The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the month “April, 2009”

The coolest event on Everest

I’ll turn to other mountains, and even a bit of ancient history, gentle reader, soon. There is a lot happening on other mountains to be sure. But Everest, for many reasons, draws most of the reporting, and most of the people going for one goal or another. Now besides what seems to be an interesting mix of people, from hardened veterans of many successful climbs, to a young 17 year old (!) American woman making her first attempt (now that is cool), there are some amazing new routes being attempted this year. The coolest, in my very humble opinion, is a Kazakh team’s attempt of the Lhotse-Everest traverse. This, I think, goes back to the great Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev- the villain (unfair in my view) of Jon Krakauer’s Into thin air account of the 1996 disaster. I’ve just been reading, as it happens,  Above the clouds, the papers of Boukreev edited by his partner Linda Wylie. It is a great book, and between reading this and The Climb, Boukreev’s own account of 1996, he really does appear to be something other than the villain. What a talented mountaineer, who died tragically on Christmas Day in 1997 during a Winter (!) climb of Annapurna.

Anyway, this year’s attempt of the Lhotse-Everest traverse, ascending Lhotse from the western Cwm, traversing the northwest ridge, up Everest via the southeast ridge and then descending the west ridge of Everest, sure seems like the coolest thing going on!! Here is the route from the Russian mountaineering page:


Looks pretty simple, huh? Then you go to the accounts of the American ascent of the west ridge of Everest in 1963, the first American summit. There are two books, one by James Ramsey Ullman (and others), Americans on Everest. The official account of the ascent led by Norman G. Dyhrenfurth, Lippincott, 1964 , the second by Dr. Thomas Hornbein, Everest. The West Ridge, published by the Mountaineers in 1980. You look at some of the photos published in these books, and realize that this attempt by the Kazakhs is amazing. The Americans who went up the West Ridge, Thomas Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld (both phenomenal climbers by all accounts), did not descend by this route.  Rumor has it that the Kazakh team is on Lhotse acclimatizing. Good luck guys. Man do I wish I could see this.

Here is another image of the West Ridge from Stipe Bogic’s site:


Are you kidding me??


Interesting doings on Everest

Just catching up on the various blogs and websites from Everest teams. Can’t thank Alan Arnette enough for his ability to gather and arrange information so well. From my count, there are 46 teams of various sizes on the South Side this Season. Wo. Just to add to the festival, the world’s highest cricket match was played for charity at Gorak Shep on the 21st! Now that is exceptionally cool. More news anon

FirstAscent Team ready to pounce

Looks like all is going really well on Everest from what I can tell from my comfy armchair in Connecticut. From the latest video posts, looks like ABC is well established (and about as comfortable as my place in Connecticut actually!) and the weather looks amazing. Almost appears as though Ed Viesturs and Co. are strolling on a 14er in July in Colorado! These guys are making it look easy 😉

Cleopatra’s tomb discovered?

Well, I’ve been traveling, and Ive missed quite a lot to blog about. Always the way no doubt. I’ll figure out how to blog and travel at the same time soon. Since Yale’s year is nearly finished, I’ll have a few more minutes in the day to add more thoughts on interesting topics soon. Meanwhile, the news comes from Cairo that on the Mediterranean shore, at a site called Taposiris Magna, (some) archaeologists are claiming the discovery of the final resting place of the last Ptolemaic ruler, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony. Since this covers the subject of my academic research, Ptolemaic Egypt, I do have to cover this. The inimitable Zahi Hawaas, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, claims that a mummy mask complete with cleft chin may be the clincher. The announced “discovery” has generated the usual hubbub, and the expected speculation. As far as I can see so far, no evidence has come to light which proves much of anything, and History is not in danger of being changed, even if so much of it on the subject of Cleopatra is literary propaganda generated after her death. You can read about some of this in a recent post in the New York Times. All of it, for the moment, amounts to nothing in terms of History in my humble opinion, but it’s at least cool. Stay tuned.

archaelogist460_1387151c Photo © EPA

Tommeke takes 107th “La Pascale”

Tom Boonen (Belgium) won the 107th Paris-Roubaix, “la Pascale” as it’s called since it is often run on Easter Sunday, in great style. I thought he might win Flanders last week, but he had to defend Stijn Devolder’s breakaway. And Roubaix was a great race too; in the last few KM’s, he looked like Merckx roaring down the road, looking incredibly strong. I mean, my god, even on the track in Roubaix, with no one near him, he was hammering. I rode with Tom on a ride out to the coast during a training ride for Quickstep before last year’s Tour Of Calfornia, and I know how strong he really is. Bike racing at its best, in the hardest one day race in the world, or is it the second hardest ;-)?. Now he must win Flanders again to match, and his 3-3 victory salute will be most impressive indeed. He joins good company in Eddy Merckx, Rik van Looy,  Johan Museeuw in winning Paris-Roubaix for a third time.

More from First Ascent

The strong team gathers; really cool to see Ed Viesturs looking excited. There’s even music in this clip-looks like the beginnings of a new film!

Everest is really heating up

I am following with great interest now the Everest season. It is crowded this year on the south side, and there are lots of really compelling personal stories. You can get great reporting over on The Adventurist and Alan Arnette’s site, both on my Blogroll. As my new friend 😉 Jason over on the Adventurist reports, the First Ascent team is an amazing collection  of talented American mountaineers, including my hero Ed Viesturs. The team is sponsored primarily by Eddie Bauer, who are launching a new line of mountaineering clothes. I’ve just ordered a couple of pieces, so I’ll let you know. The stuff does look good, you can see the men’s stuff  HERE and in an intensely competitive market, I guess it is going to help to have these climbers going for Everest, after their tests on Aconcagua. You get a sense of the logistics, and this year’s bad weather, on the FirstAscent posts:

A great Tour of Flanders

The best race of the Euro Cycling season took place last Sunday in Belgium, the Ronde van Vlaanderen. And what a great race it was too. I donno, is Boonen past it? 🙂 I rode with the Quickstep team at last year’s tour of California-now that was a great adventure. The guys were great, as my buddy and I hung in the back not to disturb them as we rode out to the coast from the top of the famous top of Old La Honda. I got the real measure of Tom as they climbed up a 4 or 5% grade on Highway, which left me in their dust. I was maxed out, the they were on the cell phones chatting away. Incredible power effortlessly.  Anyway, Tom looked like he was stomping really hard up the climbs, looking like he was wasting a lot of energy for no good reason.

The race up the Muur at Geraardsbergen, narrated in Flemish as God intended

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