Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Denali Summit (June 20, 2013)

After 15 days on the West Buttress Route, with generally good weather but high winds, our team summitted Denali at 20,237 ft on June 20th, 2013. The Class of '86 all-Princeton, all-rowers summit team included former roommate Adair Prall (center) and friend King Grant (right) and me. Proud to experience the highest peak in North America with these two, along with roommate Evan Corcoran.

Evan created a dramatic 15 min film of the ascent: Finding Alaska: The Ascent of Denali

"It's like looking out the windows of heaven." - Robert Tatum

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How climbing relates to starting a company

Article I wrote for entrepreneurs about how climbing relates to starting a company: Seven Strategies for Success

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wrap-up with Photos and Videos

Summit Photo


Our amazing team on the summit of Aconcagua on January 24th 2010 at 345pm. From left to right: Peter (guide), Michael, Kent, Marty, Martin (guide), Adair, Ben (lead guide), Gordie, Ann, Evan and Rick.

Below are some select photos and videos of the way up above Base Camp. We encountered some nasty weather at both Camp 1 and High Camp, with Camp 2 being relatively calm.

Storm at Camp 1


Our carry to Camp 1 was unremarkable, but when we returned the following day to setup camp, a bustery storm greeted us just as we tried to setup our tents. The video below captures some of this weather.




View of Summit from Camp 2


Camp 2 was relatively calm compared to the two other camps below and above it. We had beautiful views of the summit to the south and the Andes to the north. We even had a glacial stream gurgling at night (until it refroze) which was nice to listen to as we lay awake each night.


Cold High Camp at Nearly 20,000 ft


At 19,600 feet, our High Camp was higher than many high mountain peaks including Kilimanjaro. The wind was fierce at times up here, and it was here that we experienced the thunderstorm that brought large hail and thunder that seemed to come from all around us. In general though, we were glad to be here because we knew we were "in a position" to summit when the time was right.

Final Push to Summit





Near Summit with South Face in Background


Summit day was very long, requiring 8.5 hours to reach the top, and another 3 hours to return to High Camp. We were smiling here but the march up the final face (called the Canaleta) seemed to go on forever.


Roommates at the Top


Our team of roommates from college had been planning this trip for many years. It was wonderful to be able to reach the summit together.


Our Guides Got Us Up!


On a mountain like Aconcagua, the guides are the only reason a team of climbers stays sane over such a long endeavor. Our team of IMG guides (Ben Kurdt, Peter Anderson and Martin Lucero) were incredibly patient and thoughtful throughout the climb. They monitored our physical and mental health in various ways to make sure the whole team was moving up to each new camp in a positive manner. Their decision to use a very tight weather window to reach the summit and then return safely to Camp was critical to our success, Others that did not use that window had to either abandon their summit bid or wait out the snow for another day or two. At that altitude, the waiting can be as debilitating as the rigors of climbing. We were very lucky to have such a capable team of guides to lead us all to the summit!

A final thank you to my wonderful family from the top of the (non-Himalayan) world! -gr


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Update for Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today we returned to civilization. After a good sleep on the surprisingly comfortable slats of the mess tents, we woke to a pancake breakfast (with Dulce con Leche, a godsend) and began our final march out of the wilderness. As you can see from the original post of the approach route we took to reach Aconcagua, we are now heading back out to the highway from the other side of the mountain. This route is called the "Normal Route" as it is the most popular, and most direct, access to the mountain. Our guides said that we would understand why they chose to approach Aconcagua via the Vacas Valley when we see how desolate this alternative is. As a group we chose to complete to entire 16-mile gap between Mulas base camp and the highway in one final non-stop push. Our lead guide Ben said it would take about 8 hours, and we were determined to cut that time down. We reached the trailhead at the highway in 6.5 hours. It was described by many members of our team as a "death march." We were ready for our 4-hour van trip back to Mendoza and a long, hot shower.

The next post will include photos from this incredible journey...

Update for Monday, January 25, 2010


After collapsing in our tents after summit day on Sunday, we awoke this morning to more high drifts of snow that fell overnight. The guides let us sleep in until 9am as reward for our big day yesterday ;). It was an exciting morning as we are able to descend and breathe in some richer air after days at 20,000 feet or higher. We broke camp after a short breakfast and put back on our crampons. We descended a long, "unrelenting" slope of the east face of the mountain, dropping almost 6,000 feet to Plaza de Mulas base camp (pictured above) on the "Normal Route", ending the day at 14,000 feet. Mulas provided some creature comforts we had not seen for many days. We has pizzas and even a beer or two within a mess tent. We felt as though we has returned to a small city.

In order to make a quick getaway the following morning, we pushed the tables back in two of the mess tents and slept on the floor. The air was thick with oxygen and we all slept better than we had in many days.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Update for Sunday, January 24, 2010

We summited Aconcagua today at 3:30p in the afternoon (local time).

It was an epic combination of 8.5 hours up and about 3 hours back down. It made for an 11.5 hour day, non-stop. We woke up to beautiful weather and got on the trail at about 7am because it was very cold earlier in the morning so we decided to wait a little longer. We had a combination of beautiful conditions at times, and windy conditions at other times on the way up. As we approached the summit (3,200 feet from our high camp to summit) a snow storm ensued and we had snow, not only during the steep climb to the summit but also all the way back down. About a foot of snow fell on the way down. It was a great experience.

All 8 members of the team summitted, which is an amazing success rate! The guides (Ben, Peter and Martin) deserve a great deal of the credit for steering us and guiding us through this adventure!

We are all now back at Pedras Blancas (high camp at 19,600 feet) and we will be heading down to the Plaza de Mulas base camp tomorrow during the day.

Update for Saturday, January 23, 2010

We made the move today up to our high camp at 19,600 feet called Pedras Blancas, which took us about 4 and a half hours. We woke up this morning to sunshine but very cold weather. The winds were calm but the temperatures were the coldest we've experienced to date. We are looking forward to the sun cresting over the cliff to our East.

We made the move with relatively lighter packs than the carry day. We arrived at Pedras Blancas and the site was set up for us thanks to a guide who ran ahead and got the site ready. After taking a small break, we got the tents up, and as we were getting the tents organized, a thunder cloud came towards us and we had the most bizarre weather for the next couple of hours. Since that time, we hunkered down in our tents and approximately 3 to 4 inches of snow has fallen and lighting and thunder is all around us. We stayed away from the cliff walls around us and remained in our tents on our Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads so we don't conduct. After about an hour and a half, the thunder storm passed and we had bright sunshine which melted a good amount of snow. It was aching hot in the tents for about half an hour. Then the thunder storms returned. Around 6pm, there were clouds above us and below us in the valley (at around the 15,000 foot level).

It's been an interesting day. Most importantly we are preparing for our summit attempt tomorrow morning. Subject to weather conditions, we are planning to leave camp sometime after 430am in the morning and as late as 7am depending on the cold and the wind (which will determine our departure time).