"Auto racing, bull
fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports. .
. all others are children's games ."
"Any man's finest hour --
the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear -- is
that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and he lies
exhausted on the field of battle: victorious." -- Vince Lombardi
"By and by, your attention becomes so intensely focused that you no longer notice the raw knuckles, the cramping thighs, the strain of maintaining nonstop concentration. A trance-like state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accrued guilt and clutter of day-to-day existence--the lapse of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes--all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose, and by the seriousness of the task at hand.
At such moments, something like happiness actually stirs in your chest, but it isn't the sort of emotion you want to lean on very hard. In solo climbing, the whole enterprise is held together with little more than chutzpah, not the most reliable adhesive."
-Jon Krakauer from "The Devils Thumb" which first appeared in Krakauer collection Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains, published in 1990 by Lyons & Burford.
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Most of our hiking and climbing happens closer to home in the Catskills and Adirondacks, located in upstate New York. Although the mountains of the Catskills aren't known for their high elevation (the highest being Slide Mountain at 4,180 feet), they nevertheless offer excellent preparation for the bigger climbs we've attempted.
These days I spend more time in the woods in the winter. I have been winter camping with the same core group of guys since 1993.
More on the Catskills and the 35'ers can be found at Morrison's (#1345) Catskill Page.
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Below are personal climbing reports on some recent pursuits:
Mt. Watkins (Yosemite)
Kings Peak, Utah
Mt. Baker, Washington
Mt. Adams, Washington
Mt. Hood, Oregon
El Pico de Orizaba, Mexico
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On Guide Services...
The big question that arises for those planning glacier climbs is whether to go with a guide or not. Certainly if an individual has no experience with climbing on glaciers, formal class work is required. In 1996, my wife Katy, our friend Abner and myself enrolled in Rainier Mountaineering's one-day basic glacier course, then proceed to climb Rainier with them over the next two days. (You can learn more about our experience with RMI by clicking on the Rainier link below, as well as digests of other substantial climbs we've attempted.)
I raise the question of guide services because this continues to be an ongoing debate in our climbing circle, and inevitably becomes a big question as we plan "the next climb".
In early February 1998 Katy, Ab and myself attempted to climb Iztaccihuatl (or Izta) in Mexico. We arrived at the La Joya parking lot and trailhead late in the day. While there we met several members of a guided group that were climbing with the Colorado Mountain School. Those poor bastards (the clients) were brought on an unsuccessful 19-hour death march, which cost them good money.
That day, only two from their group (10-15 clients) summited Ixta, and both, lo and behold, happened to be the guides. The last person to come off the mountain that night barely made it back to the support van under his own power. Of course we weren't sure of the context or the reference, but earlier we heard a client, in a disgruntled tone, say to one of the Guides: "You lied to us, man". What's up with that? Was it greed of the guide service to "churn them through" as quickly as possible? To us, it looked like, at best, poor planning; at worst, bullshit.
My point here is: buyer (or client) beware; ask many questions about the service and the individual guides taking you up. A good question to ask is what the guide service's success rate is in guiding clients up whatever mountain you're inquiring about. When we went up with RMI they had an 80% success rate in guiding clients to the top, versus the 50% success rate of those attempting Rainier without a guide. Colorado Mountain School had a 0% success rate, on a clear day, the day we ran into them on Izta. Please note that I can't rightfully discredit their entire service based on an observation made on one day, but rather am attempting to provide warning, through an example, about asking all the right questions.
Examples:3/17/01 -- I'm not alone out here in the wilderness with my perspective on guided climbs. I met a hiker this weekend in the Catskills who has climbed all over the world. It's is Andrew's opinion that some guides can steal their client's dignity in pursuit of the summit. I agree. I've seen it go like this:
Ask how many people they have taken to the summit.
Ask for the daily itinerary; how much ground and elevation gain will be covered.
Note: CMS had their paying clients cover twenty miles and a 4,000 foot elevation gain, starting at 13,300 feet above sea level, in one day. While this is certainly doable, know that it could turn into an hellish death march for some.
Again, ask about the individual guides' experience. Also, know what the client-to-guide ratio will be, as well as the overall group size. Dave McGovern a guide with Mountain Madness has said that one should look for compassion and sensitivity. "Are they a parent, have they had any heartbreaks? Has a person dealt with issues of humanity, rather than just being a climbing jock?" This perspective may be a bit over the top for lesser climbs, but as one gains altitude these points become more pervasive.
Guide: OK - time to march on!A Guides Reply - by Tim Schultz
Client: But sir, I'd like to take a picture of this amazing bergschrund.
Guide: Sorry, no time for picture taking on this climb.
Client: But, but...
Guide: Put the camera away and start climbing.
Please email me with your thoughts on the above mentioned subject at email@example.com.
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Here's a little tid bit taken from The Amicus Journal [NRDC]:
Award-winning quotations from member of the 104th Congress (somewhat dated, but still relevant)...
- "[Cryptosporidium] can sometimes be very helpful because it helps us identify those people who are in fact in immune compromise."--Rep. Tom Coburn (OK)
- Environmentalists are a "waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual bunch of idiots."--Rep. Don Young (AK)
- Global warming is "unproven at best, and a liberal claptrap at worst."--Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA)
- "EPA is the gestapo of government...one of the major clawhooks that the government has maintained on the backs of our constituents."--Rep. Tom DeLay (TX)
- "The question is not whether to close [national] parks, but how to accomplish this goal...If you've been there [to the Great Basin National Park] you don't need to go back."--Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (TX)
- "[The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] is really the arctic oil reserve, to be set aside by Congress."--Sen. Frank Murkowski (AK)
- "There certainly is an emotional outpouring of sentiment against drilling on behalf of those that believe it is a pollutant."--Rob Livingston (LA)
- "We clearly are strategically out of position on the environment."--Speaker Newt Gingrich (GA)
- ...who came back to serve the American public in the 105th
...more Outdoor Humor
Winter Camping Checklist
My next hiking goal...Morrison's ADK 46'er Page
Questions or comments can be sent to to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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WARNING: Mountaineering, including climbing rock and ice is inherently dangerous! Every climber is completely responsible for their own safety, and assumes all risks inherent to climbing activities. This site is not a manual intended to teach you how to climb.