Month: November 2010

Aconcagua November 30 – The team has arrived in Mendoza, Argentina!

The team arrived in Mendoza, Argentina today after leaving on flights that originated in the United States yesterday.  The flights took us to Santiago, Chile where we changed planes for a quick flight over the Andes to Mendoza.  April and Kurt arrived yesterday and spent the day taking care of last minute logistics and purchased food for the expedition.  Today they finished up logistics then went to the airport to meet Bill, Fred, and Ralph for their arrivals.  After getting settled in the hotel we payed a visit to the Ministry of Tourism where we secured our climbing permits.  It is now required for every team member to be present to receive your climbing permit.

With permits secured we had time to relax in this laid back South American city that strictly observes such rituals as “siesta”.  Virtually all merchants are closed between 1:30 – 5:30 PM.  Siesta provided a nice time for the team to relax at an outdoor cafe and enjoy appetizers and a drink while soaking in the afternoon sun.  Temperatures are pleasant this time of year allowing us to comfortably wear shorts and t-shirts even in the evening.

We ate dinner across from La Plaza de Independencia and took a stroll through the park before retiring to bed.

Tomorrow we will drive to Los Penitentes, which is a resort village located at the base of Aconcagua.  Here we will unpack our luggage and prepare our food and equipment for the climb.

A couple pictures from the day are below.

April, Ralph, and Fred at the permit office in Mendoza.

Ralph, Bill, and Fred checking out our route at the permit office in Mendoza.

With the permit process complete the team relaxes at an outdoor cafe in Mendoza.

Bill enjoying relaxation and good conversation in Mendoza.



A neon sign in La Plaza de Independencia in the heart of Mendoza welcomes us.

Dinnertime Mendoza style. Outdoors and enjoying the summertime evening we toasted to a nice trip with anticipation of many memorable adventures ahead.

April sampling a glass of famous Mendoza wine while enjoying good conversation at dinner in Mendoza.

Lit up fountains decorate La Plaza de Independencia at night in Mendoza.

The team enjoying an after dinner evening stroll through La Plaza de Independencia.

Aconcagua December 2010 – We’re on our way!!

Our first Aconcagua expedition for the 2010/2011 season is on its way!  Ralph Drollinger, Fred Simmons, and Bill Simon will be joined by April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg.

The team will fly from the United States and meet as a group in Mendoza, Argentina on November 30.  After securing climbing permits we will drive to Los Penitentes where we will organize our gear to be carried by mules for the 3-day trek into Base Camp.

The team spent the last couple of days organizing last minute details in Los Angeles before flying.

A couple pictures are below.  Stay tuned for updates to our expedition!!

The team having fun shopping for last minute items at Adventure 16 in West LA. From left to right: Ralph Drollinger, Kurt Wedberg, Alia Mohsenin (A16's stellar veteran salesman and expert boot fitter), Bill Simon, and Fred Simmons.

Ralph needed specially modified crampon to fit his size 17 boots. A metal expert designed extra long bars to give the crampons enough length. Kurt and Ralph used material purchased at Adventure 16 to manufacture straps that were long enough to fit around the boot.


Bill Simon doing his best Maxwell Smart agent 86 imitation with one of Ralph's crampons turned "crampon phone".

The team in Bill Simon's office organizing personal equipment for the climb.

Bill and Kurt in Bill Simon's conference room turned gear packing room discussing equipment selection for this expeditions

Kurt and Ralph with Denni Cohen. Denni is Bill's #1 administrative assistant and came in to double check that all final details were taken care of before we left. Thanks Denni!!

Ralph and Danielle Drollinger inspecting one of the expedition tents.

After finishing shopping and packing for the expedition Ralph Drollinger questioned the regulation height of Bill Simon's basketball court.

April Mayhew making sure we don't miss Ralph's arrival at the Mendoza airport!

First lunch in Mendoza!

Mexico’s Volcanoes November 5-14, 2010

Orizaba from the the rural countryside above the town of Tlachichuca.

Our yearly trip to Mexico’s Volcanoes was another huge success.  We climbed two volcanoes in a 10 day period, visited the pyramids at Teotihuacan, and got to experience the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican people.

This trip was also used as a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers.  This organization takes underprivileged urban teens on seven and eight day backpacking trips during the summer months.  They hold a series of climb each summer the call Summit For Someone which raises money for Big City Mountaineers.  SMI has worked with Big City Mountaineers since they began doing fundraising climbs.  We lead several trips each year for this worthy organization.  Besides Mexico’s Volcanoes we also lead climbs to Mt. Whitney, North Palisade Peak, and Mt. Langley each year for BCM.  In February 2011 we will also be leading one to Kilimanjaro!!

The Team on an acclimatization day hike below Iztaccihuatl. From left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Kyle Gerecke, Bret Siciliano, Brandon Kibby, JP Latkovic, Jason Cahill, Miriam Diaz

After meeting up in Mexico City we drove to the town of Amecameca which sits at the base of our first mountain Iztaccíhuatl (17,158’/5230m).  A couple days of acclimatization hikes would put us in to position for a summit attempt on “Ixta”.  Iztaccíhuatl is the name the Aztec’s gave this mountain, which translated means “white woman”.  This mountain resembles a women laying on her back when viewed from a distance.  “White” refers to snow that covers the upper reaches during certain parts of the year.

Iztaccihuatl 17,158'/5230m

We ascended “The Knees Route” which climbs past Ixta’s knees onto her belly where the summit is located.  On summit day we were treated to a clear crisp morning.  Snow conditions were excellent.  We got a predawn start and found ourselves high on the peak as the sun rose giving us a beautiful backdrop as we ascended the partly snowy and rocky terrain that leads to the summit.

Kyle, Bret, and JP navigating the terrain on summit day on Iztaccihuatl.

The lights of the city of Puebla shortly before sunrise. The early morning light silhouettes El Pico de Orizaba in the distance.

Kyle and Brandon climbing the ridge at sunrise high on Iztaccihuatl.

Miriam, Bret, and JP climbing the "belly" high on Iztaccihuatl.

Miriam, Bret, and JP traversing the summit ridge of Iztaccihuatl at 7:10 AM

Summit photo on Iztaccihuatl November 9, 2010 7:30 AM

After successfully reaching the summit we descended back the same way with views of neighboring volcano Popocatepetl in front of us and our next objective Orizaba visible to the east.

The team descending Iztacchuatl pauses to view our next objective: El Pico de Orizaba. We would be standing its summit three days later.

An iron cross with Popocatepetl in the background. Crosses have been placed on most of Mexico's volcanoes by the Grupo de los Cien (The group of the 100) made up of Catholic priests who are mountaineers.

Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in all of North America at 18,410’/5611m.  Only Mt. McKinley in Alaska (20,320’/6194m) and Mt. Logan in Canada (19,550’/5959m) are higher than Orizaba on this continent.  It is a classic cone shaped volcano flanked by glaciers on all sides.

Our team drove south and east to the small town of Tlachichuca near the base of El Pico de Orizaba.

The team in Tlachichuca at the base of Orizaba.

Here we geared up and took a 4-wheel adventure drive through the rural Mexican countryside then ascended through pine tree forests before emerging above timberline to the Pierdra Grande Hut at 14,000’/4267m.  Our route was the Jamapa Glacier that ascends the cone’s north side to the crater rim.  We traverses a short distance west to the highest point on the rim.

Orizaba from the rural countryside below.

The team fired up and ready for the pre dawn start of our ascent of Orizaba.

Kyle, Brandon, and JP climbing high on summit day with Orizaba casting its morning shadow on the rural Mexican countryside thousands of feet below.

View looking North East towards the Gulf of Mexico from 17,500'/5334m on Orizaba.

Bret, Jason, and Miriam pausing for a break at the crater rim on Orizaba.

JP, Brandon, and Kyle at the crater rim of Orizaba.

Our elated team having just reached the top of the 3rd highest mountain in North America.

Proudly displaying the Big City Mountaineers flags the team gathers for a photo on summit of Orizaba. Back row: Jason Cahill, JP Latkovic, Miriam Diaz, and Bert Siciliano. Front row kneeling: Kurt Wedberg, Brandon Kibby and Kyle Gerecke.

After our climbs the team drove back to Mexico City by way of the Teotihuacan pyramids.  Teotihuacan is located 25 miles north of Mexico City and contains some of the largest pyramidal structures in the Pre-Columbian era.  The pyramids are thought to have been completed between 200 BC and 100 AD and this city is believed to have had up to 200,000 inhabitants at its height in the 7th to 8th centuries.  We took some time to climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, see some of the paintings that are still preserved here, tour some of the archeological sites, and walk the Avenue of the Dead.

From the Pyramid of the Moon looking down the Avenue of the Dead with the Pyramid of the Sun left.

The team on top of the Pyramid of the Sun with the Pyramid of the Moon behind.

We then returned to Mexico City for dinner.  We happened to be there during Mexico’s bicentennial celebration.  The center of the city was filled with an elaborate well done light show and music.  Seeing the celebration was icing on the cake to a wonderful and very memorable trip!

Lights during Mexico's bicentennial celebration.

The entire photo gallery can be found here:  Mexico’s Volcanoes November 5-14, 2010

Mt. Gould (13,005’/3964m) November 2, 2010

Mt. Gould is accessed through the beautiful Onion Valley trailhead above the town of Independence.  It is located above Kearsarge Pass along the crest of the Sierra.  This is a fun scramble above the Kearsarge Pass trail that ends at the final summit block where a couple 3rd class moves are encountered to reach the top.

Bruce Millar and Michael Tate are long time friends of SMI and it was a pleasure to see them return for a fall peak ascent.  After a recent storm has left a few inches of fresh snow temperatures warmed up significantly causing most of the fresh snow to melt and give way to dry ground on sun exposed south facing slopes leaving behind only patches in between sections of dirt, rock, and scred.  Warm weather prevailed on this day allowing us to wear short sleeved shirts all the way to the summit of this fun peak.  The views from the summit are spectacular offering vistas deep into Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park to the west, and Sardine Canyon directly below to the east.

A few highlights are below.  The rest of the pictures can be found here:  Mt. Gould from Kearsarge Pass November 2, 2010.

Left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Michael Tate, Bruce Millar

Heart Lake in Onion Valley.

Mt. Gould on the skyline with the Kearsarge Pass trail below.

Bruce Millar enjoying the climbing high above Kearsarge Pass with Gilbert and Flower Lakes far below.

Michael Tate above Kearsarge Pass with Pothole Lake below.

Two does and three fawns skirting the terrain near us as they cross the crest of the Sierra.

Bruce and Kurt on the summit block of Mt. Gould.

Mike Tate climbing the summit block of Mt. Gould.

Kurt on top of Mt. Gould's summit block.

Thanks for a great climb guys!!