Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
A few more folks spoke up in this same fashion and those that didn’t say so in the big group setting volunteered the same response to me later in the weekend. It was unanimous amongst the group that the “No Adversity Pill” would be a big hit amongst this crew.
Friday, September 14, 2012
|My new friends at 19,340 ft|
Prior to our departure I had established “teams within the team of 17”. Groups of 2 and 3 would be cruising together on summit night to ensure a buddy system for both safety and cheerleading effect. I then separated my staff of African guides within the small groups to provide some local support throughout the night. I placed my second-in-charge African guide Dustin out front. I have done at least 10 Kili expeditions with Dustin and trust him immensely with my people. He is solid for sure. I knew that he would set a good pace and provide front-of-the-line confidence for the folks as the night slogged on and folks got tired. I kept my head guide Godlisten towards the back with me as a “floater” should someone need additional assistance during the night.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Although there are a few glaring mistakes...
1)Erik and I only climbed Everest once.
2)We didn't take the blind Tibetan kids up Everest...it was a satellite peak called Lhakpa Ri.
3)I wouldn't call myself a devoted liberal... let's go with socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
Otherwise, it's a fun read on the history of a self prescribed dirtbag hippie.
Friday, July 20, 2012
So I decided it was time to become friends with the wind. I thought on how to go about doing this. I had paraglided quite a bit a few years back and although that was flying and dancing with the wind it was more about thermals and floating. There was way to much sitting around with paragliding. Too many other variables in play. I wanted to harness the wind…I wanted to seek out the wind and desire it’s presence. I wanted to hunt the wind instead of being hunted.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Tonight we take showers, eat good food and sleep in beds for the first time in a week.
Much more to come.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
It's time to put my work clothes on and head out.
It's also around this time I do start to get a bit antsy...ready for an adventure...primed to breath some foreign air. I'm convinced that I'm genetically wired to implode if I don't escape the confines of the US at least once every 3 months. Can't say that I've tested out this theory in the past 20 years...but I'm guessing if I pushed the 3 month limit, something would would happen akin to the dude that had the creature pop out of his belly in Alien. I'll just continue to not test it.
As I've returned from expeditions over the years and recounted tales of adventures from far away lands, one comment has been repeated to me countless times from many of my good pals... "Dude, I want to come with you on one of your trips some day. No, seriously...do a trip sometime that I can join you."
Well, I listened and here we go...
Last year I laid it out there to a circle of my good friends that I would be putting together a trip to Peru to do our "Hidden Inca Trail" trek for exclusively friends and family...not knowing what kind of response I'd get. Be careful what you ask for.
This weekend 30 of my good friends and I will depart from our respective home airports and head for Lima, Peru with what will unquestionably be one of the most rowdy groups to ever set foot in South America. We will spend the next 2 weeks exploring the ancient city of Cusco, tromping through the rugged peaks of the Andes, getting our hands dirty with a day of community service in Chilipaua and most likely drinking a fair share of pisco sour along the way. My shaman friend, Sebastian will accompany us as a beacon of goodness throughout our journey. This man is pure magic with just thoughts of him making me feel cleaner and more grounded.
One of the joys of my job as an expedition guide is providing a venue for like minded folks to come together and bond over powerful experiences. I have been witness to dozens of life long relationships that were galvanized on the flanks of great peaks around the world. Climbing a mountain or trekking through remote alpine valleys places individuals in a wonderfully insulated world that requires bonding on a level that is difficult to attain in the ho-hum civilized world we walk around in day to day. As we sweat together weaving up and down these deep gorges and high passes, we go through our Heroes Journey together...establishing alliances, facing the dragon and sharing our tales. It is through this process that only we know...our own little secret that can never fully be told through photos and videos... that we are bonded forever.
I will watch with great joy as friends from my different worlds collide in one beautiful blend of adventure, culture and fellowship...forever to be linked by our shared walk.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Four folks died last weekend as the first short weather window appeared on the mountain and created a "mad dash" attitude amongst the hundreds of commercial operations up there. A veritable conga line of folks were strung along the Lhotse Face all jockeying for position up at the high camp. The next night, the masses took off from 26,000ft towards the 29,035ft summit. Due to the excessive lines, inability to pass, extreme altitude and cold temps, folks were forced to essentially "stand around" for upwards of 3 hours waiting their turns. The four that died are suspected to have perished from altitude related illness and exposure, surely in part to standing in place for hours at a time at over 8,000 meters.
There are several well documented variables that are playing out there this season that are cumulatively at least contributing to most of the deaths there this year (10).
Primarily you have a large demographic of folks that have a strong desire to knock off the "7 Summits", which by default includes Everest. The only problem with this is many of the folks that seek out that objective have summited a total of 6 peaks...EVER...by the time they get to Everest. Many peak baggers these days fail to put in their apprenticeship prior to venturing up to the icy slopes of the Himalaya and arrive at Basecamp with minimal experience of how their bodies will react at extreme altitude and stress or even how to properly use their gear.
Now, I would never fault someone for setting a very high goal and set out to achieve it... but what is important to remind these folks is that lofty goals deserve a diligent amount of effort and work. Dozens of years in the mountains is important...understanding what altitude does to your body. Making decisions when you are ridiculously depleted. Establishing a sense of self reliance. These skills are only learned from years of working in the big hills.
Most of the Everest peak baggers are lulled into a sense of ease and complacency due to the fact that there are dozens of commercial guide outfitters that, for a lofty price tag will do everything for them except place their feet on the ground. This sets up a challenging dilemma for everyone. The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism will never turn down the huge money that Everest brings in to their impoverished nation (this year the Nepalese government reportedly issued around 340 permits at $10,000 each). The guide companies also have a hard time turning away such big $$$ (ranging from $25k up to $110k). And most frighteningly, the clients feel comfortable allowing the guides to do all the work and make all the decisions. There are plenty of stories out there about some dude or dudette with very limited experience making it to the top with just sheer conditioning and drive. What is typically not stated in these cases is how the guide provided all the critical decision making, life saving moves and logistical coordinating...which is what guide services do. I'm just not sure it's wise to coddle someone at 29,000ft.
You have the very young (13) and the very old (73) and I even heard...and I just can't believe this...a BLIND GUY summited Everest. What the hell? Must be easy.
Take all of the above issues and saddle them up with the fact that this season has been extraordinarily dry and windy on Everest. This has lead to very rocky conditions and lead to an excessive amount of rock and snow fall from the higher slopes which in turn has lead to several rock fall injuries this season as well as several abandon attempts simply due to the fact that the "route just wasn't in". My pals from the Eddie Bauer First Ascent team were attempting the very little climbed West Ridge and found the conditions to be horrific...mostly from poor snow coverage and high winds. That being said, these guys were bad ass for simply getting way up there and trying something VERY hard. Kudos to Charley, Jake, Dave and Brent.
The only humorous issue for me in this whole story is how on our summit night on Everest in 2001, all the other teams made it VERY clear they did not want to be around our team with Erik...assuming the blind guy would slow everyone down. Little did they know that Erik goes just as fast as everyone else on the type of terrain you encounter towards the top. I remember our expedition leader, PV telling the other teams..."yeah, you may want to avoid the night of the 24th. We might be really slow." That was some solid gamesmanship right there. We had summit night to ourselves. The only other humans we saw that night were these two guys that summited from the North side right around the same time we did. Otherwise that mountain was ours.
In any case, tonight another 100 or so folks are going for the top. I will send good warm and open space vibes to them as they push on. May the stop lights remain green to the top.
Check out my contribution to the NBC Nightly News that aired on the 24th.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
One of the many good things that came out of Expedition Impossible was getting to reconnect with a number of old friends from back in the day that recognized that scrawny, tattooed redneck running around Morocco with a blind guy on TV.
Perhaps the most remarkable was hearing from my pal Mike Morgan…an instrumental person in my life. Mike and I just spent a couple days together recently and had a blast reminiscing about many of the countless situations we found ourselves in, back in the day. One event of chance though, was perhaps the most critical in who I am as a person today.
At the ripe age of 18, Mike and I were attending East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN with a number of other guys of our similar ilk. What is that ilk, you ask? Well, let’s just say that we spent a significant amount of our time that year in J. City pretending we were in some country music video…chasing the “Ws”…whiskey, weed and women.
Oh, and going to class? That was optional… at best. I followed my stellar 1st semester academic performance of a 1.2 GPA with a “is that really possible” 0.6 my 2nd semester. Needless to say, it was clear that ETSU wasn’t going to ask me back for my sophomore year.
As that underachieving end of my first year of “higher” education was coming to a close, the restlessness that I felt brewing inside was also felt by Mike Morgan, one of closest pals on “Team W”. We had discussed on many occasions the fact that we needed to get out of the south. That we needed to explore and adventure. That we needed to see what else was out there. We didn’t know what any of that meant in terms of how to execute, but our intentions were clear. We wanted to go and do something.
After a few weeks of discussion and a VERY small bit of research, Mike and I had determined that snow skiing would be the activity that would guide us to the promised land of adventure. I had been skiing since I was 13 (thanks to my parents noting my interest after a church group trip to Snowshoe when I was a wee kid). Mike had in fact been racing on a ski team in the rugged hills around Gatlinburg for almost a decade. We both loved skiing but knew that it was only a catalyst in getting us out on the edge of something we had yet to see and feel.
To that end result, we had narrowed our landing spots down to one of two places… Vermont and the northeast slopes Killington, where we would only be a day drive from the safety of our family network should we decide to tap out at any point. The other option was the vast unknown of Colorado and the clear umbilical cut that comes from moving ¾ of the country away from anyone you know. Just the thought of “goin out west” at the age of 19 to ski and explore was enough to stand the hairs up on our necks. I bet between us we had less than $500, a couple of vehicles held together with some duct tape and bailing wire and some ski gear. We weighed the pros and cons of both locations for what seemed like a fairly substantial amount of time (considering we were still very busy in our pursuit of the Ws, and clearly this was very time consuming). We were torn. Vermont vs Colorado. It seems clear now that the decision should be a no brainer… but at the time, it was tough.
Then, as all good life changing decisions do, it came down to the flip of a coin.
Heads = Vermont
Tails = Colorado
I remember it as clear as yesterday, Mike and I sitting in a fairly deserted cafeteria on a beautiful southern afternoon around 2pm (we had just woken up).
Quarter comes out. Mike flips it and I watched, somehow knowing that my future was very much wrapped up in which way the coin landed. He held his hand over it, painfully extended the delay. Both of us smiling at what would dictate at the least, a year of our life.
And there it was… tails. Colorado. Oh shit. Should we flip it again? See if we get the same answer. That’s a long way from here. Other than some guy Mike had met once from Gatlinburg, we didn’t know a soul in Colorado.
We giggled a bit and decided we had to listen to the coin flip forces that be.
A month later our cars were packed, our families were kissed and we began our drive west.
The subsequent 23 years have been eventful to say the least. Colorado is my home. Boulder is as a part of me as any place that I was raised. Clearly my career, my family and my happiness have been, in part, defined by Colorado and the proximity to these wonderful mountains and lifestyle that exists here. This venue has been instrumental in how it has sculpted me.
That quarter landed on tails for a reason. In my humble opinion, random chance doesn’t exist. We make our own paths and then we walk on them. The way we walk down these paths is entirely up to us.
Go ahead and flip a coin. Perhaps a roshambo …but I’m pretty sure that the result is not random. Hard sayin.