Decision 2012

I couldn’t write this post till just now as I’ve been waiting for Shelley to be able to finalize her vacation schedule for 2012.  Her group picked vacations on Monday evening and we have made our reservations in the past few days.  I just needed to wait till it was all final before making this trip official.

Every once in a while I still get the question, “Now that you’ve done Denali, what’s next?”  Or, “I guess Everest is next?”

Well, Everest isn’t next.  Denali was such an adventure and such an accomplishment for Shelley and I.  We trained and prepared for that climb for over two years.  For us, there really isn’t another goal like that out there short of going to the Himalaya or Karakoram.  Well, going to either pole or Antarctica would be up there in that category as well.  But, alas, we have neither the time or money to take part in such an adventure.  If the opportunity arose, we would seriously look at it, but neither of us are actively seeking such a trip out right now.

So what does that leave?  Well, it leaves quite a lot actually.  But what to choose?

We narrowed it down to four choices.

1.  We thought about going to Africa and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and then doing a week-long safari afterwards.  But we passed on that one.

2.  We thought about going to South America and climbing Aconcagua.  It’s the highest peak outside of the Himalaya.

3.  We thought about going to Ecuador and spending two weeks climbing some big peaks there.  We really had a good time doing that sort of thing in Mexico.

But we passed on the these three options.  We’ll probably do some, or all three of these things at some point, but not in 2012.

The one thing that Denali didn’t really feel like was a vacation.  Outside of seeing Talkeetna, we didn’t get to see Alaska.  We didn’t go on vacation and be tourists.  We were gone for three weeks and we worked hard the whole time.  The other thing about Denali was that it was my trip.  Three years ago I started getting the bug to go and Shelley kind of caught that bug from me.  So for 2012 I told Shelley it was her turn to pick the mountain.  The three listed above were three of the four she thought sounded interesting.  But when it really came down to it, she wanted a vacation.

She wanted Europe.  That meant only one mountain range.  The Alps.

That picture is Mt Blanc, France.  The highest peak in Western Europe, 15,782 feet.  And we are going there August 6 – 12, 2012.

We are climbing Mt Blanc with Adventure Consultants (AC).  One of our friends we met in Mexico climbed with them in the Himalaya a few years back when he climbed Shishapangma and gave them good reviews as a guiding company.  In fact our friend, Joe, is in the Himalaya with them now climbing Himlung.  The other reason for going with AC was they don’t have set dates for their climb.  We book the trip and set our own dates.  The guide ratio is 2-1, so it’s basically a private climb.  That was very convenient, as you’ll understand a bit better in a few minutes.  As many of you know, most of our climbing as been with Alpine Ascents International (AAI) and we really like them.  But their dates for Mt Blanc just didn’t match up.

Another really cool part of climbing Mt Blanc will the acclimation climb in the first few days.  This acclimation climb is to the top of Gran Paradiso.  It is considered an “easy” climb, except for the very top.  At 13,323 it is the highest peak in Italy.

After we finish with Mt Blanc we are going to stay in the Alps area and spend another week doing day hikes.  Shelley is still working out the details of the itinerary.  We thought about doing a week-long trip with a guided hiking company.  They would take care of your bags, and set your reservations, etc.  Very convenient.  And about $2,000 more per person.  But in the end, we decided to be tourists and set the trip up ourselves.  There’s something appealing about “winging it” when you travel abroad.  I wouldn’t want to “wing it” in Chechnya, but I think we’ll be okay in Switzerland.  We’re going to arrange our own hotels and our own hikes and just be on vacation without a planned and choreographed schedule.

I’m really looking forward to that week.

So, why didn’t AAI’s schedule work out?  Why was AC’s convenience of setting our own dates necessary?

Because before we climb Mt Blanc, I’m going to Mt Elbrus, Russia.  Mt Elbrus is in the Cacuasus mountain range in southern Russia near the border with Georgia.  At 18,510 feet it is the tallest mountain on the European continent and, like Denali, one of the Seven Summits.

Why the hell am I doing that?

Well, since we are going to Europe and I’m paying for the airfare to get there and back I figured I might as well make the most of the trip.  Why not run over to the tallest peak on the continent and take a shot at it.  I may only get one shot at going to Europe and since I’m going to be in the area…………………why not?

I will be climbing Mt Elbrus with AAI.  In fact, I’m hoping that Vern Tejas will be the guide again too.  He did all of the Mt Elbrus trips this year for AAI and they are advertising that he will do it again in 2012.  But I know that can change.  It would be disappointing not to climb with him again, but I understand if there’s a change.  Hell, he may see me on the roster and ask not to go!

The Mt Elbrus trip is set for the end of July.  It ends on the 5th of August and is two weeks long.  Typically, most climbs of Mt Elbrus go up the south side.  But in 2011, due to an increase in terrorism, AAI moved the climb to the north side.  The more difficult side.  I’m hoping to do that north side in 2012.  Not to avoid any possible terrorism, but it’s a more challenging side.  AAI told me they will set the route sometime in December.

So the plan is for Shelley to arrive in Geneva on August 4.  She’ll hook up with some hot, fit Swiss climber for a night before I fly into Geneva from Moscow on August 5.  On August 6 we’ll take the train to Chamonix, France and start our climb of Mt Blanc.

That’s the overall plan.  Our reservations have been set and our down payments are paid.  As we learn more and as the itinerary gets finalized I’ll update the plan.

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