Monday, January 25, 2010

Photos from the 2010 AAC Winter Outing

Ron Bixby having hiked up Baxter Mountain in just boots on a mostly packed trail. It's a nice little mountain with great views for its size.

Wayne Wilson and Mim Galligan loafing in the sunny breakfast room at Rock & River before going out into the snow and unusually warm, windless day with brilliant sun.

Michael Schlenker starting the top pitch...

"Good To The Last Drop" Matt Horner
Image by Andrea Salerno

Holly Mauro In Apres Ski Mode
Image by Andrea Salerno

Gitta Soot & Mim Galligan
Image by Andrea Salerno

Joe Yanuzzi, Ron Bixby, Vic Benes, Andrea Salerno. Martin Torresquintero, Matt Horner
Image by Andrea Salerno

Image by Andrea Salerno

Image by Andrea Salerno

Andrea & Birthday Cake
Image by Andrea Salerno

Chris Galligan & Matt Horner
Image by Andrea Salerno

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Special Invitations for AAC Members - 'North Face' Movie Premier


Cinema Village Theatre

22 E. 12TH St, New York, NY


Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema

143 E. Houston St, New York, NY

NORTH FACE is a gripping adventure drama about a competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps. It’s 1936, and Nazi propaganda urges German Alpinists to conquer the unclimbed north face of the Swiss massif, the Eiger North Face – aka “Murder Wall” – before the Olympic Games begin. The legendary 1800-meter-high wall of stone and ice has been casting its spell for decades, and two young hot-shot Bavarian climbers, Toni Kurz (BENNO FÜRMANN) and Andi Hinterstoisser (FLORIAN LUKAS), are finally lured into the challenge. Preparing at the foot of the mountain, they cross paths with Toni’s childhood love, Luise (JOHANNA WOKALEK), who is reporting on the first ascent for a Berlin newspaper. Tensions rise as personal drama blends with the anticipation of the dangerous feat.

Realistically shot, NORTH FACE reveals the brutal struggle to survive on the mountain. Director/screenwriter Philipp Stölzl keeps viewers as breathless as if they were climbing the mountain themselves, rather than sitting comfortably in a theatre.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Member Greg Frux's Trip to the Canadian Rockies

Please check out Greg's trip report on the Canadian Rockies along with a large number of paintings he has done at the following site :

Climbing in the Canadian Rockies 2009
By Gregory W. Frux

Matt Powell, Matt Burd and I (all AAC members) had the opportunity to visit Lake Louise. Yoho and Banff National Parks during August and September 2009. This was my third trip to western Canada and I was eager to share the charms of the area with two of my long- time climbing partners. We designed a trip where we travelled on our own for the first portion and with a guide service for several more technical objectives for the second half.

Our base of operation for much of the trip was the Lake Louise Hostel ( where AAC members get a discount and a warm welcome. You have to love a “hostel” with its own restaurant and bar! We had a superb warm up hike from Lake Louise to the Plain of Six Glaciers and the teahouse, from which we could see the Abbot Pass Hut, one of our later objectives.

On day three we shuttled our car to the end point of our hike, shouldered our 40 pound packs and set off from the north end of the Wapta Traverse, starting above Peyto Lake. We’d booked a total of six nights at 4 alpine club huts along the route and were using the traverse map sold by the Alpine Club of Canada. After about two and a half hours walking we were faced with a choice at a bridge across a torrent: our map showed two routes, the longer one crossed the bridge, while a more direct line continued up alongside the stream. While the direct route wasn't obvious, we convinced ourselves that a passable line could be made out to the gulley left of the rock buttress. Above this gulley, the 'route' got pretty frightening. We found ourselves on loose rock slopes which ended in a cliff hanging above a raging, icy torrent. It turned out that route we were on was used in the winter only, for ski touring. After two slow and tenuous hours on sliding rocks we climbed out of the gulley and reached the tongue of the glacier. From there access to the Wapta Icefield and Peyto Hut was easy. The vista from the hut is superb and the facilities extremely comfortable. We gave ourselves a treat and took a day off to lounge.

After our rest day we headed off across the Wapta Ice Sheet. Our plan was to traverse about 4 or 5 miles to the next shelter, the Bow Hut. The hike was going so well that we decided we had time to climb one of the nearby mountains enroute, South Rhondda (elevation 10,046 ft.). The summit was reached via 30 to 40 degree snow slopes and a ridgeline walk in the sky. In the meantime our gear, cached on the icefield, suffered a raid by ravens, the major casualty being a salami. The day turned more serious as we navigated towards the Bow Hut, via compass and GPS in a thunderstorm. The direct line route down led us into steep and hazardous terrain criss-crossed with large crevasses. Locating the hut took a little faith as it cannot be seen from the heavily creviced tongue of glacier that one descends to approach it. Fortunately an end run delivered us to solid ground and soon to the safety of Bow Hut.

We took another day off to rest, enjoy the view and reconsider our plans. We were growing concerned about the large number of big crevasses on the route. Ahead of us, two days further on was an area that was supposed to more difficult and dangerous. We heard that there had been less snow the previous winter and we saw lots of melting. [Yes, I think this is connected to global climate change]. We decided to shorten the traverse but to climb another peak before exiting-- Mt. Gordon, highest mountain in the range.

We regained the ice field and navigate towards the summit of Gordon, about three miles distant. To get there we cross a bergshrund on a snow bridge and climbed 40 degree snow sloops. We reached the summit without major difficulties at around 11:30 AM. (elevation ~10,500 ft). Return to Bow Hut was followed closely by rain and snow squalls and gale force winds. This made very appreciative of the wood stove at the hut. We exited the traverse the next day via a rugged trail down to Bow Lake, hitchhiking to pick up the car. After a restorative day at the Banff Hot Springs and a walk below the north face of Mount Temple, we were ready for our next adventure.

We met up with our climbing guides Dave Scott and Norman Winter and together took the shuttle bus to the justly famous Lake O'Hara. Our destination for the day was Abbott Pass Hut about 3000 feet above Lake O'Hara, enroute to climbing Mount Victoria. During our spectacular ascent we passed a mountain goat. We ignored the deteriorating weather, which devolved into a full on snow storm by the time we reached the hut. It was an interesting night, as we had elected not to carry sleeping bags, but to use the hut’s blankets instead. The real challenge was the exposed traverse to the outhouse, which everyone seemed to make several times that night! Next morning conditions were no better and after waiting until noon we retreated. Even the next day there were still lenticular clouds over Mt. Victoria.

After the retreat, we took the extra day to go rock climbing at the famous cliffs at Yamuneska, climbing The Keel Haul Wall (5.6), six pitches. This served as warm up for our last route of the trip, Brewers Buttress (5.6), 13 pitches on Castle Mountain. A three thousand foot hike and scramble put us on a ledge system for a stay at one of Canada’s smallest Alpine Club Huts, fitting six, perhaps This allowed our diminished team, Matt Burd, Guide Dave Scott and I to make a predawn start of the climb. The limestone arête was extremely aesthetic, user friendly and airy. For speed Dave belayed us on a single rope for the first ten pitches, with Greg trailing the second rope. We switched to two ropes for several awkward chimneys near the top of the climb. The summit was reached in time for lunch. We encountered two hikers at the summit, revealing an easier, if longer way to the top. The protracted descent involved down climbing scree, several short rappels and a long hike to the bottom, arriving at dusk. Meantime Matt Powell and Norman Winters meantime successfully ascended Ha Ling Peak via a technical rock route.

Many thanks to the Alpine Club of Canada for their great facilities and to our fine guides Dave Scott and Norman Winter at Revelstoke Alpine Adventures.

AAC Providing Relief to Haiti

Dear Friends, family and business associates.

I’m writing to you now to ask for your help with the humanitarian aid for victims of the horrendous earthquake which hit Haiti on Wednesday.

I am working with our local Anna Jaques Hospital, their affiliate Partners in Development and Jim Ansara in organizing a collection drive for tents and sleeping bags (or money to purchase the same and help with shipping) to aid the tens of thousands of displaced and injured people in Haiti. Along with clean water, food and medical supplies, temporary shelter is desperately needed. Used tents as long as they are functional, and lightweight sleeping bags are fine and of course new tents and sleeping bags from any of our outdoor industry friends would be ideal. Since the climate is hot, lightweight sleeping bags are preferable and larger, camping style tents would be best but anything will be used. We will set up Mark Richey Wood working as the collection center, check all equipment and prepare for shipping to Haiti.

Time of course is of the essence and any help will be greatly appreciated.

I am also planning to fly down to Haiti as a volunteer as soon as possible.

Thanks in advance for your help,


Mark Richey
Mark Richey Woodworking
40 Parker Street
Newburyport, MA 01950-4056
Main Tel: 978.499.3800
Main Fax: 978.499.3840
Direct Tel: 978.463.7222
Direct Fax: 978.462.3981

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Disappearing Snows of Everest

Reproduced from The New York Review of Books Blog

In the fall of 1967 with two French friends I trekked from Kathmandu to the base of Mount Everest. At that time, climbing was forbidden in Nepal and the trekking business was in its infancy. During the thirty-seven days we were on our trek we saw less than a handful of other westerners and the ones we saw were in Nepal on official business. The high point of our trek in every sense was our climb of a small hillock named Kala Patthar. It was a grassy knoll whose summit was at 18,200 feet—about 800 feet above what had been the British base camp for Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s climb of Everest in 1953. From this summit one has a fantastic view of Everest and neighboring peaks, such as Nuptse and Lhotse. In fact, during a reconaissance mission with Hillary and others in 1951, the British climber Eric Shipton used vantage points on the ridge that Kala Patthar is part of to plot the route that Hillary’s team took in their ascent two years later.

What struck me on our trek is how tropical a country Nepal is when the altitude permits. It is at the latitude of Florida. The only reason that there is snow is because of the altitude. In fact, the snow line was around 5,000 meters. Kala Patthar’s altitude in meters is 5,550 and indeed when we left the summit it had begun to snow heavily. What also struck me was the significance of the rivers. The Dudh Kosi (milk) river and the Bhote Kosi drain the glaciers. The Bhote Kosi drains the Khumbu glacier at the base of Everest. They join and become, or became, a very mighty stream that eventually flows into the important rivers on the Indian sub-continent. This glacier water is the principle water supply for India during the non-monsoon periods. That supply is now threatened.

On December 4, the Nepalese cabinet met near the summit of Kala Patthar to call attention to global warmingThere are several warning signs. The Himalayan snow line has risen several hundred meters since I visited 1967. The Rongbuk glacier is melting at a rapid rate; the lower parts are beginning to look like a rock pile. Recent monsoons have been unusually intense, causing floods and mudslides in the low lands. It was with these worrying developments in mind that, on December 4, the entire cabinet of the Nepalese government, including Prime Minister Madhav Kumar, was flown to the international air strip at Lukla. This was basically a cow pasture that Hillary had converted into a landing strip, and when I visited it in 1967 it was still just that. When I went back twenty years later it looked more like a proper airport.

The twenty-two-member delegation took some time to adapt to the altitude and had medical checks before they were flown by helicopter to a spot below the summit of Kala Patthar. All of them were provided with oxygen masks. Tables had been set up and their meeting lasted some twenty minutes, during which they issued a declaration urging immediate steps to prevent the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers. They were then flown by helicopter to the Sherpa village of Syangboche, where Kumar read the disturbing speech he had prepared for this week’s UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen to various local dignitaries. They included the important lama Ngegon Lama, who when the prime minister had finished speaking said, “There is no snow where there should be, no rain where there should be. I’m sure it is because of global warming.”

Cornish Estate

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Member Wayne Wilson at the Ruth Glacier

Please find below a link to a video taken by member Wayne Wilson of his excursion to Denali.

This video was shot during a ski tour of the Ruth Gorge in May 2008. We stayed in the Don Sheldon Hut which was the primary reason for going there. Reader’s Digest called the Sheldon Mountain Hut one of the ten most spectacular places on earth. The hut was built by bush pilot Don Sheldon in 1966. He transported all the materials via his ski plane and built the hut on a ridge which protrudes from the glacier. If anyone is interested in reserving the hut, the arrangements are made through the Alaska Mountaineering School ( Reservations need to be made well in advance for the best time slots.

Journey of a Lifetime with Stephen Venables

Having just returned from lecture tours in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and the United States, this year I am staying mainly at home. However, I will be talking at a conference in Santiago, Chile, in November.

Here, I have a busy programme, starting with a talk on the Nepal Himlaya in Mellor, near Manchester, on February 8th. Then I head to Scotland to tour my new Shipton Country lecture, which was a sellout when I tried it out in Bristol before Christmas. I will also be visiting most areas of England and Wales with various talks, including a new touring theatre show In the Steps of Shackleton, using gorgeous photos and film footage from all my three South Georgia expeditions over the last twenty years. Details of most lectures are now up on For the Shackleton talk see also

As I have to travel to Chile in November, it makes sense to continue a little further south, making the most of the austral spring. I hope to return to South Georgia, building on the success of the 2008 ‘Beyond Endurance’ expedition. The plan is to sail again with the leading Antarctic charter yacht, Pelagic Australis, and attempt an ambitious ski tour and – who knows – perhaps a first ascent or two. The most obvious objective is the now well-trodden Shackleton Traverse. I would be very happy to lead that a third time. However, my personal preference would be to attempt a ski traverse of the rarely-visited Salvesen Range, further south.

Chartering Pelagic Australis is not cheap, so we need a team of at least six people. Anyone keen to attempt the traverse needs to be fit, experienced and prepared to face some very foul weather. However, it could be that, say, four people attempt the traverse, whilst two or three others come just for the wonderful voyage to incomparable wildlife beaches.

There is a details proposal on the website and I have also pasted them below.

Please get in touch if you are interested. And tell anyone else who might be tempted. Please, also, tell me if you would prefer not to receive future newsletters.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous year

-Stephen Venables

Stephen has been three times to the sub-antarctic island of South Georgia. He loves the place so much he wants to go back again in the austral spring of 2010 and is looking for a team to accompany him. As with the successful 2008 expedition, this trip will use Skip Novak’s purpose-built 25 metres yacht, Pelagic Australis, to sail from the Falklands to South Georgia and back. The voyage generally takes four or five days and everyone on board is expected take turns on watches. So this is a unique opportunity to sail with world-class yachtsmen across one of the most remote stretches of water on earth, to an island famed for its unique wildlife, exploration heritage and stunning mountains rising 9,000 feet straight out of the ocean.

Once on the island itself there are three main options, depending on the experience and ability of the team:

Shackleton Traverse Highlights
We will anchor at famous landmarks on the Shackleton Traverse of 1916 – King Haakon Bay, Fortuna Bay and Stromness – and, weather permitting, make day trips by foot and ski to key points on the Traverse, getting a glimpse of the mountainous interior never seen by regular cruise passengers. There will also be time to visit the whaling museum at Grytviken and some of the most spectacular wildlife sites, such as the immense king penguin rookery at St Andrews Bay.

Classic Shackleton Traverse
A tougher option, requiring luck with the weather and a committed team. Shackleton, Crean and Worsley made the journey from King Haakon Bay to Stromness in 30 hours non-stop, in a desperate bid to rescue 31 marooned companions. Most recent parties to repeat the route, have done it in a more leisurely three days. By going in spring we should be able to do almost the entire route on ski, towing camping gear in sledges. If we are lucky with the weather, there will also be time for other excursions around the island as in the first option.

Grand Traverse of the Salvesen Range
In 1990 Stephen was in one of the very few parties ever to venture into the southern interior of the island when he made the first ascent of Mount Carse with Brian Davison. He would love to return to this southern Salvesen Range with a suitably determined, experienced team, prepared to commit to up to ten days ski-mountaineering on remote glaciers. The team will be put ashore at Royal Bay, to climb up to the Ross Pass, before heading south, following several glaciers to the pick-up point in the spectacular haven of Larsen Harbour. We will travel by ski, towing sledges. If all goes well, there may be a chance to attempt an unclimbed peak on the way.

Pelagic Australis can take 7 paying passengers. If, say, only four were keen skiers/mountaineers, it would be perfectly possible for the other three to have a fascinating time cruising from bay to bay, going for short sea level excursions, while the mountain team was away. All plans would in any case have to be highly flexible, dependent on the vagaries of Southern Ocean weather.

The dates are for a four week return trip from the Falklands, with Saturday flights to and from Santiago de Chile (32 days round trip from Europe or North America). Two options:
October 9 – November 6, 2010
November 20 – December 11, 2010
The former is marginally better for skiing, with a good chance of snow almost down to the beach. Both options offer fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing.

This is based on current charter costs for Pelagic Australis, probably the finest purpose-built yacht operating in Antarctica. It includes:

Four weeks charter of Pelagic Australis
All food and wine on board and on South Georgia, once we set sail from Port Stanley
Foul weather gear on board
Communal camping and cooking equipment, including pulks (sledges)
Fees and expenses for Stephen Venables and one other mountain leader.

Not included:
Travel to and from the Falklands
Personal clothing and equipment
Food and drinks ashore in Port Stanley
Internet communications on board

For group of seven people maximum: 98,000 euros
Price per person: 14,000 euros (£12,750 at Oct 09 exchange rate)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mike & Mike's AAC Flag Expedition to the English Mountains

Canada, Southern Labrador, English Mountains, M & M Ridge.

In early spring, fellow New York Section-AAC member Mike Barker and I set out to explore this low subarctic range that comprises the easternmost and highest part of the Mealy Mountains. These wilderness mountains are under consideration for National Park status. They reach elevations of approximately 4,000 feet with bare alpine summits and are flanked by cliffs of clean anorthosite and granite. The English Mountains have no record of technical mountaineering or climbing.

On March 27, 2009, we traveled by turbine single-Otter ski plane from Goose Bay to a dramatic cirque at N53.626° W58.506°, where we established a base camp for a week. Several harsh, extended arctic windstorms hampered our climbing efforts. However, we had a sufficient break in the weather to climb the snow and rock ridge (“M & M Ridge”) that rose NNW from our base camp. It took three days, but we found a route that bypassed four cliff bands, and put us onto moderately steep, exposed snow slopes.

The English Mountains have lots of untapped climbing and winter sports potential. There were abundant, continuous, fully-formed water ice falls and very steep, narrow, firm snow chutes, some well in excess of 1,000 vertical feet, on very stable, featured rock, much of it clean granite. During our stay, there was almost no evident rock fall or avalanche activity. There was also ample skiable terrain. Scenically, this truly wild area struck me like a cross between a lower elevation Baffin and an inland Norwegian fjord, with some granite faces reminiscent of the southern Columbia Mountains of British Columbia. All of this in an area about the same air distance from Columbus Circle as Miami Beach.

We would like to thank the AAC-New York Section for giving us the honor of carrying its expedition flag. We are also grateful to Big Agnes for their support, and to AAC-NY Section member Martin Torresquintero, our communications coordinator, duct tape consultant and weatherman.