Author: kurt_hunter

This morning the Carstensz Pyramid climbing team flew by helicopter from the town of Timika, Papua up to their base camp in the Yellow Valley. The base camp is located at an elevation of 4285 m / 14,050 ft.  That’s quite a change from the sea-level beaches of Bali just a couple of days ago! Today the team will spend some time hiking around the area of base camp to acclimatize to the new altitude. The weather is looking favorable and everyone is ready for a great day of climbing.

At 4,884 m (16,024 ft.) above sea level, Carstensz Pyramid is the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andres. As the team climbs tomorrow, they will have views of the nearby Grasberg mine, the largest gold mine and second largest copper mine in the world.

Our guides, Billy and Sid led our 2019 Mt. Rainier team of climbers of Aaron, Scott, Nate, and Tom to the top of Mount Rainier with 100% success on September 12th! At the base of the mountain the weather was rainy but as they climbed above the clouds they were met with challenging but nice conditions with cold temps and low wind.

The Mt. Rainier NPS climbing rangers described shape of the our Disappointment Cleaver route as:

…significant rerouted recently to reduce the number of ladder crossings and widening crevasses. The new trail is poorly defined due to a combination of fewer climbers and large snow penitentes. These massive penitentes and complex route-finding are contributing to long days on summit attempts with many groups taking 12-16 hours round-trip from high camp. In particular, many climbing parties are having difficulties finding the new route where it trends left from the top of the Cleaver toward Camp Comfort above Gibraltar Rock. Eventually, around 13,300′, the new route regains the old track and a better defined bootpack (until it becomes obscured by new snowfall with incoming autumn storms).

It was a great way to cap off our Cascades climbing season! Congratulations to the team for persevering and successfully and safely making what is typically described as the most difficult endurance climb in the lower 48 states!

Washington state high point: Check!!

Rest break en route to the summit

Rest break en route to the summit

Late season suncups and penitentes cover the upper mountain

Late season suncups cover the upper mountain

Stunning views above the clouds!

Stunning views above the clouds!

The sweet taste of success!

The sweet taste of success!

Lead guide Jayar Storms provides this report of this week’s success on Eldorado Peak:

Regardless of some variable weather, we had a highly successful trip!

Continuing from our adventures on Mt. Baker, our trip began on Thursday with a brief river crossing followed by a sudden incline up the side of the valley which persisted for a few hours before spitting us out at the bottom of a talus field. We ascended the talus field for multiple hours, at the top of which was a high mountain meadow where we camped for the first night. That night, from camp, we were fortunate to be able to view a black bear about a quarter mile down valley foraging for berries.

In the morning, we found ourselves in a somewhat of a white out. We packed up camp and headed across a ridge to our left, down the other side and up a small talus field and a glacier with multiple crevasse crossings to high camp. Our prior knowledge of this season’s route proved very helpful in guiding us in to camp. We rolled out our things for the rest of day two and got up at 6:00 am the next morning for the summit push.

Although the sun was out by the time we left, the continuous thick cloud cover kept the snow cold and stable. In order to avoid some crevasses, we took the more direct south face onto the east ridge. We reached the summit, snapped a few pictures and just as we were packing our things, the clouds parted, revealing the beautiful mountainous landscape around us. It was a spectacular moment!

We made a quick down-climb down the east ridge and south face and were back at camp before the snow could get too soft. Later that day we walk out across to the other side of the glacier to get a back shot of Eldorado Peak and to do some additional snow school. When we got back we had a nice celebratory dinner, and headed off to bed early in preparation for the trek out in the morning.

We made an early start the next day raising at 3:00 am, packing up camp and beginning our hike to the trailhead. We made quick work of the glacier, weaved through the smaller talus field and back over the ridge. We descended through the high mountain meadow and back through the primary talus field. Once we got back down the valley and across the river we found ourselves at the trailhead before noon.

It was a pleasure spending eight days with Chris in the mountains and we can’t wait for him to come back and visit us.

Jayar and Winter Storms checking in from Mt. Baker.

We met with our clients Chris and Karen at their hotel in the Greater Seattle area on Sunday the 25th, and proceeded to the trailhead from there. At the trailhead we were met with some light rain. Rain continued for the majority of the approach but was never more than our rain layers could deal with. We found a comfortable location to camp that was close to fresh water and out of the wind.

Monday morning we all got up early, enjoyed a quick breakfast and headed up the glacier for snow school where Karen and Chris very quickly picked up the basics of snow travel. Unfortunately due to a recent injury to her foot, Karen opted to stay behind for the summit attempt. We commend Karen for making a hard decision and listening to her body.

The remainder of our party left camp at 1:00 am on Tuesday morning for the summit attempt. An unexpected amount of crevasses on the glacier slowed our pace and left our route rather circuitous. We used many techniques to get up the route including short roping, running belays, short pitching, and some rappelling to maneuver a crevasse. The added crevasse work effected our schedule and we decided to turn around at 9,700 ft, just at the top of the pumice ridge. Our descent was swift and smooth with Chris handling some technical terrain incredibly well. We returned to high camp before 2:00 pm and rested for the remainder of the afternoon.

Wednesday morning we all got up at 6:00 am, packed our things and made quick work of the return to the trailhead. Everyone is in high spirts! Karen is off to the airport and Chris is preparing for our next adventure. We will be leaving for Eldorado Peak tomorrow.

We will check back in after we get back from Eldorado!

Lead guide, Sid Pattison, provides this expedition recap of summit day:

Well another great Kilimanjaro trip is in the books, our entire team summited at 6:45am on August 4th. It was a cold morning but we all kept moving and stayed warm. The sun crested the horizon as we made our final steps to Uhuru Peak, the third and highest of Kilimanjaro’s three summits.

Getting here had been a great trip through the many wonders that Kili has to offer. As we started in the rain forest on the lower flanks of the mountain we ate lunch with monkeys playing above our heads, curious as to what brings us here. The next day, as we climbed up and out of the thick jungle into the stunted trees of the Erica zone, this zone allowed us gorgeous views across the mid flanks of the mountain and up to the summit! This would be our first view of the mountain, from the mountain. There was a palatable shift as we gazed up at how much we had to climb. Undaunted and undeterred the team pushed on, through the hidden moorlands, up to the Lava tower to acclimatize and past Barafu camp to the higher Kosovo Camp. From here we prepared for our midnight rise and early morning summit.

We rose at 11pm on August 3rd and quietly readied ourselves for a big day. Bags packed, boots tied, headlamps ready we were off. Up we went, switch-backing our way up the mountain, rock and scree gave way to snow and ice as we approached Stella Point, where our crew looked across the crater, standing above and across from Africas only glaciers. From Stella Point the crew had to dig deep to finish the final 1.5 hour climb across the crater rim. Together we climbed slowly but surely, “Pole Pole” (pronounced ‘Polay Polay’ it means slowly, slowly in Swahili) as our African guides would say to the summit. Upon arrival hugs were shared, handshakes of appreciation and ultimate feelings of satisfaction. The funny thing about any summit is that always accompanying these feelings is the tempering understanding that we are only half way, we still must get down, and it generally isn’t easy.

As we made our way down from the summit, back to Stella point we watched people digging hard like we had just been doing, their slow steps, the looks in their eyes telling the story of giving everything the have hoping the summit comes soon. After Stella Point, in the sun we shed layers, drank water were finally able to relax a bit before the final descent to camp. As we walked back into camp our staff sang and congratulated us on our climb. We relaxed and drank cold juice. It was then time for the big 18km, 10,000ft descent. Pulling into the Mweka gate at 6:00, we were greeted by many of our staff.

Today my legs are sore but I’m always happy to have another successful climb under my belt. Thanks again to our local staff of guides, porters and cook staff. They really do a great job and make the experience on the mountain amazing!

Head guide Sid Pattison reports:

Karanga, meaning “peanut”, seems to undersell this camp. Big views all the way down to the plains below and the towering Kilimanjaro above.

Since leaving Machame Gate we have trekked through rain forest, arid dry lands, hidden moorlands and scrambled up the Baranco Wall. Today at 4000 m / 13,220 ft. the crew is feeling good, eating well and staying hydrated as we prepare for our summit bid tomorrow night after our morning hike to our high camp: Kosovo Camp (4860 m / 15,950 ft.).

Our local staff has been endlessly helpful and entertaining. There really is no comparison when it comes to how committed these guys are to this mountain and helping us along our journey to the roof of Africa.

Wish us luck for a clear and pleasant summit day!

Hiking to Karanga Camp

Hiking to Karanga Camp

The View from Karanga Camp

The View from Karanga Camp

Kili providing the backdrop to Karanga Camp

Kili providing the backdrop to Karanga Camp

Kilimanjaro from the Baranco Wall

The towering Kilimanjaro from the Baranco Wall

Straight from head guide, Mark Tucker, here is the full recap of summit day on Mt. Elbrus:

We got pretty lucky with the weather — except for it trying to blow us off the summit ridge! And then after we descended the fixed lines (that are installed annually to protect against a fall on the steep terrain) we hit some white-out conditions, but just for a bit. Aside from that, I guess you could call it a beautiful day on the mountain!!! Which it was.

We started with a bit of help from a snow-cat at 02:00 AM moving up the lower part of the climb.

After a few hours of climbing, we were welcomed by a beautiful warming sunrise. We were fortunate to witness the very unique sight of the mountain’s shadow being cast on the horizon by the rising Sun. The beautiful hues of pinks, blues, and greys were enough to take your breath away. Or was it because were were working so hard at 17,000’? 🙂

The team did a fantastic job taking care of themselves and climbing strong. On the last bit to the top, the wind was blowing so hard that the team gathered even more strength to crawl to the summit! We hunkered down for a quick couple of photos.

Everyone did an awesome job heading down safe, healthy and yes, a bit tired!

Just in, tons of photos from the Mt. Elbrus summit day, enjoy…

Head guide, Sid Pattison reports:

Welp, we are on our way! After a full day of gear checking, packing, shopping and putsing around Arusha, we are finally on our way to Machame gate!
The crew is psyched, our local staff have been amazing and we are excited to get some miles under our boots!

Exciting news in this quick text-only update from Lead guide Mark Tucker. More details and PHOTOS to follow:

  • 16 of us left high camp at 2am
  • 16 of us literary crawled to the tallest point in Europe due to high winds
  • 16 of us are now in the forest of Cheget 7000’

I call it a nice day!!

Congratulations to the entire team for 100% success on reaching the top of Europe – Mt. Elbrus (5,642 m / 18,510 ft) and descending safely to the lush valley below.

Seven Summit: Mt. Elbrus

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