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Expedition Dispatches From Around The Globe!

Posts for every team can be found under the drop-down menus at the right of this page.  We have organized our expeditions into Denali, International and Mount Everest categories, with further organization by their Team Meeting Date.  We try to post from each team on each day, but this is not always possible, due to communication challenges in mountainous regions, so keep in mind that “No News Is Good News!”

Click on the audio dispatch icons to hear phone calls from our climbers and guides, so that you can better enjoy the experience through their words, not ours.  Click on a post’s title to open it in its own window to leave a comment for your favorite climber.  Above all, have fun and dream big!

TODD Talks – with Jacob Schmitz

By: Mountain Trip

Mountain Trip seeks the best guides in the business. Our guides are well traveled, highly knowledgeable, professional and awesome people. But, don’t take it from us, get to know our guides for yourself!

Jacob Schmitz

The irrepressible Jacob Schmitz on the summit of Everest in 2012.

Jacob Schmitz chose to become a mountain guide in the late 90s while working in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park. He loved playing and working outside, and his passion was climbing so it naturally made sense. Jacob spends 250+ days each year on expeditions; that’s a lot of time! So much in fact, that he hasn’t been home for Christmas in over 15 years. Mountain Trip Director Todd Rutledge caught up with Jacob to get all the dirt on life, guiding expeditions and his love of the outdoors when he passed through Ophir, CO last week.

Todd: What relevant experience did you have when you started guiding?

Jacob: Since I was a little kid, I would go on camping trips with my family. When I was 12 I started climbing and quickly became very passionate about the sport. In my 20’s, I worked so I could climb and travel, so I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Then, I worked as an assistant for years under some great guides and tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible from every expedition. I owe so much to all my mentors.

Todd: What sort of courses, education or certifications have you taken along the way?

Jacob:  From the time I began guiding, I have always held the WMI Wilderness First Responder. I have an ARIE Level 2  Avalanche Certification, and hope to take the Level 3 in the near future. I have also taken AMGA courses along the way to help with more technical rock and alpine guiding.

Todd: For how long and where have you guided?

Jacob: I have been guiding for 15 years all around the world. Some of the more notable places I have been are: Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan and Antarctica. In 2013 I completed the “7 Summits” while guiding,  that was a great way to see the world. I mostly work on high altitude peaks. I’ve done 60+ 6,000 meter peaks, and this year will be my 5th trip to an 8,000 meter peak.

Everest slack line

Slack lining at Everest Base Camp

Todd: What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Jacob: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing a team member’s face when they summit. It feels great to see someone succeed, after they put so much hard work and energy into a goal that is not always guaranteed.

Todd: How do you return to the same venue over and over, yet still keep it fresh for your clients?

Jacob:: Returning to a mountain is a good thing! You get to know the area, where to shop, eat, take the team for day trips and explore. When you become comfortable on a big mountain and get to know the weather patterns and terrain, you are able to make good decisions about moving to a higher camp or summiting.

Also, each team is unique, and no two trips are alike. Being with like-minded people in the mountains is always fresh and exciting.

Todd: Do you have any tips or advice for people who are considering climbing a big, cold mountain?

Jacob:  I always try to stay as organized as possible. When I’m in my tent I know where my boots are and that they won’t fill up with snow. If I need to go out to work on the tents or put up snow walls I know exactly where my warm gloves and goggles are. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best but most importantly enjoy all of it, the good and the bad. It’s all part of being in the mountains. Sometimes you have to have a sense of humor when the wind won’t stop, for days…

Vinson tent

Yucking it up in the tent on Mount Vinson this past season

Todd: What was your first concert?

Jacob: I’m not sure… My parents took me to a few while they went on Harley rides.  I remember a Reggae Sun Splash at the Greek Theater in Los Angles was a lot of fun! I was pretty young, around seventeen.

Todd: What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Jacob: More and more, I’ve been able to travel to a lot of amazing places. I’m a history buff so I really enjoy seeing amazing historic cities in Europe or ruins in Asia and South America. It’s a small world filled with wonderful people, and spectacular places!

Todd: Any parting thoughts?

Jacob: There are still so many places I would like guide and go to travel. New Zealand is in my future and I would like to return to Peru and Bolivia. I love each and every moment in the mountains. Guiding has allowed me to follow my dreams and explore the world, I’m forever grateful for that.

Todd: Who is you favorite boss? ;-)

Jacob: You are Bill!  Oh wait – this is Todd Talks…. Of course you are Todd!  Come on – I meant Laura!

Stay tuned to meet more of our guides!

Posted in Alaska, Everest, Uncategorized | Tagged | No Comments

Aconcagua Team is Back in Mendoza!

By: Mountain Trip

Howdy All!  We apologize for the delay in posting, but we had a server issue that kept us offline for a couple of days.

The team descended from high camp on the 12th and arrived at the Plaze de Mulas base camp a bit pooped, but happy after having stood on the summit on February 11th.  The descent is a whopper, dropping close to 6000′ from Camp Cholera to the warmth and thick air of the upper Horcones Valley on the west side of the mountain.

Today, the team sorted their equipment and packed loads for mules to carry out the Horcones.  They then started the long, dusty hike down the valley, hiking about 15 miles in about 7 hours, and descending another 5000′.  They arrived at the trailhead, where they were met by our friends from Fernando Grajales Expeditions, who picked up the group and facilitated their transfer back to Mendoza.

It is Carnival in Mendoza this weekend, which is one of the biggest parties and tourist weekends of the year.  We had challenging time finding accommodations, but the team is now showered and sleeping soundly at the Sheraton Hotel.

We will post some more details about their climb, along with some photos from the team in the next day or two.  Until then, we would like to once again extend a hearty “WELL DONE!”

Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27 | Tagged | No Comments

Aconcagua Summit!!!

By: Mountain Trip

Lisa called in from the summit of Aconcagua!

The team awoke early in the morning, and departed from high camp around 5:30 in the morning.  They worked their way up the north ridge of the mountain, first climbing directly up it, then along the east side, before cresting the ridge to make their way up the west side of the peak.  Snow fell lightly on the team, but the winds were also light, so they kept climbing.

Congratulations to everyone!!

Here’s Lisa, calling in from 22,841 feet above South America!

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aconcagua

Looking at Aconcagua from the southwest. The massive South Face is in the shade, with the summit being the right hand high point in the image.

Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 5 Comments

January 27 Aconcagua Team is at High Camp!!

By: Mountain Trip

Lance called in a nice post from 20,000′ on Aconcagua.  The team decided to push up today in light snow, but moderate temperatures.  They packed up camp at Camp 2 and made the 4.5 hour hike up to Camp Cholera (aka White Rocks), on the north ridge of the mountain.  Climbers often tend to use rather dark humor, and the moniker Camp Cholera is a fine example!  This is the first camp on the mountain where they have to melt snow to get their water for drinking and cooking.  If you don’t put in the additional effort to get clean snow, which can often require that you hike a ways, then you could experience Cholera-like symptoms.

The forecast is for light to moderate winds, so the plan is to awaken early in the dark hours of the morning, eat, hydrate, and load up for a summit bid.

Best of luck to all the climbers!   Here’s Lance:

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January 27 Aconcagua – team waiting at Camp 2

By: Mountain Trip

Dave called in from 18,000′ as the team spent the evening hours in his and Fermin’s tent, while a bit of snow fell and the wind blew outside.  The wind that had been predicted has materialized, and the team is hunkered down, waiting for it to slacken.  I spoke with Fermin today and he said everyone is in good spirits, and they have plenty of food and fuel, so they are in no rush to move higher.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks better, so the team will awaken and watch to see how the day shapes up.  If it looks like the winds are lessening up high, they will probably move to high camp at some point during the day.  The 11th looks like it could be a fine summit day, so right now, the plan is to try for the top on Wednesday.

Here’s Dave!

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Jan 27 Aconcagua Team – Carries to High Camp

By: Mountain Trip

Sophie called in from Camp 2 on the Ameghino Valley Route of Aconcagua, after the team hiked up to 6000 meters today.  Camp 2 is on the east flank of the mountain, and is a fairly sheltered camp at an elevation of about 18,000′ (5490 meters).  The team has slowed their rate of ascent at this camp, in part because of a high wind event that had been forecasted for the upper mountain, with predicted wind speeds of over 60 mph.  They are in a great position at this camp, have plenty of food, fuel and time, so they decided to take their time and see how the weather shapes up, rather than move high and try to get ahead of the wind.

Today, they went for a hike up to the site of their next camp, located at just about 20,000′.  They moved well, and took their time so as not to overly tax their bodies at such high elevations.  The benefits of taking the hike are twofold: they could move some food and fuel up to the next camp and they pushed their bodies a bit by moving high, while allowing themselves the benefit of sleeping at an elevation at which they are largely acclimatized, back at Camp 2.

Aconcagua

Fermin Avila, hiking to High Camp in January 2014

aconcagua

Two teams hiking the last 30 minutes to high camp. located just over the craggy ridge line.ere i

Here is Sophie!

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 2 Comments

Camp 2 Rest Day for Aconcagua Team

By: Mountain Trip

Lance called in this evening to report on their windy rest day at Camp 2 today.   The skies were clear, but the wind was blowing at Camp 2, but the team enjoyed beautiful views, and it sounds like they are still enjoying the food that our lead guide Fermin is cooking up.   They are doing great and will hope to climb to high camp tomorrow if the weather looks good.

Here’s Lance with the evening dispatch from Camp 2 on Aconcagua.

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 2 Comments

Aconcagua Team at Camp 2

By: Mountain Trip

The team moved up to Camp 2 today and they are still moving strong and enjoying spectacular weather.   The weather may be changing a bit in the next few days, but this evening at camp 2 they are enjoying the views and eating steaks!   From Camp 2 they get the first really good views of the upper mountain, the Polish glacier, and are high enough to really see across the Andes.   They plan to acclimatize and recover tomorrow and strategize about moving to high camp in the next few days after looking at the weather.

Here’s Lisa with the evening dispatch from Camp 2.

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JANUARY 27TH ACONCAGUA TEAM CARRIES TO CAMP 2

By: Mountain Trip

The team enjoyed good weather for the carry to Camp 2. It’s a pretty big day, with over 1,500′ elevation gain (at altitude), and the team was rewarded with spectacular views. They woke up, packed up a load of food, fuel and supplies, and ascended the broad bowl of scree at the uppermost portion of the Relinchos Valley. From this point, the team headed north to follow the Ameghino Valley, that separates Cerro Ameghino from Aconcagua. They left the supplies in a sheltered spot in Camp 2, then turned around and descended to Camp 1.  The plan is to move to Camp 2 tomorrow, weather permitting.

 

Here’s Dave:

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 2 Comments

JANUARY 27TH ACONCAGUA TEAM AT CAMP 1

By: Mountain Trip

Lance called in the team’s report today from Camp 1. It sounds like the team is doing great and eating lots of Fermin’s delicious cooking, fueling themselves for the ascent. The plan is to carry a load of equipment and supplies to Camp 2 tomorrow. Camp 2 is a beautiful camp, perched on the east flank of Aconcagua just shy of 18,000′.

Here’s Lance:

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 1 Comment

Aconcagua Team Ready to Move to Camp 1 Tomorrow

By: Mountain Trip

Sophie called in tonight from the January 27th Aconcagua Team after a final day of acclimatizing and resting at base camp before pushing on up the mountain.   They had another beautiful day and enjoyed the last night of the luxuries of base camp, but it’s time to move on.   They are doing great and anxious to start the push on up to Camp 1 and beyond tomorrow.

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JANUARY 27TH ACONCAGUA TEAM CARRIES TO CAMP 1

By: Mountain Trip

Today they team ate a nice breakfast in the comfort of their Base Camp dining tent and then shouldered their packs to carry loads up to 16,400′.

The route up from the Plaza Argentina Base Camp starts by climbing up a rather steep bit of moraine, the rocky debris pushed ahead by the last glacier that carved the valley above Base Camp.  As they climbed up, they snaked their way between the remnants of the old glacier, now barely discernible under meters of rock, and the steep side of the valley wall to their south.

After about an hour of hiking, they arrived in the base of the hanging valley above BC.  They weaved their way along the valley floor, most of the time hiking on the old glacier, with a few spots where they could actually see the old, glacial ice.  After another hour and a half or so, they commenced another steep climb up to the site of their Camp 1, located at roughly 16,400′.  They deposited the loads of food, fuel and equipment and returned to Base Camp for the night.

Looking up the route from the site of our Camp 1.  The route is fairly easy to see above camp, as it climbs up from left to right.

Looking up the route from the site of our Camp 1. The route is fairly easy to see above camp, as it climbs up from left to right.

 

This process of “climbing high and sleeping low” is a proven strategy for climbing big, cold mountains.  It enables the team to move all their equipment up the mountain and also eases their bodies into each successive altitude, by giving them a taste of the next elevation, while letting them sleep at their previous camp.

Tomorrow is planned to be a rest and acclimatization day, giving the team time to better acclimatize before launching up the mountain.

Lisa reports that the team climbed well, and everyone is feeling strong and happy. Here’s Lisa:

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 1 Comment

Aconcagua Team Enjoying a Rest Day at Base Camp

By: Mountain Trip

The team is enjoying a rest day at the Plaza Argentina base camp today.  This is an important day for them to acclimatize to the high altitude, and recover a bit before pushing on up the mountain.  They prepared their gear and food for the upper mountain, and had a chance to wander around the small base camp community today.  Everyone is doing well, the weather has been great, and they are excited to head up the mountain tomorrow.

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January 27 Aconcagua Team – Lisa Calls from BC

By: Mountain Trip

Lisa called in a fun update from the Plaza Argentina Base Camp, located at 13,800′ on the east side of Aconcagua.  The team is doing great and enjoying some really nice weather.  Base Camp is an interesting place, as Lisa hints at in her post.  There are often climbers from all parts of the globe milling about, acclimatizing and an equally high number of local support staff, porters and guides.  In a nutshell- it’s a fun place!

Below are some images of the terrain they climbed through en route to camp today.  But first, here’s Lisa!

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aconcagua mules

The crossing of the chilly Rio Vacas is best done without getting wet!

aconcagua hiking to bc

The trail follows some steep slopes as it ascends into the Relinchos Valley.

aconcagua relinchos valley

Higher in the Relinchos valley, the views expand, with Aconcagua dominating the skyline in front of climbers to the left and the 1000m lower Cerro Ameghino appearing nearly as tall to the right (it’s closer!).

Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 1 Comment

Aconcagua Team Moving to Base Camp

By: Mountain Trip

Sophie and Dave called in to update us on the progress of the team.  They hiked another eight miles yesterday, arriving at the second camp on the approach in good time and with beautiful weather.

This morning, they crossed the Rio Vacas on horseback before the sun hit, which is a really good reason to use horses.  That water is chilly!!  Their route is taking a hard right turn today, heading west up the Relinchos Valley, which starts as a narrow defile deeply carved by the Relinchos River.  The trail follows steep side hills until it climbs up into the upper section of the valley, which is more of a “U” shaped, glacially carved valley and is much wider than its mouth.

About this point, the team will have spectacular views of Aconcagua and the neighboring Cerro Ameghino.  This view will dominate their western vista until they hike the past meters into the Plaza Argentina Base Camp.

Today is a tougher day than the first two on the trail.  The distance is similar, but they will climb up over 3,000′, and start to feel the altitude a bit more.  Fortunately, a comfortable dining tent, replete with table and chairs will await their arrival, and tomorrow is a planned rest and acclimatization day, which is generally welcomed after the tough hike up the Relinchos.

Sophie’s initial post is a bit garbled, a reminder that satellite communication in steep, mountainous terrain is not always perfect, but here’s the update:

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | No Comments

Jan. 27 Aconcagua Team Calls From The Trail

By: Mountain Trip

Lance called in from the first camp on the hike into Aconcagua.  The team spent about 5.5 hours on the trail today, hiking eight miles from the mouth of the Vacas Valley to a camp on the west side of the Rio Vacas called Pampas de Lenas.  This was the first sort of “shake down” hike on the route, and it was a relatively easy day of strolling in the high desert with light packs.

Aconcagua approach

A Mountain Trip team starting up the arid Vacas Valley.

Camp is at the base of a tall rock wall, near the bank of the swift Rio Vacas.  It has evolved into a well established campsite over the years, and now has a Park Service cabin, corrals for the horses and mules that carry the majority of the team’s loads up to Base Camp, and even toilet facilities.

Aconcagua approach

Pampas de Lenas (Fields of Wood) is a name that no longer really fits the camp, as there have not been any trees here for decades!

We hire a local outfitter to provide mule services to carry loads, meaning we can eat incredibly well for the hike into Base Camp.  Working in concert with the arrieros (mule drivers), the team feasted on asado (grilling meat) for their first meal on the trail.  Asado is a cultural phenomena in Argentina, a country world renowned for the quality and quantity of its steak and meat.  We bring plenty along and share our dinner with the arrieros, making for a fun, social evening.

aconcagua asado

Asado! It is something of an art form in Argentina.

Here’s Lance, with a report from 9,000′ on the trail to Aconcagua!

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Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27, International | Tagged | 1 Comment

MEET THE JANUARY 27TH ACONCAGUA TEAM

By: Mountain Trip

We would like to extend a hearty welcome to the members of our January 27th Aconcagua expedition!  The team members arrived in the small, vibrant city of Mendoza, Argentina over the past couple of days.  Located in the heart of the Argentine wine country, Mendoza is a fun place to spend some time, and the climbers have been exploring the sights, sounds and numerous verdant parks of the city.

The climbers are joining us from different parts of the US and abroad. Let’s meet the team!

Lisa Tessarowicz is joining us from the beautiful state of Colorado.  Lance Shaw is from the sunny state of California and Sophie Johnston joins us from Australia.

Our guides are Fermin Avila from El Bolson, Argentina and David Nesis from Telluride, Colorado.

Jan 27 Aconcagua team

Welcome to Argentina! Lance, Fermin, Lisa, Sophie and Dave

foodArgentina is known for wonderful food and delicious, locally produced red wine

The team spent yesterday finalizing their preparations, reviewing their equipment, securing their climbing permits, and going out for a nice welcome dinner.  This morning the team will head to the small ski resort of Penitentes, located near the trailhead for the Vacas Valley, which they will follow for the first two days of their approach to the mountain.  Penitentes is a couple hours drive from Mendoza, and along the way, the team will stop and have lunch at the high desert town of Ushpallata, which is somewhat famous as the area in which the film Seven Years In Tibet was filmed.

We will post updates as we hear from the team, meaning that we hope to post daily.  The guides will encourage each climber to call in audio posts, so that you can hear about the trip in the words of the climbers.  On occasion, the team could be too busy to call in or the terrain or weather might prevent them from connecting via satellite phone.  If there is no post for a day or two, please keep in mind the axiom, “No News Is Good News!”

Posted in 2015 Aconcagua Jan 27 | Tagged | 2 Comments

THE COMPLETION OF ANOTHER GREAT VINSON SEASON

By: Mountain Trip

Well, the last team is home, enjoying the comforts of home, and Jacob has completed packing up and sorting our equipment and supplies. It was a great season, and we would like to thank everyone who climbed with us this year and those of you following  your friends and family from home. We hope that everyone has lasting memories of the incredible landscape of Antarctica.

Here’s a few final shots:

BBQ at UG Pre summit meeting V2 chris Jentz V2 Lloyd V5 Summit ridge

Vinson Team is waiting in the wind for a flight

By: Mountain Trip

The team is back at Union Glacier, hunkered down in high winds.  The Russian cargo jet that will fly them back to South America lands on a blue ice runway (think the world’s biggest hockey rink!).  It can land in mild winds, but not the big gusts that have been buffeting camp.

The team is sheltered for the night in their tents and will await a weather call in the morning.  The forecast does not look great for flying tomorrow, but the forecast is not always correct.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for slackening winds and send warm wishes southward to our chilly friends.

Posted in 2015 Vinson - Jan 6 Team | Tagged | No Comments

January 5 Aconcagua Team is down from up high

By: Mountain Trip

The team descended to the bustling city-like atmosphere of Plaza de Mulas, the Base Camp for the western approach to Aconcagua.  Thousands of climbers pass through this camp, attempting the “normal Route” up the west side of the peak.

The team did well on the descent, dropping down over 5000′ in about four hours.  They were greeted by our good friend Pablo Fortunato, who runs the Grajales Base Camp services on this side of the mountain.  Pablo fed them and is arranging for some of the team to fly out the Horcones Valley via helicopter.  Weather permitting, this will occur tonight.  The remaining team members will hike out the valley tomorrow morning, and the team will regroup in Penitentes tomorrow afternoon.

J.Y. gave the mountain one heck of an effort yesterday, but turned back at about 22,000′, an impressive undertaking.  It is hard to emphasize how challenging summit day is on this peak.  It is a long, difficult day at an extreme altitude, where every action is a monumental effort.

Great job everyone!!

Posted in 2015 Aconcagua - Jan 5 Team | Tagged | 1 Comment

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