Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Gear List

Having come back from the mountain, one of the things I hope people take away from our trip is that with a little training and the proper experience, climbing Aconcagua is within their reach too.

In an effort to help future teams plan a successful climb, I will post some useful information on how we did it. I'll start with a gear list spreadsheet I used to catalog each and every item I took with me to the mountain. If it wasn't on this list, I didn't have it. Luke had a few items I didn't (such as a solar charger, snow pickets, the radio, diamox, etc.), but for the most part his list of gear is very similar.

Check out my Gear List spreadsheet on Google docs by clicking here.

I'm working through some technical issues with the movie I'm creating but I hope to have something to share soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More photos from the trip

On the climb, I took a lot more video than I did photos. I've had a chance to check out a few snippets of the video so far and I've captured some real gems. However rather than post it all piecemeal, I have grand ambitions of editing it over the next week or so into one coherent and possibly mildly entertaining video. That's my goal. We'll see if my video editing skills are up to snuff.

In the meantime, I figured I could post a few select pics from our trip. So here goes (in roughly chronological order):

My delicious Argentinian steak (pre-climb)
Luke waiting for the business where we had to pay for our permits to open. We almost missed our bus because the proprietor apparently had a big night and was sleeping it off instead of collecting our American dinero.
A sign greeting us to Aconcagua provincial park
Our first view of Aconcagua on Day 2 of the approach
Our basecamp, with a peek of the summit in the distance
Carrying a load to Camp 1
Luke on the Summit

Adrian on the Summit
Adrian lighting a rock on fire using all of our excess fuel
Saying goodbye to a dear friend
A crazy dirtbag forced to return to civilization
This boy is smiling because he got exactly what he wanted for Christmas

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Summit Photo

While I made it back to Seattle this afternoon, one of my bags is still on vacation. With high-speed internet I'll post pics and video snippets from the trip, starting with this self-portrait of Luke and myself on the summit. We were so happy we could have wet ourselves.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

How can you tell Santa is a climbing bum?

He's got a beard, always wears the same clothes and only works one day a year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Two Idiots. ONE SUMMIT!!!!

On December 21 at approximatly 1:30pm Luke and I reached the summit of Aconcagua. Tag, you´re it.

The summit only cost me my third arm and eleventh toe. A bargain in my opinion.

Luke is on his way to the beach in Chile and I am hunting down a monster steak in Mendoza. Pics and video to follow once faster internet is located. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." — Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Day 5
[Local Time]
Unknown - We rise and hike to Plaza Argentina -  basecamp. From here on, we let the weather determine our schedule. We'll have food and fuel for 13 days but endless desire.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hiking to Basecamp

Day 4
[Local Time]
Unknown - We rise and hike again as close to Plaza Argentina as possible.

Salmon, rice and garlic mashed potatoes for dinner.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


"Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts."

~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

If all has gone according to plan, this is how our Day 3 has gone:

Day 3
[Local Time]
9:00am - Secure two Aconcagua climbing permits. Valid for 20 days from entry into the park.

10:15am - From Mendoza, catch public bus heading to Santiago, Chile.

1:45pm - Exit public bus at Los Puquios, drop two 30 kilo duffels (carrying mostly food and fuel) for a mule to haul into basecamp. Depart back east for Punta de Vaca and the trailhead to Plaza Argentina. We'll hike today as far as we can go - hopefully, to Las Lenas, or further.

Salmon, rice and garlic mashed potatoes for dinner.

Sunday Morning (Day 3)

We got into Mendoza yesterday without a problem. We did quite a bit of walking around the town to find a place that sold white gas and was still open. After the gas shopping, we got a nice steak dinner with a bottle of Mendoza Malbec. Both the steak and the wine were excellent! On the way back to the hostel from dinner we passed by a Tango dancing event on one of the public squares, and I gave Adrian a few spins on the dance floor.

This morning, we will go to the permit office which opens at 9, and then will catch a 10:15 bus if everything goes according to plan.

Everything is great so far and we both feel really good! We ran into a lot of climbers on the flight down from two different well-known guide companies (Mountain Madness and Alpine Ascents(?)). We made friends with one of their climbers name Leslie at the airport, and found out that they will be doing the Normal Polish route, which is on the same side of the mountain, at the same time. Their route actually is the same until the glacier (summit day), when they ascend the left side of the Polish glacier instead of the right side that we will be on (its easy to see where the routes would be on the posted picture of Aconcagua).


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Boots on the ground

Day 2
[Local Time]
3:00pm - Arrive Mendoza, Argentina.

Our agenda for today is to buy white gas (fuel) for our stoves, a map, and some fresh produce and other local food to bring with us on the hike to basecamp. I will also keep a tight leash on Luke. He's been talking about how "crazy" the club scene is in Mendoza for weeks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Launch (0 days)

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." - Sir Edmund Hillary

Day 1
[Local time]

9:00am - Our flight departs Seattle for Mendoza. We're scheduled to be boots on the ground around 3pm tomorrow, a convenient two hours after the climbing permit office closes for the day. What idiot planned this trip?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1 day

"It's all fun and oneness with nature until you realize you can't have diarrhea and vomit at the same time without an extra bucket." - Anon

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2 days

The Aconcagua mountain cam is almost up and running! They're in Buenos Aires now, but should have some shots of the mountain in a few days:

Unfortunately, that webcam is on a different side of the mountain. Nonetheless, it conveys the feel of being there. The  weather for the next few days looks sunny, windy and frigid:

A high of nine Fahrenheit, 32 mile/hour winds. Sounds delightful!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

4 days

"A good ascent is a victory. A good ascent can be a summit well won under a blue sky; or it can be like the fight of an over-matched boxer, whose victory is the courage to step into the ring and struggle on as long as possible. History, however, seldom records such triumphs of heart. Thus it is with an alpinist, whose greatest achievements and most remarkable statements of character are often played out in losing efforts and doomed causes...

Summit moments stand apart. There are few summits in life, and even fewer in the alpine life. But the success of the alpine life isn't measured in summits, and summits aren't the proper place to celebrate successful ascent, either. A successful ascent should be celebrated in the warmth, comfort, and safety of a bar or a tent far from the mountain's dangerous embrace...

Summits. You want to get there so badly, but once you do, nothing happens. There is no band playing. You climb up and all of a sudden you can see down the other side. But there is no great spiritual revelation that automatically goes along with the view....

Alpinism is so simple: dream about the mountain, go to the mountain, see the mountain, go up the mountain, come back down the mountain, go home. So simple, yet so extraordinarily complex.

~Gregory Crouch on Ascents, Descents and Summits. Enduring Patagonia

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 days

I went for a hike up yesterday up Granite Mountain to get some quality time slogging through the snow. There are two routes routes people typically take to the summit - the standard route winds back and forth along the face until it hits the east ridge just above treeline. The other, less traveled route, diverges from the normal route at the crossing of an avalanche gully and heads straight for the summit. I wanted a workout so I took the route heading straight up the avalanche gully and up the snow slopes. There were fresh tracks up the gully, which I followed for about 5 minutes until I caught up with the two guys breaking trail. They seemed pretty exhausted and paused for a break, so I forged ahead, postholing through snow from knee to hip deep. Here's a shot of the trail I blazed to the summit, taken on the descent:

As I was just out of the chute, I noticed I had picked up a friend: a middle-aged Japanese man was hiking my footsteps, his nose to my butt. As I looked around the mountain and saw nothing but open space, I couldn't help but laugh that I had found myself feeling so cramped. I understood the energy he was saving by hiking my tacks but the proximity still seemed unwarranted. At any rate, once we reached the summit, he turn to me and thanked me for helping him up, saying he wouldn't have made it had I not been there. It was nice to see his appreciation and my feathers were smoothed. Here's a video I shot with my bare hand from the summit, where it was so windy, it practically froze in place the second I took it out of my glove:

Finally, here's a video from a hike I did up Granite Mt. early this summer with a good buddy Trevor. We were heading down around mid day and there was a steady, but non-threatening slide down this very same chute:

Friday, December 3, 2010

7 days

For inspiration, I am simultaneously reading Gregory Crouch's Enduring Patagonia and Dave Eggers' The Wild Things. Both excellent, but very different books.

Enduring Patagonia is great because it gets my mind thinking about how we'll deal with all of the unexpected logistical issues we might encounter on Aconcagua (bad weather, etc.) Its also just really thrilling to think about difficult climbing, which gets me pumped up for the Polish Direct.

The Wild Things is simply great fiction. It reminds me of the power of a child's imagination and encourages me to continue to dream big.

As the clock slowly winds down, I am reminded of a saying I used to think was very funny when I was younger:  "Now is the time to shit or get off the pot."

My bags are packed, ready to go. So am I.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

8 days

One pleasure of climbing Aconcagua is that you get to pick up and pack out your own waste. To make this slightly less disgusting, Luke and I have agreed to pick up after each other. That way, it'll be just like hiking with a dog.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

9 Days

Currently, I'm working on getting us a place to land once we arrive in Mendoza and figuring out the last few details of the Argentinian public transit system. I also worked out so hard this morning I feel like vomiting. And to think this is all for fun!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weather Outlook

The high today in Aconcagua basecamp (Plaza de Mulas) is 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius). Sounds delightful. 12 days!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Looking for Blisters

Luke and I went on another training hike on Sunday. Even though we didn't know it when we started, we went looking for blisters - and found them! In the interest of public decency, pictures are withheld.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

You've Got Mail!

Steven Rocha and I made the most of some good weather and hoofed it up Mailbox Peak on Saturday. I did it in my Aconcagua climbing boots and with my entire pack filled with water bottles. Check out my best video under 30 seconds, shot from the top:

After all of the strenuous hiking, Steven and I were feeling a bit hungry so I got on the horn and phoned in a pizza order. 30 minutes or less or its free, right? Deal. Here's a shot of me on the phone, setting my watch.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I've been doing a lot of running lately, which has lead me to spend a lot of time listening to music. Here's one catchy tune that caught my ear the other night...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My morning run

Luke and I went out for a run this morning and a friend brought along the video camera...

Monday, November 15, 2010

25 Days.

The time is really flying. I got out and hiked up Mt. Si this weekend plus a couple laps in the stairwell at work. Luke and I are busy busy busy with that hobby we have Monday - Friday, 9 - 5.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Countdown Begins

We leave one month from Today. 30 days from departure (including today).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Burried Alive!

...That's what almost happened to us on Mt. Rainier this weekend. Ok, maybe I'm being a little overly dramatic but we slept at 8,500 ft Saturday night during what turned out to be a really nasty storm. I dug out a platform for the tent around 5pm. At 9:30pm the snow had accumulated to be about half the height of the tent so I went outside and dug us out. I also dug a two foot wide, two foot deep trench around the tent to help trap drifting snow. At 2am, the snow again had accumulated to half the height of our tent, making simply getting out of the vestibule difficult. Luke took the honor of digging us out this time. Then, about 8am I got to repeat the whole show one last time. Here are some videos during the dig and from the morning after, as we hiked down.

Digging out at 2am:

Our campsite the next morning (including a peak at the summit!):

Things really start to get nice once we leave!

Even though we didn't get very close to the summit, I think the trip was a great success. We got some much needed elevation gain with our full Aconcagua packs which got us thinking some more about the logistics of getting all our gear to base camp and high camp. We also got to spoon all night through a storm (I swear I heard Luke pur) which gave me more confidence that our tent is ready for "The Broom of God" (what the locals named the high winds on Aconcagua). We also stayed nice and toasty the whole time, giving us more confidence in our layering systems. Finally, Luke had a chance to bust out his new high-mountain shades at a venue that didn't serve alcohol and where there wasn't a woman who cared just how good he was looking for well over 10 miles.

I have to say, as December 10th comes closer and closer, I can really feel the excitement build. No hablo espanol.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2,320 stairs yesterday and again today. It was user error on the video.. You have to keep the camera upright or it stops taking video (and I guess it won't keep the video up to the point that it gets turned). But it's ok.. I'd be happy to lower Adrian into a deeper crevasse this coming weekend.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Better Late Than Never

Here are some videos of our trip to Mt. Baker.

Before the weather went to shit:

Cool shots of Mt. Baker bending a cloud (plus a shot of the shades that had the Baker beauties buzzing):

There would be another video of Luke lowering me down a hole and into a crevasse but we had a little technical malfunction. Better now than on the summit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adrian and I made it out to Baker over the weekend. He was the talk of the mountain in his new glacier glasses.

In other news, I ran 1,740 stairs on Sunday and again on Monday.. My goal is to bump that up to 2,320 each day for the rest of the week (through Thursday) and take a rest day on Friday.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hard man

Its back to the stairs for me tonight but check out this video my friend took on the playground today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Going to try to keep up with you... I ran 180 flights (1,740 stairs) this evening. Going to do the other 1,740 in the morning :D

Also, you may not believe this, but the girls did at one time dig the baby blue singlet..

Born to climb

I was sifting through some old baby photos of Luke and stumbled upon this gem.

I hear he still has that singlet in his sock drawer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Feelin' the burn

I had an exciting night today after work - I hammered out 239 flights up the Rainier Tower stairwell. Let's just hope there's more scenery to Argentina than beige dry wall!

My legs have turned to jelly and I am exhausted. I need more than 5 hours of sleep. Good night for now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Its starting to feel real

With December 10th fast approaching, Luke and I headed to Mt. Adams in search of a little snow/ice to play around on. Here's a quick shot of Luke heading up a nice sheet of ice we stumbled upon:

If you can believe it, the weather got much worse and later, higher up, we were practically blown off the mountain. There was one point where as we were hiking up a ridge the gusts were so strong they would actually blow me two steps to the side.

All in all, our little trip was a huge success. We had a chance to play around a bit in some foul weather and on a little ice, sleep in our tiny tent, test out our laying systems and just get that mental kick in the ass we needed to remind us that this is for real!

Aconcagua, I can't wait to see you in December!

Friday, October 22, 2010




Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Make it rain

The Seattle Mountain Hardwear store had a 30% off sale today. 30 minutes and a whole lot of money later, Luke and I walked out with two new sleeping bags and a whole grip of new gear.

I felt like a homeless person walking our over-sized bags back to work.

A lot of people get depressed when it starts to sprinkle from the sky around here but I know of two salespeople who were very happy today when we made it rain.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Because its there

"Because its there" - Reinhold Messner's famous answer to the question why climb a mountain?

Since I launched this blog, many of you have expressed tremendous support. To you all, I want to say thank you. Playing your good will forward is part of what this is all about.

There are a (nameless) few, however, who have been less than enthusiastic. Its defending my decision to these people that I find myself faced with these well-worn questions: Why do it? Why take the risk? Why endure the suffering?

Here's one fresh take I heard recently on this subject: "Climbing big mountains is like pounding a hammer against your head; it feels really good once you stop."


While Adrian is busy blogging from the inside of a Chilean mine (I'm glad they at least piped in the internet for you), I was buying my boots. Through a funny coincidence, I happened on a pair of used boots that were for sale, after I had read about the exact same pair of boots being resoled for better warmth and lighter weight on a popular blog (much more popular than ours!). Here's my new pair of boots:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Training Accident...Trapped in a Mine!

While Luke was getting hit by his bike, I zipped on down to Chile to take a look around and get a feel for what's to come. I must have had my gaze fixed hard on the mountains because as I was walking I slipped down a hole and now I'm trapped in a mine!

Do you know anyone who can help?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Training can be dangerous too..

I had a run in with a minivan today, while doing laps on my bike along the waterfront. I was coming up to a three way intersection that has a little island where the "stem" of the T meets the "roof". Using the T to describe this: I was traveling left along the roof and crossed over to the island legally. Then from the island, since there was no traffic, I joined the "stem" of the T, and had a green for a protected left. I knew that I was the only person who could legally enter the intersection. Guy in minivan apparently doesn't care. He t-bones me.

I was FURIOUS and immediately yelled at him that he had a red, and he said he knew, but wanted to go because he didn't think there was anyone there to take the protected left. I do have to admit that it would have been hard to have seen me because of the bad traffic, but, if he had just followed the traffic signal this wouldn't be an issue. Anyways, he turned out to be a nice guy and I got all his info. So far I've just had a sore back from the sudden jerk of being t-boned, I think. And my bike's wheels are bent up.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Formalized Training

With just about two months until our departure, we have created a formal training program. Here's a video from our first performance:

The fake fall should come in handy. I'll try not to let all the applause from the schoolchildren go to my head.

Friday, October 8, 2010

If Dave can ski off K2...

...then I should be able to stumble up the Polish Direct. Read more about Dave's ski descent here. The crux was this portion, known as the bottleneck.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The sailing isn't always smooth

As we begin to sift through the realities of this climb, its a sad but true fact that we don't always see eye to eye on everything. For example, Luke wants to eat cheese and macaroni for dinner whereas I prefer macaroni and cheese. Click here to find out how we settled this heated dispute.

We'll be eating mac & cheese.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Also, a nice picture

Showing our route, up the glacier on the right side of the mountain from this perspective.

Training: More than punching rocks

This is one of my planned training routines. Start at the base of the stairs from Aurora that climb up to Galer street. Push myself up to the top (90 meter altitude gain and about .3 of a mile) to the intersection with Nob Hill going North, and then a controlled descent to work the muscles that will keep me safe on the mountain descent. The loop is just to get a change in scenery. Each loop is a total of 90 meters up and down, and also .8 of a mile. I figure to start with 5 reps (1,500 feet of ascent and 4 miles) for a few days and see how it goes, and work up from there. The point is to go as fast as possible on the ascent, turning my major leg muscles to jelly.. not about pacing myself and doing more reps. :D

This will commence once I am over this terrible cold. Hopefully tomorrow if I wake up feeling better!

Also, my research shows that a few days of this might be necessary after the climb:

Ritoque Raices


I shot my wad. Non-refundable ticket to Mendoza. Round trip. 12/10/10 - 1/1/11.

This is for real.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time to Pull the Trigger

  1. A reasonably priced flight has been located. 
  2. A warning e-mail was sent end of day at work with the dates. 
  3. Luke is in. 
Now is the time to pull the trigger on a flight.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Committing to the Climb

Well, I guess I can't keep my commitment open-ended any longer. Despite my natural tendency toward the comfort of routine and familiarity, I have yet to regret my limited travel and climbing experiences. Plus, someone has to make sure Adrian keeps hydrated.

Since I've been considering moving to Ballard near the canal for the last few months, my plan is to move out of my current place before we leave, and look for a new place when I get back. I just have to decide when I want to come back...

Also, tonight I'll be researching how to charge an ipod and other electronics using the battery packs from one of these:

"Ohh, your feet are cold?" ;)

See you at the top!

Training Begins

Training. Its something we know we should probably start at some point, so without further ado, here is a video of our first training workout. More to follow.

We are a little low on our supply of rocks so please let us know if you know where we can get a good deal. In case it wasn't obvious, we're doing all of this on a budget.


Big mountain climbing is something I have dreamed of since I was a little boy growing up in Colorado. But like all dreams, the weight of reality dragged me down. There was always schoolwork to be done or money to be earned to pay the bills. Where would I find the time and money to travel to remote corners of the world and climb? This is about seeing just how much an average guy can fit in on weekends without quitting his job.

The Birth of A Dream:
October 2nd, 2010. After sailing a friends boat on Puget Sound I realized I was living the life I had been dreaming of. The next step was big mountain climbing and the only thing holding me back was myself. In the style of Richard Branson, I concluded "Screw it, let's do it!" With a loose commitment from my good friend Luke, no permission from the local authorities and only the faintest idea of how I will make it work, I have committed myself to the Polish Glacier Direct route on Aconcagua, December 2010.

The Parameters:
Edward Abbey once wrote "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." To me, in the context of climbing, this means that the easier the route, the more common the experience and insight. The top is not just the measure of success but also a measure of character for each climber chooses their own path to it. For me, climbing is not just about pushing my physical limits but it is also a unique opportunity to peer through a window to my soul, and if I'm lucky, walk away with an insight on a larger meaning of Existence. That just doesn't happen with a walk in the park and it is what calls me to the mountains. To break out of routine and to reawaken my soul. Thus, it is with these guiding beliefs that I lay forth the following principles to which I pledge and which shall guide the style of the ascent:
  • No Guides
  • Non Standard Route
  • Alpine style assault
  • Maximum grins
Everything else is detail.