Mountaineering/Alpinism

BloodStripe

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Anyone here into mountaineering or alpinism? Looking to tackle Mont Blanc in 2024 (unfortunately my wife already planned 2023 vacations and while I am in decent enough shape, where I know I could climb it in 6 months, giving myself a year will for fitness will vastly improve my confidence in knowing that part won’t be my weak link) and the Matterhorn in 2025 as it’s a more technical climb.

I have zero experience with crampons and haven’t hiked at altitude in a very long time so I’m looking at taking an alpine class this spring to learn basics on use plus whatever else.
 
Anyone here into mountaineering or alpinism? Looking to tackle Mont Blanc in 2024 (unfortunately my wife already planned 2023 vacations and while I am in decent enough shape, where I know I could climb it in 6 months, giving myself a year will for fitness will vastly improve my confidence in knowing that part won’t be my weak link) and the Matterhorn in 2025 as it’s a more technical climb.

I have zero experience with crampons and haven’t hiked at altitude in a very long time so I’m looking at taking an alpine class this spring to learn basics on use plus whatever else.
I climbed Mt. Blanc in 1981 while in the Italian Alpini course...did it again in 1983 with my detachment...in '81, we had been at altitude for 5+ weeks when we did the climb...actually, we did Mt. Blanc du Tacul, Mt. Maudit and then Mt. Blanc proper....three summits over 4000 meters in what was a 20-hour day...I don't recommend doing that. In '83, the group of us that did the climb were in the company of two German Army trained Heeresbergfuehers (military mountain guides)...one was the senior medic on my team, the other a radio operator on another team. Not every guy that was on the exercise made the climb...it is far from a picnic.

The Mer du Glace is difficult to cross due to the numerous crevasses...but that said, from the French side, there is a reasonable approach that requires little more than physical conditioning and probably six point crampons...there's a cable car on the French side, I think you can get it out of Chamonix, that will take you a good ways up the mountain.

I don't climb anymore and I no longer live in an alpine region, but I would advise caution, go with someone who's been there, done that and give yourself time to acclimate. If that's not possible, I'd advise finding another hill to climb, in all honesty.

The intel sergeant on my team in '83 was a PT stud...ran a couple miles before team PT each morning, ran or worked out after training each day and found out that he couldn't handle high altitude when we went to Blanc. We had to quarter him in Courmayeur while we trained on the glacier. We stayed at Refugio Torino (Latrino) which is about 11,000 feet above sea level. The funny thing about high altitude is it's not just climbing that wears you out, but it's also time spent at altitude. Cheynes-Stokes breathing is a real thing and not sleeping is a common problem.

There's a lot of information online about doing the climb, which I suspect you've already reasearched. Good luck.

Edited to remove a redundant phrase.
 
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Mt Blanc has summit elevation of 4,807.81m/15,774ft. 2,438.4m/8000ft is the elevation/altitude one needs to start considering acclimatation which is more than simply being in shape. As previous post mentions being in excellent physical condition doesn't assure the body will adapt quickly when exerting oneself as one ascends higher than 8,000 ft and even higher above 10,000ft.

Was part of USAF High Altitude Rescue Team and rescued many civilian and military climbers and even a few pilots and crew of helicopters that crashed taking skiers to high remote mountain ridges/tops skiing thrills at elevations from 10,000ft to 18,000ft. Climbing above 13,000ft for extended periods that involves significant exertion puts much stress on the body. Due to partial pressure of gases at these altitudes many don't consider the nuances and risks of high-altitude hypoxia and liver injury, particularly if one doesn't acclimatize properly or has certain underlying medical conditions.

Did quite a few rescue missions similar to this crewing Army CH-47s (Sugar Bears) 1977-1980 in Alaska: Rescue at 19,500 feet ties McKinley record On 28 July 1979 one rescue involved hovering out of ground effect at 16.400 off the side of a near vertical slope and lowering a PJ to get an injured Japanese climber. (we didn't have the time to acclimate and no supplemental oxygen for going up and down the hoist). The PJ going down the hoist got a DFC, the CH-47 crewmembers including other PJ got the Air Medal.

I participated in this rescue in 1982: A helicopter carrying five Reno, Nev., area skiers and...

Here's some medical info to read: Acute Mountain Sickness: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

FYI: I happened to be on the summit (took the cog train to the top)-https://news.yahoo.com/mass-man-hiking-mountain-nh-124324137.html
 
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Guides are not infallible. Many PJs assigned to Alaska during the 1970s who were most into mountaineering knew this guide-- Ray Genet - Wikipedia -- including me.

There is a reason I have a healthy respect for the mountains as climbing has taken more I personally and/or professionally knew than parachuting and diving has. The mountains did their best to take me on a few occasions.

Not sure, but professional mountain guide certification wasn't much of an occupation requirement prior to the 1990s. Furthermore, if you are roped up, you need a bit more than walking with crampon skills.

American Mountain Guide/IFMGA Guide | AMGA
You might want to consider Backcountry Travel – The Peak, Inc. I personally and professionally know the Retired USAF Chief Master Sergeant owning the company.
 
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I think it was a Reinhold Messner book I was looking thru as a teenager long ago when I had huge goals of mountaineering or becoming a ski bum...or both. Inside it I saw a pic of someone doing a 1 finger pullup, but their body was parellel to the ground. I quickly realized I would never summit and ski down MT. EVEREST...so I joined the Army.

:ROFLMAO:O_o
 
I've been rock climbing and mountaineering for the past decade and a half. I've done a little bit in the Cascades and British Columbia, and a ton out in Yosemite, the High Sierra, and all throughout the desert southwest. I actually got my start by taking advice on an old Air Force forum (AFEF) from a SOF support guy back in the day which led to quite a few years living out of my truck chasing sunny, dry rock to climb after I got off of active duty.

There are plenty of good options stateside to get you prepped for Mont Blanc. I would recommend trying to get in a trip next summer out west somewhere to get some climbing and crampon/ice-axe practice. Somewhere in the Cascades or British Columbia would be best. If you still have some GI Bill left, the American Alpine Institute is an outstanding guide/instruction service based out of Bellingham, WA that takes the GI Bill for its "Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership" courses. The first course is a 12-day course taught up in the North Cascades. The instructors are guides, but it is heavy on instruction and teaching you the skills you need to be successful--not just dragging you up the mountain to tag the summit. You can always just hire guides to drag your ass up, but I think it is more safe, more fun, and way more rewarding in the long run to really learn the shit yourself and learn how to keep yourself safe and make good risk decisions in the mountains. Even if you can't do it for free through the GI Bill, it is well worth the money you'll spend out of pocket.

Even if you don't do AAI, I'd still look for a way to get some instruction and mileage on rock/ice/snow this summer if you can. It will help force you to focus on getting in shape for the summer, it will give you a good gut check at where your body and head is, and it will also reveal issues with gear/clothing that you will want to resolve before you head for a bigger objective. Flying all the way over to Europe to do Mont Blanc only to get shut down by preventable issues would suck.

Also, I've tried a bunch of different mountain training plans over the years, and I've come to really rely on and trust Rob Schaul's plans over at Mountain Tactical Institute. Rob is based out of Jackson, WY and he basically writes the curriculum for Exum's guide training (the premier guide service in the Grand Tetons outside of Jackson). He's got a ton of plans focused on either SOF prep or mountain athlete training (climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, guiding... etc). His programs are practical, well-rounded, and directly applicable to the fitness you need in the mountains. The ones that I'd take a look at if I were in your shoes are:
Feel free to shoot me a message with any specific questions you have. Climbing led to me living/working in Yosemite for a quite a few years and I've seen lots of good ways to get into it as well as lots of shitty and dangerous ways to do it. I've also got a really good friend who is a senior mountain guide out with Alpenglow Expeditions in California if you were looking for some one-on-one instruction or guiding. Let me know. Good luck!
 
I've been rock climbing and mountaineering for the past decade and a half. I've done a little bit in the Cascades and British Columbia, and a ton out in Yosemite, the High Sierra, and all throughout the desert southwest. I actually got my start by taking advice on an old Air Force forum (AFEF) from a SOF support guy back in the day which led to quite a few years living out of my truck chasing sunny, dry rock to climb after I got off of active duty.

There are plenty of good options stateside to get you prepped for Mont Blanc. I would recommend trying to get in a trip next summer out west somewhere to get some climbing and crampon/ice-axe practice. Somewhere in the Cascades or British Columbia would be best. If you still have some GI Bill left, the American Alpine Institute is an outstanding guide/instruction service based out of Bellingham, WA that takes the GI Bill for its "Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership" courses. The first course is a 12-day course taught up in the North Cascades. The instructors are guides, but it is heavy on instruction and teaching you the skills you need to be successful--not just dragging you up the mountain to tag the summit. You can always just hire guides to drag your ass up, but I think it is more safe, more fun, and way more rewarding in the long run to really learn the shit yourself and learn how to keep yourself safe and make good risk decisions in the mountains. Even if you can't do it for free through the GI Bill, it is well worth the money you'll spend out of pocket.

Even if you don't do AAI, I'd still look for a way to get some instruction and mileage on rock/ice/snow this summer if you can. It will help force you to focus on getting in shape for the summer, it will give you a good gut check at where your body and head is, and it will also reveal issues with gear/clothing that you will want to resolve before you head for a bigger objective. Flying all the way over to Europe to do Mont Blanc only to get shut down by preventable issues would suck.

Also, I've tried a bunch of different mountain training plans over the years, and I've come to really rely on and trust Rob Schaul's plans over at Mountain Tactical Institute. Rob is based out of Jackson, WY and he basically writes the curriculum for Exum's guide training (the premier guide service in the Grand Tetons outside of Jackson). He's got a ton of plans focused on either SOF prep or mountain athlete training (climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, guiding... etc). His programs are practical, well-rounded, and directly applicable to the fitness you need in the mountains. The ones that I'd take a look at if I were in your shoes are:
Feel free to shoot me a message with any specific questions you have. Climbing led to me living/working in Yosemite for a quite a few years and I've seen lots of good ways to get into it as well as lots of shitty and dangerous ways to do it. I've also got a really good friend who is a senior mountain guide out with Alpenglow Expeditions in California if you were looking for some one-on-one instruction or guiding. Let me know. Good luck!


Great post. I am currently in Italy so looking at hitting the Dolomites this year and next as training runs up to it. I’ll digest the rest.
 
Oh nice, didn't realize you were already in Europe! Well, the part about getting out west might be moot, but definitely look for a good instruction/guide service out in Europe. The IFMGA cert is pretty much the gold standard and you'll find guides throughout Europe with it.
 
When I did technical/mountain rescue I climbed up to around 15k. The skills of alpine climbing are not hard, but you do need training (I think). More than technical skills is the altitude medicine aspect.

Good luck, and have fun!!
 
Hopefully I didn’t fuck myself too bad. Out walking up hills this afternoon and my ankle rolled under me followed by my knee that cracked. I would have fallen off the trail and possibly down a 300ish ft drop off if not for a dead tree catching my fall. Very difficult to put weight on it without it feeling like it’s giving way. I ended up sliding down with zero grace because I couldn’t put pressure on it. I wore a different pair of hiking boots than I normally wear and think it contributed to me slipping. Here’s hoping it’s just a sprain but both dogs are curled up on me which I don’t take as a good sign as they usually aren’t at this time of day.
 
Hopefully I didn’t fuck myself too bad. Out walking up hills this afternoon and my ankle rolled under me followed by my knee that cracked. I would have fallen off the trail and possibly down a 300ish ft drop off if not for a dead tree catching my fall. Very difficult to put weight on it without it feeling like it’s giving way. I ended up sliding down with zero grace because I couldn’t put pressure on it. I wore a different pair of hiking boots than I normally wear and think it contributed to me slipping. Here’s hoping it’s just a sprain but both dogs are curled up on me which I don’t take as a good sign as they usually aren’t at this time of day.

Likely 'just' a sprain; but, we all know that sprains can sometimes be worse than fractures. You know the standard RICE protocol. Happy for dead trees.
 
Dodged a bullet. Have a LCL and medial gastrocnemius lateral (had to Google that one again) strain. Doc says lay off it for 3 to 5 weeks but if feeling better can resume walks on flat surfaces but stay off the mountains and running. He thinks the pop I heard was the injury to my lateral and not knee.
 
I used to be fascinated with the idea of climbing Everest. It started after I read Krakauer's book, 'Into Thin Air'. After reading and researching more, I began to realize how it really seemed to be much more a game of money and ego and ultimately got turned off by the idea. Nonetheless, I still have a casual interest and have buddies that have done Denali, etc.

With that said, I thought this would be the right place to post this story:
Nepali sherpa saves Malaysian climber in rare Everest 'death zone' rescue

Sherpas are the true drivers behind these expeditions. This sherpa carried this climber down the mountain on his back for 6 hrs!
 
I used to be fascinated with the idea of climbing Everest. It started after I read Krakauer's book, 'Into Thin Air'. After reading and researching more, I began to realize how it really seemed to be much more a game of money and ego and ultimately got turned off by the idea. Nonetheless, I still have a casual interest and have buddies that have done Denali, etc.

With that said, I thought this would be the right place to post this story:
Nepali sherpa saves Malaysian climber in rare Everest 'death zone' rescue

Sherpas are the true drivers behind these expeditions. This sherpa carried this climber down the mountain on his back for 6 hrs!

I have a friend who is a emergency medicine physician, but has a big expertise in wilderness medicine. He is a medical director on a very large and technically proficient mountain rescue team in the Appalachians.

He has done Everest a couple times, once as a climber, once as the medical guy. He said it's not a super technical It's just the altitude. He said some climbers will spend 4 months at the various base camps before they attempt to summit, it's not something you go and do over the course of a couple weeks.

I've done some mountaineering, and some altitude stuff, I have no interest in Everest. Which is a good thing, considering how expensive it is.
 
I used to be fascinated with the idea of climbing Everest. It started after I read Krakauer's book, 'Into Thin Air'. After reading and researching more, I began to realize how it really seemed to be much more a game of money and ego and ultimately got turned off by the idea. Nonetheless, I still have a casual interest and have buddies that have done Denali, etc.

With that said, I thought this would be the right place to post this story:
Nepali sherpa saves Malaysian climber in rare Everest 'death zone' rescue

Sherpas are the true drivers behind these expeditions. This sherpa carried this climber down the mountain on his back for 6 hrs!

I almost forgot, there is a TV series, Everest: Beyond the Limit. I saw it on Amazon, I think it's a Discovery Channel production. Follows climbers and the teams. Very insightful.
 
I almost forgot, there is a TV series, Everest: Beyond the Limit. I saw it on Amazon, I think it's a Discovery Channel production. Follows climbers and the teams. Very insightful.
If you're interested, and haven't already seen it, check out 14 Peaks on Netflix. It follows a group of Nepali sherpas led by one named Nirmal "Nims" Purja as they set out to summit the world's 14 tallest peaks in just 7 months. If you take nothing else from the film, it's that sherpas, particularly Nepali sherpas, are the true studs of the mountain.

Here's a pretty good synopsis:
14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible movie review (2021) | Roger Ebert
 
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