Month: July 2010

Mt Langley July 23rd- 25th

On July 23rd– 25th SMI guides Chris Werner and Sara Berghoff met the Summit for Someone team Carrie, Stacia, and Laura for a 8:00am breakfast in Lone Pine, CA.  Our objective was Mt. Langley that reaches over 14,000′.

Each day was kept cool and at perfect tempts by passing puffy clouds that added perspective to the beautiful landscape.  Included in our scenery were the many alpine lakes, beautiful granite cirques and several varieties of pine trees that decorate this beautiful and pristine area of the Sierra.

We made it to camp at High Lake with plenty of time in the afternoon to relax, swim, and get used to the altitude at 11,400ft.  The early evening included a tasty dinner of pesto and raviolis followed by preparation for our summit bid the next morning.

Jansport and Big City Mountaineers together on Mt. Langley. Photo courtesy of Chris Werner.

We awoke at 4:30am and enjoyed hot drinks and oatmeal as we finished preparations for our summit bid.  Our group took a nice steady pace while we enjoyed the scenery this spectacular landscape offers along with good conversation.  After reaching New Army Pass at 12,300′, 374m the team turned north ascending the gentle plateau that ends at a short section of 3rd class climbing.  Surmounting this short exhilarating area our route opened up to more gentle terrain dominated by white granite boulders leading to the summit plateau. Gaining the final pieces of elevation leading to the summit of Mt. Langley the views of the high Sierra became increasingly spectacular.   Finally we topped out on the southern-most 14er in the Sierra at 14,042’-4280M.

Sara, Carrie, Laura and Stacie head down from New Army Pass on the gentle plateau that leads to the summit of Mt. Langley. Photo courtesy of Chris Werner.

Another successful climb completed, we headed back to New Army Pass where both Sara Berghoff and Stacia attempted Cirque Peak only to be thwarted with an impending thunder shower just feet from the summit.  That afternoon the team was treated to thundershowers and a beautiful sunset.

Yellow-bellied Marmots are everywhere in the Sierras! Photo courtesy of Chris Werner.

Thanks to the team and congratulations on a successful trip!

Summit for Someone, under Big City Mountaineers, is a program that benefits under privileged youth. More information can be found at

Mt Langley July 20th – 22nd

SMI Guide Sara Matisse videos the team swimming at High Lake on Mt. Langley. Photo courtesy of Chris Werner

On July 20th to 22nd SMI’s Chris Werner and Sara Berghoff teamed up with Jon Dorn, Chief Editor of Backpacker Magazine, Chip Noble of Delorme, Mike Byrne of Backpacker Magazine, and Steve Carlson of Spark Communication in a climb of Mt. Langley, the southernmost 14er in the Sierra.  This Backpacker Magazine climb benefited Big City Mountaineers, which is responsible for providing 7-8 day wilderness trips for inner-city and under privileged youth.

Chip Noble getting ready to do some fishing at High Lake. Photo courtesy of Chris Werner.

Our team enjoyed blue-bird skies and a pleasant hike up to High Lake at just over 10,400ft. We spent the afternoon swimming in the lake and enjoying views of the granite cirque that surrounded us.

The following morning we awoke at 4:30am to climb to the summit of Mt. Langley.  We started our hike just after sunrise – temperatures were perfect for the climb including a slight alpine breeze keeping things pleasant as we ascended the approx. 3,500ft to our high point and Mt. Langley’s summit at 14,042’, 4280m.

The team on the summit. From left to right: Steve Carlson, Jonathan Dorn, Mike Byrne, Sara Matisse, Chris Werner, Chip Noble. Photo courtesy of Chris Werner.

The whole team enjoyed the varied terrain, beautiful long reaching vistas, and Mt. Langley’s summit. After an hour of relaxation, photos, and some lunch we descended back down to our camp and enjoyed another afternoon swimming in the lake and napping the afternoon away.  Dinner was followed by a tasty desert, great stories and lots of laughs.

Thanks to Backpacker Magazine for bringing us together in support of BCM – another great trip!

Mt Elbrus July 25

After a successful hike yesterday the team slept well last night.  Everybody has been acclimating well and showing no signs of having trouble with the altitude.

We ate a good breakfast of fresh apples and oranges, toast, quesadillas, and granola then got ready for our next hike.  The goal was to get to 15,500′, 4724m.

At 9:40 we left the Diesel Hut under cloudy skies and warm temperatures.  As we climbed the weather would alternate between cloudy and sunny.  When the weather cleared we were treated to magnificent views.  Even when a cloud moved in we never had any precipitation.  The thermometer on my Suunto Core watch/wrist top computer read in the mid 60s when the sun was out and about 10-20 degrees cooler when a cloud surrounded us.  Overall the weather was pleasant conditions to hike in.

We hiked in 1 hour stretches then took breaks to eat and drink.  This procedure is also part of our training since this is how we intend to climb on summit day.  Taking a steady pace with regular breaks to refuel is the most efficient way to climb a big mountain.

Elbrus from the Diesel Hut

After 4 hours we reached our high point of 15,500′, 4724m.  We took a 15 minute break then descended back to the Diesel Hut.

Although clouds obscured the summit all day we noticed a few people had reached the top and were descending past us.  The pleasant weather we had for hiking was apparently good enough for reaching the summit.  This was good news.

Upon returning to the hut we discussed making a summit attempt tomorrow.  The weather forecast is for similar conditions tomorrow as we had today.  Everybody is feeling great after our latest hike so the decision has been made to try for the summit in the morning.  We used the afternoon to organize our gear.  We ate an early dinner then went to bed at 6pm.

We are psyched and ready for our summit attempt tomorrow!

Mt Elbrus July 24

Today we moved up onto the flanks of Mt Elbrus and will spend the next couple of days here doing acclimatizing hikes.  Our base of operations is the Diesel Hut at 13,451′, 4100m.  The Diesel Hut is a 2-story structure that can hold approximately 40 people.

The Diesel Hut, 14,000' on Mt. Elbrus

It is equipped with large propane tanks and stoves for cooking. It was named after a generator powered by diesel fuel that gives the hut electricity for lighting.  This generator has worked every year since I started coming to this hut but unfortunately it is currently not in operation.  In spite of that the Diesel Hut is still a comfortable place to stay while we get ready to make our summit attempt.  It was built in 2002 next to the old Priut 11 Hut that stood here from 1938 until it burned down in 1998.

The weather today was cloudy with intermittent rain that turned to snow above 12,500′, 3810m.  We arrived at the Diesel Hut at 12:30.  We took some time to find bunk space where we unrolled out sleeping bags and pads.  We then ate lunch and organized our gear before setting off on an afternoon acclimatization hike.  Weather remained cloudy but precipitation had ceased as we set off to climb another 1000′.  The clouds lifted enough to offer us a nice view of Mt Elbrus in front of us and the Baksan Valley behind.  We could also see the mountains on the opposite side of the Baksan Valley that stretch well in to Georgia.

Mt. Elbrus from the Diesel Hut

We kept a steady methodical pace getting into a nice rhythm with our breathing and walking.  This is the foundation for efficient high altitude mountaineering.  Taking these hikes to higher elevation triggers our bodies to produce more red blood cells that are the basis for acclimatization to the thinner air with decreased oxygen.

As our hike continued a cloud moved in obscuring our view bringing with it wind and snow.  We stopped for a quick refueling break and donned our waterproof/breathable jackets that offer protection from the elements and keep us dry.

1 1/2 hours after beginning our hike we reached an elevation of 14,500′, 4420m.  Reaching our goal for the day we turned around and made our way back to the Diesel Hut.  A pizza dinner was accompanied by hot soup and tea.

Everybody on the team is performing well and feeling great.  Tomorrow we plan a longer acclimatization hike another 1000′, 300m+ in elevation.  If this hike goes well we will have put ourselves in position for a summit attempt as soon as July 26 weather permitting.  While we always take things one step at a time on these high altitude climbs the excitement and anticipation are building.

Thanks to everybody for your support.  Please pray for our continued safety, good health, and for the weather to give is an opportunity to make a summit attempt soon!

Mt Elbrus June 23

Our team arrived at Mineralnye Vody after taking a 3 hour flight south from St Petersburg.  We were greeted to rain, which was a big contrast to the unseasonably warm weather we experienced in St. Petersburg.  The rain stayed with us for most of the 3 hour drive to our hotel in the village of Chegit.  This village is located in the Baksan Valley region of the Caucuses mountains.  This mountain range is situated in between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea right on the border with the country of Georgia.  Remotely located, this destination offers beautiful scenery from glacial fed rivers that feed into the valley floor to high glaciated peaks.  The scenery promises to get increasingly spectacular as we move higher on Mt Elbrus.

Upon arrival we learned that the weather is forecasted to be stormy until July 25 then it is supposed to clear.  This should not slow down our acclimatization schedule.  We can still take hikes in stormy weather.

Our plan is to take several hikes at increasingly higher elevation to acclimate ourselves to the thin air we will be climbing in on summit day.  This should set us up well for a summit attempt sometime early next week, which is when the weather is supposed to get sunny.

The strikingly beautiful view of the Caucuses mountain range from the terrain where we conducted our first acclimatization day hike. Seeing views like this are always a blessing and something we are so fortunate to experience every time we're presented with such spectacular scenery.

Our team woke from our hotel on July 23.  We were greeted to rainy weather as we ate a breakfast consisting of eggs, cheese, bread, peanut butter, and jam.  We then loaded light packs with clothing, snacks, and water for the day.  We drove 15 minutes up to the base of Mt Elbrus where we rode a gondola onto the flanks of the mountain.  This region has several ski resorts that operate during the winter / spring months.  One of them is located on the lower slopes of Mt Elbrus, similar to how Mt Hood in Oregon is laid out with a ski resort at its base.

As we began our hike the rain stopped and we were treated to sunny warm weather with partly cloudy skies.  We hiked up to 13,200 feet.  We took several breaks along the way which gave us opportunity to refuel our bodies and enjoy the scenery.  From this vantage point we could see the twin peaks of Mt Elbrus above.  In the opposite direction we could look across the Baksan Valley into the country of Georgia.

As time moved from morning to the afternoon clouds began getting thicker and at 2:30 it started to rain.  We had gained plenty of elevation for the day though so after putting on rain jackets and pants the decision was made to descend.  By the time we reached the gondola station at 9700 feet the rain had abated.

Returning to our hotel we used the afternoon to organize our gear for subsequent days.  Tomorrow we plan to move up and sleep on the mountain as we continue acclimatizing.  We will base ourselves out of a hut   at 13,451′, 4100m.

While enjoying a dinner of lamb and chicken kebobs, fresh vegetable salad, potatoes, and rice we reflected back on what a great hike we had.  We are excited with anticipation for the coming days ahead.

We also want to acknowledge all our loved ones, family, and friends who have been keeping us in their thoughts and prayers back home.  Your support is felt all the way over here deep in Russia 11 time zones away from California.  Thank you!!

Mt. Elbrus July 22, 2010

After a memorable day touring St. Petersburg yesterday the team is ready to leave today for the Baksan Valley.  We will fly south to Mineralnye Vody then drive to our hotel.  After getting settled here we plan to begin our acclimatization hikes tomorrow.

Russian airline ready to take passengers to Mineralnye Vody.

The Baksan Valley is a pretty area decorated with pine trees, glacial fed rivers, and high peaks above flanked by glaciers on all sides.

Mt. Elbrus has an east and west summit. Our objective is the higher west summit on the left.

Mt. Elbrus, Russia 18,510′, 5642m July 20 – 30, 2010

Mt. Elbrus is the highest mountain in the European continent making it one of the highly sought after Seven Summits.  This year Kurt Wedberg returns to Mt. Elbrus on a private trip with long time good friends of SMI John Rogitz and Bill Simon.  John is a veteran of Aconcagua and many climbs in the Sierra.  Bill reached the summit of Kilimanjaro in February and has climbed Mt. Whitney and Mt. Rainier plus has many climbs on Mt. Baldy in Southern California under his belt.

Bill and Kurt arrived in St. Petersburg on July 20 and spent July 21 touring parts of the city, the Hermitage Museum, and the Peterhof Palace.  John arrived this afternoon.  Everybody’s luggage made it intact and the team is ready to fly to Mineralnye Vody on July 22 where they will drive to the Baksan Valley and begin acclimatization hikes.  Stay tuned for updates as the days progress.

Here are a few highlights from a day or touring this historical and fascinating city:

The Church of the Resurrection. Construction began in 1883 by Alexander III as a monument to his father Alexander II. Also known as the Church of Spilled Blood it was finished in 1907.

Bill and Kurt at St. Isaacs Cathedral. This is the largest Russian Orthodox church in St. Petersburg. Construction took 40 years between 1818 and 1858. Each of the pillars (112 total) is a single solid piece of granite weighing 80 tons (about 177,770 pounds) each!

The Hermitage Museum. This was originally Peter the Great's winter palace. Today it is one of the most famous art museums in the world. Its 365 rooms contain an impressive amount of artwork from around the world including paintings 16,783 works of graphic art 621,274 sculptures 12,556 works of applied art 298,775 archeological monuments 734,400 numismatics 1,125,323 other exhibit items 144,185. To view everything in this museum would take years and only 10% of what the museum currently owns is on display to the public.

Bill and expert guide Catherine in front of Rembrandt's classic painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. Of all the world renown works of art housed in this museum this is one of the most famous.

After a 3 hour visit the Hermitage Museum seeing some of the many highlights we took this hydrofoil boat across the Neva River to the entrance to the Baltic Sea to visit the Peterhof Palace.

Bill traveling in style on the hydrofoil en route to the Peterhof Palace.

The Peterhof Palace. This was originally Peter the Great's summer palace. It was heavily damaged during World War II by German bombs. Today it is well on its way to being restored.

Damaged statues and fountains were restored and placed alongside original pieces that survived WWII.

Many statues and fountains on the Peterhof grounds are electroplated gold and symbolize Greek mythology.

In addition to restoring buildings, statues, and fountains 15,000 trees were planted. The Peterhof grounds are full of pretty gardens offering beautiful scenery and comforting shade.during a pleasant afternoon walk.

Temple Crag’s Moon Goddess Arête, July 17-18, 2010

Temple Crag from 2nd Lake

Temple Crag at 12,999′, 3962m is located in the Palisades region of the Sierra.  It rises up directly south of 3rd Lake.  Temple Crag’s east face features four prominent arêtes of varying lengths and difficulty.  The Moon Goddess Arête is a grade IV, 5.8 climb that is 15 pitches in length.  The climbing is exhilarating and exposed.  The route mostly stays on the ridge but a couple times it traverses out right off the ridge to the north side.  The route also includes one rappel and some fun ridge traversing as well.

Thunderstorms had dominated the weather in the Sierra for the past week.  With weather like this it would not be advisable to attempt a long and exposed route such as this.  The forecast was finally calling for a change over the weekend of July 17-18 offering an opportunity to give this route a try.  Alexandra Few and Kurt Wedberg teamed up to give it a go.

The approach is via the North Fork of Big Pine Creek.  Ascending past the first waterfall into sparsely forested pine trees the terrain revealed wildflowers in full bloom.  The above average winter coupled with a late melt off has left the creeks rushing at full capacity.  The flora everywhere is fresh and green.  Setting up camp at 2nd Lake we took time to relax, take a quick swim in the lake, organize our gear, and have dinner before hitting the sack early in preparation for a pre dawn start.

Temperatures remained mild and the sky was clear as we set off by headlamp arriving at the base of the route shortly after daybreak.  The climbing begins with several pitches of mostly 4th class with a few 5th class moves.  This brought us to the base of the first tower.  About 40 feet below the top of the tower we moved right on a wildly exposed traverse that ascended up 5.7 terrain.  This led us to a short 20 foot down climb to a large ledge.  We then climbed up a couple pitches of mid 5th class to the base of the second tower known as the Ibrium Tower.  Here the route traverses right again on a 4th class ledge.  On the right side of the face we set a belay anchor then did a long pitch of close to 60 meters to a notch at the west side of the Ibrium Tower then continued to climb past a huge flat rock that is suspended over this notch.  We were now 12 pitches into the route.  Ahead of us we had a couple fun traverses along the ridge as the arête began to flatten out.  Mixed into these last three pitches were sections of climbing that reached to 5.8.

Topping out on the route we took a break to eat and drink while we sorted gear then descended back to Contact Pass where one 25+ meter rappel brought us to soft snow slopes that made for quick boot skiing.  This turned into boulder hopping and talus that led to 2nd Lake and our camp.  We packed up and headed out getting  back to the car and Bishop before dark.

Here are a few highlights of the trip.  The rest of the pictures are here:

The East Face of Temple Crag. The Moon Goddess Arête rises immediately to the left of the snow.

Alex geared up and ready for the pre dawn approach.

Climbing blocky sections below the "First Tower"

Alex getting ready to traverse down past the First Tower with 1st and 2nd Lake below

Climbing towards Ibrium Tower

Traversing across the North side of the Arete below Ibrium Tower

Alex topping out on the North Face just beyond Ibrium Tower

Alex grabbing gear at a good stance as she starts up Pitch #12 en route to ridge traversing above.

Traversing on pitch 13

Alex finishing off the last 5.7 moves at the top of the route.

Alex Few and Kurt Wedberg at the top of the Moon Goddess Arête

Mt. Langley July 15, 2010

On July 15 long time friend of SMI Betsy Northam joined Kurt Wedberg on a climb of the SE Ridge of Mt. Langley.  We were blessed with a clear morning and wildflowers out in full bloom.  Thunders clouds began to build by the afternoon but we had descended back to the cars long before the rain started.  Congratulations Betsy on a great climb on a beautiful and remote route on Mt. Langley!

Here are a few highlights.  The rest of the pictures are here:

Ready to start our climb from the Horseshoe Meadows trailhead at 4:30 AM

Betsy with the South Face of Mt. Langley in the background

Climbing the SE Chute of Mt. Langley

Polemonium in bloom at 12,500' on the SE Chute of Mt. Langley

High on the SE Ridge of Mt. Langley

Topping out on the SE Ridge of Mt. Langley

Betsy Northam and Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Mt. Langley