Epic Success for SMI’s First Mt. Whitney Climb of 2015!

Congratulations to Stephen Cummings of Pittsburgh, PA for his successful summit of Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route on February 22, 2015!

Stephen arranged a private climb with SMI founder Kurt Wedberg.  They were able to drive all the way to the summer trailhead at Whitney Portal at 8365’/2550m on February 20.  They hiked on a mostly dry trail to Lower Boy Scout Lake at 10,350’/3155m where they made camp.  The next day they moved their camp higher to 12,000’/3658m putting them in position for a summit attempt on the 22nd.  In the afternoon the wind picked up and clouds began to form.  During the night light snow began falling.  It stopped at 3:30am and the wind abated so they decided to give the summit a try.

During their ascent clouds began rising from below and lowering from above.  As they climbed higher into the Mountaineer’s Chute snow began falling coating the upper section of the route with a thin slippery layer.  The team continued to move well though and in spite of the weather managed to reach the summit shortly after 10:30am.

Here are a few pictures.  The rest can be found here:  Mt. Whitney February 20-22, 2015

Ice on slabs below Upper Boy Scout Lake

High camp at 12,000’/3658m with Mt. Whitney looming overhead.

Avalanche the came across Iceberg Lake

The Final 400′ of the Mountaineer’s Route.

Stephen starting up the Final 400′ of the Mountaineer’s Route.

Stephen on the 2nd pitch of the Final 400′.

Stephen climbing the last pitch of the Final 400′

Stephen topping out on the route.

Walking towards the summit hut on Mt. Whitney

Stephen and Kurt posing for a summit photo before descending.

The tent after returning from the summit.

Ricardo & Tristan psyched on the summit of Aconcauga, 22841'/6962m

Update: Aconcagua January 2015 – 2 on the Summit, the Team is Returning

The team is returning to the U.S. now, after 2 out of the 5 team members made successful summit bids. On January 20, 2015, SMI Guide, Tristan “Trippy” Sieleman and Rick Piette topped out on the summit of the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua (22841 ft)!

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Morning penumbra as Aconcagua casts its immense shadow across the Andes. Awesome!

If climbing to the summits of mountains was without challenges, we wouldn’t refer to the trips as adventures!

After the carry to camp 3 at 19,700ft, one team member suddenly came down with High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and was taken to base camp, where he was evacuated by helicopter to Mendoza. He is now doing well since descending and continued to cheer the group on as they worked toward the summit.

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Up & Over the Col. When a climber gets life threatening High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (aka HAPE) at 18,040′ walking on even the slightest uphill can be next to impossible. Descent is mandatory & time is crucial.

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SMI founder Kurt Wedberg piggybacking the team member over the Ameghino Col at 17,700′ en route to Base Camp on Aconcagua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kurt checked in on January 20, 2015: “A big shout out to Rick Piette and SMI guide Trippy Sieleman for reaching the summit of Aconcagua. After Lloyd and I turned back they continued under a cold and windy day and nailed it. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for a job well done!”

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Ricardo huffing and puffing taking 4+ breaths for each step at over 22,000′ above “The Cave” on Aconcagua.

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Ricardo and the morning penumbra as Aconcagua casts is shadows across the landscape of the Andes.

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Ricardo high on Aconcagua summit day. Wind, clouds, cold, and an incredible backdrop of the Andes.

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Ricardo pauses on Aconcagua summit day with the clouds far below.

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Tristan high on Aconcagua summit day. Wind, cold, goggles, and the amazing Andes backdrop.

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Ricardo & Tristan psyched taking a selfie at the highest point in the Western Hemisphere with the South Face of Aconcagua peeking in between.

Congratulations to all group members for their incredible effort and commitment to the team.

The next SMI trip to Aconcagua is scheduled for November 27, 2015, with a trip to Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft) and Carstensz Pyramid (16,024 ft) scheduled even sooner. Be sure to explore the website for all of our trip and course offerings!

More photos of Aconcagua coming soon!

Update: Aconcagua January 2015 – Team at Camp 2, On Schedule for Summit Day

Kurt Wedberg just checked in and said the team is all settled in at Camp 2 (18040′) today and are still on schedule to summit on Monday the 19th!  He says that everyone is feeling strong and healthy. “Our plan is to carry to Camp 3 tomorrow, move to Camp 3 @19500′ on the 18th, summit on the 19th.”

Apparently, the views from Camp 2 are spectacular (pictures later!) and they are all feeling very thankful to be up there!

If you love the play-by-play, here are the inReach updates for the week:

Monday the 12th: “Our well rested team had a nice day hike to 15300′ to stretch our legs & prepare for the work ahead. Tomorrow we carry gear to Camp 1 @16700′. Psyched & ready!”

Wednesday the 14th: “Yesterday we carried 9 days of food & fuel to Camp 1 @16700′. Today we left Base Camp & moved up to C1. Just finished a pizza dinner & enjoying an awesome view”

Thursday the 15th: “Had an awesome 11hrs of sleep. Feeling well rested we carried 5 days of food & fuel to C2 @18040′ today. Views continue to get more spectacular. Life is good :)”

And today, the 16th: “Today our team successfully moved to C2 @18040′ where there’s half the oxygen of sea level. Truly thankful for our health allowing us to see these amazing views”

 

Update: Aconcagua January 2015 – Team Acclimatizing At Base Camp

The team successfully made it to Base Camp at Plaza Argentina (13,747′) on Saturday, where they are spending a few days relaxing, taking acclimatization hikes and preparing loads for their higher camps.

The big message of the day today is that “Lloyd sends his love to Stella!” Technology is awesome.

If you’ve been keeping track as they go, I don’t want you to miss anything! See below:

Friday, January 9th – Day 5 – From Casa de Pierdra, Kurt checked in saying: “Beautiful hike to our last camp before Base Camp. Stuffed after a yummy traditional Argentine steak “asado”. Psyched to reach Base Camp tomorrow!!!!”

Saturday, January 10th – Day 6 – The group made it on time to Base Camp! Kurt said “3 days, 42km & 6000′ elevation gain our team reached Aconcagua Base Camp @13747’! We’ll spend 4 nights here taking acclimatization hikes preparing 2 move higher”

Sunday, January 11th – Day 7 – High spirits as the team relaxes at Base Camp: “It’s a rare treat in our modern age to have a day to just relax, read a good book, enjoy xlnt conversation & eat slow meals. Such was our rest day @Aconcagua :)”

Stay tuned for updates!

Update: Aconcagua January 2015 – Group En Route to Base Camp

Kurt Wedberg checked in yesterday evening with greetings from the team’s first camp en route to their Base Camp for Aconcagua!

From the altitude reading in his inReach message, it would appear that the group is currently in step with their projected itinerary to camp at Pampa de Lenas last night.

Kurt says: “Greetings from our 1st camp @9350′ en route to base camp. Bedded down to gentle sounds of a flowing river & guachos laughing after an amazing chicken bbq.”

Today’s itinerary has them continuing toward Base Camp and camping at Casa de Pierdra at 10,630′ tonight.

Stay tuned for updates!

Aconcagua January 2015 – Kurt and Tristan in Mendoza

Kurt Wedberg and Tristan “Trippy” Sieleman are in Mendoza, Argentina today, making preparations for a summit of Aconcagua (6962m) on the 19th of January.

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They arrived in Mendoza yesterday and have thus far been proving, yet again, that they have the toughest jobs in the world.

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10906086_10205575996300725_4387328300548844747_nTomorrow the plan is to drive to Los Penitentes at 2550m, from where they will begin their hike to Base Camp.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates on the trip!

SMI McKinley (Simmons) 2014 Expedition

10309410_10152426717924481_4611407466264688426_nSMI’s Kurt Wedberg and his Team, Fred, Jim and Mike Simmons as well as MT guide Blaine Horner have finally gotten started on their quest to summit Mt. McKinley. After a two day weather hold in Talkeetna, they flew onto the Kahiltna glacier and began their ascent. After 4 days of hauling loads & settling into camp @11000′  they took a well deserved rest day.

After a day of rest they ferried loads to the 13,200 foot mark and returned to 11,000′.  Then on day 6 they moved up to the 14,200 camp where they are presently at waiting out a small storm.

Their spirits are high and are anticipating a a couple days of clear weather beginning today so they can continue up to the 16,000 foot camp and onto their advance summit camp at 18,900.

Stay tuned for more reports as we get them.

 

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Kurt and Fred are at 17,200 waiting out a storm and hoping for a window for the summit.

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Kurt and Fred hopefully shooting for the summit today.

JUNE 19, 2014

The entire Team is down and back in Talkeetna safely. No summit due to consistent bad weather.

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 2014 BCM/SMI KILI CLIMB A SUCCESS!

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Congratulations are in order to BCM Climbers Angela Bakas and Peter Schultz for their safe and successful ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro on 14 February 2014. They were led by SMI’s Tristan Sieleman. They are all safely down in Moshi and returning home to tell their tale of an amazing adventure.

Again, Congratulations to all!

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Aconcagua #2 – 100% Summit Success!

Aconcagua Summit Photo. Left to right: April Mayhew, Bob Szalkiewicz, Joey Szalkiewicz, Gianni Scuncio, Kurt Wedberg. In front Bret Siciliano, Bob Bobbit, and Joe Szalkiewicz.

A big congratulations to our second Aconcagua team of the season for reaching the summit on January 12, 2014!  100% of the group made it to the top of South America and back safely.  For Bob, Joe, and Joey Szalkiewicz this climb also marked the 3rd of their continental summits having previously ascended Kilimanjaro (African continent) and Mt. Elbrus (European continent).  Joey and Gianni Scuncio were the youngest on the team at 16 years old.  The climb was a new altitude record for everybody.  Impressively, Gianni’s previous altitude record was San Gorgonio in Southern California at 11,499’/3505m.

Aconcagua requires a 3-day trek into Base Camp.  Most of the team’s gear for the 2+ week expedition was brought in on mules.  Joining us on the trek into Base Camp was Kym and Brittany Szalkiewicz who rode with our “arieros” (Argentine mule drivers) each day.  Kym and Brittany remained with the climbing team while they acclimatized at Base Camp (13,747’/4200m) for four days then rode out and stayed in the sleepy city of Mendoza soaking up the summertime sun and sampling delicious Argentine cuisine until the climbing team returned.

The expedition began with the weather being clear but windy.  As the team moved above Base Camp they set in three higher camps at 5060m/16,600’, 5480m/17,978’, and 5970m/19,586’.  After the team reached their highest camp on January 11 a snowstorm came in during the afternoon dropping 6-12 inches of new snow.  The team was undeterred though and during the night the storm left leaving a clear day in its wake.

Lead guide Kurt Wedberg woke at 3:20am on January 12 and looked out of his tent.  The night sky was void of clouds revealing a huge blanket of stars in all directions.  The team was woken up and preparations began for summit day as stoves were lit, breakfast made, and water bottles were topped off.

One of the joys of early morning starts on summit day are the views as the sun crests the horizon.  Today’s sunrise didn’t disappoint as Aconcagua’s shadow was cast over the Andean foothills far below.  The team put on crampons at 6188m/20,300’ to gain extra traction in the new snow and frozen dirt.  At 6400m/21,000’ the team caught up to a few others parties on the mountain.  After an efficient rest break and no other parties eager to venture off into the lead the team set off ahead and ended up breaking trail for the last 1841’.  As the air got thin the team’s progress slowed to a rhythmical pace of 2-4 deep breaths per step.  With clear weather and no wind the team stepped out on the summit of the highest mountain in South America at 1:30pm.  After some congratulatory pictures and hugs for a job well done the team ate and drank then descended back the way they came.

The rendezvous back in Mendoza brought the entire team back together where celebrations ensued.  The highlight was dinner at the famous 1884 Francis Mallmann restaurant.

Congratulations to everybody on a great accomplishment!!

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery can be found here.

The team at the trailhead ready to start the expedition.

For both evenings en route to Base Camp the team partaked in a traditional Argentine “asado” cooked by our arieros on a grill over an open wood fire.

Brittany helps prepare fresh sauteed vegetables to accompany our New Years Eve asado.

 

Near the end of our hike on day 2 the team gets its first look at Aconcagua.

 

Our mule train starting up the Relinchos Valley on our final day approaching Base Camp.

The team arrives at Plaza Argentina; Base Camp for our expedition at 4200m/13,747′.

Dinnertime at Base Camp!

The team carrying loads en route to Camp 1.

Joey at the front of the pack on a load carry to Camp 2.

Bret Siciliano

Gianni Scuncio

 

Joe enjoying an afternoon “yerba mate”.

Bob Szalkiewicz

Bob Bobbitt feeling great after moving to Camp 1.

Afternoon snowstorm at Camp 3 the day before summit day.

Bret at the front of the pack as Aconcagua casts its shadow across the Andean foothills at sunrise.

Long shadows shortly after sunrise high on Aconcagua’s flanks on summit day.

The team keeps a steady rhythmical pace on summit day. Here at almost 21,000′ the team is taking about two deep breaths for each step taken up hill.

Joe removes his warm cap with the temperature warming up mid morning as the team approaches 22,000′.

Joey loving the view from 22,400′ at one of the final rest breaks before reaching the summit.

The South Face of Aconcagua becomes the backdrop behind the climbing team only 15 minutes away from the summit.

Team summit photo. Psyched and happy to be at the highest point in South America!

 

Kurt’s Suunto Core altimeter watch reading 6962m at the summit of Aconcagua.

Kurt (right) just starting the descent off the summit of Aconcagua.

The team celebrating an amazing expedition at the famous 1884 Francis Mallmann restaurant in Mendoza, Argentina.