Tag: 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!

Carstensz Pyramid Travel Warning

Carstensz Pyramid travel can be difficult. There are a few logistic hoops to jump through. Trekking in Equatorial Jungle. Various permits. Lack of helicopters. These are all issues to deal with. No one is going to rescue you and you need to be self-sufficient. You are taking a big risk. I had quite a few experiences of this nature when I climbed Carstensz in April of 2013. I wrote about them in my book Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age.

The mine was brought up as well. We were told that many expeditions had run into trouble with the mine, who in partnership with the local government owned all the land in the Carstensz area. With our government permits we were allowed to trek in, summit, then trek out. We would not be allowed to trespass, or cross any property of the mine not specifically spelled out in our permit. — Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age

My good friend at the logistics company I used for this trip posted this on the Facebook Event page for our climb of Carstensz Pyramid:

Carstensz Pyramid Travel and Climbing: Company Policy

Carstensz Pyramid Travel and Climbing - Freeport Mine Policy
Freeport Policy for Carstensz Climbers

Carstensz is indeed a logistical nightmare. There are only a mere handful of local operators able to handle the convoluted system of permits and porters and hiking trails that get you to the bottom of the cliffs of Carstensz. Then you have 2,000′ of climbing on steep limestone and gravel gullies with ratty fixed lines with poor anchors. While not technically severe in grade, the climbing has a fair amount of exposure, or perception of steepness and a deadly drop into the abyss between your heels. It’s not like Kilimanjaro, on which any reasonably fit person could walk up to the top. — Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age

If you want to see the full text of the (Carstensz Pyramid Travel and) Climbing Policy CLICK HERE

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.

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?