Category: Aconcagua

Our New Web Site is Live!!

Mt. Whitney (14,508’/4422m) in morning alpenglow.

Greetings from Bishop, CA!  We hope this finds everybody well and enjoying the fall season.  After a busy summer and fall we have been hard at work planning for 2014.  We have also launched a new web site for your viewing pleasure.  We invite you to have a look and come with us on a trip!

As of this writing SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg are off to Argentina for an Aconcagua expedition.  Back home in the Sierra the weather is getting cold and we’ve seen some of our first significant snowfall.  We’re gearing up for winter time activities including ice climbing, backcountry skiing, and avalanche courses.

Basin Mountain and surrounding skyline on Sunday November 24, 2013 after our recent snowstorm.

Here is a brief listing of some of our upcoming offerings for 2014.  We hope to see you on a trip with us in 2014!

Aconcagua:  Trip #1:  November 29 – December 17, 2013,  Trip #2:  December 27 – January 17. We still have a couple openings on both of our upcoming expeditions to the highest mountain in South America.

Mt. Kenya:  February 1-10, 2014.  A technical rock climb up the second highest mountain in Africa.  The climbing ranges from low 5th class up to 5.7.  It’s in a beautiful, remote, and wild setting overlooking the beautiful East Africa jungles.

Kilimanjaro and Safari:  February 11-25, 2014.  A 7-day climb of the highest mountain in Africa combined with a game viewing safari where we see some of the most spectacular wildlife on our planet!

Mt. Whitney:  Winter/spring 4-day climbs and summer 3-day climbs of the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.

Ice Climbing Courses:  Ice is forming now in Lee Vining Canyon and June Lake.  Come up and discover the exhilaration of climbing ice in these premier destinations.

Avalanche Classes:  Learn essential skills to evaluate snow conditions in backcountry travel.  We also include rescue training using transceivers and probes.


SMI off to Aconcagua (6962m/22,841′), Argentina!

Morning alpenglow on Aconcagua (6962m/22,841')

On December 28 SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg met Alan Bagley, Andrew Burg, and Scott Evans in Mendoza, Argentina where they staged for an expedition to the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.  They spent the day securing climbing permits, packing gear, and organizing trip food.

On December 29 they started off from the trail head at Punta de Vacas at 2400m/7874′.  It will be a 3-day trek in to Base Camp at 4200m/13,747′.  Here is their planned itinerary:

Dec 29: Hike from trailhead at 7874 feet to Pampa de Lenas at 9514 feet

Dec 30: Hike to Casa de Pierdra at 10,630 feet

Dec 31: Hike to Plaza Argentina at 13,747 feet.  This is our Base Camp.

Jan 1: Rest day, take small acclimatization hike

Jan 2: Acclimatization hike, prepare loads for higher camps

Jan 3: Carry load to Camp 1, return to Base Camp

Jan 4: Move to Camp 1 at 16,732 feet

Jan 5: Rest and acclimatization day hike

Jan 6: Carry load to Camp 2, return to Camp 1

Jan 7: Move to Camp 2 at 19,127 feet

Jan 8: Rest and acclimatization day, prepare for summit bid

Jan 9: Summit bid

Jan 10: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 11: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 12: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 13: Return to Plaza Argentina Base Camp

Jan 14: Hike to Pampa de Lenas

Jan 15: Hike to trailhead, spend night at Los Penitentes

Jan 16: Drive to Mendoza

They will be calling in updates via satellite phone.  We will try to post reports as we hear from them.

Mendoza has a population of approximately 1.2 million making it the fourth largest province in Argentina.

Fountains light up La Plaza de Independencia, the largest plaza in Mendoza

Aconcagua Summit Success for The Last Well!!

January 11, 2011 at 22,841' on the summit of Aconcagua

Greetings from Mendoza, Argentina!!  We are happy to report that our latest expedition to Aconcagua was another great success!  On January 11, 2011 nine members of our team stepped out onto the highest point in the world outside of the Asian continent.  We want to offer a big congratulations to Brandon Bowser, Andrew Good, Jason Lund, Phil Murphy, Rebecca Radcliffe, and Jon Schumacker along with SMI guides Lindsay Fixmer, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.

After last updating our progress from Camp 1 many events took place.  Among other things the battery on our satellite phone went dead preventing us from making subsequent updates.  Thank you to everybody who kept us in their thoughts and prayers during this time even though we didn’t get a chance to continue updating this blog.

After acclimatizing at Camp 1 our team packed up to move to Camp 2 at 19,127 feet on January 9.  The weather made several dramatic changes on this day starting off windy, then turning sunny, then it settled on producing a snow storm that remained with us the rest of the day and evening.  The team rose to the occasion and did an excellent job of staying focused with the task at hand.  We moved from Camp 1 to Camp 2 in a very respectable 4 hours 45 minutes.  We then pulled together and got everybody’s tents set up while battling winds of over 40 mph and snow blowing constantly sideways while we worked.  The team cleared spaces for tents then settled in laying out sleeping bags and pads plus organizing their gear.  Everything needed to be anchored securely or brought safely inside tents to avoid anything getting blown away by wind or covered in fresh snow.  Meanwhile SMI guides Lindsay, April, and Chris prepared hot water and dinner for the crew.  We served hot drinks and dinner in team member’s tents so they could eat and drink in relative comfort.

During the middle of the night winds finally subsided and on January 10 we woke to clear skies and snow drifts of over 1 foot that had blown in and around rocks and tents while leaving other areas completely scoured.  The team remained strong and healthy in spite of a few headaches during the night, which is not uncommon for somebody’s first night sleeping at this elevation.  We took a leisurely morning organizing our camp and personal gear while taking the time to hydrate and continue eating food, which is the fuel that will power us up on our summit attempt.  In the afternoon the team took a walk out on the Polish Glacier.  We took the time to give our gear a final tune up including examining the fit on crampons and climbing harnesses while t aking a walk to the “Edge of the World”.  Mid afternoon we were back at camp making final preparations for our summit attempt.  The weather was looking promising in spite of snow plumes prevalent on the high flanks of Aconcagua.  The plumes would indicate gusty high winds above but the guides believed the weather trend was moving in the right direction so the decision was made to prepare to go and if they deemed conditions less than favorable lead guide Kurt Wedberg would make the decision to postpone the summit attempt the following morning.

During the night Kurt poked his head out of the tent to examine the weather and seeing conditions looking favorable decided the summit attempt was a “go”.  The guides prepared hot water and breakfast for the team.  Donning crampons on our boots and ice axes in our hands we began the steadily and methodically pacing as a team from our high camp en route for the summit.  A slight breeze was present but visibility was completely clear.  A dramatic colorful sunrise offered a beautiful backdrop to our climb.  Taking breaks at regular intervals as we moved increasingly higher on the mountain as the weather remained stable allowing the team to keep making progress higher on the mountain.  By early afternoon the team found itself at “The Cave” at 22,000′ taking a break looking up at the final 841′ that leads up “The Canaletta” to the summit of Aconcagua.  After refueling ourselves we set out up the 25-30 degree chute that will bring us to the summit.  The Canaletta was full of fresh snow that allowed for some of the finest conditions we’ve seen for climbing in recent memory.  The snow resembled styrofoam allowing our crampons to gain excellent traction offering us excellent footwork and pacing.  In the thin air at 22,000’+ we were taking 4 breaths for each step we took uphill.  Finally at just after 4 pm there was no higher point to climb as the team stepped out onto the highest point in South America.

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery can be found here:  Aconcagua January 2011

The team on New Year's Eve day poses for a photo upon getting their first views of Aconcagua.

The SMI guides left to right: April Mayhew, Kurt Wedberg, Lindsay Fixmer, and Chris Werner. "The best bunch of people to spend a couple weeks climbing a mountain together with!" ~Kurt Wedberg

SMI guides Lindsay Fixmer, Chris Werner, and April Mayhew having fun cooking up a New Year's Eve feast for the team.

Our mule support passes the group en route to Base Camp hauling equipment and supplies for our expedition.

The team arriving at Base Camp at 13,747', 4200m on January 1, 2011.

Passing by an icy pond on the glacier at 15,000+' on an acclimatization hike above Base Camp.

On the glacier at 14,900' with Aconcagua looming high behind.

Sunset at Camp 1.

The team on a load carry day at 17,400 feet en route to Camp 2 with Camp 1 below.

Team members packing up from a break in a snowstorm during our move day to Camp 2.

Jon Schumacker (2nd from left) and team en route to Camp 2.

Arriving at Camp 2.

The team at the "Edge of the World" on the Polish Glacier at 19,400' during a hike above Camp 2 on January 10.

Holly Maggio geared up and ready on summit day.

January 11, 7:30am on summit day. The team looking strong!

The first rays of the sun tickling the high peaks of the Andes looking north from Aconcagua.

Beautiful summit weather at 21,200' with the Canaleta Chute behind.

At a break at 22,400' in the Canaleta Chute.

At 22,600' with Aconcagua's South Face providing a dramatic back drop for the final 241' to the summit.

Jason Lund raises his ice axe in the air as he reaches the summit.

Phil Murphy steps out onto the summit.

Jon Schumacker is all smiles at the summit.

Andrew Good looking strong and happy upon reaching the summit.

Brandon Bowser elated as he reaches the summit.

Rebecca Radcliffe joining her teammates on the summit.

SMI guide Lindsay Fixmer looking strong and psyched on reaching a new personal altitude record.

SMI guide April Mayhew reaching the summit of Aconcagua for the second time in less than a month.

Congratulations team!!!

Aconcagua Expedition #2 Update

After arriving safely in Mendoza, the team started the three day trek into base camp on December 30th.

We ushered in the New Year arriving at base camp at 13,747 feet

The team rested over the next day, then began the acclimatization hikes to Camp 1 on Jan 3rd

On Jan 6th the team moved to Camp 1 where we currently are at 16,700 feet

The team is doing well.  And we are looking ahead hoping to move to Camp 2 at 19,127 feet sometime over the next couple of days.

On January 5th, Andrew Pitts and Chris Whytal elected to call 15,800 feet their personal summits for the trip.  They are currently traveling home to Wash DC.

We wish them safe travels and please keep them in your prayers.

Thank you to everybody at home for your prayers and support.

We look forward to updating you on our progress soon.

Aconcagua Expedition #2 Is Ready to Go!!

After our successful climb of Aconcagua in December we have recovered and are now geared up for our second expedition for this season.  SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew from Aconcagua #1 will be joined  Chris Werner and Lindsay Fixmer to lead a very special group when we meet up in Mendoza as a group on December 28.

The members of this next expedition are a group of 11 motivated individuals from The Last Well.  This Washington DC based organization is dedicated to bringing clean water to the people of Liberia and beyond.  Why is this so important?




Yes you read those statistics correctly.  Pastor Todd Phillips of Mclean Bible Church in Washington DC saw those statistics too.  He decided to do something about it and The Last Well was formed.  The almost 4 million citizens of the country of Liberia have been hard hit by the lack of clean drinking water.  The mission of The Last Well is to build water wells throughout Liberia so every citizen has access to clean drinking water so vital for healthy living.  They are currently about half way through with this project and they don’t plan on stopping until “The Last Well” is built.

The Last Well first came to SMI in the spring of 2008 with a group of climbers and through a climb of Mt. Whitney (14,508′, 4422m) raised money and awareness for their cause.  They have since been to Kilimanjaro and are now ready to tackle the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere to raise more money and awareness for this very worthy cause.  These 11 motivated individuals have raised over $100,000 for The Last Well from this climb alone!!

We invite you all to follow our progress through this blog, with your positive energy, and prayers of support.  Feel free to explore the links above to learn more about this worthy cause and the people behind it.  If you feel led to get involved with The Last Well there is information on their web page about how to do so.

The climbing team with SMI guide Kurt Wedberg at a gala fundraiser in Washington DC for The Last Well in October.

Pastor Todd Phillips speaking at the October gala fundraiser for The Last Well.

Kurt Wedberg inspecting the expedition's dining/kitchen tent.

This Mountain Hardwear 18' dome tent will serve as a comfortable place for the team to eat meals and enjoy team fellowship on our way into Base Camp.

SMI guide April Mayhew just stood on the summit of Aconcagua on December 15 and is psyched and ready to go again.

SMI guide Chris Werner at 15,000' on Aconcagua January 2010.

SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew at 19,300' on Aconcagua Dec 14, 2010.

Aconcagua December 2010 Wrap Up

Our first of two Aconcagua expeditions is now successfully in the books.

We want to give a big congratulations to team members Ralph Drollinger, Fred Simmons, and Bill Simon for a job well done on this expedition.  Congratulations to Bill and Fred to reaching the highest point in the Western Hemisphere and to SMI guide April Mayhew for her first summit of Aconcagua!!  Well done everybody!!

Thanks to everybody for following along with us.  All your prayers and positive energy could be felt from high on Aconcagua located deep in the Andes.

The photo album is now completed with 1627 photo for your viewing pleasure.  You can view it here:  Aconcagua December 2010

Below are some photos from this memorable journey.  The entire photo album can be viewed at the link above.

The team at the trailhead psyched and ready to begin. From left to right: Bill, April, Ralph, Fred, Kurt

Fred, Ralph, and April enjoying the hiking on day 1.

Ralph, Bill, Fred, and April pause for a photo. Pleasant temperatures made for an enjoyable walk up the Vacas Valley.

Fred and Bill in the kitchen tent enjoying a laugh during breakfast of day 2.

Bill on the crossing of the Vacas River on day 2.

April on the bridge crossing the Vacas River.

April has all the team's attention for some instruction on day 2.

Mules with our loads passing us by on day 2. Mules hauled all our gear into Base Camp.

The team gets their first look at Aconcagua near camp on day 2.

Bill psyched up for the icy glacial fed river crossing at 7:30 AM on day 3.

Fred, Bill, and April ascending the Relinchos Valley on day 3.

Ralph crossing the Relinchos River on day 3.

The team celebrating getting to 13,000' on the way to Base Camp.

April and Kurt at 13,000 feet approaching Base Camp.

Kurt, April, Ralph, and Bill arriving at Base Camp at 13,747', 4200m

April serving up bacon cheeseburgers at Base Camp. Yum!!

First acclimatization hike above Base Camp.

April straddling a crack on the glacial moraine.

Icy lakes on the glacial moraine

Bill, Ralph, and Fred next to an icy lake on the glacial moraine at 15,000'.

Fred and Ralph at a rest break on the glacial moraine near 15,000 feet. Aconcagua looms high above.

The team on the glacial moraine with Aconcagua behind.

Bill and Ralph psyching each other up for the climb to Camp 1.

Bill looking strong and happy at 16,000 feet on the way to Camp 1

Ralph, Fred, and April at 16,000' heading towards Camp 1.

Ralph, Bill, and Fred near Camp 1.

Bill flanked by Fred, Ralph, and April at 16,400' cresting the hill to Camp 1.

Team photo at Camp 1 at 16,700'.

April cooking dinner at Camp 1.

The team at a rest break at 17,500' on the route to Camp 2.

April setting the pace for Fred and Bill at 18,300' en route to Camp 2.

April feeling great at 18,500' en route to Camp 2.

Bill and Fred happily settled in to Camp 2.

April at Camp 2 getting ready for our summit bid the following day.

Bill and Fred sporting their alma mater at Camp 2, 19127' on Aconcagua.

April, Bill, Fred, and Kurt enjoying the prep day for the summit bid tomorrow.

The team on a short "tune up" walk to test equipment in preparation for our summit bid.

Bill and Fred at "The Edge of the World" near Camp 2.

Kurt and April at "The Edge of the World" near Camp 2.

Summit day has arrived!! Bill and Fred gearing up at camp.

Bill on summit day 6:30 AM.

The sun rising over the Andes provided a breathtaking backdrop to our climb.

Bill at 20,500' on summit day!!

Fred, Bill, and April at 21,000+ feet on summit day. A slight dusting of new snow fell the night before and added a beautiful decoration to the landscape during our climb.

Fred at 21,500'

Fred at 21,500'.

Looking up at our route from 21,600'

Bill at 22,400'. With only 481' to go the air was so thin we were taking 4-6 deep breaths for each step we took up hill.

22,770'... less that 100' to go to the summit!!

Fred taking the final stops onto the summit of Aconcagua with Bill close behind!!

Bill topping out on the summit of Aconcagua!!

A picture's worth a thousand words. April's smile as she reached the summit says it all!!

Team summit photo. Well done everybody!!

Kurt and April celebrating an elated and emotional moment on the summit.

Merry Christmas to all from the top of Aconcagua (22,841', 6962m)!!

First Aconcagua Summit Photos!!

Greetings everybody!!

We reached the summit of Aconcagua (22,841′, 6962m) on December 15, 2010.  We were blessed with wonderful weather for climbing.  Winds were light and the sun remained uninhibited by clouds above.  As the afternoon progressed clouds gathered below giving us a feeling of being on top of the world.  We were in fact on the summit of highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere!!

Pictures are currently being uploaded to the SMI photo gallery web site.  We should have all of them organized within a couple days.  Below is a sneak preview of the photo gallery featuring a few summit photos of the team.  We will post a note when all the photos are ready to be viewed.  You are welcome to follow progress here:  Aconcagua December 2010

A big congratulations on a job well done are in order to Fred Simmons, Bill Simon, and April Mayhew.

Way to go!!!

Fred Simmons taking the final steps to the summit of Aconcagua. Bill Simon is shortly behind.

Bill Simon stepping on to the summit of Aconcagua.

SMI guide April Mayhew is all smiles upon reaching the summit of Aconcagua.

Team summit photo. Front row left to right Bill Simon and Fred Simmons. Back row SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and April Mayhew.

Aconcagua, December 11

Upon arrival at camp one Dec 8 three days ago we got settled in and the next day took a hike to 17050 feet and it was a successful acclimatization hike.

That evening the winds picked up in a big way and our tents were hit by gusts up to 80 miles an hour

This wind storm has continued unabated ever since.

Last night and this morning we had wind gusts that pushed a hundred miles an hour.

When we arrived at camp one on Dec 8, I calibrated my Suunto Core altimeter watch to 16700 feet it has since risen over two hundred feet and this morning it was reading 16965 feet. This would indicate a substantial drop in barometric pressure.  The good news is, the team remains in great spirits and we are using this opportunity to acclimatize while remaining strong and healthy in anticipation of more favorable climbing weather to come.

We received a weather forecast calling for drastically reduced winds as soon as tomorrow. Assuming this is the case we anticipate moving up to camp two sometime in the next couple of days and preparing for a summit attempt soon after.

Thanks  to everybody at home for your prayers and positive thoughts, we can feel the love all the way here at 16700 feet on Aconcagua.

Aconcagua, December 9

The team made it to camp one on Tuesday Dec 8 at 16700 feet.

We set up tents and settled into camp and everybody was feeling great at dinner that night.

Today, we woke up and took a acclimatization day hike to 17700 feet.

Everybody on the team did an excellent job and everybody is acclimating very well.

This hike put us in position for our next move, which will be to carry loads to camp 2 at 19127 feet.

If weather remains good we anticipate sleeping at camp two some time in the next two to three days.

We will assess a summit attempt after that.

Currently we are back at camp one after our acclimatization day hike and April is preparing a cheese tortellini dinner for the team.

Thanks to every body at home for all your support and we will check in again sometime soon.

Camp 1