Archive for the ‘Outdoor’ Category
The Smiley’s Summit Salathe – El Captian, Yosemite
From the Mark Smiley‘s journal:
“There are few things better than driving into the Valley in October. You come around that one turn and all focus shifts from the road to El Capitan’s West facing walls. Amazing. I pity the fool that stands outside their car on this stretch of road. All attention is paid to the rock, and none to moving vehicles.
This was our second wall, the Nose last year was our first. As a sophomore big waller we had our systems pretty dialed, and we were excited to get going.
Day 0 – Prep. Taking over an entire campsite we laid all the gear out, OCD style, as to mimic Glen Denny’s the black and white photos of Yvon Chouinard. Janelle is the master mind of the food and I handle the equipment. She set to work making bagel sandwiches for both breakfast and dinner. We wanted to leave the stove behind, so all food would be fully hydrated meals. When you have to carry all your water, it makes no sense to us to eat dehydrated meals. I’m pretty sure the total weight of things was around 165lbs. Including 40lb kit, 29 lb portaledge and fly, 70 lbs of water, 10 lbs of clothing, and 15ish lbs of food.
Day 1 – Getting all that stuff up to Heart Ledges. There are a permanent fixed lines from the ground to these ledges, which facilitates staging very nicely. You must trust the manky fixed lines, but it beats the alternative, so you try not to think about it too much. Stepping into the aid ladders I had to dust off the brain rust to get into the groove of things. 500 feet up I felt back in the game. Huge exposure, hanging from some crazy thin piece of sun-cooked old rope, wind blowing, 75 degrees, sunny. Life is good. Turns out hauling really takes it out of you, so by the time we got the 150+ pound pig up to Heart we were ready to call it a day.
Day 2 – Getting up early to dodge the crowds, we made our way, with only our free climbing rack and rope, to the start of the Salathe. The first 10 pitches are known as Freeblast, which commonly goes free for people in a mild sized day. Our mindset for the day was to free as much as possible, but if an onsight does not happen, whatever, just get ‘er done, and pull through where needed. All but three cruxes went clean, so we were stoked about that. It’s just so nice to move without a pack, in the sun, simply focusing on pure rock climbing moves on the best stone in the world. Especially after an entire summer of climbing cold chossy mountains.
Day 3 – We jugged back up the fixed lines to Heart Ledges, and launched on the route. There were a couple Brits right in front of us, so we took turns waiting on one another. The sun was out, but not too hot, so the urgency meter was very low. We climbed and aided up pitch after pitch. The Salathe is so classic that nearly every pitch has a name. Ear, Hollow Flake, Monster, Alcove, El Cap Spire, Sous le Toit, to name a few. Some of the aid climbing was tricky, but where it was there was normally a fixed piece of gear. Some were good, some looked awful. I clipped the piece regardless. I mean, it’s only got to hold my body weight, right?! We slept the first night on the wall below the Ear pitch. Setting up the portaledge with daylight to spare is the way to go. Once level, we relaxed on what is probably the best piece of kit we own…our portaledge. Lounging, watching the sun set, eating BBQ Pringels…does it get better?
Day 4 – The highlight of this day was watching one of the Brits onsight the Monster off-width pitch. I was belaying Janelle from above, so I got eyes-on the entire thing. The UK has little to no off-width cracks to train on, so the fact that he onsighted it was extra impressive.
You might think you’re a good climber, until you go to Yosemite. It’s the big pond.
Arriving at the belay he was coated in sweat and chalk, and a few oozing war wounds. I think I was more excited than he was. High-5s, slaps on his back, “you’re awesome” filled the air. He was pretty quiet, as he rigged the anchor to bring up the second. After ten minutes or so I noticed him eyeing my water bottle hanging on the anchor.
“Want a drink?” I asked.
It was as if I just offered him a million bucks.
His mouth said, “Ah no, that’s okay, I do not want to take your water.” His face silently screamed, “I want a drink more than anything in the world!”
I unscrewed the lid and handed it to him. He took a small sip and handed it back with a sheepish grin, leaving 3/4 of the bottle was full.
“Finish it man, you deserve it.”
“Really?!” He said.
“Yeah for sure, we have extra, and you just fricky onsighted the bloody MONSTER.”
The bottle was empty a minute later.
We made it up some more pitches. And again set up the ledge for another beautiful evening.
Day 5 – Our 6th wedding anniversary. I am one lucky man to have found, and won the heart of, a beautiful woman excited to spend this special day doing manual labor.
There was some tricky aid climbing throughout, but mostly plugging and pulling. A party pasted us, Russian brothers, that were trying to free the entire route (Freerider). As they blew by with their light rack, no packs, I was jealous of the simplicity of that style of climbing. Come to find out they had been working the route for three weeks. A lot of hard prep work is what it took to get them to this place.
As Janelle aided up the very overhung Salathe roof, which provides access to the beautiful headwall, the brothers came back down. Successful. They were so pumped. Now they had about 2 hours of rappelling the entire route, picking up cashed supplies as they descended. It was also very cool to witness a small part of their huge success. Few elite climbers have the “Freed Freerider” feather in their hat.
We spent the night on Long Ledge, eating fruit cups, soaking in the beauty that makes Yosemite so special to so many. We were blessed with a sun set that left nothing to be desired. Aside from my shoulder tendonitus flaring up, and being too covered in grim to “celebrate marriage”, it was a perfect evening.
Day 6 – We topped out. Lounged around, in no real hurry to shoulder the 80 pound pig. A couple from Austrian hikers happened by, took some photos of the “crazy climbers” with our gear exploded everywhere. We communicated with hand gestures as their English was good as my German is…nein.
Two hours later, the call of a shower grew louder than the cry of the pig’s weight, so I shouldered it and started down hill, walking like an overweight tortoise that had had one too many.
All in all it was a great experience. I think I have satiated my hunger for big wall climbing for a while. I want to most light and free. When I get back on El Cap it will be to go for the Nose in a day, as that seems like an awesome goal, and a great adventure.
Mark and Janelle are trying to keep the dream alive and the videos coming by raising funds to continue filming classic climbs in 2013. If you enjoy these trip reports, and videos, please consider donating, then spreading the word about the campaign to friends that would be interested too. THANK YOU!
Find out how to help by clicking here.
Help the Smileys Reach their Next Summit
Mark and Janelle Smiley have been on a quest to climb the 50 Classic Climbs of North America for the past two years. With only seven climbs left to complete the 50 climb adventure, they’re offering the chance for you to be a part of the experience. See all the details on their Kickstarter page and help out where you can. Who knows, you might even get to go climb with the husband/wife duo this year.
They’ve only got about two weeks left to hit their goal, so spread the word and contribute to their amazing project.
Smileys Project – West Buttress of Denali: A Ski Descent
“Standing on top of one of the seven summits is a goal sought after by people the world around. At 20,320 feet, Denali, aka Mt McKinley, is North America’s tallest mountain. Some claim that it is more difficult to climb than Everest. This is likely due to the heavy packs, deep snow, lack of Sherpa support, and arctic temps. Since I have not yet climbed Everest I cant confirm that claim, but I do know that climbing Denali is very difficult.” – Mark Smiley
Mark Smiley wears Hard Kore. Janelle Smiley wear Soft Kore.
Smileys Climb Harvard Route, Mt. Huntington, AK
“This mountain was likely the most technically demanding alpine route either us have completed. Mixed climbing, steep snow, hauling backpacks, on a multi-day route added up to quite the adventure. It really is a classic.”
Update from the Smileys: Summer’s End, Grand Tetons
“The summer has come to a close. We had a productive and amazing time in Yosemite (climbed the Nose and Half Dome). Now it’s back to Crested Butte for the winter. We still might try and go down to New Mexico and give Shiprock a go if the weather holds, but we are not holding our breath. I am already getting excited for next year’s climbs. I think we are going to start out with a trip back to Alaska for Mt Huntington and the Cassin Ridge on Denali in late May. Until then it’s, train train, train.”
We’re excited for all that the Smileys will accomplish in the coming year. Stay tuned for the latest from the couple right here on our blog!
See the Smileys take on Grand Teton:
Mark & Janelle Smiley Complete Nose Route on El Cap
Mark and Janelle Smiley have been climbing all across North America for the past few years. In their most recent project, the duo are taking on the “50 Classic Climbs of North America,” knocking down climb after climb until they’ve all been topped.
Recently the Smileys’ made the trip out to Yosemite National Park. They accomplished their climbs and just finished the Nose Route on El Cap taking them four and a half days to complete.
Smileys Climb Clyde Minaret & Post Bugaboo Spire Video
The Smileys report in on their latest climbs as they continue to check off climbs from their list of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. Here’s the most recent report from Mark Smiley:
“Janelle and I went home for a couple weeks to get some work done prior to heading back to California. Today we climbed the Clyde Minaret (#34) in Mammoth, CA and are heading to the [Yosemite] Valley in the morning.”
Check out their latest video, as Mark and Janelle take to the top of the East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire, below.
The Smileys Take on the Devil’s Thumb in AK
The Smileys are a husband and wife team that has set our to conquer the “50 Classic Climbs of North America.” Here is the latest update from Mark Smiley, who is currently on the climb:
“Janelle and I are currently in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, getting ready to fly into the Lotus Flower Tower. It should be a hoot. That makes 30 classic climbs down, and 20 to go.”
We’re looking forward to seeing video of their climb. In the mean time, check out the newest video from the Smiley Project, as the climbing couple take on the Devil’s Thumb in Alaska, reaching over 9,000 ft in elevation.
The Smiley Project: Alaska Bound
Mark and Janelle Smiley, aka The Smiley Project, took their endless thirst for adventure north to the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter in Alaska. This was, no doubt, one of the hardest climbs Janelle or Mark have ever completed (press “Play” below for video evidence). What this couple is doing is simply amazing.
For more information on the Smiley Project, visit their website
The Smileys Project: Taking on the 50 Classic Climbs of North America
Mark and Janelle Smiley are no ordinary husband and wife. It’s not every day you find yourself on top of a mountain peak or scaling a 700-foot vertical face with your spouse, but for the Smileys, it’s not that uncommon.
The reason this seasoned, outdoor-loving couple find themselves in such situations is directly connected to their ongoing journey known as “The Smileys Project.” The project is simple: as a couple, climb every one of the climbing routes made famous by the iconic book, “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.”
The expedition will take them across more than 25,000 miles of the continent, up more than 164,000 vertical feet of technical terrain and into new areas of struggle and accomplishment, both individually and as a couple. All along the way, their high-definition cameras will be rolling to capture every moment of every climb as these two climbers pursue their passion for the outdoors.
Get to know the Smileys:
Mark’s interests in outdoor recreation have continually evolved since he was a young boy. At the age of twelve, he enjoyed rappelling out of maple trees in the front yard. Now he can be found putting up first ascents on technical 20,000’+ glaciated peaks.
Mark’s noteworthy accomplishments include:
-AMGA Certified Rock Climbing Guide
-AMGA Certified Alpine Aspirant Guide
-1st Ascent on Huascaran Norte, Peru (21,858’)
-CloudTower, Red Rocks, NV (5.11d)
-Ski Descent: Fuhrer Finger, Mt Rainier WA
Janelle grew up climbing, skiing and playing in the mountains of Colorado. Her hunger for snow adventures has taken her to Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, France and Italy where she explored and worked as a skiing instructor.
Janelle’s noteworthy accomplishments include:
-Events & Ski School Director, Crested Butte Nordic Center
-5.11 Lead Rock Climber
-Randonee, Running & Mountain Bike Racer
-2011 US Ski Mountaineering Champion
The Smiley Project: Travels to the Lost Arrow Spire
The Smileys – a husband and wife Kaenon team – have dedicated the past 2 years to their quest to successfully climb the top 50 Classic Climbs in North America. Their latest trip took them to The Lost Arrow Spire, which is a little climb with huge exposure in the Yosemite National Park. There were a lot of technical difficulties in handling their ropes and gear. But in the end they pulled it off. Mark wears Hard Kore Black G12 and Janelle Soft Kore White G12.
The Smiley Project: Climbing the Titan, Finger of Fate
Catch a glimpse of the Smileys as they tackle The Titan, Finger of Fate in Utah, a 900 foot vertical climb among the Fisher Towers. The Titan is the largest freestanding sandstone tower in North America and is made of mudstone, making it one of the softest, and scariest, types of sandstone.
Husband and wife duo, Mark and Janelle Smiley have set out to pursue their passion and conquer climbing all of the routes made famous by the iconic book, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.
Wearing Hard Kore and Soft Kore, the Smileys put Kore Performance to the ultimate test. Their journey will take them up more than 164,000 vertical feet of technical terrain on a road trip that will cover over 25,000 miles.
Adrian Ballinger Sets Summit Record in Kaenon
Adrian Ballinger, who wears Klay, recounts his record-setting experience as he summited Everest twice in a row, followed by a summit at Lhotse – all in one month. Read his full, first-hand account of the experience below:
May 5, 2011 – Everest Summit * May 20, 2011 – Everest Summit * May 26, 2011 – Lhotse Summit
“What better place to decompress from a Himalayan season than Lover’s Leap, California? I’ve been here for the past few days, enjoying pitches of perfect granite, stellar (and warm) backcountry camping, campfires, fresh food, and cold beers in the local stream (which is now a raging river from snowmelt on the surrounding peaks). Despite losing 10% of my body weight while on Everest and Lhotse, the rock climbing is still fun, and trying to put that weight back on through copious amounts of cookies, ice cream, red meat, and milk shakes makes it even better!
I’ve also finally had the chance to go through my almost 5,000 images, and to gain some perspective on the highlights of the season. It was a truly unique climbing season in many ways, for our groups and for me personally. After guiding full-time internationally for the last 15 years, and since 2007 spending both spring and fall seasons on 8,000 meter peaks, I came into this spring with big goals. As lead guide for Himalayan Experience and Alpenglow Expeditions, I knew I would be spending a lot of time out of base camp and actually working high on the mountains. In 2010 I was fortunate enough to climb Everest twice in one season, first while helping a team of 9 sherpa to fix ropes to the summit (the only non-Sherpa to do so and thus the first Westerner to summit for the season) and then again 3 weeks later with my clients. For 2011 I hoped to climb the double again if possible. But then an additional peak came into the mix. Turns out we had two climbing groups this season, one on the world’s tallest mountain, Everest (29,035 feet) and a second climbing Lhotse (27,940 feet), the fourth tallest peak in the world. Lhotse has more challenging climbing than Everest, and is relatively rarely ascended in comparison, so I was very excited to be a guide on this climb as well, although I knew it would be unlikely that the timing would work out to attempt both peaks in one season.
Well, sometimes the pieces all fall together and the unlikely happens. We were fortunate to have a really strong group of climbers with us on both mountains. Most of our 12 climbers on Everest had climbed with me and our sherpa team before and we knew each others styles and strengths. The same went for the Lhotse team; all 6 had summitted Everest with us in previous seasons before attempting Lhotse. This strong team was combined with our unrivaled sherpa team, and the masterful logistics of Russell Brice and Himalayan Experience. Combined, these teammates meant I could focus my strength on the mountains themselves, climbing with the sherpa, rope-fixing, acclimatizing with the members, and generally spending as much time above the Khumbu Icefall as possible. And it meant that while I missed out on some rest days, I had the opportunity to make multiple summits in a single season.
On May 5, 2011 I stood on top of Everest for the first time this season (and fourth time overall). The day was a long shot and we were lucky to pull it off. One of the more challenging aspects of this season was rapidly changing weather forecasts. After receiving an excellent forecast, 8 sherpa and I planned on moving to Camp 4 at the South Col on May 5 and fixing rope to the Balcony (halfway to the summit), and then sleeping the night at C4 and finishing the work and route to the summit on the 6th. But on the evening of the 4th, the forecast changed, with high winds predicted on May 6. The sherpa, still in Camp 2 at 21,000 feet, and I (at Camp 3, 23,500 feet) didn’t want to miss the now smaller window on the 5th, and decided to attempt a single push from the camps we were in. After leaving C2 at midnight the sherpa picked me up at C3 around 3am. We reached the Soth Col at 5am in cold 40+ mph winds. After setting 2 tents in case of emergency we began the work of fixing to the summit. Each of us carried big loads and, with Phurba Tashi (19 summits of Everest) in front most of the time, succeeded in summiting Everest (and completing the rope fixing) at around 4pm. For the second year in a row I was lucky enough to be the first non-sherpa to the summit for the season, and the only non-sherpa aiding in rope fixing. This day has been my favorite climbing day of each of the last two years. To watch the sherpa working and climbing to their max, and having fun doing it, with no footsteps or ropes ahead of us on one of the most iconic climbing lines in the world, is an incredible honor. I am humbled by the strength they show up there!
But our season was only beginning! We raced down to BC the following day, hoping to rest for at least a week. But a good forecast had us heading through the icefall on our Everest summit push with the members only 3 days later. So began my rapid weight loss program! We moved with the group for 4 days up to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face, when once again the weather forecast began changing and predicting far more wind than we feel comfortable climbing in up high. This time we felt the window was too small to attempt a quick push, and we ended up turning our entire group around to return to base camp and wait for a better forecast. This was a heartbreaking moment for all of the members, guides, and sherpa. To turn around only 2 days from the summit and have to begin reenergizing for another push is very challenging. But the members took it in stride, and 2 days later when multiple climbers from other teams that continued their summit push began returning to basecamp with frostbite on fingers and toes, we knew it was the right call.
But once again, rest was in short supply. 3 days into our basecamp hang we were on the way back up again, this time to attempt a summit window on the 20th. And this time the forecast was dead on. The group moved well, perhaps even stronger than previously due to their extra unplanned acclimatization trip to C3! On a busy May 20 we left Camp 4 at 1am. We quickly caught up to almost 60 climbers who had left earlier in the evening and gotten bogged down on the Triangle Face. We determined that staying in line would mean not summitting that night; the line was too slow. With our strong sherpa, members, and guides, we made the decision to leave the fixed rope and the established track, and short rope and belay our members while putting in a new route. All of a sudden Phurba Tashi and I were once again breaking trail in knee to thigh deep powder at 27,000 feet! But the plan worked; our entire team passed all but 4 or 5 climbers over the next 2 hours on our new route, and then we had the mountain to ourselves for the rest of the day, a dream situation on busy summit days! Between 6 and 7:30 AM 8 members, 3 guides, and 10 sherpa stood on Everest’s summit in perfect windless conditions. This included 5 of us from the May 5 rope-fixing team, all doing our second 8,000 meter peak summit of the season.
And things weren’t quite finished yet. I returned all the way to BC the following day, May 21, knowing that our Lhotse team would also be attempting to summit during this window of low winds and clear skies. I considered staying at C2, C3, or C4 and meeting the team for a less strenuous summit of Lhotse, but in the Himalayan world, multiple summits of 8,000 meter peaks are generally not “counted” unless you return to base camp between each summit. At this point I was only weighing in in the low 130′s and had a decent cough building, along with a pretty good “raccoon-eye” sunburn. But I still wanted to attempt to push my body one more time, and see if I could achieve three summits.
To maximize my rest I stayed in basecamp on the 22nd and 23rd even though the Lhotse group had already begun moving up. At 5 AM on the 24th, after 2 days of rest in BC, I left and moved directly to C2, skipping C1. Then on the 25th I moved directly to Camp 4 high on the Lhotse Face, skipping Camp 3 and joining our members and sherpa. Camp 4 on Lhotse is truly a remarkable place. Tent platforms are cut into the ice of the Lhotse Face at around 25,000 feet, immediately below a stellar elevator-shaft couloir that leads direct to Lhotse’s summit, 3,000 feet above. The entire Lhotse Face is below you, and hanging your feet off the tent platforms while melting water gives you 4,000 vertical feet of air below your feet and then the Western Cwm rolling out to the valley below and on out to Pumo Ri, Cho Oyu, and countless other peaks.
At 12:30 AM we were on our way. The Lhotse Couloir was ideal climbing, 45-50 degree neve snow, mixed with occasional rock bands and deeper snow. Our sherpa, with help from IMG and AAI had already fixed the route a few days earlier, so all we had to do was re-break the trail and pull the rope out from recent storms. Our team had the climb to ourselves, and since the route never flattens out and has few possibilities for rest, we cranked quickly. Less than 4 hours after we started we were on the tiny pointed summit, 3 members, 4 sherpa, and 2 guides. With almost no wind, we were able to spend more than an hour on top, watching the sun rise as huge thunderstorms and epic lightning (the beginning of the summer monsoon) crashed behind Makalu and out on the plains of central Nepal. I arrived first, along with Phurba Tashi, and stayed behind after the others began their descent, giving me an hour and a half on the summit. It was the perfect moment to reflect on the achievement, feel my fatigue, and take in this incredible place I have been lucky enough to play in. The mountains continue forever from the summits of these huge peaks, Tibet on one side and Nepal on the other, each with a completely different feel and look. The sky is purple instead of blue, the wind is pure yet clearly deadly, and the summits, except for 5-10 days each year, are completely untouched.
On Lhotse’s summit, on May 26, three of us jointly became what are believed to be the first climbers to summit three 8,000 meter peaks in three weeks. Phurba Tashi and I both climbed Everest twice and Lhotse once between May 5 and May 26; Tashi Tshering (one of our young and very talented sherpa from Khumjung) climbed Everest once and Lhotse twice during the same period. While I was the only one to return to basecamp between each climb, the sherpa arguably had the harder job – living at Camp 2 and assisting on two major rescues between the summit climbs! I am especially proud of our climbs because they were done while working. Instead of climbing purely at our pace and with as little weight as possible, each of our summits entailed either rope-fixing or guiding clients, always with heavy packs. For me, this adds so much meaning to the climbing, and of course much more work!
Sitting here in the sun, feeling strong once again, one thing comes to mind… Is it possible to summit four 8,000 meter peaks in a month???
- Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions, Himalayan Experience. Thanks to Marmot, La Sportiva, Kaenon and Edelrid for their support.”
Discovery – Is There Any Other Way to Travel?
“After traveling with Gavin McClurg and Jody MacDonald on the Odyssey through Panama I was ready to bail on all of my responsibilities in life and continue the around the world voyage as a deck hand. Gavin’s experience with sailing, fishing, surfing, kiteboarding and paragliding allows them to get intimate with some of the most incredible places in the world. With Jody there to capture the amazing non-stop imagery throughout the unique places they travel, it makes it is a must do in the adventurous travel world. Check out what I mean in this short video they just sent over from Madagascar.” Wyms reporting.
Climbing the World’s Most Beautiful Mountain, The Cordillera Blanca
Below is an excerpt from his recent trip to Peru, detailing what climbers can expect of the ascent and descent of what is considered to be the world’s most beautiful mountain, The Cordillera Blanca or White Cordillera.
Day 9: Today we step onto the glacier making our move to Col Camp (18,000 feet). Often one of the most challenging days of the expedition, we will be climbing on a broken glacier and then up as many as three two-tool ice and neve pitches (styrofoam-like snow), all with our full backpacks. Col Camp boasts one of the best views from a high camp in the entire world. The alpenglow lights up the Southwest face.
Day 10: If we are well acclimatized and strong, we will attempt the summit of Alpamayo (19,512 feet) today. The route to the summit has a 1-2 hour approach across a steep glacier before crossing the bergshrund onto the South-West Face. Then 6-9 pitches (depending on whether we climb the Ferrari or Italian Route) of two-tool (55-70 degrees) ice and neve take us to just below the summit ridge. Traditionally, a final hard, steep pitch puts us on top, where in a good year we can straddle the ridge (one foot on each side hanging over 2000 + foot faces) and work our way to the true summit. We rappel the route to descend, and then return to our high camp.
Day 12: Quitaraju (19, 820) Summit Day! If we have it in us, we will have the opportunity to attempt this second peak, which shares the same high camp as Alpamayo. A short trek across the glacier and we step onto the North Face. While the face is not quite as steep as Alpamayo, it is significantly longer. The route to the summit is often 12+ pitches of two-tool neve, with the upper pitches frequently consisting of soft sugar snow fins. Since we are in the Southern Hemisphere, this face gets early morning sun, and we will need to be descending before noon, back to our Col Camp.
Juulchin Gobi to the Flaming Cliffs: A 2 Day, 87 mile Mountain Bike Ride
Wearing a variety of Kaenon Polarized Sunglasses including; Rhino, Jetty, Klay and Lewi, Mike Horn and the Young Explorers cycled their way through the harsh and extreme Gobi Desert. With early morning starts at 4:30 am, the group arrived at the Flaming Cliffs after covering almost 2000km (1,242 miles) using 6 different methods of transport over extremely diverse terrain. Mike Horn and The Young Explorers climbed over 500 meters in altitude, crossing nearly 90 miles of dirt and sand, combatting extremely low humidity and high dust ” it doesn’t get much better than this!
Mike Horn and the Young Explorers’ Gobi Desert Camel Trek
Learn first hand from Mike Horn and the Young Explorers why camels are perfectly built for their environment. As part of the most recent leg of the Pangaea Expedition, the Young Explorers join Kaenon Polarized’s Mike Horn, as they trek across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
“Today was a special day for all of us. Spirits were high this morning as everybody woke to see camels hovering around our campsite as opposed to horses. The new method of transport was exciting and served as hopeful relief from the hours spent on Mongolian horse saddles.
We were awake at 7am in preparation for our 9am departure. It was a stunning morning â€“ clear skies and amazing views of the mountain ranges and the beginning of the Hongoryn Els. Once everybody had packed their gear and loaded the jeeps, we were given a short briefing on how to ride camels and how they operate. The Mongolian camels are more dangerous than horses and have the ability to do more damage to humans. As we had no experience with these creatures this meant we had to take caution and prepare ourselves in a more fastidious manner.
At the beginning, we were all totally fascinated by the looks, noises and movements of the camels. They look somewhat prehistoric and the sound they make is completely unique. This is in addition to their incredible size which was a little intimidating at first.
We set off on what we anticipated was going to be a relatively short day after the 150km horse trek over the previous few. We were however, wrong. The slow speed and discomfort quickly trumped the hopefulness of a short day as all the YEPs and Mike Horn Team members settled in for what was going to be a tough slog.
The lunch break was welcomed by all as everyone searched for clothing to make the saddles a little more comfortable. Despite this, everybody pushed through and endured the slow pace for what was an amazing experience that could not be left out when on an expedition in a desert.
Everybody was in awe as we approached the larger dunes of the Hongoryn Els â€“ an amazing sight. We arrived at approximately 5:30pm and watched the sunset over the dunes while doing our soil analysis. We managed to complete all the testing of the samples we had taken from the saline lake near Lake Hovsgol and in the Gobi Desert. It has been really interesting to see firsthand the effects of a changing climate on such unique landscapes, inspiring us to act on such issues.
Everybody is in bed early tonight in preparation for a very early start tomorrow morning to summit the highest dune in the Hongoryn Els. Very exciting!”
Read more on Mike Horn.com
Mike Horn’s YEPs Summit and Name Himalayan Peak!
The tweet came through a few short days ago, “The YEP’s summit Himalayan Peak over 6’000 meters and name it ‘Pangaea peak’ !!! WELL DONE Mike Horn and the Pangaea Team!”
Mike Horn and his Young Explorers summitted and named a Himalayan Peak in their latest Pangaea expedition which is well underway in Pakistan.
The latest update from the YEP Blog, which was written before agreement was reached on the new peak name:
June 14th 2010 – Day 14
“We spent most of the time going straight up the main face of the mountain. Then we traversed left and walked up the ridge, which led us to the false summit, and then the summit! Erica and Hugo really felt the altitude but could combat it with a constant and safe pace, which accompanied the breath and movement of the ice axe. So as one foot moved forward then the other, we would breath in deeply then the ice axe would follow this breath, then we would breath out audibly. This pattern was repeated more than one thousand times.
“As we heard today from Mike’s point of view, looking up onto the mountain as the three groups were ascending with the sharp point of the Petzl headlamps was incredible and beautiful. Once we reached the top of the ridge, the sun was risingâ€¦it was 5 am. We could just see the tips of Gasherbrum 1, 2, 3 and 4. The sun was rising just behind the peaks and the rays were extremely exaggerated and pointed out of the peaks with a magnificent orange glow. Within 30 seconds, however the clouds covered up the sun and it was very cold.
“We were all extremely emotional and happy to have reached this new summit at a little more than 6,000m, which we have named; Pangaea Peak. Jye thinks that â€œthere is no other feeling like reaching the top of an unclimbed summit.â€ The Young Explorers all took out our flags for the photos, representing 6 nationalities. It was a moment we have been waiting for and it is a unique experience for everyone that will never be lost. Unfortunately not all 8 of the Young Explorers were able to experience this feeling. 2 of the 8 did not make it to the summit due to the altitude. However, we are still one team that supports each other and works well together.
“After 6 exhausting hours of ascending and descending Pangaea Peak, not including the two hours roundtrip from Base camp to ABC, we all collapsed in our tents. We are a bit more lively now and our bellies are ready for some food, which will be good for replenishing our bodies.”
To view videos of the expeditions, go to Mike Horn’s Pangaea Vimeo channel
We will keep the Kaenon blog updated with the latest news from the YEP’s travels!
Explorer Adrian Ballinger Leads Successful Everest Attempt
Adrian Ballinger (Lewi, Black Pearl, G12 lens) and a group of fellow climbers and sherpas recently summited Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Under a well-timed ascent and stable weather conditions, the group achieved their amazing goal of standing on the top of the world, and climbed back down to the safety of Base Camp. Ballinger is led a commercial team up Everest’s south side beginning May 19 and summited on May 24th, 2010.
Ballinger (34) has led technical high-altitude expeditions to the Himalaya since 1997 and is the owner of Alpenglow Expeditions, based out of Lake Tahoe, California. This season, Ballinger is serving as the lead Everest guide for Himalayan Experience”or “HIMEX” considered by many as the premier high-altitude guiding outfit in the world. HIMEX and the company’s founder, Russell Bryce, have been featured on the Discovery Channel’s Beyond Everest series for the past three seasons. Ballinger was also featured on the show last year.
Snow Adventuress Kasha Rigby
Kasha Rigby is an extreme telemarker and explorer whom has traveled far and wide across the globe in pursuit of first descents and fresh powder. She has a multitude of first ski descents on multiple continents under her belt, including Kuitan, the highest peak in Mongolia and RFHP, a 2500m couloir in the Himachal Pradesh region of India; as well as skiied the Cotopaxi (5897m) and Chimborazo (6310m) Volcanoes of Ecuador, also known as the worldâ€™s highest active volcanoes!
She was also featured in Warren Miller’s film “Extreme Winter” in 2001 and was called by Outside Magazine “the best female telemark skier in the known universe.” Her most recent appearance on film is in the movie “The Edge of Never” which is now available on DVD.
Explorer Adrian Ballinger Ski Touring in Chamonix
Adrian Ballinger is one of the top ski guides in the world. Look for him in the most recent series of Mount Everest, “Beyond the Limits” on the Discovery Channel and check out this clip for a sneak peek.
Ballinger checked in with Kaenon providing an update on his travels:
“It’s been another incredible season here in Chamonix, and hard to believe it is almost time already to leave for the spring Himalaya season. Time in the Alps always flies by, and this season has been no exception. Snow and coverage has been top notch in 2010—all the famous ski routes have been in all the way down to the valley, avalanche hazard has been low, and we have even had our share of sunny days.
“One of the real benefits of basing out of Chamonix for skiing is the incredible variety of terrain and options regardless of weather. On storm days we can ski trees or close to the lift systems. As storms end we begin skiing the big classic off-piste lines directly from the lift systems all the way to town (imagine 7000-9000 vertical foot descents with no hiking or ski touring to access them).
And then when we get a few bluebird days in a row we go on long ski tours, combining rides on lifts with ski touring and mountaineering, progressively traveling further and further and often starting in one town, eating lunch in another, and finishing the day with a beer in another town and usually in a different country!
“This year we have been heading through the famous Mont Blanc tunnel and skiing lots in Italy. The Italian Alps close to Chamonix have great snow, few people, and of course the world’s best espresso and pizza! Here are a few pictures from this season in and around Chamonix. Stay posted for a more complete photo gallery to come soon.”
Adrian Ballinger’s Optimalists Travels
THE OPTIMAL QUESTIONS | Alpinist Adrian Ballinger
by GIANPAOLO PIETRI on 12/26/2009
“Recently, I had the good fortune of crossing paths with world-class alpinist and Everest guide, Adrian Ballinger, and arranged an interview on the optimalists.com. As you will see, Adrian has been living his dream as a climber, skier, and high-altitude alpine guide for over 15 years. He climbed Everest for the first time in April of this year, and the experience will be featured during the next week on the Discovery Channel’s show, Everest:Beyond the Limit. He runs a successful business making others dreams of summiting some of the world’s most dangerous peaks come true. We’ve asked Adrian about what inspires him, what scares him, and what motivates him to continue his quest to push the limit, to define new boundaries, and discover the truth within himself. We not only admire men like Adrian, we cherish the contributions he offers us with every climb, every journey, and every summit. Adrian teaches us that we can always climb higher, dream bigger, and go farther than we ever thought we could. And that is what we are all about. Here is what he has to say.”
Nile Perch Fishing in Nairobi
Kaenon Polarized hunter extraordinaire, Alistair James sent us a recap of his recent holiday expedition in Nairobi which included fishing for Nile Perch. Not something you get to do every day…
“I was in Nairobi on business the first week of November when I met Johnny Chipman, a fellow hunting guide working in Tanzania. He mentioned that he would be heading to Lake Turkana over the weekend to fish for Nile perch and asked if I would like to go along. Always willing to try something new, I immediately said yes. After a few drinks Johnny sketched a map on the back of a napkin to help me find the meeting point for our trip Thursday night.
A four hour drive from Nairobi going north on Thursday afternoon proved the napkin sketch more or less reliable as I arrived on location and met up with Johnny just before dark. There we were joined by four other friends and together we packed two Land Cruiser pickups and had an early night with the intention of starting first thing the next morning.
We had a fourteen-hour drive north to the southern tip of Lake Turkana. The closer we got to the Lake, the more barren and dry the landscape became. The local herders all roamed with Kalashnikov rifles, but appeared for the most part friendly. A couple hours before the lake we stopped in a small mission where a Dutch missionary family told us that a fight had broken out the day before and that everyone was low on ammunition so we should be safe.
As the sun was setting we arrived on the lake shore. Because of the intense thermal winds we set up camp in the lee of a rock formation. I just slept that night on a ground mat with a blanket, but when the breeze died sometime after midnight I wished that I had brought along my mosquito net.
Early the next morning we were up and launched the small aluminum boat that had been carried all the way to the lake on the top of the pickup truck. There were quite a few crocodiles in the lake, so we were on the look out when launching the boat.
We fished for perch in the mornings and evenings by trolling Rapala lures. During the midday heat we fished the shores for a big species of Tilapia that feeds on the algae growing on the rocks in the lake.
We fished all day Saturday and Sunday and trolled briefly Monday morning before packing up and driving back south. The lake is an amazing example of desert and water coming together creating an almost surreal landscape. Highly recommended.”
Pangaea Young Explorers Undwerway in Borneo
THE THIRD YOUNG EXPLORER’S PROGRAM IS UNDERWAY IN BORNEO
Lankayan Island, 3 November 2009: It’s almost noon and a group of young adults is toiling away in the sun, building a metal aeroplane aboard a 35-metre exploration yacht. Sounds incongruous? It’s just another unique day for the nine Young Explorers aboard Pangaea, who are halfway through their environmental programme in Malaysian Borneo.
The youngsters boarded Pangaea in Tawau in Sabah, on Borneo’s east coast, and immediately set sail for Mabul and Sipadan islands. There they perfected their diving skills, as coral reef exploration and protection is one of the key projects making up the EXPLORE, LEARN, ACT component of every adventure.
It’s also why they’re building a metal infrastructure in the shape of an aeroplane – this will be anchored on the sea bed off Lankayan Island, a conservation dive resort in the Sulu Sea, where over time it will become a new coral reef that serves two purposes – to create a new ecosystem supporting coral and fish, and give divers and snorkellers another reef to learn about and enjoy.
Everest Expedition – Kaenon Performs at 29,000 Feet
EXPEDITION | MOUNTAINEERING | CLIMBING – HIMALAYA, NEPAL
On May 21, 2009 Kaenon explorer and guide, Adrian Ballinger summitted Mt. Everest (29,035 feet) wearing Kaenon Polarized Sunglasses. Adrian spent 2 months on the peak preparing for the team’s summit bid. May 21-May 25 was a perfect summit window, and during that time the team became the most successful commercial Everest expedition ever, putting 58 climbers (Westerners and Sherpa) on the summit (we understand this is a controversial area â€“ the commercialization of Everest), with zero accidents or fatalities. Instead of the traditional cumbersome glacier glasses that most climbers wear, Adrian wore Kaenonâ€™s Jetty C12 down low, and Lewi G12 up high and found the optics, coverage and polarization perfect for the extreme conditions found on the mountain. At 29,000 feet there is less than 30% of sea level atmosphere between climbers and the sun – and the perfect testament to the performance of Kaenon’s SR-91 lenses.
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