Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Orizaba Success!

At 7 AM January 26, 2008, our team successfully summited Pico de Orizaba east of Tlachichuca, Mexico, after leaving our high camp of 15,100' to the crest of the Orizaba caldera at 18,490'. After nearly a week of acclimatizing increasing altitudes from Mexico City to Tlachichuca to the Piedra Grande hut to our final high tent camp, the team took five hours in the early morning hours navigating "The Labyrinth "rock/cliff band to the Jamapa Glacier. There, the slope gradually increased from 10-30 degrees to a high of 50-60 degrees near the upper rock formation affectionately known as "The Sarcophagus!" Team members were roped together via a 100-meter climbing rope, equipped with plastics boots, crampons and ice axes.

Smelling whiffs of sulfur, we neared the summit at sunrise and were treated with incredible views of the Mexican plains to the east and west of the summit. To the west, the shadow of Pico de Orizaba formed a perfect pyramid shadow that perhaps the Aztecs used as a model for their pyramids hundreds of years ago. We stayed on the summit for about 20-30 minutes to take pictures, offer congratulations to fellow team members, and take in the accomplishment. With wind chills easily below zero, we began a tight rope descent upon the glacier. Three hours later, we were back at high camp to rest, drink water, break down camp for the return to Piedra Grand hut and Tlachichuca that evening. Cold cervezas greeted us at Senor Reyes climbing compound and after a hard nights rest, we traveled back to Mexico City. Some boarded flights back home that day while others remained for a day or two to tour this old city of 20+ million residents.

For detailed dispatches, please visit http://www.alanarnette.com/dispatches/live/index.php What an incredible experience with close friends and the "high point" of my climbing career! Climb On!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

El Orizaba Cuatro!

Or to the Spanish challenged (myself included) - the Orizaba Four! Our intrepid team leaves for Mexico City in a little over 3 days and I thought it good to introduce you to the team. Essentially, we're a team of many things. We are weekend warriors, friends, father's, big mountaineer's, homebrewers, ultra marathoner's, engineer's, instructor's, retired(?), and men with a climbing addiction.

In the photo on the far left is Scott Olmer - ultra marathoner extraordinaire. I've known Scott for nearly 10 years and over that time, we've backpacked and/or hiked 14ers in Colorado, gone on too many hut trips to count, enjoy a good cigar from time to time, and enjoy the finer Colorado micro brews weekly at the Southern Sun Brewpub in Boulder. Scott is a natural athlete and excels in 50/100 mile races a couple times of year - crazy!

In the next photo is the remainder of the team. From left to right is Robert ("The Goat") LeClair, Patrick ("The Navigator") Vall, and Alan ("Big Pappy") Arnette.

I first met Patrick on our Rainier trip in July 2004 and got to know him well over the years on numerous 14er hikes. Patrick owns his own veterinarian practice in Woodland Park, CO, has a wonderful family of 4 children, a very understanding wife (Shannon), and a slight obsession with THE University of Ohio State - this presents a problem at times when he sees a "University of Meeechigan" hiker on some of our summit attempts. Patrick is a very strong yet smart hiker and provides his GPS expertise to our group during the summer climbing seasons. He has written numerous trip reports on SummitPost (http://www.summitpost.com/) and is a great friend.

Alan, "Big Pappy", Arnette is our hiking/climbing guru. I first met Alan back in 2001/02 through my former spouse and our mutual interest in mountains lead to many hikes in the Colorado high country. Alan has traveled the world in search of mountain peaks to climb, breathed the rarefied air above 25,000', and was the instigator of the 2004 Rainier trip. He provides a wealth of information about mountaineering to both Patrick and I - we're constantly learning more about the topic through his patience and guidance. Orizaba is the final preparatory climb for Alan - he's planning to return to Mt. Everest in April/May 2008 as part of his "Memories are Everything" campaign to raise awareness and donations for the Cure Alzheimers Fund.

So there you have it - the "client" team for Orizaba 2008. I look forward to challenge of Orizaba as well as sharing the summit with some very good friends - it will be an experience! Climb On!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Successful Summit!

Congratulations to Alan Arnette (aka "Big Pappy") for his successful summit of Aconcagua (22,841') yesterday. His team, guided by Mountain Professionals LLC (our guide service to Orizaba), successfully made the summit 8 hours after an early alpine start (3:30 AM 'ish) from their Advance Base Camp. Cold temperatures (0 degrees) and high winds made for a challenging summit push but Alan reported that the team did well.

If you want to hear audio dispatches of the climb, please visit the following URL for details: http://www.alanarnette.com/dispatches/live/index.php I believe Alan's site will have audio dispatches as well as periodic updates of our progress on Orizaba January 20-27, 2008 if you're interested in following that climb too. Climb On!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Orizaba: Day by Day

Last night, I realized when talking to Mom that very few folks know the full extent of my upcoming trip to Orizaba in Mexico. My flight to Mexico City takes off in 17 days, so come along on a virtual journey...

  • January 20th: Depart Denver, Colorado (5,280') at 8:47 AM to Mexico City via Los Angeles, CA. Arrive in Mexico City (7,340') around 7 PM. Catch the free Holiday Inn shuttle to the Holiday Inn-Plaza Dali and meet Alan Arnette/Patrick Vall/Scott Olmer for dinner and cerveza's.

  • January 21st: Meet Ryan Water and Dave Elmore from Mountain Professionals, LLC and transport gear/people to Tlachichuca, Puebla, Mexico (8,497'). Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

  • January 22nd: Expedition overview, gear check, and explore local artisan market. Believe it or not but this is part of the acclimization process - having fun!!

  • January 23rd: Transport via 4-wheel drive to the Piedra Grande hut at 13,972. Acclimization hike and return to hut.

  • January 24th: Acclimization hike to high camp; set up tent camp and return to Piedra Grande hut for a good night's sleep.

  • January 25th: Hike to high camp with the remainder of summit gear and attempt to get some sleep.

  • January 26th: SUMMIT DAY to 18,490'! Alpine start (usually 12 AM - 2 AM - depends on guide service) and push for the summit. Pray for good weather!! Return to base camp to break down high camp, hike back down to the Piedra Grande hut for rest of the gear, and jeep back down to Tlachichuca for a celebratory dinner and Cuban cigars!

  • January 27th: Morning transport back to Mexico City to catch flight back to Denver, Colorado feeling exhausted but happy!

That's it friends! If you're interested in more details, you can visit Alan Arnette's website at http://www.alanarnette.com/alan/orizaba.php His site is a wealth of information about climbing in the States and around the world. As part of Alan's 2008 return to Everest, he is raising funds for Alzheimer's research and a cure for this horrid disease. Unfortunately, this disease has hit home as his Mother is suffering from this mind-robbing condition. Please consider making a charitable donation through his website. Climb On!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Hard to believe it, but another year has ended and a new one started this morning at 12 AM! I've never been a huge New Year's Eve partier nor desire to pay those huge cover charges to hang out in a club with a couple hundred people you don't know. My Dad used to work in hotel management years and years ago for Holiday Inn and he called New Year's Eve "the night of amateurs!" Rather than join the amateurs, I spent the night at a friends house party and rang in the New Year with a small glass of champagne and a late night call to K. Awoke to brilliant Colorado sunshine and hit the cross country ski trails at Eldora for a day of blue sky, light winds, and rolling terrain!

I always have to laugh when I read the newspaper on New Year's Day - all the advertising is geared towards New Year's Resolutions and NCAA Bowl Games. I prefer the later myself but that's another story - GO CLEMSON BTW! Resolutions are a funny thing - it's that one time of the year people "promise" to change something in their life for the better. Although a noble idea, most resolutions are doomed to failure whether it be to exercise more, lose weight, etc.. because folks often return to what is comfortable, easy, or in most cases, life just plain gets in the way.

I prefer goals rather than resolutions - goals are often attainable and are easier to gauge success or failure against. So without further adieu, here are my 10 goals for 2008 in no particular order:
  1. Be happy!
  2. Spend time with K and her son!
  3. Live each day to its fullest!
  4. Volunteer in 1-2 organizations.
  5. Make a difference in someones life.
  6. Run the Colorado Colfax Marathon in May 2008 - brother Jim's upcoming Disney Marathon inspired me - signed up December 31, 2007.
  7. Stay in contact with friends via phone, email or visits.
  8. A safe and successful climb on Pico de Orizaba January 20-27, 2008.
  9. Continue good health through good eating, exercise, and mental R&R.
  10. Continue hiking, climbing, mountain biking, down hill skiing, XC skiing, homebrewing...and...and...
That's it friends - Happy New Year and make it a good one! Climb on!