Posts Tagged ‘climbing’

My Road to Everest

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

“Wow, you’re climbing Everest? You must be a really experienced mountain climber then!” That’s what I hear from people when I tell them what I’m doing this spring. I will admit I don’t think that’s quite the case, so I thought I’d share a bit of background that has brought me to this point.

Unlike some people, I never had any childhood dreams to go climb the tallest peaks in the world. However, I seem to remember quite well moments in my childhood when topics of the tallest mountains in the world came up: in the 90’s some show discussing the controversy between which mountain is taller, K2 or Everest; 90’s again, a fellow boy scout saying how he’s going to go to Everest base camp with his dad one day, and how K2 is actually harder to climb than Everest, which he might try as well. In 1998 (Grade 10) my high school religion teacher Dave Rodney gave us a slide show on his trip to Everest, he didn’t attempt the summit as he was in charge of base camp communications. He would summit another year and come back in my Grade 12 year to give another presentation with pictures from the top this time.

Chilling on Mount Fisher's Summit with FriendsNone of these things ever meant that much to me, spoke to me, inspired me to go climb. I never really got into wall climbing or anything like that; though I did seem to like climbing trees as a kid! During University I would just go do some hiking in the mountains with friends, some skiing in the winter, the thing most young people do growing up in Calgary. The hardest “climbs” I did were really just scrambles of (the now relatively easy) Mt. Yamnuska and Mt. Fisher. But it was enough to make me think I knew what I was doing in the mountains.

Ben NevisAfter University I got a job, and not long after starting in Calgary they sent me on an assignment to Aberdeen, Scotland. Some Scots are quite outdoorsy people, they’re really into hiking, and for some reason I thought to myself, “I’ve done some decent hiking in Canada, I’m gonna go and try the best that Scotland has to offer!” (That one little thought would take me further than I ever though possible.) Knowing I had been as high as 2846m on Mt. Fisher, I thought I would give Scotland’s tallest mountain a go, Ben Nevis at 1344m. (By this time my blog was in full swing, so you can have a blast from the past and read my quick entry about Ben Nevis here.)

While working in Aberdeen I was working on an offshore platform, which meant I was stranded on a welded piece of steel in the middle of the ocean for two weeks at a time, but would then have two weeks off between shifts. Those lonely days on the platform I spent planning my next trip, so I knew I was heading to Sweden next. And going to a country to try and climb their tallest mountain seemed like a better reason to head there than just to go, stay in some hostels, and do the typical touristy things. So, next on my mountain list was Kebnekaise, the tallest peak in Sweden at 2111m. I suggest you take another trip down my memory lane and read about it here, as you might notice that my hikes are starting to take on a pattern of me biting off more than I can chew, and already I am starting to compare my experiences to what I have heard about Everest.

GaldhopiggenAfter Sweden I was headed to Norway, and having been a little sketched out in climbing Kebnekaise solo before the mountain opened for the season, I joined a group that would climb Norway’s two tallest mountains, as well as one of their most famous ridge walks. No blog entry on this, as being more prepared this time and going with a group, the trip just wasn’t that epic, though it was not without it’s difficulties. That brought me to Galdhøpiggen, the top of Norway, 2469m above sea level.

(Note: Looking back at the posts I wrote back in those days is quite entertaining! It is funny to read what I was feeling and thinking a few years ago, and reminisce those days… It is encouragement for me to write as much as I am now, even if for no one else’s benefit, then for my own a few years down the road.)

Huayna PotosiMy work placement in Aberdeen was ending, and my next placement would be in Bolivia! Wonderful Bolivia, with some absolutely enormous mountains by any standards in their Andes. My goal while there was to climb up to 6000m, higher than anything I have ever attempted before. I managed to do that in climbing Huayna Potosi, at 6088m, also known as the “easiest 6000er in the world”. It was, and continues to be to this day, the hardest mountain I have ever climbed. All because I was just so unprepared for what to expect. I never did write about this in detail, but it was one of those things that I was sure would turn me off of mountain climbing forever. Luckily, my attitude of “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” won out in the end, and I continued climbing. But I still think that nothing I have climbed since then has had as big of an effect on me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if even Everest won’t stir those same emotions.

As my time in Bolivia was ending I wanted to do one last thing in the Andes, and that was to climb the tallest mountain in the Americas, and tallest outside the Himalayas, Argentina’s Aconcagua. Also known as a relatively “easy” mountain, I knew better than to think that way this time around. Climbing that brought me to 6962m; you can read about it here and follow the posts, as I wrote a number of them; or if you read just one, read this one, where I talk about the summit push.
Ryan and me on Aconcagua

I will admit that while we were still on Aconcagua, my sights were already set on Everest. I thought it might be cool to one day get a chance to climb the world’s tallest mountain. What I had learned in the last couple of mountains definitely made me think I might have a chance one day. I talked to our guide Ryan about that, and mentioned to him that summitclimb, the group I had signed up to climb with, assumes that Aconcagua is preparation enough to attempt Everest. He suggested otherwise, saying I should try another 8000er instead, specifically Cho Oyu. It was also on Aconcagua that I met people climbing for charity, and that planted the seeds that I am now hoping will bear fruit. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Known as the “easiest 8000er”, Cho Oyu was my next step. Now you might see a trend in the mountains I have been attempting, that they’re all the easiest of their groups! But just as I learned on the “easiest 6000er”, those names are very misleading. At 8000 meters, I can tell you nothing is easy. Cho Oyu was my last test to see if I could have a chance on Everest, and to see if anything that happened there might dissuade me from climbing it. You know the results because, well, here I am. I wrote a bunch about Cho Oyu, if you’re interested here’s a link to the first post, and you can read all along to the last one.
Cho Oyu

So that brings us to Everest, and in about 18 days I will be on a plane, pushing my limit that much further. Thanks for everyone’s support and encouragement so far, I’ll be taking it all with me as high as I will get!

Go read Into Thin Air

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Into Thin AirFor the last little while I have been reading the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, and I suggest you have a read of it. If you want to read about a real-life adventure, or if you want to learn more about climbing in general and high altitude in particular, or some of the history of Mt. Everest, you will find it all there. It’s a good book for everyone, as it assumes you know very little about the world of mountains and climbing them. Many people I have spoken with that have very little interest in mountains and climbing really enjoyed the book; it gives a very good description of what it’s like to climb in these high mountains, things I explain to people when I show them my photos and share my experiences. So if you have a read of this book you will know at least some of what I’m going through when I am on my trip this spring.

I thought it was a very good book, well written and a well told story. It’s not quite as epic as “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson (read that one after if you want, it’s one of my favourite books ever), but good nonetheless. However, read “Into Thin Air” with a grain of salt, as there is some controversy over some of the things in that book, mainly the author’s guesses at people’s motivations for their actions. An entire book was written to tell the tale of that disaster from another point of view and question some of what Jon wrote, so just keep that in mind.

Let me know if you want to borrow my copy of the book. I will share some quotes to get you interested:

But at times I wondered if I had not come a long way only to find that what I really sought was something I had left behind.
– Quote taken from Hornbein, “Everest, The West Ridge”

Everest has always been a magnet for kooks, publicity seekers, hopeless romantics, and others with a shaky hold on reality.

The fact that a climber has paid a large sum of money to join a guided expedition does not, by itself, mean that he or she is unfit to be on the mountain.

People who don’t climb mountains – the great majority of humankind, that is to say – tend to assume that the sport is a reckless, Dionysian pursuit of ever escalating thrills. … At least in the case of Everest … the ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace.

“If client cannot climb Everest without big help from guide,” Boukreev told me, “this client should not be on Everest. Otherwise there can be big problems up high.”

Mountaineering tends to draw men and women not easily deflected from their goals. By this late stage in the expedition we had all been subjected to levels of misery and peril that would have sent more balanced individuals packing for home long ago. To get this far one had to have an uncommonly obdurate personality.
Unfortunately, the sort of individual who is programmed to ignore personal distress and keep pushing for the top is frequently programmed to disregards signs of grave and imminent danger as well.

Bottled oxygen does not make the top of Everest feel like sea level. … 29,000 feet with gas felt like approximately 26,000 feet without gas.

Not only during the ascent but also during the descent my willpower is dulled. The longer I climb the less important the goal seems to me, the more indifferent I become to myself. My attention has diminished, my memory is weakened. My mental fatigue is now greater than the bodily. It is so pleasant to sit doing nothing – and therefore so dangerous. Death through exhaustion is – like death through freezing – a pleasant one.
– Quote taken from Reinhold Messner, “The Crystal Horizon”

50 Days to Everest

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

In 50 days I will be on a flight leaving Calgary in what you can call the official start of my trip up Everest. I have just a few loose ends to tie up but most things are starting to fall into place. I have sent in my final payment for the trip; if you check the website you will see that the cost of climbing Everest from Nepal is $27,750 USD (and prices are going up next year). I have also paid for 5 oxygen bottles valued at $510 each (they are cheaper if you buy them in Kathmandu, but that $510 includes transport by Yak then porters then Sherpas up the mountain to the high camps where we’ll actually need the stuff). I’ll leave you guys to add that all up.


With all that money spent I thought I would take some time to reflect on my trip in the context of ‘commercial expeditions up Everest’. There are other expeditions that charge $65,000 or more for a similar experience, where does that difference come from? Well one big difference is that our trip with summitclimb is not considered a “guided” trip; there is a team leader but there are no guides that will be walking with us up the mountain. We are expected to know enough about mountaineering to make our own way up and down the mountain. That cost to pay IFMGA Certified guides a western salary and all their expenses adds up. Also, we have to carry a bit more of our own things. Some companies will place sleeping bags in the high camp tents, so people can arrive and have everything ready for sleeping; I will have to carry my own (surprisingly heavy) sleeping bag. Little things like that requires people employed to carry things up and down the mountain, which adds up quickly. There are other minor things too that add up.

I must say that from my experience it’s better to go on a non-guided trip such as this. It means the quality of people signing up is higher, and you’re expected to do more on your own, giving a better feeling of satisfaction at the end. Of course, there is a fine line before the support the group gives is not enough. Other companies charge even less, but give you even less. It may go unnoticed if everything goes according to plan, but if something goes wrong these groups seek help from the ones more prepared (because they are more financed). I think summitclimb finds a nice balance right where it should be in terms of support.

I guess the whole concept of the commercialization of Everest is a debatable one, but I would like to think that companies offering non-guided support are the ones doing it right, as long as they screen their applicants enough to make sure people are qualified to be on the mountain. Companies that rely on their guides to help people up the mountain are introducing people into circumstances where they cannot help themselves, and that’s where trouble can begin, for them and for everyone else on the mountain stuck because of a traffic jam or asked to help someone who should not be there.

Here’s to hoping that our group goes up and down the mountain with little fanfare or media attention, as that always follows people that get into trouble.

Calgarian to mount Everest for charity

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Hi all, I’ve been meaning to update on some of the goings on of my preparation for Everest, unfortunately those very preparations have kept me busy enough that I find little time to compose my many thoughts and feelings as I prepare and go forward. I will take this opportunity to share that my endeavor has got it’s first media exposure, the Calgary Sun has an article online about my climb, and you can look for it in tomorrow’s paper. Check the link here:

“The toughest thing is preparing to do things your body doesn’t want to do — it’s more of a mental challenge than physical one, if you’re physically prepared,” he said.

I wanted to also give an extra special thanks to the many people that have already donated to World Vision in support of my endeavor, thank you very much!

UPDATE: Just checked the print version, the article is at the top of page 17 with a nice big headline. Thanks Bill Kaufmann!

Looking Back at Cho Oyu

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Now that I’m back in Calgary I have some time to write down things I wanted to pass along before. One of the things I found interesting was the type of people that were in our group, to maybe illustrate how diverse we were, let me list the professions of all the clients attempting the summit: Lawyer, Farmer, Engineer, Military man, Ex-Bouncer, Diving Instructor, School Teacher, Trainer/Public Speaker, Unemployed.

One of the best moments of the trip for me, other than the summit, was when we were leaving for the summit. Coming out of my tent to a sky full of stars that almost lit the way, walking in the absolutely still air to the path, then starting my journey up with my headlamp lighting the way, oxygen on my face and flowing, giving me the life and energy that I need. It was a very cool experience that made me smile, though it was full of many unknowns: first time on oxygen, first time on this path, and the unknown of what the night’s hard work will bring.

Summit day for me was very long. At about 1:34 am I started my stop watch, and stopped it seven hours and six minutes later on the summit. About 50 minutes I spent on the summit, and then it took me 3h10m to get back down to Camp 3 where the day started. Here some people rested, laid in the tents, made some water. I still had half a liter of water left of the two liters I started with, so I just spent 50 minutes packing all my stuff, and continued down to Camp 2. From Camp 3 to Camp 2 took me 30 minutes (compare that with 4h15m on the way up!) as it is a pretty short distance, plus I slid down half the way on my bum! Reason being was I still had my down suit on and I started getting hot, so rather than stop on the semi-steep slope and start undressing, I decided to slide the rest of the way down! Best idea I ever had!

Packing the rest of my stuff at Camp 2 took an hour, after which I was the first one to set off for Camp 1. This part of the trip took two and a half hours, at which point the walking part of my day was over.

Add all that up and it means in 16 hours of hard work, breathing some of the driest air possible, I drank less than two liters of water. (For comparison, when resting at ABC I would easily drink 5 or 6+ liters of water in a day.) What this means is that upon reaching Camp 1 was the point where I had lost the most weight. My estimate is about 10% of my body weight, so 20 lbs or 9 kilos (most others on the trip estimated similar percentages). I would say 5 pounds of that came back with simply hydrating over the next few days. Another 5 came back after eating big back in Kathmandu. The other 10 I am still missing and working at getting back, and since most of that is probably muscle it will take some time.

It was nice to get back to Kathmandu where there are enough places that serve western food that you can really get whatever you may want. After losing as much weight as we had, everyone eats quite big on every meal. For me, a lover of food, it is one of the fun parts of mountaineering! I remember one breakfast I had a big plate of eggs, beans, cheese and salsa, prepared as Huevos Rancheros. Then I had dessert of apple pie with ice cream. Dessert after breakfast! It was absolutely lovely.

Now I’m back in Calgary and I am slowly trying to get back into the groove here. But it’s tough. For some reason I feel a little bit weird here. People ask me about my trip and I have a hard time just talking about my trip, there’s so much to say. Then they ask what’s next, while honestly I’m just trying to let this trip sink in, which I don’t think has happened yet. But I’m sure after a couple of weeks it’ll all be back to normal, as is always the case with life, so I’m not too worried.

That’s about all I wanted to get off my mind. I posted some more pictures, bigger than Facebook allows, you can find them here. Take care!

Climbing the next one…

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

So with just barely having caught up on writing about my last summit on Aconcagua, I am heading off to climb yet another mountain! This one is, believe it or not, is higher than the last one. I’m flying to Kathmandu in Nepal and we’ll drive to China (Tibet) to attempt a climb of the sixth tallest mountain in the world, called Cho Oyu. It’s 8200m tall, 20km west of Everest (aparently you get some good views of Everest from the top!), if you want any more details just check Wikipedia here. I have been getting all my stuff ready in the last few weeks, have been training for months, and just lately (or maybe a long time ago?) I started eating like a pig to gain some weight so that I have more of it to lose while on the mountain.

I will post another entry in the next few days with a link to the SummitClimb News website, where they will post regular updates on our progress as we call in dispatches from a Sat phone while on the mountain. In the meantime, I will post a picture and below it our proposed itinerary, so if you want to know you’ll have a bit of an idea of what I am getting myself into. Enjoy the smileys!

Trying on the gear

Arriving in Kathmandu:

Sep 1) Arrive Kathmandu (1,300 metres/4,300 feet).
Sep 2) Hand over passport to China Embassy, begin processing of Chinese Visa. Training and equipment review at hotel in Kathmandu.
Sep 3) Receive processed visa from Chinese embassy. We may choose to depart Kathmandu for Tibet on this day;

Driving to Basecamp:

Sep 4) Begin Expedition! Bus to Zhangmu, Tibet (2500 metres/8,250 feet); drive to Nyalam (3,750 metres/12,400 feet).
Sep 5) Rest & Acclimatization in Nyalam (3,750 metres/12,400 feet). Walk in the surrounding hills, hang out in the Tashi Amdo teashop. Hotel.
Sep 6) Drive to Tingri at 4,300 meters/14,100 feet. Hotel.
Sep 7) Rest & Acclimatization in Tingri at 3900 metres/12,900 feet. Hotel.
Sep 8) Drive to Chinese Base, 4900 metres/16,000 feet, Camp.
Sep 9) Rest & Acclimatization at Chinese Base.

Moving to Advanced Basecamp:

Sep 10) Walk halfway to advanced base camp, camp at 5100 metres/16,800 feet.
Sep 11) Rest day & Acclimatization at “interim-camp” at 5100 metres/16,800 feet.
Sep 12) Walk to advanced base camp at 5600 metres/18,500 feet. Rest.
Sep 13) Rest & Acclimatization, training, and organization at advanced base camp.

Climbing Cho Oyu:

Sep 14) Walk to camp 1 at 6200 metres/20,450 feet, return to advanced base camp.
Sep 15) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 16) Walk to camp 1, Sleep.
Sep 17) Explore the route to Camp 2 at 6700 metres/22,100 feet. Return to advanced base camp.
Sep 18) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 19) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 20) Walk to camp 1 and sleep there.
Sep 21) Walk to camp 2 and sleep there.
Sep 22) Explore the route to camp 3 at 7400 metres/24,400 feet. Return to advanced base camp. Rest.
Sep 23) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 24) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 25) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 26) Walk to camp 1 and sleep there.
Sep 27) Walk to camp 2 and sleep there.
Sep 28) Walk to camp 3 and sleep there.

Summit Days:

Sep 29) Summit attempt.
Sep 30) Summit attempt.
Oct 1) Summit attempt.
Oct 2) Summit attempt.
Oct 3) Summit attempt, descend to camp 2.

Going Home:

Oct 4) Descend to advanced base camp, pack and prepare to depart.
Oct 5) Final packing, walk down from advanced base camp to Chinese base, drive to Tingri and spend the night.
Oct 6) Drive from Tingri to Kathmandu.
Oct 7) Celebration Banquet. Packing and final shopping in Kathmandu.
Oct 8) Say Good-bye to your new friends, Departure for home.

Aconcagua: The High Camps

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Once we reached base camp we had a day of rest, and we used it to go visit the camp doctor. Everybody that wants to ascend to the summit needs to see this doctor, who will measure your pulse, blood pressure, listen to your breathing, and all that needs to be done to make sure you are acclimatizing well. This doctor has the power to tell you that you are not allowed to go any further, and there were people that had to stay longer at base camp before they were allowed to continue (and even some that made it no further at all).

Going higher after base camp involves staying at two “high” camps before reaching the summit. The idea was to reach each camp with some gear, dump it, and then go back down to sleep, before going back up and staying for good. This “climb high sleep low” idea is a good way to acclimatize to altitude.

Looking back at base camp on the way to Camp 1.

This first picture is looking back at base camp on the way to camp 1. While it’s a pretty big place considering how much effort it takes to get things there, it is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains once you go up a little higher.

Emil and myself taking a break; notice the boots we are wearing, these weigh about 1.5 kg EACH BOOT!

Climbing to these high camps is much different than the type of hiking I am used to in Canada. In Canada I usually only go on day trips, travel light, and go up and down pretty quickly. Here we are carrying much more weight (both on our backs and in the gear we are wearing), we walk slowly, taking small yet determined steps, focusing on breathing, etc. In the above picture you can see Emil and myself taking a break; my pack was so heavy that every time we stopped and I took it off, I felt like I could flap my arms and fly away! Also notice the boots we are wearing, these weigh about 1.5 kg EACH BOOT!

Me resting beside some penitentes, by far the most interesting feature I have seen on any mountain.

The above picture shows me resting beside some penitentes, by far the most interesting feature I have seen on any mountain. Basically it’s what look like upside-down icicles, but are right in the snow we walk through. The picture below shows a whole mountain side full of penitentes, and we had to make our route right through it. Having to blaze a new trail through these things would be very difficult and time-consuming, but luckily there was already a trail we could follow.

A whole mountain side full of penitentes.

Below you can see me among these penitentes as we are descending to base camp after having dumped some stuff at camp 1. And yes, those are flip-flops I have strapped to my backpack, I was using them as high as camp 1 to give the old feet a break from closed shoes!

Me among the penitentes as we are descending to base camp.

Camp 1, 5000m. It is staying at this camp that made me appreciate all the things I took for granted at base camp. I guess this would be a good time to introduce the ‘human waste strategy’ that the parks has in place.

Camp 1 with the little line of tents, and where the person in red is heading up is where the 'bathroom' is.

In all the camps below camp 1 there have always been outhouses, and the waste from them was flown out by helicopter to make sure it doesn’t start building up inside the park. I must admit that it’s good to know the money I paid for my permit is going toward things like that. At the first stop Las Lenas they even had porcelain toilets that flushed! But that is a long way down from camp 1… Anyways, as part of the permitting process, everyone receives two bags that they need to later return, or get fined. One is for garbage, the other one is for ‘number two’. So, once at camp one and above, going to the bathroom for number two involves squatting over a plastic bag. Now I will not get into too much detail but just imagine trying to go when there is heavy wind threatening to blow the bag away.

Just to comment on the picture above, what you see is camp 1 with the little line of tents, and where the person in red (who happens to be Kerry from our expedition) is heading up is where the ‘bathroom’ is. You will have to take my word for it that it is one of the most beautiful views from a bathroom that I have ever seen!

We did have some adventures at camp 1, mainly involving waking up to a tent that had flooded overnight and then frozen, and I had to use my ice axe to pick out my bag that had been left just outside overnight.

Looking up to more or less where camp 2 should be, at the top of the saddle and then a little to the left.

On to camp 2. The picture above shows the view looking up to more or less where camp 2 should be, at the top of the saddle and then a little to the left, behind those two jagged teeth sticking up. Above those we can see the Polish glacier, which is an alternate route, more direct but also much more technical, longer, and pretty much only for those hard to the core.

The process of going up the mountain at these higher elevations

The next picture above does a great job showing the process of going up the mountain at these higher elevations. Notice how small my steps are, just one foot right in front of the other. Head down, not really looking at the view, just concentrating on walking, on breathing, on moving forward. In the back on the right you can see camp 1 in the background, which once again does not get appreciated until reaching the one higher.

Three days worth of walking are all visible in this picture

On this next picture above we can see about three days worth of walking. The valley in the background was the last day of hiking to get to base camp. Then there’s the walk from base camp to camp one, of which we only see camp one in the background. Then there’s the route we’re on right now, from camp one to camp two, with the trail clearly visible.

Camp 2!

Finally, camp 2! We reached it for the first time on January 15, 2009, just to drop some stuff off, and the second time a day later, to stay as long as necessary to make the summit. You can see the snow line going up and to the right, this is the route for the summit attempt. Or there’s the alternate route on the left, straight up the Polish glacier, but I did not see one single person try to go up that way in all the time we spent at camp 2.

A little clowning around at Camp 2.

And finally just a little clowning around at camp 2, enjoying the view that was once again better than at the previous camp. Already I felt like it was the top of the world, but there was still over 1000 vertical meters to go.

Make sure to stay tuned for the next installment, as we push to the summit…

I am a climber

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Or at least I would like to think so. Taking a break from my Aconcagua posts, here’s something interesting I stumbled upon. I found a really interesting article about climbers and their personalities, here’s a bit of an excerpt:

… The personality of climbers was quite different to that of average people. Climbers scored higher in the areas of Novelty-Seeking and Self-Directedness and lower on Harm-Avoidance. What this suggests is that climbers generally enjoy exploring unfamiliar places and situations. They are easily bored, try to avoid monotony and so tend to be quick-tempered, excitable and impulsive. They enjoy new experiences and seek out thrills and adventures, even if other people think that they are a waste of time. Climbers therefore also participate in other adventure sports, such as mountain biking. When confronted with uncertainty and risk climbers tend to be confident and relaxed. Difficult situations are often seen by climbers as a challenge or an opportunity. They are less responsive to danger and this can lead to foolhardy optimism. Climbers also have good self-esteem and self-reliance and therefore tend to be high-achievers…

… An interesting observation of serious risk-taking sports people is that despite frequent near misses and accidents, they continue to participate in adventure sports. This persistence in the face of trauma is in my view quite unique. … The researchers commented that the level of trauma experienced by the mountaineers was similar to that experienced by fire-fighter and army personnel, yet they had only 10-20% the rate of psychological disturbance. Only 3% of mountaineers developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, whereas rates in firefighters are up to 20%…

Some interesting reading in my mind, read the full article here. Stay tuned for more from Aconcagua!

An email and a Favour

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

As some of you may know and have read on this blog, earlier this year I went to climb a 6000m mountain in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real. The trip was organized by two gentlemen, one a Bolivian named Iván Berdeja, and one a German named Christian. I have been keeping in touch with Iván, as he’s got lots of climbing experience, and with the latest email I sent about going to attempt Aconcagua, I got this reply:

Dear Wiktor,

I have very bad news. Our friend Iván died on Oct. 17 at the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz during a hike with a group of Italians. There was a lot of fog and he went forward in search of a path (there is a part with no path), he slipped and fell 250m. I can not describe to you the sadness we feel here. Ivan was a very, very good person.

I very much regret having to write that. At the same time I wish you a good expedition to Aconcagua. Please, will you leave a note in memory of Ivan at the summit?

Luck and greetings,

So I’ll say that this was totally unexpected, and I don’t really want to write any more commentary about it. I will let the letter speak for itself. However, what I will do is take a picture of Iván to the top of Aconcagua and leave it there (if I make it up). May he rest in peace.

Ivan Berdeja