Author: Kurt Wedberg

SMI Founder Kurt Wedberg Featured in Wall Street Journal

This article appeared in the online and print versions on the Wall Street Journal on July 19, 2013.  It is about a climb SMI founder Kurt Wedberg led up the Mountaineer’s Route on Mt. Whitney August 20-22, 2013.

A complete photo gallery of the climb can be found here:

Mt. Whitney Mountaineer’s Route August 20-22, 2012

Carstensz Summit Day!

The SMI Team is off at 3:15 AM this morning for the Summit of Carstensz Pyramid. Not raining and the cloud cover at the moment is not a factor. Kurt indicates via Sat Phone that all members are feeling strong and in great spirits after their four day jungle trek.

Will report as soon as I get the latest word.


The Grand Objective

Carstensz Pyramid Expedition June 2013

They are off into the jungles of Indonesia.

After a couple days delay in Jakarta and Bali due to lost baggage, the SMI Team of Fred, James, Carolyn Simmons led by Kurt Wedberg, are now into their third day of trekking the soggy jungles of Indonesia onto their base camp below Carstensz Pyramid. So far the weather has been variable with sessions of continuous rain lending to evening dry spells. Rubber boots are the norm for this portion of  the expedition. Once situated at Base Camp, the Team will change into their Alpine climbing profiles for their summit attempt of one of the worlds Seven Summits.

Kurt is in contact with the SMI Office back here in Bishop via Sat Phone so we will be updating the blog as the expedition progresses with photos and verbal Sat Phone reports. Stay tuned for what will indeed be a momentous Team effort on this very obscure Seven Summit Peak.


The Plane that got the Team from civilization into the Jungle.



The Jungle Landing Strip.


The Moni Tribe members that will assist/porter the Teams gear to Base Camp.


The Camp 2 of the Six Day Jungle Trek





SMI Mt. Whitney Climbs Raise $250,000+ for Big City Mountaineers

April 26, 2013: A beautiful day on the summit of Mt. Whitney with Team 5!!


One of the highlights of a very busy spring season in the Sierra here at SMI was hosting six climbs on Mt. Whitney designed to raise money and awareness for Big City Mountaineers.  Big City Mountaineers is a very well respected organization with the mission is to transform the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills.  They partner with community-based youth organizations and caring adult volunteers who act as mentors in the field to help young people realize their potential.  Their curriculum improves integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1000 youth annually.  BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
• Increased likeliness to stay in school
• Reduction in violence
• Reduction in drug use

Since the inception of SMI we have had a goal of guiding at least two climbs each year that help out a cause.  On most years we exceed this number by 3x or more.  In planning this year’s climbs with Big City Mountaineer’s the editor in chief of Backpacker magazine Jon Dorn invited readers to come join a Mt. Whitney climb to raise money for Big City Mountaineers.  Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $4000.  They could either get sponsorship by friends and family or write a check.  The response was overwhelming.  What started as one climb ended up being six groups of energetic climbers eager to climb Mt. Whitney and raise money and awareness for BCM.

Participants were given a training program to undertake many months in advance in preparation for this 4-day trip to the highest point in the contiguous United States.  Each person maintained a regular schedule of hiking up and down hills carrying a 40+ pound pack to simulate the weight they would be carrying on the mountain.  They also did exercises to assure their legs and cardiovascular system was conditioned.  During the climb SMI guides offered lots of techniques for acclimating to the high altitude and also spent time at camp teaching and reviewing mountaineering skills including using an ice axe, and climbing with crampons while roped in with other climbers.  The first day of the climb had groups ascending from the trail head at Whitney Portal (8365’/2550m) to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,350’/3155m).  On day 2 the groups packed up and moved higher to at camp at 12,000’/3658m putting them in position for a summit bid the following morning.  On day 3 the teams rose early for the summit push.  They were treated to spectacular sunrises as the morning sun cast its orange glow on the East Face of Mt. Whitney and teams learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light.

Climbing the Mountaineers Route requires climbers to ascend a snow filled chute ranging from 25-35 degrees steep to a “notch” at approximately 14,000’/4267m.  From here the angle steepens and climbers use their hands in places to scramble up some rocky sections with the security of a rope.  This section of the route tops out onto the summit plateau of Mt. Whitney and it’s a short distance to the highest point in the lower 48 states.

Groups took time to admire the spectacular view while taking pictures and snacking before retracing their path back to camp.  On Day 4 they packed up and returned to the trail head and down to Lone Pine where celebrations of their climbs took place.

While climbing a spectacular and classic route in the Sierra participants helped raise over $260,000 to help underprivileged youth experience the magic of the wilderness while learning critical life skills.  They’ve also spread a lot of good will that reaches farther than any of use will ever see.  Thanks to everybody who took part in this historic event!

Photo galleries from these climbs can be viewed here:

Team #1 sets out from the trail head at Whitney Portal. A spring snowstorm would dump 12" of new snow that day but that wasn't enough to stop this determined crew! The weather turned sunny by summit day.

Team 1 crossing the outlet creek below Lower Boy Scout Lake several hours after leaving Whitney Portal. It snowed all day and most of the evening.

Team 1 waking up from camp at Lower Boy Scout Lake to over 12" of new snow.

SMI guide Kurt Wedberg teaching Team 1 proper ice axe self arrest techniques at high camp.

SMI guide April Mayhew leads a team into a rest break near Iceberg Lake. The team witnessed first hand why we nickname the Sierra The Range of Light as the morning sun cast its morning rays bathing the East Face of Mt. Whitney in a bright orange glow.

Team 5 at 13,300'/4054m in the Mountaineers Chute of Mt. Whitney with Iceberg Lake below.

Team 5 climbing the final section of rock scrambling leading to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Team 1 poses for a well earned summit photo.

April 22, 2013: Team 3 psyched to be at the highest point in the contiguous United States.



They are off and climbing.


Both Kurt and April are on trail to High Camp and then to the Summit of Kilimanjaro with a Team of Eleven Climbers. Eight are from the Summit For Someone Program.

The Team reached High Camp on the 17th after a 3 day hike in through the jungle. After a days rest at High Camp (15,100′) they awoke for a pre-dawn final push for the summit. All went as planned and they ALL attained the summit at 7:45 AM on the morning of the 19th of February.

For all the blog followers, more photos to come with details of the climb.

Congratulations to ALL the Climbers on a successful climb.

Successful Game Viewing Safari February 6-10, 2013!!

A cheetah in the Serengeti. Cheetah's are lean powerful cats built for speed. They're the fastest animals on our planet capable of speeds of 70-75mph/112-120kph for distances of up to 1600'+/500m when hunting prey.

SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew are back in Moshi, Tanzania after leading another amazing game viewing safari in Tanzania.  Joining them on safari was Dan Cherico, James Gault, Beth Keller, and Emily McIntyre along with Christine Loredo and Frank Martin who stayed for one day.  Over five days the group visited Lake Manyara National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the great Serengeti Plains.  They also visited a Masai village and saw the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site.  At the end of their five days they flew from the Serengeti back to Arusha, Tanzania where some continued on to Zanzibar Island while others flew home.

April and Kurt are now awaiting the arrival of their next group of 11 folks who will attempt to climb Kilimanjaro (5895m/19,340′) February 14-20.  Stay tuned for highlights from this climb.

Below are some pictures from the animals the group saw on safari.


A lioness with a cub survey's the landscape from the perch of a tree in the Serengeti.


A mother leopard checking out a hollow log before letting her cubs enter it for hiding.

A leopard cub learning to survey the landscape for danger from the top of a fallen log. It’s mother was watching from a nearby tree.

Zebra's in the Ngorongoro Crater. Zebra stripes are as unique as human fingerprints. When in a herd their stripe patterns make it difficult for predators to tell them apart from one another.

A zebra couple courting in the Ngorongoro Crater.

A mother elephant giving herself a mud bath in the Serengeti. Elephants use mud as a cooling mechanism during the heat of the day.

A hippo yawning in the Serengeti. Hippo's spend most of the daytime hours submerged up to their heads in water. They're herbivores and only use the large front teeth for fighting.

An Olive Baboon baby hitching a ride on its mother's back in Lake Manyara National Park.

A Blue Sykes Monkey in Lake Manyara National Park.

A Masai Giraffe eating acacia tree leaves in the Serengeti. Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world with some males reaching over 19'/6m. Their food supply is therefore plentiful since no animals can reach where they normally eat.

Cheetah's scanning the landscape while a third rests in the bushes to the left.

Hippos play fighting in the Serengeti.

Elephant mother and a calf less than a year old in the Serengeti. Elephants don't have any natural predators besides lions who will attack unguarded calves. Mothers usually keep their young close by and protected from danger.

Safari in style!! Dan Cherico, James Gault, Beth Keller, Emily McIntyre, and April Mayhew loaded up and ready for safari with SMI founder Kurt Wedberg and his long time safari driver Tarimu from Marangu, Tanzania in front. Tarimu is a skilled driver who knows the game parks and is intimately familiar with the behavior patterns of the animals. Kurt and Tarimu have been running safaris together since 1998 having countless memorable events over the years together. Tarimu drives a 4x4 Land Rover equipped with a removable rooftop, air conditioning, and electric charging ports. The vehicle can comfortably seat seven people in addition to Tarimu.

After an excellent 5-day safari the group is ready to fly out of the Serengeti for a birds eye view of the terrain we just covered over the preceding days!