Posted on June 11th, 2013 No comments
One of the highlights of a very busy spring season in the Sierra here at SMI was hosting six climbs on Mt. Whitney designed to raise money and awareness for Big City Mountaineers. Big City Mountaineers is a very well respected organization with the mission is to transform the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills. They partner with community-based youth organizations and caring adult volunteers who act as mentors in the field to help young people realize their potential. Their curriculum improves integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1000 youth annually. BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
• Increased likeliness to stay in school
• Reduction in violence
• Reduction in drug use
Since the inception of SMI we have had a goal of guiding at least two climbs each year that help out a cause. On most years we exceed this number by 3x or more. In planning this year’s climbs with Big City Mountaineer’s the editor in chief of Backpacker magazine Jon Dorn invited readers to come join a Mt. Whitney climb to raise money for Big City Mountaineers. Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $4000. They could either get sponsorship by friends and family or write a check. The response was overwhelming. What started as one climb ended up being six groups of energetic climbers eager to climb Mt. Whitney and raise money and awareness for BCM.
Participants were given a training program to undertake many months in advance in preparation for this 4-day trip to the highest point in the contiguous United States. Each person maintained a regular schedule of hiking up and down hills carrying a 40+ pound pack to simulate the weight they would be carrying on the mountain. They also did exercises to assure their legs and cardiovascular system was conditioned. During the climb SMI guides offered lots of techniques for acclimating to the high altitude and also spent time at camp teaching and reviewing mountaineering skills including using an ice axe, and climbing with crampons while roped in with other climbers. The first day of the climb had groups ascending from the trail head at Whitney Portal (8365′/2550m) to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,350′/3155m). On day 2 the groups packed up and moved higher to at camp at 12,000′/3658m putting them in position for a summit bid the following morning. On day 3 the teams rose early for the summit push. They were treated to spectacular sunrises as the morning sun cast its orange glow on the East Face of Mt. Whitney and teams learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light.
Climbing the Mountaineers Route requires climbers to ascend a snow filled chute ranging from 25-35 degrees steep to a “notch” at approximately 14,000′/4267m. From here the angle steepens and climbers use their hands in places to scramble up some rocky sections with the security of a rope. This section of the route tops out onto the summit plateau of Mt. Whitney and it’s a short distance to the highest point in the lower 48 states.
Groups took time to admire the spectacular view while taking pictures and snacking before retracing their path back to camp. On Day 4 they packed up and returned to the trail head and down to Lone Pine where celebrations of their climbs took place.
While climbing a spectacular and classic route in the Sierra participants helped raise over $260,000 to help underprivileged youth experience the magic of the wilderness while learning critical life skills. They’ve also spread a lot of good will that reaches farther than any of use will ever see. Thanks to everybody who took part in this historic event!
Photo galleries from these climbs can be viewed here: http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2013-Sierra-Trips
Posted on February 12th, 2013 No comments
SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew are back in Moshi, Tanzania after leading another amazing game viewing safari in Tanzania. Joining them on safari was Dan Cherico, James Gault, Beth Keller, and Emily McIntyre along with Christine Loredo and Frank Martin who stayed for one day. Over five days the group visited Lake Manyara National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the great Serengeti Plains. They also visited a Masai village and saw the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site. At the end of their five days they flew from the Serengeti back to Arusha, Tanzania where some continued on to Zanzibar Island while others flew home.
April and Kurt are now awaiting the arrival of their next group of 11 folks who will attempt to climb Kilimanjaro (5895m/19,340′) February 14-20. Stay tuned for highlights from this climb.
Below are some pictures from the animals the group saw on safari.
Posted on January 17th, 2013 No comments
On Tuesday January 15 Trevor Anthes, Kevin Daniels, and SMI founder Kurt Wedberg climbed the Widow’s Tears in Yosemite Valley, the longest continuous ice climb in the contiguous 48 states. This ice formation located near Sentinel Rock needs a special combination of cold temperatures and ample running water to completely form ice from top to bottom. This only happens once every few years. The recent cold snap in the Sierra created ideal conditions for this climb to form.
Anthes, Daniels, and Wedberg are all Bishop residents and long time friends. Trevor is a professional photographer (www.wildincognito.com) and manages the Mammoth Gear Exchange located on Main Street next to the SMI office in Bishop, Kevin is the CEO of Fixe Hardware, and Kurt runs SMI. Hearing that the Widow’s Tears had formed they dropped everything, packed their ice climbing gear, and made the long drive from Bishop to Yosemite Valley on January 14. Colin and Molly Broadwater, founders of Bishop Crossfit where Kurt and Kevin train, closed the gym on Sunday while attending a conference on strength and conditioning. For the workout of the day they posted “No classes for the people of CrossFit Bishop!!! Git yourself outside and do something worth writing home about…”. Although two days late this mission was accomplished!
The trio arrived in Yosemite Valley on Monday afternoon in time to scope out the route and make a plan. The forecast called for temperatures to drop to the single digits that evening and warm to 34 degrees on the Valley floor the following day. Higher up in the shady gully where the climb is located temperatures should remain cold keeping the ice in perfect shape for climbing. When temperatures warm up higher than freezing the ice conditions start to deteriorate. The plan would be to get an early start and climb efficiently.
Approaching the climb by headlamp the team reached the bottom where they put on crampons, helmets, and climbing harnesses and began climbing at 5:45am. Finding the ice in good shape Trevor took off on the first lead of the day and climbed efficiently over a curtain of ice and set up a belay on a ledge. Kevin and Kurt followed then made their way over a snowy ledge to where the rest of the climb would continue. As Kevin began leading the second pitch it was just starting to get light enough to see without needing headlamps. A “pitch” is a rope length of climbing. Their ropes were 60m/198′ long. The team’s strategy was to try and maximize each pitch using as much of the rope as possible while doing their best to find comfortable places to set up belay stances making it easy to rest while the leader climbed the next section of the route.
Kurt led the 3rd and 4th pitches. Picking his way up the terrain he found a mixture of solid ice with a few hollow sounding spots which are to be avoided. Careful route finding kept the team on good ice and got the team to the base of pitch #5. Here the climb steepened where the ice was formed over a large almost vertical rock slab. The team called pitch #5 “the money pitch”. Kevin brilliantly led this long sustained section. At the top he placed a secure anchor using three ice screws and belayed Trevor and Kurt up.
It was now Trevor’s turn to take the sharp end and lead pitch #6 that climbed over ice that started off steep then gradually backed off as it reached a ledge offering an excellent place for the team to take a short break for food and water.
Looking at the terrain above it appeared it would be two full 60m pitches to the top. Kurt led pitch #7 which turned out to be almost as steep as pitch #5. It was now mid afternoon and nearing the top of the climb the team found water dripping over the ice on parts of the route. This didn’t prove to be a safety concern. Air temperatures remained cold and this water was flowing from above where it was warmer. It was however enough water to soak team member’s gloves. Thankfully the team was prepared with spare pairs to keep their hands warm. With rope running out near the top of pitch #7 Kurt spied a ledge 10′ above him. He yelled down to Kevin and Trevor asking if he had enough rope to get there. He managed to get to this tiny ledge with no rope to spare then set up a belay to bring the other two up. By running this pitch out as far as possible it also assured Kevin would be able to reach the top when he led pitch #8.
Kevin efficiently led the final pitch over a mix of steep terrain, wet ice, and finally loose snow leading to a large tree where he set up an anchor to belay Trevor and Kurt up. Reaching the top of the climb the team exchanged “high fives” for a job well done on a rare climb with a beautiful backdrop of the late afternoon alpenglow on the 3000′+ face of El Capitan.
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here: