Sad news about mass carnage up on K2 in the Himalaya. Sounds like climbers up there got too dependent on fixed ropes. An ice avalanche came down and took out the lines. Several climbers were killed outright, while a bunch of others got stranded above the missing ropes like storm wrecked sailors clinging to the hull of an overturned boat. More deaths happened when the marooned climbers tried to downclimb without the fixed lines.
Extensive use of fixed ropes on peaks such as K2 is controversial in the opinion of some mountaineers. At worst it is considered cheating. Ethical arguments aside, fixed lines are most certainly a crutch — and an unreliable on at that. You depend on someone else to climb the mountain, leave a rope, and have that rope be there when you need it despite things like wind and avalanches. As always, when reports like this filter back from the 8,000 meter peaks, the scene up there appears a bit insane if you read between the lines.
In better 8,000 meter news, check out this ski descent by Luis Stitzinger of the Diamir face on Nanga Parbat. The peak has been previously skied, but apparently never by this direct a line. Not only that, but note the round trip time of 24 hours 23 minutes. I’m unclear on if this is a ski descent from the exact summit, but the line is beautiful no matter what.
Interesting that Stitzinger was using Dynafit bindings instead of Diamir — Fritschi should have paid him a king’s ransom in sponsorship cash to use the Diamir binding on the Diamir face. Talk about a marketing hook! But then, when you’re climbing and skiing an 8,000 meter peak in a day (ho hum), you might need the lightest weight gear you can get.
Since we’re setting you up with end of week stuff to goof off with at work, lets include Fredrik Ericsson’s ski of Dhaulagiri last year. He didn’t make it from the summit, but by starting 150 meters below the apex he still got in a good run — 3,000 vertical meters of glisse. You can watch a nice movie of the descent here.
(If your day is going slow, for more 8,000 meter dreams check out last year’s Gasherbraum fun.)
Fascination with skiing 8,000 meter peaks arguably began in 1970 with Yuichiro Miura, when he brought skis to Mount Everest and skied a short section of the peak. His descent included ludicrous use of a parachute and a scary fall, but associated hype was powerful (including movies and books).
I’ve met a few people who know Miura and they say he’s a pretty cool guy who simply has a penchant for unusual adventures. I don’t doubt this, though for me as an alpinist his 1970s Everest stunt seemed totally out there.
At any rate, Miura is now making adventure by doing Everest climbs at an advanced age. If you check out his expedition website you can watch video of his 1970s Everest parachute assisted ski fall. Still rad. Perhaps the seminal event in the sport of cliff hucking?
In other news, up in the PNW some kids out hunting shot and killed a woman by mistake. Every hunter’s worst nightmare, and I’m sad for everyone involved.
Lesson, if you’re out in the woods during hunting season, wear some hunter orange. If you don’t wear the glow, at first glance a hunter may have to do a double take to figure out if he’s seeing an animal or human. Worse, if visibility is bad or you’re partly visible because of vegetation or terrain, said hunter may be glassing you or even looking at you through his rifle scope for way too long, trying figure out your species. Do you really want that?
One of the most clownish things you see during hunting season is people hiking with surveyors tape decorated dogs, while they themselves wear no orange whatsoever. When have you even heard of an elk or deer hunter shooting a dog by mistake? Furthermore, what’s the logic of protecting your dog and not yourself!? Reminds me of those vacation families you see up at the ski resorts, with all the kids wearing helmets while the parents dodder around without. (Though while snowplowing at 5 mph you probably need to worry more about your knees than your skull — I must admit.)
(Please note, above is written as general editorial, and in no way blames the victim for this terrible accident. The point is that hunters make mistakes, and you don’t want them making one on you, so wear the orange even if you don’t carry a weapon.)
Jake Burton of snowboarding fame is always popping up here and there in the backcountry webosphere. In this recent article from New Zealand he mentions backcountry — I’d love to see him out there someday and make a few turns with the guy.
We’ve installed a Scan Gauge in the Versa, so that’ll give me the feedback I need to determine if drafting semi tractors is worth the danger.
As for WildSnow news, we’re headed out to Utah today for a visit to the Temple of Gear otherwise known as the Outdoor Retailer Show. Tomorrow we’ll be meeting with many of our website supporters, as well as trolling for new sacraments. So I’ll file reports on that as time permits.
I’m driving our little Nissan Versa gas sipper out there. Once on I-80 I’ll try some hypermiling and see if we can beat Prius at their own game, since we don’t have to haul the weight of a battery pack.
I highly recommend a Scan Gauge for almost any vehicle if you’re serious about improving your driving skills. It’s a small LCD that plugs into your diagnostic port and gives essential feedback such as your real-time mpg and all sorts of other info from your transportation appliance’s central computer.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.