The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Archive for the category “Mountaineering”

Mountains, memories and motivations

It’s Summertime, and the living is eas(ier). Time to update many things. I had a big climb last month in Alaska. More on that very soon. Meanwhile my good friend Alan Arnette left yesterday for Pakistan; he should be just about in Islamabad as I write this note, getting ready to head up to the Karakoram range, and K2. This is a big deal, and I hope you all will follow him on his blog , on his Facebook page, and you can track him on the mountain via SPOT. K2 is the second highest mountain the the world, but significantly harder than Everest. It is very steep from the beginning and never lets up. He’ll be climbing the Abruzzi Ridge (by the way named after the guy who named Mt Bona where I was in Alaska) Route, the standard, and here is *some* idea, the Abruzzi is Route “F”:

Exhaustion is a major risk, and it has objective dangers out the wazoo, bad weather, and boulders flying at you at terminal velocity. It’s the mountaineers mountain, a huge challenge and as I said dangerous. 25% fatality rate of those who summit. So it is usually left to full-time professionals to climb. All of that is by way of admiration for what Alan has set out to do. He is well experienced, and as well trained as you can be. He’s a pro, and he is determined. Why climb? Well, the challenge is really there if you love big mountains. But Alan has another motivation0-the continued importance of his fund raising efforts for Alzheimer’s research. That’s a personal motivation for him, as you can read. But this is a nasty disease that will effect all of us one way of another. So please join me in supporting Alan. Follow his progress, think good thoughts, and above all, please make a donation. I’m asking all my friends to chip in $5 here. These are great charities doing fantastic work for the cause. And as Alan always says, Climb on!Alan Arnette


Just back from North Conway, NH

I made a quick trip up north, to my beloved White Mountains. It was gorgeous up there. A friend and I climbed a couple of classic ice climbs, Shoestring gully and Willie’s slide. Nothing major, but outstanding fun, and some good experience at multi-pitch climbing. Learned a bunch, had fun, and as a reward, when leaving the valley I got this fantastic view of the big daddy, Mt Washington. I dont think Ive ever seen it this clear.


Training for the new alpinism

Finally, my copy of Steve House and Scott Johnson’s Training for the New Alpinism. A Manual for the Climber as Athlete, Patagonia Books, 2014, has arrived. It treats the climber as an athlete, and differentiates types of climbing/specific training. I especially like the Alpine versus big mountain mountaineering distinctions in it. And fantastic photos throughout the book. More anon. But at first glance this looks like a book every climber will have, and continue to read.

Next stop, Mt Shuksan

I am heading out on Sunday to Seattle for some much looked forward to climbs. First up, myself and a guide are spending some quality time on the glaciers of Mt Shuksan in the North Cascades. In cycling we call it “Time-in-the-Saddle,” I’ll call this “Time-in-Crampons.” As always, I am climbing with IMG-simply the best people around. Climbing the Sulphide Glacier route. Here are the basics for Shuksan from summitpost.


A view of the mountain, and sulphide glacier, upper mountain in shadow

Photo taken 5/28/05 by Kelsi Franzen

Final report on Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer’s route

Well, gentle reader, I am very late with this, since I climbed Whitney in March! So this is by way of keeping me honest. Mt Whitney is a gorgeous place, and it was a challenge to climb it in March. I was not in the best of shape as we started heading to the trail from Whitney Portal, although I was happy that my pack weighed in at only 54 pounds. Day one headed up to Upper Boy Scout Lake. We did not go up the ledges, but instead stayed low and followed a gulley up. Rough bushwacking, some large steep up, and postholing. Uggh. There was a good amount of snow, and by 10 AM is was sludge in places. We hit camp one and I was feeling pretty worked. Something like a 6 hour day. The guides, the other guys on the climb, and the food was great. Days 2 and 3 were the humps up snow fields, I guess averaging around 30% grade or so, although it felt much steeper to my sore legs. We saw very few other climbers  heading either up or down, which I thought was a great feature. In the Summer, this must be a mad house, although the permits are controlled thankfully. We hit the high camp, which was a nice quiet spot. We saw two guys who had summited the previous day chilling out, getting ready for more climbing elsewhere. I was definitely feeling tired, and was glad to get the tent set up. Went to bed early since we had a pre-dawn start. It was cold as we got the avalanche transponders clicked out and crampons on the boots. It was a fun day, but once again as we weer on the final climb up to the notch I was wishing I had been doing more cardio over the Winter! I decided not to go all the way up, we hit the notch, 14K, at about noon or so, cold and windy, and I was worried about 3 more hours of technical climbing yet just 500 feet more (!), before the long down climb. I decide the better part of valor was calling it a day, and heading down strong, which is what I did. I regret it a bit, and here is one of the things that I am still learning. That is, how far can you push beyond your limit and recover. On a bike, I know it perfectly, on the mountains, I still keep it throttled back so I know I can come down feeling strong, and not holding up teammates. The more mountains, the better I know how far to push into the red zone and feel confident. This is what I take with me Sunday as I climb Shuksan in the north cascade range ( lots of snow no doubt), come down and rest, and then onto Rainier and the Kautz glacier route. Onward, upward!

A few photos of the climb up Whitney:

Resting at high camp, waiting for tea


Heading up to high camp


Still heading up, now in snowshoes


Day 3, up to the notch, feeling this was steeper than it looks!


Downclimbing on the famous Ledges


The team, at high camp, feeling good


And here I am celebrating the town of Lone Pine, and Whitney in the backgound. A beautiful experience


Climbing Mt Whitney in March

Finally, I am getting around to reporting on my climb of Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer’s route this past March. As usual, I used IMG, simply an outstanding guiding company, and they did not disappoint. A first class experience all the way. That does not mean it was easy, because it wasn’t. We had a team of five climbers, and two guides, one of whom was one of the owners of IMG and a legend in the mountaineering world, George Dunn. The other guide was Tristan Sieleman, of Sierra Mountaineering International, an authorized guiding company in the Inyo National Forest. One heck of a great guide. So we were set for an adventure. I fly into Las Vegas on March 12, picked up the car ( a yellow bug ?!), hit the cheap hotel, behind the strip, and slept. I spent the next morning waiting for George to arrive, I had great luck that he needed a ride out to Lone Pine CA and I was happy to have his company. We left Vegas around noon and drove West, through Death Valley. Quite something in itself, and my first time seeing this truly spectacular place. Hitting Pahrump NV we passed a promising looking Mexican Restaurant, and had lunch. Simple, but very good. We continued on and hit Lone Pine at around 4 or so. I knew nothing of this town, but it has a real history, and quite a lot of charm for being so remote. I Stayed at the Dow Villa, famous as a place where the movie stars stayed filming the dozens of westerns shot in Lone Pine over the years. A very nice spot. After a quick pizza, I packed up my pack for the early start the next day, took a photo of the Sierras, with Whitney front and center 15 miles away, and wondered what the next day would bring.


Destination Mt Whitney

Just finished packing up the duffels, leaving tomorrow for the Inyo National Forest via Las Vegas and Lone Pine CA to climb My Whitney in Late Winter. It offers up special challenges, including fairly heavy snow on the approach, so that means snowshoes and heavy packs going in.  We are climbing the Mountaineer’s route. If you look at Whitney in the far right of this photo, we climb up the couloir which is quite visible, and steep! And them a scramble up to the top. I’ve been training, but I never do feel it is enough-the mountain will certainly finish the job of good training, no doubt. One of the more interesting features of this climb is that, driving through Vegas and Death Valley, I will go from the lowest point of the continental US to the highest in just a couple of days. Full report when I get down on Sunday. There should be a blog post or two on the IMG blog, and if I can update you all via twitter, I will. One of the treats on this climb are there are just 5 of us plus two guides, one of whom is the legendary climber George Dunn, an owner of IMG. A serious privilege to climb with someone of that caliber and experience for sure.


Ice Festival in North Conway NH ending today

The great ice festival up at Mt Washington, now 20 years old (!) and run by the great people at IME and the International Mountain Climbing School ended today. I was hoping to get up there but alas, work prevailed. This is fast becoming one of the best ice climbing festivals, not as sexy as Ouray maybe, but a cooler, and older, event (alright, I show my regional prejudice). They had awful weather last year, this year, lots of cold and ice.


Yale Himalaya Show

Yale University has, I just learned (!) a famous collection of Himalaya material. For an orientation to the collections, see here. As part of the Yale Himalaya Initiative, a show of a part of the collection will open next week at Sterling Library. It looks like a great show. I plan on getting involved in the Himalaya Initiative, so I’ll be reporting on their events from time to time-they have a great line up of lectures and movies about the region from many points of view. A high res poster image can be grabbed here.


studying Egyptian papyri in the shadow of Mt Fuji, Japan

RJ and I have finished our first day examining a collection of papyri at Tokai University, near Mt Fuji. A gloriously clear day, as you can see. Wanted very much to get some climbing in, and what a beautiful mountain! Anyway, we spent all day looking at texts, and there were many surprises, including finding several Saite Period documents, and some Ptolemaic documents (fragmentary, but some good information) and even a few late Greek texts as well. Quite a range of material

More anon of course


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