Month: June 2011

East African Safari June 21-25, 2011

After a highly successful and emotional climb of Kilimanjaro the team then ventured off on a game viewing safari.  We offer safari’s as part of a package with our Kilimanjaro climbs.  They are always fun and they never disappoint.  Since animal behavior is never completely predictable it is always a treat to watch the days unfold.  The only thing we know is that we will get to view some of the most legendary wildlife on our planet.  We visited Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, and Olduvai Gorge.  We also visited a Masai Village.  Below are a few pictures highlighting some of our animal sightings.  The entire photo gallery can be found here:

Safari June 21-25, 2011

Dik Dik's - the smallest of all the antelopes.

Thompson's Gazella



Topi in the Serengeti.

Male and female impalas in the Serengeti.

There are over 1100 bird species in East Africa.  We see many on safari.  Here are a few of them:

Grey Crowned Crane

Augur Buzzard

Egyptian Goose

Cory Bustard Bird. The largest flying bird in the world.

Male ostrich

Hildebrandt's Starling

Supurb Starling

Black Rhino. The rhino population has been decimated by hunters and poachers. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the few places where they can still be seen. There are currently 26 living in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Cape buffalos

African elephants

Teenage elephants playing in the Serengeti.

When eating Masai Giraffe's use their long tongue to wrap around thorny acacia trees

Masai Giraffe's in the Serengeti.

Hippos in the Serengeti.

A lioness resting in the tall grass.

A pride of lions in the Ngorongoro Crater.

A lioness in a tree at the Ngorongoro Crater.

Spotted hyena mother and her offspring.

Cheetah in the Serengeti.

Kilimanjaro June 2011 Wrap Up

6:45 AM June 19, 2011 - On the summit of Kilimanjaro.

This is a summary of our recently completed Kilimanjaro climb written by Kurt Wedberg.

Our June Kilimanjaro trip was another great success.  The climbers included people from Canada and from both coasts on the USA.  Some were new to the SMI experience and others were long time friends.  Sunniva Sorby and Kurt Wedberg both have roots with Adventure 16 Outdoor and Travel Outfitters where both were introduced to the outdoor industry.  Sunniva has since traveled the world as a lecturer, explorer, adventurer, and guide.  She gathered together a group of ladies to raise money and awareness for kids in Africa affected by AIDS.  Also joining us were several friends of SMI who have all been on trips with us in the past.  Team members included:  Rosemary Berard, Kelly Dunfee, Barbara Falco, Jody Foster, Bettina Hiniker-Breckenfeld, Shena Hinks, Sarah MacDonald, John Risickella, Steve Schumm, Sunniva Sorby, Kathleen Urdahl, and Margaret Webb.  Joining this group were SMI guides Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.

Everybody who started on this trip made it all the way to the summit and back down… that’s 15 out of 15 to the summit!!!  A big congratulations to everybody on a job well done!!

Below are a few pictures from the climb.  The rest of the pictures can be found here:

Kilimanjaro June 2011

The team at the park gate ready to go!!

Jody, Rosie, Margaret, April, and Kelly hiking through the jungle trail on Day 1.

The Kilimanjaro Impatients. The jungles on Kilimanjaro are the only place in the world this flower grows.

Shena, Kathleen, and crew hiking through the jungle on day 1.

Kelly, Sunniva, BArbara, and Bettina are all smiles upon getting their first glimpse of Kilimanjaro on day 2.

Helichrysum flower. There are severaly types of these "everlastings" on Kilimanjaro.

Barbara and Jody enjoying the day 2 hike.

Sunniva and Kurt with the summit of Kilimanjaro poking through the clouds.

"Sista Sarah" enjoying one of the many dramatic views Kilimanjaro offers.

The team arriving at Barranco Camp 12,926'/3940m at the end of day 2.

The team assembled in the dining tent. From left to right: Sunniva, Battina, Margaret, Kelly, Steve, John, Karsten, April, Rosie, Barbara, Jody, Kathleen, and Shena.

A porter starting off on day 3 from camp.

John ready to start off on day 3. John went on the first international trip SMI ran to Mexico's Volcanoes and has been a good friend of SMI ever since.

Giant Senacio trees at 13,000'/3962m.

Climbing the Barranco Wall.

Shena, Kathleen, and Karsten topping out on Barranco Wall at 14,000'/4267m.

Kurt and April on top of Barranco Wall with the Heim Glacier and Kilimanjaro's summit dome behind.

Steve is all smiles high above the clouds on top of Barranco Wall.

The team poses for a group photo next to a grove of Giant Senacio trees.

Traversing along the moonscape on the flanks of Kilimanjaro en route to Karanga Camp.

Climbing out of Karanga Valley the last hill before our next camp.

The team arrives at Karanga Camp 12,893'/3930m.

The Big Dipper above Kilimanjaro. The star show every night is always a blessing to see.

The team starts climbing to high camp.

Steve, Margaret, John, Shena, and Kathleen focused and psyched to move to high camp.

April and Karsten en route to high camp.

Headlamps on in the tents as the team wakes up for summit day!

Tea time before starting off on summit day!!

The group's string of headlamps light up a pristine crisp night under a blanket of stars.

The team pacing themselves well in the wee hours of the night.

The team catching the view of sunrise from the east as it casts it's glow over the Africa plains far below.

Traversing around the crater rim of Kilimanjaro. The summit is the highest point in the distance.

Summit photo. 100% to the highest point on the African continent: 19,340'/5895m

Congratulations team on a job well done!!!!

Another trip of a lifetime on safari!

Our Kilimanjaro team got down from the mountain and had a great celebration dinner in Moshi on June 20.  The following day we headed out in three Land Rovers for a game viewing safari.  One day was spent at one of the seven natural wonders of the world when we toured the impressive Ngorongoro Crater.  We also spent two nights in the infamous Serengeti Plains, plus visited Lake Manyara, which is famous for its diverse bird populations and lions who climb trees, and experienced Olduvai Gorge where numerous fossils of extinct animals are still being discovered.

A more comprehensive report is forthcoming.  In the meantime we wanted to share a couple quick photos highlighting a couple of our animal sightings:

Above : A lioness in the trees, June 25, 2011.

Below : A cheetah in the Serengeti, June 24, 2011.

Summit Success on Kilimanjaro!

On June 19 our entire team reached the summit of Kilimanjaro (19,340’/5895m) at 6:45am led by SMI guides Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.

Everybody returned safely and had a nice celebration dinner on June 20.  The team is now headed out on a game viewing safari for a few days.

We will have more details about this very memorable climb upon our return from safari.  Thank you everybody for all your prayers and good thoughts!

Kilimanjaro June 2011 trip is on the way!

Kilimanjaro (19,340'/5895m) from farming fields outside of Moshi, Tanzania.

We are always excited to return to Africa.  Team members have begun traveling to Tanzania from different parts of the globe.  Our objective will be to climb Kilimanjaro via the Umbwe Route.  After the climb we have a game viewing safari planned in the famed Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Crater.  Along the way some of the group members will also visit Tarangiri, Lake Manyara, and the famous archeological site at Olduvai Gorge.

We will try to keep you updated on the progress of our climb.  Joining us on this trip of a lifetime are:  Rosemary Berard, Kelly Dunfee, Barbara Falco, Jody Foster, Bettini Hiniker, Shena Hinks, Kathleeen Urdahl, Margaret Webb, Sunniva Sorby, Sarah Macdonald, John Risickella, Steve Schumm, Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers during our travels.  We look forward to being in touch again soon!!

Sunniva Sorby freshly arriving in Nairobi.

Kurt Wedberg at the Nairobi airport.

April Mayhew with luggage at the Nairobi airport.

Team members enjoying fresh air and a late night drink after the long flights to Africa.

Mt. Russell June 4-5, 2011 – The mountains are boss!

SMI guides Rick Poedtke and Kurt Wedberg met Greg Lukenbill, Chad Buelow, and John Walsh for a climb of the East Ridge of Mt. Russell.  This is one of our favorite 3rd class routes in the Sierra.  The terrain is high quality white granite with good holds in an exhilarating setting with spectacular views.  This is a climb we look forward to each year.

We met in the morning of June 4 at Whitney Portal where we divided up group gear, packed our rucksacks, and began our hike.  On day 1 we ascend from Whitney Portal at 8365’/2550m to Upper Boyscout Lake at 11,300’/3444m.  Most of the winter snow has melted up to Lower Boyscout Lake at 10,300’/3139m except for a couple patches of snow still holding on.  Above Lower Boyscout Lake it is still more or less solid snow.  As we climbed the sunny day we had started with began to turn to clouds.  We arrived at our camp at Upper Boyscout Lake at 2pm.  Shortly after arrived here and setting up tents it began snowing as wind gusts became more frequent.  Our altimeters were indicating a drop in barometric pressure as well.  A storm was upon us and the big question for us was how long would it last.

After setting up camp we hopped in our tents to stay dry.  The temperature was warm enough that the falling snow didn’t stick upon hitting the ground.  As the afternoon wore on though we could feel the air temperature drop.  We ate dinner and discussed the climb scheduled for the following morning.  If the storm cleared we would have a shot at the summit.  If it didn’t we would have to descend.  The East Ridge of Mt. Russell does not lend itself well to climbing in inclement weather.  The ridge is exposed and therefore catches a lot of wind.  There is a lot of exposure on the climb too.  Even though hand and foot holds are plentiful the ridge is narrow in places and the ridge drops several hundred feet to the base of Lake Tuleinyo, the highest lake in the the US (a lake being defined at any body of water more than one tenth of a mile in diameter).  At 12,818’/3907m it is over 300′ and almost 100m above Lake Titicaca in South America, which is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500’/3811m.

We bedded down that evening with more frequent wind gusts and air temperatures cold enough to allow the falling snow to start sticking.  During the night the cloud layer dropped to about 12,600’/3841m.  Wind gusts became stronger and more frequent.  The storm continued into the morning.  Not seeing any end in site we decided to pack up and descend.  The weather did clear by late morning however winds remained strong at the high elevations and the rock was covered in slippery wet snow.

Turning around on a mountain is always a tough call.  The team discussed this as we descended.  It was obvious the route wasn’t going to be in shape to climb but in the process of turning back we many times learned more than if we would have had clear weather.  We also came back safely and are able to live to climb another day!  Everybody in the group had fun and we will look forward to climbing together on future trips.

A couple pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery is here:

June 4, 2011: The team at Whitney Portal from left to right: Kurt Wedberg, John Walsh, Chad Buelow, Greg Lukenbill, and Rick Poedtke.

"Snow plants" are a fungus flower that stem off the roots of pine trees. The microscopic fungal filaments (called hyphae) greatly increase the surface area of the root systems and facilitate the absorption of water and mineral nutrients from the soil. In return for this vital service, the photosynthetic trees reward their fungal partners with energy-rich carbohydrates and amino acids.

The North Fork of Lone Pine Creek is always full in June as the snow melt increases.

Greg approaching the Ebersbacher Ledges in the North Fork Canyon below Lower Boyscout Lake.

Chad negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges.

John and Chad above Lower Boyscout Lake on their way to Upper Boyscout Lake.

Greg and Rick en route to Upper Boyscout Lake as the first snow flakes began falling.

Setting up camp at Upper Boyscout Lake 11,300'/3444m.

Wind gusts hit over 50mph during the night. By morning each gust was blowing around a couple inches of freshly fallen snow.

June 5, 2011: Our camp at Upper Boyscout Lake in the morning.

Mt. Whitney Summit Success May 29-31, 2011

Summit photo on Mt. Whitney May 30, 2011

While guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg were on Mt. Rainier, SMI guides Zach Schneider and Tristan Sieleman  were hosting another stellar group on our beloved Mt. Whitney.  This is a description of the trip as told by Zach Schneider.

The trip started with crystal clear blue skies and chilly temps. We made our way up the main Whitney trail that is now completely free of snow. By the time we made it to Ebersbacher ledges a system moved in and we had periods of snow and wind followed by sunshine. This pattern continued until about 6pm after we made it to Upper Boy Scout Lake.

The North fork trail is also free of snow until the steep switchbacks just before the ledges. Where the trail crosses the creek (where the water fall is) the water was high and the trail is flooded and very icy. We had to bush whack a bit just down stream to cross the creek. The ledges are in fine condition except for a giant log that is wedged between a rock and the cliff. A few stemming moves and a large step up gets one through this crux relatively easily.

Real snow starts at the notch just before Lower Boy Scout Lake and continues all the way to the summit. Sun cups are beginning to form on the slope above LBSL. Thankfully it has been cold enough and the snow line high enough that we did not need snow shoes and were not post hole-ing.

We woke up to a crystal clear Memorial day with little wind and went for our summit attempt. Conditions were about as good as they get, with firm snow and easy travel from camp all the way to the beginning of the mountaineers route. In the couloir itself we found a few inches of new snow that was over a melt freeze crust. Good conditions for kicking steps. Just below the notch the snow is melted out and is mostly rock.

Snow still covers most of the chute after the notch all the way to the summit and is great neve conditions for the last three pitches. The summit was cold and a little breezy but all in all a fine day to summit! An uneventful descent brought us back to camp and a great 4 cheese tortellini and pesto dinner. At about 11pm like a light switch being turned on we started getting hammered by strong winds that lasted all night and through the next day and the hike out.

A great trip trip with lots of laughs and all five team members getting to the summit and back safely.

Congratulations to the Hall team and thanks to International Mountain Guides for the support on this trip!

~Zach Schneider