July 28, 2012

Mt. Elbrus Summit Day 2012

Early morning view of Mt. Ushba in Georgia.

The first Adventure Consultants Mt Elbrus Expedition of 2012 is now over and we were fortunate to have perfect weather and conditions. The entire team made the summit and this, of course, must have been due to the excellent guiding. Good job everyone!

The next trip starts tomorrow so stay tuned for more photos from the field.

Russian guide Victor making his 184th ascent of the peak. Victor was the first person to launch a paraglider from Mt. Elbrus in the early 90's.

Looking out at the Caucasus mountains.

The Team on top.

When in Russia!

Going for a light stroll near Terskol after summit day.

July 18, 2012

Mt. Elbrus Russia 2012

Something of a go-to shot on the evening flights. This one from Frankfurt - St. Petersburg.

For the next three weeks I will be guiding on Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Feel free to check out the Adventure Consultants dispatch page if you're interested in the climb!

City tour in St. Petersburg. Church of the Spilled Blood in the background.

Looking up in St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Looking up and focusing in.

A rough time for Gorky.

Riding a ski lift up Cheget Mountain in the Caucasus Range.

Acclimating with Mt. Elbrus in the background.

July 13, 2012

Chamonix So Far

Mike's first impression of Chamonix.

During the pre-dawn hours of July 12th, an avalanche rolled down the Maudit Face on Mt. Blanc, killing atleast 9 climbers. Almost immediately, phones in the valley started ringing and the PGHM helicopters were buzzing the sky. Texts started going back and forth between the North American guiding community to check on everyone's whereabouts and luckily, no one in our small knit group was under the snow (although there were some close calls!).

Unfortunately for Chamonix, this sort of tragedy is not uncommon. The last major avalanche occurred in August 2008, lower down on the same route. Because Mt. Blanc is such an accessible and heavily travelled peak, people forget that it is a serious and dangerous objective. When you step off the Aiguille Du Midi with hundreds of tourists and climbers, it's like - Welcome to Alpine Disneyland! Then add in the false security of so many people walking up the same route - with the pressure to keep going because hey, everyone else is going for it - and BOOM. Nature moves and many people are in the way. Condolences to all who have been affected  by the tragedy.

I was lucky enough to be guiding Mike S for the past 10 days and we got in a bunch of great routes. Mike has a unique outlook on climbing. Basically, he doesn't care what  he climbs as long as he's having fun. This might sound like a pretty straight forward M.O. but you'd be surprised how many people come to Chamonix and just want to climb something that the friend's back home will recognize. Alas, thanks to Mike for a great two weeks of climbing!

Mike's second impression of Chamonix.

Walking in the Aiguille Rouge with the Mt. Blanc Range in the background.

The Dent du Geant and the Grand Jorasse in early morning light.

Climbers hanging out above the top of the Frendo Spur.

Mike making the final moves on the Arete de Cosmiques.

Looking down the Mer de Glace from the Aiguille du Rochefort.

The Dent du Geant from the Aiguille du Rochfort.

Mike on the Crochus Traverse.

Nearing the top of the Aiguille Verte.

After climbing the Aiguille Verte with Mike, I dropped him off at the Telepherique and flew back to Chamonix from the Grand Montets launch. This is a much more civilized way to travel than taking the public bus.

Flying over the Mer de Glace.

The sky bus.

Tony Touch testing out the new light weight harness.

Para-Alpinisme! The new Gin Yeti 19. Combined with the harness above, this set-up weighs in at just over 3 kilos.

Heading home after a nice flight from Les Houches to Chedde.

July 01, 2012

Flying the Vallee Blanche

Flying the Vallee Blanche from the top of the Aiguille du Midi. A 2500 meter sled ride or plouffe as they call them here. The Verte, Droites, and Courtes can be see in the lookers center-left of the photo.

After three days of sitting in a classroom  at ENSA doing the French Recyclage (Continuing Professional Development), my head was about to explode! The morning after the course ended, I caught an early ride up the Aiguille du Midi in hopes of flying the North Face of the Midi or the Vallee Blanche. The forecast winds were not perfect, but it was a nice morning in the valley and I was starved for action, so I figured it was worth a look.

The winds at the bridge connecting the cable car station with the rest of the Midi seemed reasonable so I put the crampons on and cruised down the snow arete to the south facing launch. A tandem pilot had just shown up and he was stoked on the conditions - which seemed like a good thing. I laid out my wing in the snow, waited for some wind in my face, and tak! After a few seconds of ass-skimming-ground, the terrain rolled off and I was away. 

Of course, one good flight deserves another so after lollygagging in town for a while, I caught a ride up the lift and tried again. At this point, the winds had become quite swirly and cross and I botched two launches before admitting defeat and taking the tram back down to the Aiguille Plan.

Yesterday, Tony Touch and Trina (of Squamish / Annecy ) passed through town on their way from Annecy to Berlin. Tony didn't bring his wing but we decided to cruise down valley to Chedde / Plaine Joux to check out the local flying spot. When we rolled up to the LZ, it turned out that the Gin Rep was on hand for a demo day. Without signing a single waiver, we were fully equipped. When the rep asked Tony if he was an experienced pilot, Tony knew exactly what to say, "Oh yeah, I've been flying for 1 year..." The Rep stared blankly for a moment as the peanut gallery let out a hushed chuckle. But being France, they gave us the gear and let us go.

Throughout the day, I demoed theYeti Ultralite Harness, the Speedride Harness, a Yeti Ultra Lite 19 Wing and a Yak 18 Speedwing. I had so much fun on the smaller gear that I would have bought everything if I could have.  In the end, went for an ultralite para-alpinism set-up that included the Yeti 19 with the Speedride harness. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to work for the next 3 months straight to pay off the purchase.