the Seven Summits. Many of the American climbers will do Rainier first for training and experience. The authorized guide companies have quite a few training courses, including sessions during April and May that will help you learn how to climb on Denali and other very cold mountains.

Fall Hike on Mount Rainier to Camp Muir Photo Gallery

These photos are from 2009

KPICASA_GALLERY(AngieOnRainier2009)

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.

Elbrus Race 2010

In September 2010 I attended the Elbrus Race [Blogger Posts]. Below is a gallery of images from the race organizers. I was entered at bib number 24.

I was also featured a few times in a promotional video [1:04, 1:13, 1:33] that the event promoters created as a “trailer”.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEqc9zH5uA

Elbrus Race 2010 in fact was the driving force and motivation for the best period of serious intense training I have ever endured. I trained twice a day, doing weight and cardio splits that carried me above and beyond all previous training, and got me down to 14% bodyfat (elite for my age according to the charts) from my starting point of 28%.

I really liked the spirit of the competition, and have seriously considered returning, though in 2011 the area was closed for various reasons. This year it’s open again, and the race is going to be held a few weeks earlier, at the end of August. In 2010 I had been given water right out of the drain pipe without being treated by the cook in the hut. I managed to pass the qualification race in spite of having to stop and “use the rocks” because of dysentery. I was too sick to continue and the event physician medicated me and pulled me from the race.

Here is a brief rundown of the articles from that period on my old blog:

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Elbrus is a volcano in Russia, and is considered to be the highest point of Europe.

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.

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).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEqc9zH5uA

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

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?