Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Link to my Carstensz Pyramid Blog

Hi there. I leave June 30, 2012 for New Guinea and an attempt on Carstensz Pyramid. Follow along if you like at

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Link to my Vinson Massif Blog

Family, Friends, and Readers from far-flung lands;  Hello again. I hope you have been well. I hope you eat all of your greens. And I hope you choose to join me in my adventure to Antarctica. Worry not, you may do so from the comfort of your world-wide web portal. Yes indeed, I will be Blogging my thoughts, experiences, and random musings as I prepare for, and during the doing of, my attempt to climb the high summit of Antarctica, Vinson Massif December 1-17, 2010. (Cue the bold symphonic soundtrack!)
  You may follow along at 
 Many thanks!
 Dave Mauro

The Mountain wins again.

I tracked Richard's signal beacon as his team made a carry and cache around Windy Corner. The signal lingered for a day back at 11,000 feet, then progressed to the big staging camp at 14,000. All was normal as they seemed to rest there for a few days. Then they made the first carry up the headwall, an unforgiving 600 foot incline of nearly vertical ice. A fixed line limits the risk to those beneath you, but nothing can diminish the animal desire required to claw pack and person upward by ice axe, toe spikes, and ascender. Richard's beacon signaled a point at the top of the wall where his team cached their loads before returning down to camp at 14. In due order they moved to high camp at 17,000 feet, the highest point his beacon would report from.
  I spoke with Richard the other day after many exchanged voice messages. This is what he told me.
  A classic Denali storm rolled in soon after they reached high camp. 80 mph winds combined with -25 degree F temperatures to sequester the team in their tents for 3 days. He spoke of using an ice axe to claw his way from tent to the can they used to deficate in. The desire or ability to eat were greatly curbed. Sleep was manifestly compromised.
  The winds subsided a bit on the fourth morning and the now stir-crazy team decided to attempt the summit. I've been trapped at high camp under difficult circumstances, and I can tell you the decision to attempt the summit eventually has more to do with one's desire to go home than any stilted sense of conquest. The team delayed leaving high camp to allow another expedition to lead out ahead of them, breaking trail through four feet of fresh fallen snow.  But winds picked up again as they ascended Denali Pass, the site of that mountain's greatest tragedies. Falls on Denali Pass have been so numerous that the Park Service installed fixed lines to offer protection to teams.  Still, many groups choose not to use them, unwilling to incur the delays of clipping off and on as each member of the rope team passes the anchors securing the fixed lines.
     Richard's group used the fixed lines. As a guided climb it would have been quite unusual had they not. Fortunately the group breaking trail ahead of them also used the fixed lines. As the lead team neared the crest of Denali Pass a sudden blast of wind (estimated by Richard to be approximately 90 mph) knocked them all off their feet. They hung by their harnesses from the fixed line until each member gathered himself up, then reversing direction to head back to high camp. Richards team wisely chose to also retreat back to their tents.
  Another three days passed as the storm continued. By the time it subsided there was no will among team members to attempt the summit. They broke camp and started down the mountain. It is suppose to be easier to go downhill, but one often does so in a capacity greatly diminished by a factor of time spent in high altitude. In Jon Krakauer's remarkable book Into Thin Air he includes the following account of this degradation.
"Most nights I'd wake up three or four times gasping for breath, feeling like I was suffocating. Cuts and scrapes refused to heal. My appetite vanished and my digestive system, which required abundant oxygen to metabolize food, failed to make use of much of what I forced myself to eat; instead my body began consuming itself for sustenance. My arms and legs gradually began to wither to sticklike proportions. "
It is a point worth noting that Krakauer is describing the effects of surviving at an elevation of 15,000 feet. Richard and his team spent seven days at 17,000 feet. What's more, the sum total of equipment carried up in two efforts would be taken down in only one. So heavy were the loads that Richard broke through a cornice at one point, dangling from the rope that joined all as one. He spoke of dehydration and his legs turning to jelly. He told me of mutinous contempt for their lead Guide. They suffered onward for 27 hours to reach the snow landing strip on the Kahiltna Glacier, the point from which they would be extricated from an adventure that had transformed to ordeal. At three  o'clock that afternoon a pair of small ski-planes lifted off with Richard and his team aboard.
  I listened to Richard tell his story, sharing in the disappointment. Even now, three months after the fact, he sounded exhausted. The swagger so evident in his attitude prior to the climb had been beaten out of him. Richard told me the one consolation he took away was the vindication of his training. "I felt strong and capable as the challenge of each day was greater than the one before," he commented. This much is no doubt true. I also tend to believe, had he gotten his shot, Richard would have stood on the summit of Denali. But I wouldn't blame him if he never tried again. There is a long list of world-class climbers who have never been able to reach North Americas highest summit. Denali is a big, moody, frozen SOB. Still, I had to ask.
  "Will you go back," I queried.
Richard to took a deep breath and, in what sounded like the first time he has answered that question out loud, said "yes."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Richard's redemption.

It has been ten months since Elbrus.
Richard called me last December to offer his best wishes for my upcoming attempt on Aconcagua, a climb for which I had been training and blogging. He said he too was preparing for another climb. This surprised me so soon on the heals of his meltdown on Elbrus. I could still remember how wiped out and nauseous he looked as we set out for the summit from our final hydration stop at 18,000 feet. "OK," he conceded wearily, "let's get this thing over with." There is no joy on his face in our summit photo. Instead his expression belies the conflicted emotions of a man who has suffered far past the point and price he ever estimated to have wagered.
"I'm going to climb Denali this spring," he announced. Denali, also known as Mt McKinley, is North Americas highest summit. At an elevation of 20,320, Denali stands almost 2,000 feet taller than Elbrus. More importantly, its location just outside the Arctic Circle invites bitter cold, typically dropping to -30 F at night in June. Massive storms from the Bering Sea pound Denali with such regularity that any given expedition should plan on digging in for a period of days or weeks. And the oxygen; that far from the equator the barometric pressure is low enough to create the physiologic experience of being still 2,000 feet higher than any given elevation. In short, Richard would be climbing a mile higher than Elbrus under much more severe conditions for a period three times as long while also carrying loads of 60-80 pounds. By way of analogy, he was the Guy who gets sick on a carnival ride then decides to become an Astronaut.
I was both astonished and concerned. Yet I did not attempt to dissuade him. I asked Richard several questions to test how thoroughly he had investigated the venture. I recommended several excellent books on Denali, including "Surviving Denali" , a study of accidents and fatalities. But I suspected I knew at least part of what was motivating him. Richard had learned of my summitting Denali early in our friendship. He was impressed and brought it up often in the company of other Climbers. I always appreciated the response this garnered, this minor celebrity, and wondered if I was as good a friend to him in return. One such time we were drinking beer in Russia with a Guide who had realized climbing fame the prior year by soloing K-2, arguably the most daunting summit on the planet. He said he planned to attempt Denali the following spring. "Dave has climbed it," Richard offered with a slap to my back. "You," the Russian Climber questioned, "You have climbed Denali?!" "Yes," I answered with a contrived aloofness suggesting more modesty than I felt. The Guide gathered me up in one arm. "Ohhhhh! Respect," he proclaimed.
I have spoken with Richard several times in the last few weeks. We debated equipment, psychological preparation, and conditioning. Richard had gone to the extraordinary length of purchasing a hyperbaric chamber to sleep in. This, at the obvious expense of his love life, would increase his VO2 count by tricking his body into thinking he was at high altitude. Much credit has been given to this approach by Lance Armstrong in the preparation for his superhuman cycling performances. Indeed, Richards account of his present fitness after eight months of intensive training paints a picture of superlative physical preparation. "Do you have any concerns," I asked the day before he left for Alaska. "No. I don't have the foreboding I felt on Elbrus," he answered, adding "I just feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness." I offered one of the big lessons I had taken away from my Denali climb, the same advice I give when speaking to groups, "Don't think about the summit until the day before you leave high camp. And try to find a little joy in each day.". Soon after the call it occurred to me that I had forgotten to ask Richard the single most important question. I left a voice message on his cell asking him to call me back, but no call came. I was consumed with self-loathing. Then, this morning, Richard called me during his layover in Seattle. "Why are you climbing this mountain," I asked. "To see if I can," he responded in a playfully flippant manner. I prodded further and he thought better of the question. "Let's just say I was disappointed in my performance on Elbrus. Its a bit of an experiment to see if all the things I have done to train and prepare can make the difference." "You could learn that by climbing a less daunting mountain," I challenged. "Yes, but it wouldn't be Denali," he concluded. Richard is climbing with the Guided Alpine Ascents group. I would imagine there will be periodic updates posted on their site. As well, Richards exact location will be tracked by signal beacon and posted via satellite to the following site;

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Link to my Aconcagua Blog

Hi Ho. Thanks again for following along with my Elbrus Blog. I leave for Argentina to climb Aconcagua on January 9, 2010. If you care to follow along you can find me at
All the best,

Monday, August 24, 2009

The next Mountain, the next Blog

Dear Readers,
Thank you so much for following along with my Mt Elbrus adventure. I have appreciated the feedback you have offered along the way and hope we can do it again sometime soon ...very soon ...starting in December of this year. I am securing arrangements now to make an attempt, in January of 2010, on Aconcagua in Argentina. Climbing with me will be my Brother in-law, Ty Hardt of Anchorage, and John "Johnnie Two-times" Harris of Kenai, Alaska. A few years ago I climbed Denali with them while filming a documentary that was never made. This time I will write a story that will never be published. We try.

So search for me at under the title "Aconcagua Attempt 2010" starting in December 2009. See you then!
-Dave Mauro