The news coming today from Mount Everest, the highest mountain the world, is grim--12 Sherpa climbers are confirmed dead after an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall and another four are still missing. This is the deadliest climbing disaster in history on Mount Everest.
In the morning today, April 18, about 50 Sherpa guides were climbing up the icefall through an area called the Popcorn Field above Base Camp just below 19,0028 feet (5,800 meters) to fix ropes to allow easy passage for climbers. At about 6:45 a.m. the avalanche swept down the South Face of Mount Everest, burying much of the group. The avalanche occurred when a huge serac or ice chunk broke off a glacier on the face above the Khumbu Icefall.
Climbers have been searching for both victims and the eight survivors today, with injured climbers being taken off the mountain by helicopter to hospitals in Lukla and Katmandu. Recovered bodies are being returned to Everest Base Camp. Over 100 climbers, both Sherpas and westerners, are trapped on the mountain above the icefall.
Alan Arnette, an experienced Mount Everest climber in Colorado, told CBS News, "It took out many of the ladders, so this has now trapped over 100 climbers above the collapse, and also no one can climb below it. So, basically, Everest has come to a complete stop at this point, and I'm sure many of the teams are reevaluating exactly how they want to move forward."
American climber Conrad Anker wrote earlier today, "Himalayan climbing is a dangerous game and no group bears this burden more than the Sherpa of Nepal. To stock the high camps with food, fuel and oxygen the Sherpa will make multiple carries through the Khumbu Ice Fall. Moving a meter a day with millions of tons of mass, it is the most dangerous location humans climb on a regular basis. The Sherpa will make four times as many carries as their customers, exposing them to much greater hazard. With the accident in the ice fall it comes home to roost. Our sport carries a very high price. With empathy to the families and a tear for my good friend Ang Kaji Sherpa. We miss you. So very sad."
The previous worst tragedy on Mount Everest was on May 11, 1996 when 8 climbers died in a fierce snowstorm high on the mountain. Six Sherpa guides were also killed in an avalanche in 1970.
Photograph above: Climbers near the top of the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, scene of today's deadly avalanche that killed at least 12 Sherpa climbers. Photograph © Doug Allen/Getty Images
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, protected as a national park, is one of the deepest and narrowest gorges in the United States. It is also one of America's premier adventure climbing areas and the next couple of months--April and May--are the best times to go rockaneering in the BC.
I stopped at the North Rim of the Black Canyon yesterday on my way back to Colorado Springs from a couple days of climbing in the desert near Moab. The snow has melted off all the major cliffs, including North Chasm View and the Painted Wall, in the canyon below the North Rim although a few small drifts remain on trails and the dirt road is muddy in a couple spots. The weather, however, was perfect for climbing with a warm sun and light breezes.
If you want to climb at the Black Canyon, make your plan now to head there before the summer heat arrives. Read the article Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Climbing for lots of beta on climbing at the Black as well as information on access, camping, suggested cliffs and routes, and park climbing regulations. I'm heading down in a couple weeks to do Escape Artist...hope to see you there!
Photograph above: Looking into the dark depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the North Rim. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
In early March, an unknown person or persons went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, a Colorado Springs' city park, and stole over 25 bolt hangers and anchor material including Fixe ring anchors and forged chain from a dozen routes. The thief obviously had some climbing skills and equipment since many of the hangers were taken high on routes and would be inaccessible except by rappelling down from the cliff-top.
I mean, who does that? What climber goes to a public climbing area and steals bolt hangers from existing routes? It is very discouraging that some lowlife climbers would feel the need to steal the fixed protection used by thousands of climbers on over 100 routes since the park opened in 2004.
The good news is that there are more good people out there than evil hanger-stealing thugs. Within a couple weeks of the thievery, an unknown climber replaced about half of the missing hardware with new hangers, undoubtedly bought with their own hard-earned cash. I give a hearty shout-out and thank you to that unknown climber for stepping forward and doing a good deed.
Last week Collin Powers with the Pikes Peak Group of the Colorado Mountain Club also messaged me that the club was willing to buy the remainder of the replacement gear to restore the routes to their original condition. Collin bought a dozen Metolius bolt hangers from the Mountain Chalet and painted them to match the color of the sandstone at Red Rock Canyon.
A couple days ago, Collin and I went over to Red Rocks on a windy morning and reinstalled ten of the hangers on three routes at the Whale's Tail. Yesterday we purchased eight one-foot lengths of forged 3/8-inch chain for four sets to reinstall on missing anchors. Thank you Collin and the Colorado Mountain Club for also helping restore these popular climbing routes so both new and experienced climbers can once safely enjoy this marvelous local climbing area.
Photograph above: One of the replacement bolt hangers on "Pockets of Plenty" at Red Rock Canyon Open Space park. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
I've been following Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright as they bicycle around the Colorado Plateau on what they call Sufferfest2. Besides biking a lot of miles over the past two weeks, the pair has, as of April 2, climbed 29 desert towers, including classics like Castleton Tower, Ancient Art, Standing Rock, and Moses. They plan to work their way south from Moab to climb more towers, finally ending on the Navajo Reservation and climbing the sacred mountain Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico on April 9 and finishing at Monument Valley in Arizona a few days later.
The purpose of Sufferfest2 though is not just to do a lot of climbing, have a lot of fun, and suffer a lot along the way, but also to make a difference in the lives of many people who live on the vast Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region.
Cedar explains their purpose on his Facebook page:
"The #sufferfest2 is a tongue and cheek name for our adventure, and obviously this elective suffering we are fortunate to enjoy, is not the real suffering endured by millions of people living in unrest, poverty or oppression. While we aren't going to change the world, @alexhonnold and I are hoping to make a small positive difference close to home by helping to support a solar installation project on the Navajo Nation where we will be finishing our Journey and where over 18,000 people live without electricity."
Alex's Honnold Foundation has partnered up with Elephant Energy to bring not only awareness but also money to install solar lights in schools and Navajo homes in off-the-grid communities, particularly in the Kayenta, Arizona, region. As Alex posted on his Facebook page: "I'm really psyched to be a part of something that can actually improve the quality of peoples' lives."
Find out more about Sufferfest2 and Alex and Cedar's climbing and biking adventures by using #sufferfest2 for updates and cool photos.
Photographs: (top) Alex Honnold on the summit gargoyle of Lighthouse Tower near Moab. (bottom) Alex rides the bike along the White Rim past Monument Basin in Canyonlands National Park. Photographs courtesy Cedar Wright.
Jim DiNapoli, my friend and occasional climbing partner, died yesterday, March 28, in the morning after battling pancreatic cancer for the past few months. Jim, a 59-year-old emergency room doctor, was a guy who loved rock climbing and standing on mountain summits.
When he got his cancer diagnosis on December 20, Jim was working on becoming one of the select few to climb Colorado's Fourteeners in calendar winter, a list which includes 58 winter peaks rather than the customary 54 or 55 on the summer list. Jim had already climbed 43 of them and thought he would take a couple winters to complete the rest.
A couple weeks ago when I was visiting Jim at the hospice, he said, "I had plans climb the four peaks in Chicago Basin--Sunlight, Windom, Eolus, and North Eolous--the week after Christmas but after the doc gave me the diagnosis, he thought I should try chemotherapy and some other experimental stuff. I agreed too that I needed to give it a shot, but now I think I should have gone on that climbing trip."
I wrote about Jim DiNapoli on March 8 in my blog post Climber Makes Legacy Bequest to Benefit Garden of the Gods and his generous donation to help maintain climbing routes at the Garden of the Gods, one of his favorite climbing areas, as well as other cliffs and areas around Colorado Springs.
That financial gift is just how Jim was as a person, always ready to take a newbie climbing or dispense whatever advice was helpful for winter mountaineering or the beta for a tough climbing move. I promised Jim the other week that I would do my best to make sure that his gift to our local climbing community would be his legacy.
I traded texts with Jim DiNapoli the past couple weeks while I was in southern Arizona and he was in the hospice at Penrose Hospital. He told me he was "fine" and that he was at peace. He didn't want any more visitors though, so I respected his wish for privacy.
A lot of Jim's friends, acquaintances, and climbing buddies have been posting on 14ers.com about their adventures with Jim, whose user name on 14ers.com is "DancesatMoonrise." One of the best is by climber and Falcon Guide author Susan Joy Paul, who wrote:
"He was a passionate, and a compassionate, being, and his passions weren't always in line with everyone else's.... But if you're going to go through life worried about what other people think, or who you're going to piss off, you might as well just give up. Jim lived his life his way, and the funny thing is, he really did care what other people thought, regardless. He cared deeply about others."
Susan also noted what she wrote in a card she gave Jim when she visited him at the hospital: "You were bigger than life, Jim. You were faster, and smarter, and more daring that most of us. And maybe some of us were just a little bit jealous.
Rest in peace Jim, after the ordeal of the past few months. We'll always remember your passion and exuberance for all places vertical and we'll do our best to live life fully and in the present.
Photograph above: Jim DiNapoli on the summit of Kit Carson Mountain after a winter ascent. Photograph courtesy Jim DiNapoli Collection.
Climbers share high places with other animals, including raptors like golden eagles, great horned owls, peregrine falcons, and honey bees. Most bees are fairly innocuous, buzzing around their hive aerie on a cliff or a tree and collecting pollen from flowers for honey.
In the southern United States, however, a newer breed of bee has infiltrated and has caused numerous accidents as well as fatalities from mass stingings. The culprit is the Africanized honey bee, a mutated species of aggressive African bees and Brazilian bees that are also called killer bees. After some African queens and drones were accidently released in 1957, the hybrid bee has slowly moved north, particularly to southern Arizona.
Read a new article Killer Bees Attack and Kill Arizona Climbers and find out more about some of the fatal climbing accidents caused by bees as well as some tips about how to avoid killer bees if you go climbing in southern Arizona.
Photograph above: The Africanized bee is an aggressive species that attacks, stings, and even kills climbers on Arizona cliffs. Photograph © John Brown/Getty Images.
The McDowell Mountains, part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, form the ragged mountain skyline to the northeast of Scottsdale and Phoenix in central Arizona. The easily accessed McDowells offers lots of great rock climbing adventures on granite slabs and cliffs, particularly on the north slopes of the range. These cliffs include Tom's Thumb, a blocky monolith on the range crest, as well as Gardener's Wall, popular Sven Slab, and the Girlie Man area.
The Girlie Man area, developed in 2012, is a half-mile hike from the Tom's Thumb Trailhead parking lot and offers a fun selection of mostly bolted slab climbs that are great for top-roping. The crag has become popular with novices as well as guide services like Stone Man/Front Range Climbing Company.
Check out the new mini-guide to Girlie Man area--Phoenix Rock Climbing: Climbing at Girlie Man at McDowell Sonoran Preserve-- with driving and hiking directions, route descriptions, and a photo topo of the area.
Photograph above: A climber smears up a slab route at the Girlie Man area in the McDowell Mountains. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) passed on 25 years ago today--March 14, 1989--at age 62 after a terminal illness. Abbey was not only a great American writer but also an iconoclast, anchorite, anachronism, coyote, rake, and rambler. I first read his book Desert Solitaire in 1970, and like most of us desert rats, it changed my sensibilities.
While Ed Abbey wasn't a climber, he did a lot of climbing around in the mountains, scaling rocky peaks like Montezuma Head in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the sacred mountain Baboquivari Peak in southern Arizona and scrambling up the lonely dormant volcano Pinacate Peak in northwestern Mexico.
Ed Abbey wrote about climbing Mount Tukuhnikivats in the La Sal Mountains above Moab, Utah, in his classic book Desert Solitaire: "Then why climb Tukuhnikivats? Because I prefer to. Because no one else will if I don't--and somebody has to do it. Because it is the most dramatic in form of the La Sals, the most conspicuous and beautiful as seen from my terrace in the Arches. Because, finally, I like the name. Tukuhnikivats--in the language of the Utes 'where the sun lingers.'"
Here's another one of my favorite quotes from Desert Solitaire:
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls."
Photographs above: (top) Edward Abbey, great writer and desert rat. (bottom) Mount Tukuhnikivats towers above slickrock at Arches National Park near Moab. Photographs courtesy Terrence Moore and Stewart Green.
When you're out climbing rocks and frozen waterfalls or scaling mountains and peaks then you need to eat so you can stay charged up. If you don't get a regular infusion of energy then your performance is going to suffer and you can't do your best for a coveted redpoint ascent or you won't stand on some isolated summit.
The good news is that there are lots of quick energy options available to keep your mind and body at a top level. The best options to fuel your vertical ambitions are energy bars, gels, and drinks. They have a lot going for them--they're portable, convenient, digestable, and have distant expiration dates. There is also a huge variety of brands and types of energy foods so you can easily tailor your cliff-side diet.
If you're like me, you love your energy bars. I love energy bars; take them climbing, hiking, and sometimes have one for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack. Okay, I admit it...I also have an energy bar-hoarding problem. So I stock up on lots of bars of all kinds, shapes, and sizes--Clif Bars, Powerbars, Luna Bars, Lara Bars, Now Bars, Balance Bars--so I always have a great selection to chose from.
The other day my son Brett pointed out to me, after checking out a basket full of energy bars on the kitchen counter, that one of the Clif Bars expired back in 1999. I checked it out. Yep, 1999. Any takers? I think if you put it in the microwave it will soften up nicely for your next climbing day...
Read more about energy bars, gels, and drinks in the new article Energy Bars and Foods are Ideal for Climbing Nutrition: Eat Properly for Climbing Performance.
Photograph above: If you don't have camp cooks like Brian and Rob to make a good climbing breakfast then carry lots of energy bars for daily nutrition. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
I visited with my long-time climbing friend Jim this afternoon, catching up on the past few years, trading tales about favorite climbs, and hashing over some of the disagreements we've had about climbing ethics. Jim and I have been at opposite sides of the spectrum of ethics or so it has seemed at times over the past four years. But after our long conversation this afternoon it actually turns out that we both want a lot of the same things for our beloved climbing areas.
Jim is passionate about climbing at the Garden of the Gods, a spectacular Colorado Springs' city park and one of the first established rock climbing areas in the United States. For Jim, as for myself, the Garden is a special and sacred place. The Garden of the Gods was the place where I really learned to become a climber when I was in high school in the late 1960s, a place to develop the skills to go out into the world to places like Yosemite Valley and climb big walls and do new routes. Jim, who moved to Colorado from his native Tucson, Arizona, quickly came to love the Garden and its adventurous climbs and spectacular red rock scenery.
Right now I'm working with a bunch of Colorado Springs climbers to create the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, an advocacy group to address the growing climbing issues on public lands in the Pikes Peak region. The time is right now for us local climbers to address the sustainability, accessibility, and safety of our climbing areas, particularly those in the four Colorado Springs' city parks including the Garden of the Gods, so that we can continue to enjoy our unique climbs now and in the future. Brady Robinson, the executive director of The Access Fund, is helping shepherd us through the process.
Today we had a meeting at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center to discuss our mission statement and begin to figure out the direction and process we need to go forward with the PPCA. Afterwards, Brady went over to visit with Jim and I caught up with them later in the afternoon at the hospice unit at a local hospital.
Jim, a couple years younger than me, is dying of pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed back on December 20 and given a few months to live. Jim, passionate as ever about climbing and the Garden of the Gods, wanted to do something to give back to the climbing community and ultimately decided to donate a substantial amount of money as a legacy gift to Garden of the Gods climbing. The funds are to be administered through The Access Fund and will provide the seed money for us to create the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, including registering it as a non-profit entity and other legal expenses.
Jim wanted to talk to me in private today about the climbing issues that he sees that need addressing, what he would like us to do with his gift, as well as about the disagreements he and I have had about retrobolting and adding new bolts to existing routes. After talking and laughing and remembering climbs for three hours, while a snowstorm raged outside the sixth-floor windows, Jim and I agreed that we are both kind of stubborn and we just haven't communicated enough about the issues, haven't sat down and talked and found common ground. We discovered today that it wasn't too late to find that we really aren't that far apart and that we both want the best for our favorite climbing area.
While Jim's disease and prognosis is an intensely private matter, I did want to write and acknowledge the generosity of my friend and to let the world know that we can each make a difference in both other people's lives as well as in the special places that we love, climb, and share with each other. I assured Jim this afternoon that I would do my best as a climber and Garden lover to make sure that his financial gift enhances this wonderful public space and parkland.
Thanks Jim. I appreciate your honesty and our frank discussion. We know it is always possible to be friends and not always agree all the time. I look forward to visiting with you again tomorrow and talking more about rock climbing and Colorado Fourteeners and the fragility and beauty of life...
Photograph above: Jim climbing a limestone route on The Caveman Wall in Williams Canyon near Colorado Springs in 1997. Photograph © Stewart M. Green