The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Cause Climbing

Alan Arnette recently pointed in a tweet to a short piece in Elevation Outdoors Magazine about his Seven Summits climbs to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and to raise money for research. That raised some issues I thought I had to respond to. Here is what I said there:


Thanks for keeping an open mind on the cause-based climbers. I’ve gotten to know Alan through his generosity in responding to my mountaineering questions the last few years. His 7(8) summits bid is really inspirational, and has gotten me both more interested in mountaineering and more interested in his cause, which I support whole-heartedly now…from Connecticut. I do hope the outdoor companies realize that this is what ought to be supported far more vigorously and generously than giving the professionals all of the accolades for speed climbing a peak, or putting up new routes in the Karakoram or China. Those, of course, are great to read about, but are ultimately about that climber and nothing else. But climbing to bring a community together, to inspire and yes to raise a bit of money–that, to my mind has far more value for mountaineering. By the way, I am so inspired by Alan that I am coming with him to Kilimanjaro (what a great privilege) in September. In such a case, I win, the cause wins, the mountaineering companies win. Climbing with a purpose, yes even by people in their 50′s and beyond, getting out there, helping others. That represents the very best in the mountaineering community. Climb on Alan!


Mt. Yale. Conclusion

Well the last hour was uneventful. It felt like crunch time, and this is where a bit of mental toughness comes in. This was not the world’s hardest mountain by any means. But looking up at the ridge made me think twice. OK, why am I doing this? How hard is this going to be?  “Piece a cake” my buddy quipped, as if he were reading my mind 🙂

Here are a couple of photos from the Mt Yale page that shows the last 30 minutes or so of work we had to do, and the  route on the summit cone:

We reached the saddle, an unnamed peak at about 13, 605 and took off our packs to rest for a few minutes and take some photos of the stunning views from here.

Time to summit, and so we did. It’s basically a scramble, not too bad, but you had to pick your spots well, and there was some loose rock. Very happy that the weather was clear and with a light breeze. I would not want to be up here in a storm for sure. Anyway, we made it up, and what a neat feeling to be on the summit. We took four hours, not setting any speed records, but I wanted to be cautious, having come from sea level just a day before. I was actually a little surprised how good I felt. We lingered for 20 minutes, had a bagel, and the wind picked up a bit. Time to move off the summit. Going down was, in the end, the hard bit. About 2/3’s of the way down, and my legs felt a bit wobbly. Gerry Roach did say in his guidebook: “no matter how you tackle Yale, the peak will test your legs.” Uhhhh, yeah. Wow, the last mile or so, I was a hurting unit, mainly calves, although my knees certainly felt it. I did not use poles on the way down, since I felt often that I could not use them on the very rocky bits. I think I’ll use them next time. On a steep slope of scree, I slipped and scraped up my right leg and my arm, hitting a tree stump. Ouch. A nice souvenir of Yale. The last mile or so, I was spent. Wow, I said to myself. I am really pooped. Then my buddy, looking at poop right in the trail, exclaimed: “Bear poop!” Oooops. The motivator. And we made it back to the trail head, signed out in the log book, and hit the car. A real feeling of accomplishment sunk in, as my buddy drove home. I had driven in, but, with the lack of sleep, I thought better of driving. Feeling tired, it was an 8 hour day, but it felt really good to reflect on the day. I was a bit dehydrated. could have used a tad bit more water on the climb. We drove in Buena Vista for water, and awful sandwiches from a convenience store. They tasted like gourmet. There you have it. My first 14er, and I can’t wait to get back to Colorado. I learned a lot. It was a challenge, but I am liking how I can build on this for many other climbs. It was great to climb with a friend. Oh, I almost forgot, we looked in vain for the USGS Summit benchmark  but could not find it! Anyone know where it is on Mt Yale? The Boulder map gallery sells the markers….but I did not get one. All day, we saw maybe 30 people. No where near as crowded as I thought it might be. I’ll have to go back to the map shop and pick up a benchmark to place on the top. I refuse to believe that Mt Yale is one foot shorter than Mt Princeton. No way! I might have to alter the benchmark height, or build up a bit of the mountain;-) But I suspect the people who have misplaced it…..

Here’s our summit pic:

Mt. Yale. Part III

We kept walking, across Denny Creek over a log bridge, we were soon in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Stunning country. A couple of more hops over the Creek and we were gaining altitude. I still felt great. There are times when the path is quite steep and rugged. We were passed by two 14er initiative people (awesome organization, and they really keep the trail in perfect shape) bringing up some hay. The had a pretty quick gate. We kept on at our pace, and encountered two small groups of young people coming down, They had not summitted, they said because of the weather. Mmmm, I thought, the peak looked pretty good to me. We kept on, and we were eventually above tree line. Wow, the views were getting good, and I could feel the effort. Climbing at this altitude, we were just above 11K now, felt like climbing a 10% grade on my bike. I was not taking my pulse, but I felt at or near anaerobic threshold. No problem. We rested when we needed to, the weather was great, and we soon ran into a marmot, who seemed to be saying to us “welcome to Mt Yale. Need any help? (Got any food?)” He followed us up the trail for a while, and we could now see people above us, high above us, on the shoulder, and the summit ridge. Wow. Another hour or so to go probably, around 10:30 now. We were starting to encounter one or two people who had summitted. It looked great up there, so the weather was no worry. Here is our curious marmot friend, keeping his distance, as we were.

Mt Yale. Part II

We got back to our camp and were ready for dinner, and Noel and I (mainly Noel) cooked up a storm, Pasta with meat sauce. Fantastic. And Noel surprised me with bringing along a couple of beers(No, they were not in my pack, a la The Eiger Sanction). We hung out after dinner, and talked to several nice folks as they were walking around camp. Mountains brings out really nice people, generally, and we enjoyed the beautiful evening. We hit the hay at about 9 for an early start, and I hit my first problem. I could not fall asleep. Not sure it was altitude, or just a strange bed. I think the latter. Anyway, I stared at my tent ceiling the whole night. Ugggh. I was eager to get up, and did so around 6, for breakfast. Oatmeal, powerbars and fruit, and good coffee. Just what I needed. We broke camp and headed for the trail, hitting it at 7:15 or so. Perhaps  a little later than ideal. But we were alone on the trail. It was a great hike, a lovely trail, rocky, and a bit steep in parts, but it does get your heart going. We signed the log book and we were off. It felt real..we were climbing Mt Yale. I did not really have any pre-conceived expectations, my thoughts were totally of the unknown. Being an academic, I had read everything I could about the 14ers. Alan Arnette’s site is just a fantastic resource, and had good, recent reports, and of course Gerry Roach’s Colorado Fourteeners, 3d ed is helpful, and full of soul. I felt as prepared as I could be, with a partner who had climbed a lot of 14ers. Still, I thought, when would the altitude and the steepness hit me? What about the weather at the summit? I would find out soon enough.

Mt Yale

It was nice, somehow, that Yale proved to be my first 14er, being a Yale Professor. I think it is a mountain everyone at Yale should put on their curriculum. You have to at least try this. It is a great day out. And the mountain is, to me, beautiful. I left Boulder with my friend about 1 PM on July 19. We had a quick bite to eat in Frisco and arrived in Buena Vista, the nearest town, about 4 or so. Feeling good, we decided to get to our camp site at the Collegiate Peaks Campground very near the Denny Creek trail head since we did not have a reservation. Being in the middle of the week we felt ok about that, and there were indeed a couple of open sites for the night. So we set up the tents and decided to go for an acclimitization hike. I was especially anxious to see what I would feel like at 11K or so. So we drove over to the trail head, about 4:30, and decided to take the trail up. It splits about a mile along and we went left out to Hartenstein Lake, at about 11K. It was about a 2 hour walk up and back, but the views of Yale and Princeton are great, and it was a good leg stretcher for the following day. I felt great, and the peak looked like a snap 😉

I point here to Yale, and to the right, Mt Princeton, officially one foot higher, but I figure the surveyor was a P’ton grad and fudged a bit. The lime green Patagonia R1 , which makes me look a bit chunky,ain’t fashionable. But it is a great layer though, and it was getting a little chilly at 5 PM at 11K

Reflections on my first 14 er

I am just back from Boulder CO, and my first 14er experience, on Mt Yale. I had to head out earlier than I was going to, and missed a chance to climb Longs Peak with Alan Arnette. That would have been amazing, but Mt Yale was amazing enough. I’ll post details and some thoughts later tonight. The Kili climb is a mere 6 weeks away!

Busy weekend, crashes, shaved legs and hoped-for summits

Well it has certainly been an eventful weekend. The Tour de France has had one of the more miserable weekends in my memory. Too many silly crashes leaving bodies strewn all over the road. It was the height of silliness to see Alberto Contador get knocked off his line and into the crowd by Vladimir Karpets. AC looked to have been  in a bad position, and had no teammates protecting him. Very very odd scene for a three-time winner and certainly a top pick this year. Can’t remember when a rider of that stature looked like that. I think the Tour is over for him–famous last words by me perhaps, but it ain’t looking good. Meanwhile, a driver in the Antenne 2/3 car, going way too fast on a narrow road, swerved to avoid a tree at the edge of the tarmac and drove into J A Flecha, taking out his front wheel, resulting in a heavy crash into the road, and forcing Johnny  Hoogerland, who had been going very well at the Tour so far, into a ditch and fence post and barbed wire. Are you kidding me? I’ve never seen such a bone head move at the tour. I don’t even think I’ve seen that kind of driving in Connecticut, and trust me if you don’t live here, the state has in my experience some of the worst driving I’ve ever seen. Hope the Antenne 2/3 driver gets banned for life-he deserves as much. Just a crazy weekend at the tour. By the way, the photo below is one of the best illustrations of why it is competitive cyclists shave their legs.

Meanwhile, Alan Arnette is getting poised to summit Denali (no crazy drivers there, at least as far as I know) tomorrow. Fingers crossed for him; if all goes well it’s 4/7 (or 8 really) of the 7 Summits to support Alzheimer’s research. Climb on Alan!

Chris Horner out of the Tour

Really sad news today about Chris Horner, as we head into a fantastic mountain weekend. My favorite two climbs in France are coming up on the 14th, Bastille Day as it turns out, The Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden. Gotta believe that Chris was ready to stomp. Looks like it was a really hard fall-now I know first hand how tough Chris is. But to go from a severe knock on the head, apparently passing out, and then declaring upon awakening “put me back on my bike” was incredible to read about. He’s a great historian of the sport, and perhaps deep in his brain he had embedded Tom Simpson’s famous declaration at the 1967 Tour, although apparently Simpson never said those words. Nevertheless, Chris did get on his bike and finished the stage before going off to the hospital. What a great competitor. Quick recovery Chris.

back in action

Sometimes the academic life takes one to strange and unusual places, especially during the Summer. One such place for me is Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I was working away in the famous Room 807 of Hatcher Graduate Library (The Papyrology reading room) with a colleague, finishing an editing project. Sounds out of the way I know, but it is a great reading room, with all the books we needed to check things in our manuscript quickly, and a really friendly, helpful group of people. It was a very productive and enjoyable 8 days or so. And I always love the drive from my hometown of Chicago to Ann Arbor, through the south side, past my old stomping grounds of Hyde Park and past all of the steel mills in Gary. Not everyone’s cup of tea, and far from the beauty of high peaks, but these places have their own charm. Ann Arbor is a very enjoyable college town, filled with nice organic food restaurants, and hey, a plethora of mountaineering shops! Who knew? Why here I have no idea. But in addition to an actual Moosejaw store, there are several other really fantastic mountaineering shops, including Bivouac right across from campus, which is enormous and has everything you need to outfit your next climb up an 8.0000er.





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