Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Three Weeks Till Nepal 2014.

With another large expedition to Nepal three weeks away I figured I would get this blog back up again.  Tino and I are heading back into the Rolwaling Valley with the help of the American Alpine Club’s Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award.  The main climbing objective is again Tengi Ragi Tau (6948 m).  This year we will attempt it via the West face instead of the North ridge.  
West Face of Tengi Ragi Tau (6948 m) Photo taken from 5300 meters

Over the past year I have continued to guide for Mountain Madness and Utah Mountain Adventures.  So far in 2014 guiding and personal climbing has taken me to the Canadian Rockies, Greek Islands, Alaska, the Cascade Range and the Cordillera Blanca. 
Here are some photos from the adventures the past year.  
Had a real cold trip to Canada,
 Bear spirit crag with a high of -20F
Photo: Tino V.
After a fall of trundling blocks and placing bolts the reward was worth it
Mike Pond on the last pitch of The "Brandons dead route" which
links a dozen pitches of rowdy ice and mixed pitches

Playing around on the edge of the world Denali
Photo: Jason Ahlan

Personal AK adventure after guiding Denali.
Pitch 2 It's included M7+ FA June 2014 Photo Mark Pugliese

Guiding Alex up the Final pitch on
Chopikalki (6300m)
Photo:  Arnold Ramirez
Look for updates here on this site as the expedition progresses.  I fly to Kathmandu on October 13.  
Thanks for your interest.  
Alan Rousseau

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Alaska 2013- SE fork of the Kahiltna

This May I spent a couple weeks guiding in the Alaska Range.  Aaron and I began talking about a trip into Denali base camp last summer while climbing in the Cascades.  Aaron had already taken two trips to base camp, one for a Denali prep course and another for an attempt on Denali.  However, last summer he discovered the joys of technical climbing.  We planned a trip to climb some of the steep ice and mixed routes located in the South East fork of the Kahiltna glacier, and attempt Mt. Hunter’s west ridge.
When we checked in with the ranger station they told us Hunter was in great shape.  The next day we flew on with high hopes.  After arriving in base camp a strong low pressure system came in.  The first storm day we tried to push a route up the west face of the radio control tower.  We had a fun day climbing about 600’ up a couloir with vertical steps and lots of spindrift coming down.  
first pitch of west face of Radio control tower
Once gaining the top of the couloir the avalanche conditions increased and the upper face was constantly shedding.  We had gotten out and swung the tools, it was time to begin rappelling back down to camp.  Three snow bollards quickly got us down 210 meters and below the technical difficulties.  From here it was just a 30 minute walk back to camp.
going down
The next day brought an additional three feet of snow to mid elevations (10,000-14,000’).  So we were tent bound and logged some solid reading time.  The next day was sunny and we headed out on a ski tour.  We went down “heartbreak hill” and onto the main body of the lower Kahiltna.  From here we headed south for a couple miles to the start of the West ridge of Hunter.  We decided to wait at least a day for the new snow to settle out.  That evening on 8 o’clock weather the forecast was clear for the next few days.  Since it was already day five was our window.  The next day was spent in camp packing five days of food and six days of fuel, and mentally preparing to break trail on the entire five-mile west ridge of Hunter. 
Entry to west ridge of Hunter
We left camp at 8:30 pm and reached the base of the west ridge in an hour and ten minutes.  From here we left our skis and started booting up the steep heavily crevassed pocket glacier to gain the ridge.  Even with the new snow we moved quickly.  In two and a half hours we had hit a prominent rock feature known as the cat ears, or point 9050.  After passing between the two ears we did two 60 meter rappels that would have to be re-climbed on the descent.  We arrived in the 8700’ col at 2:30 am.  It was now a time of twilight in the Alaska range and the coldest part of the night with ambient air temps of -20 F.  The next section of ridge looked intimidating and the snow pack was less than inspiring.  We decided to dig in at the 8700’ col and bivy for a few hours.  By 4am we had the tent up and nice platform dug.  We ate some dinner and promptly passed out. 
Shoveling out a platform

Not a bad view to wake up to

At 12 pm we left our platform and had 2 pitches of 55 degree ice.  From here we climbed into the first of two bowls that would put us at the top of point 9500.  However entering the first bowl we found deep punchy snow conducive to slab avalanches.  Soon a big shooting crack came off my feet and shot 150’ in front of me.  Fortunately the slope angle was not yet steep enough to make it pull out.  It was however a sign of things to come and forced our retreat.

Aaron leaving the 8700' col

We climbed back up and over the cat ears via two pitches of 5.6, and returned to base camp that evening around 8pm.  The next day was a rest day in camp, we dried out gear, did some avalanche beacon drills, and got packed for the next objective Bacon and eggs.  Not to be confused with the Ruth Gorge’s famous Ham and Eggs.  Bacon and eggs is a 1,000’ ice hose on the micro moonflower formation.  We had a great 13-hour day encountering difficulites to M4 WI4+/5- over 7 pitches of sustained climbing.  

With three days remaining in our trip we decided to rest the next day to keep our legs fresh for our final two days of climbing.  On our rest day we went over some alternative rappel techniques, and some more advanced rope management tips. 
Our 11th day on the glacier was one of the most enjoyable of the trip.  We decided to return to our first objective, the west face of radio control tower.  We had not heard of anyone climbing it before, although that is generally par for the course on smaller objectives in Alaska.  Our west face objective offered about 300 meters of climbing which varied from ice to snow and even a wild overhanging hand crack!  This route took us approximately 4.5 hours from the shrund to the summit.  We descended the standard route and hiked back to our skis.  It was a great sunny day, our route provided fun climbing up to M5 and AI3.  Since my return home I have not been able to find any information on this couloir.  With its proximity to base camp it is probably safer to call this the first recorded ascent of the “spindrift couloir”.
Aaron pulling through the M5 pitch

7 pitches of the spindrift couloir 

looking down from top of pitch 6
Our final day was spent cragging on the moonflower buttress, then we traded in our ice tools for skis to enjoy a lower stress afternoon ski touring the south east fork of the Kahiltna.

Thanks for a great trip Aaron.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Winter Recap

Hey Everyone,

So the winter has come to a close, spring is here and I have officially begun my newest endeavor, Marriage.  I got asked a lot if I was nervous or scared on my wedding day, but thinking about it now, this is the first picture I post on this blog where I am not scared!

Emily and I got Married on Sunday in Oregon, with temps in the 80s and beautiful clear skies.   We had a great day with a lot of family and a few friends there for support.

Mainly doing a quick post to show a few pictures from the winter to show what I have been up to.  I had an awesome winter in Salt Lake a great mix of guiding days and personal outings I enjoyed some great days of deep powder skiing and fun ice and mixed climbing with great company.  I also spent quite a bit of time climbing in the desert and I am now an AMGA Certified Rock Guide ( a process I began 4 years ago).
Waist deep in December!

First tracks down "Lake Shot" under beautiful blue Utah skies

One perk to the inversion was some great suburban guiding on the scruffy band!

Steep ice was in great shape in Santaquin

Steffan and Mark helped out with bolting a couple new mixed lines in Little cottonwood.  Look for some new ones this winter, including a big project I'm getting pretty excited for.   

Steep walls of the upper dagger area or should I call it the "Bubba cave"?
Enjoy the routes put in winter of 2013 and start training for another round of bolts in the new year!

I think we have the same waist size.
Auto-Control Theory in cold slender conditions WI 5/6

Now for the future.  Feels like I have been planning this next trip for a while, probably because I have.  I head into Denali Base Camp for a couple weeks to help get Aaron up to the next level in alpine climbing.  We have some big objectives in store including the West ridge of Hunter!  After that trip I will take 2 days and turn around back into the AK range with Mike P.  Objectives have not been decided upon yet but hopefully some good stories, photos, and laughter will come from it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Recap part 2

Hi Everyone,
Here is the final installment of the Nepal trip sorry it took 2 months to get this up.  This entry picks up where recap 1 left off.  For those of you in the Salt Lake area I will be doing a slideshow at the Black Diamond Flagship store 7:30pm on Thursday, March 21.  Hope to see some of you there!

After the Yalung Valley Tino and I regrouped in Na.  We relaxed there for a couple days, watching movies on ipods, reading, and packing for the next excursion.
Tino hanging out with one of the few other living things in Na
On November 14th we packed up eight days worth of supplies and headed to attempt to climb Langmoche Ri and continue along traversing the North ridge to the summit of Tengi Ragi Tau.  It took three days of walking to reach the base of the Langmoche Ri.  We had to travel over a terrible undulating rock glacier.  Almost every step rocks would shift from under you and balancing with a large backpack on proved difficult and took a large toll on our psych levels.

High camp 19,300' below Langmoche Ri
Eventually on the afternoon of the 16th we reached the base of Langmoche Ri.  We walked over to the pass to our east and could see Mt. Everest and the Kumbu region.  

If your asking which one is Everest the answer is the highest one.
The next morning we woke up with dull headaches, and we were both pretty lazy.  It took a long time to leave camp.  However, we knew we had to attempt it today since our weather girl, Emily, had informed us the night before that this was the day with the lowest winds.  Just a mellow 50 mph wind forecasted from the south, with zero degree ambient air temps.  According to NWS charts thats a -31 F wind chill.  It was cold, not quite Alaska cold, but still pretty darn frigid.  

The day began with not a lot of hope,  it was tough to break trail, we found ourselves wallowing through waist deep snow with an annoying wind crust that was not quite strong enough to hold body weight.  Each step you would hope it would hold then without fail it would break leaving you to punch into the softer snow.  You would pull yourself out and repeat the process.  However perseverance paid off a couple hours later we found ourselves making progress up the steep sections of the North face to gain the NW ridge.  

Me at 20,500' with the Dromblao glacier thousands of feet below Photo:  Tino V.

The climbing was very mentally and physically taxing.  The snow conditions were challenging to say the least.  We expected to find ice in the steeper runnels, but we were disappointed.  All we found was a slightly thicker crust that would barely hold body weight.  It felt like climbing a house of cards, every step you wondered if the whole slope would crumble.
First pitch of the headwall, which gave us 3 rope lengths of sustained 75 to 80 degree climbing Photo: Tino V.
Once the ridge itself was gained our wind exposure increased greatly.
At the top of the headwall we met our next challenge two overhung cornices that stood between us and the summit of an unclimbed peak.
Tino figuring out how to climb the overhanging unsupported snow while he is 20 feet from the summit of Langmoche Ri (6611m) 
  We each tackled one of the cornices, a combination of hacking away to firmer snow, and using snow pickets to pull up allowed us passage through the final obstacles to our unclimbed summit of approx. 21,700'.

With the temperatures we were dealing with and fatigue from challenging conditions we decided retreat was the best option.  We summited the previously unclimbed Langmoche Ri via the North face to NW ridge, and decided to rappel down the North face instead of continuing the ridge line to Tengi Ragi Tau.

Rappelling the North face proved interesting the first rappel was over a huge overhanging ice cap.  A mix of quick somewhat sketchy minimalist ice and snow anchors got us off the north face fast.
final overhung rappel off the north face.
  From here an hour walk brought us back to camp.  We ate dinner and passed out.  Both of us woke up during the night to drink water and eat more food.  The next morning we were really beat.
The morning after...
Now we still had 3 days worth of walking to get back to Na.  This time we knew exactly how much of a bummer walking on the rock glacier was.  But we also knew we had climbed the peak, and returned to camp safely.  The walk back to Na was a bit less painful for me since I still had headphones that worked.  Tino's ear buds conveniently stopped working on the second day of our trip. He was less than thrilled.

We returned to Na to find that all our remaining supplies were locked in the house we had left them in.  The catch was the woman who lived in the house was not there.  We waited hungry till 8 am the next morning, then we took the walk down to Beding (2 hours) to find some food.  We hung out there all day eating and drinking whiskey.  We met Norbu, the chairman of the village who would become a friend.  Tino and I spent several nights at his house on our way back down the valley.

The next week was spent climbing ice routes near the town of Na.  We found challenging brittle ice conditions.  Also the days were warm, and we needed to be off the ice by 11 am before it would begin to melt.  This caused us a bit more stress than we were looking for at this point in our trip.  We established a couple new routes one short fairly difficult route and one 500 foot ice route that was a bit more moderate.  We also repeated a couple previously established climbs in the area.  After this both Tino and I were ready to start our trip home.
Tino seconding one of our new routes at WI5M6

We moved all our equipment down to Beding in two trips, then hired 3 porters to bring the rest of our equipment back to Gongar.  Along the way we met up with an interesting British chap, who provided us with a jeep ride to Kathmandu.  Well, the Jeep was a bit full, so I rode in the covered bed of the pickup and slept on a duffel bag bed.

Happy to be on the road back home!
Thanks for reading.  In mid May I head back to Alaska for some climbing in the Southeast fork of the Kahiltna glacier including Mount Hunter.  I have been training for that since my return from Nepal, by climbing a lot of ice and continuing to develop new climbing routes in the Wasatch Mountains.  More to come!

Alan Rousseau

Monday, December 31, 2012

Recap part 1

Hey Everybody,
Thanks for following along with my trip.  Its great to be back in Salt Lake.  Im back in my routine here of backcountry ski and ice climbing guiding.  Probably anyone that is still checking in on this blog is wanting to see some pictures of the adventure.  So some of those from the first half of the trip will go up in this post, I will make another blog post for the second half of the trip (it takes a while to load media to the blog).

So Em did a great job of relaying messages of the big events of the trip.  Also Hellyhansen will be doing more posts on our trip as well.  Probably over the next couple weeks those should pop up at hellyhansen.com/news

So I'll start with a video of driving from Kathmandu to where we started trekking in Gongar.  This video was shot in the town of Charikot.  It gives some good views of the people, buildings, but most of all traffic/pedestrian patterns.

After we arrived in Gongar we started walking.  It took four days to reach the upper village of Na.  Then the next day Matt and I went climbing and his hand was broken from a rock that fell about 150 meters.  More info on this can be found on the Hellyhansen site.  After we got Matt set up with a crew to get him back to Kathmandu Tino and I hiked back up valley and began climbing.  We established a new route up a 19,000 ft summit in the Yalung valley pictured below.  
Northwest face of point 5766

West face of point 5766 Tino and I climbed about 800 feet of unclimbed rock here
Pitch one of the west face rated M4X

The next day we climbed three new ice and mixed climbs at 17,000 ft.  
Tino climbing acclimatization station WI4+ M5+

Ice wall we established new routes on

We spent a total of four days in the Yalung Valley, up around 16 to 19,000ft to help get acclimatized before heading up to higher elevations.

Next post will show photos and video of the second half of the trip.
Hope you all had a merry christmas, and wishing you all a fun and safe new years eve tomorrow!

Thanks for your interest,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final adventure

Alan and Tino have begun their trek home.  They stayed a night in Bedding and met up with a sherpa to guide them back down the valley (about a three day trek).  They then will take a jeep ride (12hours) back into Kathmandu where they will busy with paperwork, documentation etc.  Alan gets into LAX Friday, December 7th and into SLC the morning of the 8th.  May their last week be safe and uneventful!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dinner with the mayor?

For anyone that knows Alan well, knows that only in Alan fashion could he be in the middle of timbuktu Nepal and get himself invited to a dinner party and a nights stay at the Mayor of Bedding's home.  The man has a knack for making an impression in the best way possible through few words, a stellar sense of humor and an easy smile.  Though I might be a bit bias.  So that is where the guys will be their Friday night.  
Since coming down from Langmoche Ri and back into Na, they have done a great deal of exciting ice climbing and have put up a very cool sounding new route in the area.  Think overhanging corner crack transferring to an ice pillar!  When I talked with Alan last night they were going to go back to their camp and take a nap before making the hour walk down canyon to the festivities in Bedding (largest town in the Rolwaling Himal).  It was on their way back from ice climbing that they ran into the Mayor and in somewhat broken english struck up a conversation with the two Americans and invited them to a dinner party and a warm nights sleep in his home.  Sounds like a very rich, cultural adventure that they're on.  They will begin to trek back to Kathmandu about the 28th of next week.  Two weeks from today they'll be back in the States.