Chamonix 2017

Euro summer! I got to Chamonix in late July and stayed for two months. During that time I worked 43 days, three of those weeks were private trips. The other trips were with Mont Blanc Guides and Alpine Ascents International. I batched it for five weeks until Cathy arrived. These are some of the highlights. 

On the summit of Aiguille du Tour on the first Alps trip of the year with Abe Hsieh and Tom Collins. Abe and Tom are from Anchorage. This was part of a week-long mountaineering course. We battled some weather, but tagged a bunch of summits, skills and wine drinking at the huts. 

On the summit of Aiguille du Tour on the first Alps trip of the year with Abe Hsieh and Tom Collins. Abe and Tom are from Anchorage. This was part of a week-long mountaineering course. We battled some weather, but tagged a bunch of summits, skills and wine drinking at the huts. 

Aspirant guide James Clapham using the Madonna as a sacrilegious short pitch horn on the summit of the Gran Paradiso, the highest point in Italy. 

Aspirant guide James Clapham using the Madonna as a sacrilegious short pitch horn on the summit of the Gran Paradiso, the highest point in Italy. 

Guide's aperitif at the Gouter Refuge. A theme of my summer in the Alps was spending hours each day BSing with guides from around the world. Working around older, career guides is initially intimidating. It must be that it's taken me eight seasons in the Alps to become comfortable in this work environment. The reality is, to be a career guide, you have to enjoy people. Keep that in mind and every foreign guide becomes a beautiful character who wants to know your story and to talk about sport climbing in Kalymnos. 

Guide's aperitif at the Gouter Refuge. A theme of my summer in the Alps was spending hours each day BSing with guides from around the world. Working around older, career guides is initially intimidating. It must be that it's taken me eight seasons in the Alps to become comfortable in this work environment. The reality is, to be a career guide, you have to enjoy people. Keep that in mind and every foreign guide becomes a beautiful character who wants to know your story and to talk about sport climbing in Kalymnos. 

Urbi Ažman chilling at the Tête Rousse Refuge on Mont Blanc. Ten years ago Urbi and Boris Lorencic smoked past Cathy and I on Aguja Guillaumet in El Chalten, Patagonia. Over the years I've spent time working and hanging with Boris. Now I got to work and get to know Urbi, yet another kind and talented Slovenian.  The next day we had an interesting experience in the wee hours, high at the Gouter Refuge. The weather was raging wind and snow. We pushed toward the summit of Mont Blanc until the clients couldn't stand upright in the wind and we returned the Gouter Refuge for coffee. One client was a successful businessman from Argentina. His business mindset couldn't comprehend why we had turned around. To him, the summit was success, drinking coffee was not. His eyebrows kept raising and he'd say, "Let's look at our options. What if...." I didn't budge from the pressure. I'd been around high profile business people before and had no tolerance for their inability to understand the difference between business and mountaineering. Urbi quietly listened to the businessman's ranting. Back home Urbi has kids and an engineering job. This brief stint of guiding was like summer camp for this Piolets d'Or-winning superhero. Urbi was itching for some excitement.  After 30 minutes of the businessman's wheeling and dealing, Urbi said to the client, "You know, when we rappel in Patagonia, the wind takes the ropes vertical above our head. I will go with you for a try." And they went out into the raging storm. They got to summit and back down. The next day Urbi was content after some challenge. The client was exhausted and proud of his summit. In the client's mind he was successful. The problem is, the didn't get it. A business attitude doesn't work for mountaineering, unless you have a Slovenian superhero. It's like climbing Everest with Sherpas who are doing 90% of the work and taking 90% of the risk. It's not mountaineering. To paraphrase climber Mark Jenkins, it's like slam dunking a basketball with a step ladder. 

Urbi Ažman chilling at the Tête Rousse Refuge on Mont Blanc. Ten years ago Urbi and Boris Lorencic smoked past Cathy and I on Aguja Guillaumet in El Chalten, Patagonia. Over the years I've spent time working and hanging with Boris. Now I got to work and get to know Urbi, yet another kind and talented Slovenian. 

The next day we had an interesting experience in the wee hours, high at the Gouter Refuge. The weather was raging wind and snow. We pushed toward the summit of Mont Blanc until the clients couldn't stand upright in the wind and we returned the Gouter Refuge for coffee. One client was a successful businessman from Argentina. His business mindset couldn't comprehend why we had turned around. To him, the summit was success, drinking coffee was not. His eyebrows kept raising and he'd say, "Let's look at our options. What if...." I didn't budge from the pressure. I'd been around high profile business people before and had no tolerance for their inability to understand the difference between business and mountaineering. Urbi quietly listened to the businessman's ranting. Back home Urbi has kids and an engineering job. This brief stint of guiding was like summer camp for this Piolets d'Or-winning superhero. Urbi was itching for some excitement. 

After 30 minutes of the businessman's wheeling and dealing, Urbi said to the client, "You know, when we rappel in Patagonia, the wind takes the ropes vertical above our head. I will go with you for a try." And they went out into the raging storm. They got to summit and back down. The next day Urbi was content after some challenge. The client was exhausted and proud of his summit. In the client's mind he was successful. The problem is, the didn't get it. A business attitude doesn't work for mountaineering, unless you have a Slovenian superhero. It's like climbing Everest with Sherpas who are doing 90% of the work and taking 90% of the risk. It's not mountaineering. To paraphrase climber Mark Jenkins, it's like slam dunking a basketball with a step ladder. 

Modern route finding with three Italian guides. As you would expect, Italian guides are the easiest to work and chat with. They have no pride issues in keeping the conversation in English to include the non-Italians. 

Modern route finding with three Italian guides. As you would expect, Italian guides are the easiest to work and chat with. They have no pride issues in keeping the conversation in English to include the non-Italians. 

My co-worder, US IFMGA Mountain Guide Tico Allulee, with Luke Robertson and Hazel Robertson on the Aiguilles Marbrees near the Trient Refuge. This was our acclimatizing day for a Mont-Blanc week organized by Becca and Al who I skied with on a 2016 Denali Ski Base Camp. 

My co-worder, US IFMGA Mountain Guide Tico Allulee, with Luke Robertson and Hazel Robertson on the Aiguilles Marbrees near the Trient Refuge. This was our acclimatizing day for a Mont-Blanc week organized by Becca and Al who I skied with on a 2016 Denali Ski Base Camp

Mont Viso rising above the Quintino Sella Refuge. Mont Viso at 12,048 feet is the highest peak in the Cottian Alps region, down near the Italian Mediterranean. Andrew Wexler, Sam Sidiqi and I had plans to climb the Matterhorn, but it was covered with snow. As a Matterhorn alternative, our buddy Dylan Taylor suggested the East Ridge of Monte Viso, which rises steeply from left to right above the hut in this photo. It snowed that night, so we ended up climbing the South Face. A nice forth and fifth class scramble. 

Mont Viso rising above the Quintino Sella Refuge. Mont Viso at 12,048 feet is the highest peak in the Cottian Alps region, down near the Italian Mediterranean. Andrew Wexler, Sam Sidiqi and I had plans to climb the Matterhorn, but it was covered with snow. As a Matterhorn alternative, our buddy Dylan Taylor suggested the East Ridge of Monte Viso, which rises steeply from left to right above the hut in this photo. It snowed that night, so we ended up climbing the South Face. A nice forth and fifth class scramble. 

Sam Sidiqi, Andrew Wexler and Joe on the summit of Mont Viso. Sam is an Afghani real estate developer living in Kuwait. Sam and I skied together in near Anchorage in 2015. Sam had two guides because Sam's buddy Mike planned to join us on the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn has a required 1:1 ratio. 

Sam Sidiqi, Andrew Wexler and Joe on the summit of Mont Viso. Sam is an Afghani real estate developer living in Kuwait. Sam and I skied together in near Anchorage in 2015. Sam had two guides because Sam's buddy Mike planned to join us on the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn has a required 1:1 ratio. 

My room mates Danny Uhlmann and Rosy Hughes at our mansion in Chamonix. That's a glacier dribbling down the hill behind Rosy. Cathy finally arrived after five weeks of me batching it with Danny and Rosy. With Cathy in Chamonix, my life was complete. 

My room mates Danny Uhlmann and Rosy Hughes at our mansion in Chamonix. That's a glacier dribbling down the hill behind Rosy. Cathy finally arrived after five weeks of me batching it with Danny and Rosy. With Cathy in Chamonix, my life was complete. 

Cathy and I had a week of vacation before returning to the US. We went to Cortina in the Dolomites, but had mostly snow and rain. We managed one day of climbing and this foggy and rainy hike below the Tre Cimes. The distant white wall is the Cima Grande, where one of the six Alps great north faces risies 600 meters up loose and overhanging limestone. Between the walls are boards and barbed wire remnants of World War I. We then succumbed to Andrew's barrage of texts to meet in Finale. 

Cathy and I had a week of vacation before returning to the US. We went to Cortina in the Dolomites, but had mostly snow and rain. We managed one day of climbing and this foggy and rainy hike below the Tre Cimes. The distant white wall is the Cima Grande, where one of the six Alps great north faces risies 600 meters up loose and overhanging limestone. Between the walls are boards and barbed wire remnants of World War I.

We then succumbed to Andrew's barrage of texts to meet in Finale. 

Cathy climbing in Oltre Finale, belayed by Andrew. Finale is on the Mediterranean, where the weather is always better.

Cathy climbing in Oltre Finale, belayed by Andrew. Finale is on the Mediterranean, where the weather is always better.

Joe, Andrew Wexler, Cathy, Eric Larson and Boris Lorencic having real deal Italian pizza after climbing at Oltre Finale. This summer Cathy did a world-class job at enduring night after night of guide talk.  Well, another late summer in the Alps. I love it and can't wait for next year. For now, I'm so excited to return home to the USA!

Joe, Andrew Wexler, Cathy, Eric Larson and Boris Lorencic having real deal Italian pizza after climbing at Oltre Finale. This summer Cathy did a world-class job at enduring night after night of guide talk. 

Well, another late summer in the Alps. I love it and can't wait for next year. For now, I'm so excited to return home to the USA!