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Advice on next peak

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Advice on next peak

Postby arxianus » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:58 am

Hi all, I'm very much new to this site as well as climbing!

I recently was in Nepal and climbed Island Peak and have become slightly obsessed with mountains since.
I found the climb relatively easy, my fitness was fine, I managed the altitude with no problems and still had
lots of energy arriving back at base camp. So I am looking for some bigger challenges.

I was looking for some advice on a good peak to go to from here. I want to get more technical experience,
and push myself more than IP did. I live in Australia which makes things a bit difficult, obviously I will
have to go overseas. I am considering Aconcagua, but I'm worried about it not being technical enough.
Can someone give me some guidance, is there enough (or even too much!) use of crampons/tools,
to gain some good experience?

Thanks for any help!
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby dadndave » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:23 am

I wouldn't say living in OZ makes things a bit difficult.

I'm assuming that you may have become enthralled with mountaineering as opposed to rockclimbing (of which there is plenty on home soil).

Given that you can fly to NZ and back for under $300 at the moment, I'd suggest looking there. Maybe a technical skills course with one of the NZ guiding companies could be a logical next step.

Honing your rockclimbing skills closer to home in the meantime will always come in handy.
What is this "scientific method" you speak of?
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby Damien Gildea » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:24 am

Depending exactly where you live, getting down/up to the Snowies in July-Sept is OK, giving you a chance to use axes and crampons on really basic snow and ice terrain, without worrying about crevasses. Blue Lake has short sections of water ice mid-winter if you want to try that and you can get some snowcamping experience into the bargain. No Sherpa bed tea though.

If you do that and find you're still keen you could then do a course in NZ in Nov-Dec and join up with someone to do peaks there. The weather is a bitch, allow plenty of time, but it's good training for bigger things, quite dangerous actually. It's really better to join up with another novice and hire a guide for just the two of you. It seems more expensive up front but you'll learn the basics heaps faster and have more chance of actually getting something done rather than in a big instructional group.

If you can't wait until Nov for something real, head to either Switzerland or France to do a course in the Alps, particularly if you want to do more technical stuff, or maybe to Mt Rainier/Cascades in WA state. Canadian Rockies are also an option.

As you always need to fly out of Aust to go mountaineering, NZ aside it's a fair expense, but in time as well as money. The more time you can spend the better, as weather foils many plans, even more so if you go to altitude again. With a little more technical training you could go to Bolivia and climb more 6000ers to get some experience climbing technical terrain at altitude, or Peru is good too, but more glaciated so crevasses are more of an issue. Plenty of info on here about both places.
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby arxianus » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:48 am

Thanks! To be honest I didn't even consider the Snowies at all... The Australian school of mountaineering have a few courses which coincide nicely with my generous one week holiday. Also I am definitely going to try and rock climb as much as possible, I'm close to the Blue Mountains so no problems. New Zealand it is from there I suppose.

So would Aconcagua be attainable from the Polish Glacier after that kind of experience?
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby adventurer » Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:01 pm

If you climb Aconcagua from the Vacas Valley, you come to a campsite point at about 19,000 ft. which is just below the Polish Glacier. From that point, depending on your confidence level and how you feel, you can choose either to climb the Polish Glacier Direct which is the most challenging tech route or you can traverse below the glacier to a point where you meet the normal route and continue to the summit from there.
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby divnamite » Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:12 pm

Quick question: is it money and time, as well as logistical problems that make folks from Australia and New Zealand to select high altitude mountains as their default introduction to mountaineering and alpine climbing trip?
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby Damien Gildea » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:25 pm

divnamite wrote:Quick question: is it money and time, as well as logistical problems that make folks from Australia and New Zealand to select high altitude mountains as their default introduction to mountaineering and alpine climbing trip?


Traditionally Australian climbers started either walking or rockclimbing in Australia then progressed to climbing in New Zealand (sometimes Europe), usually starting with a course, before going further and higher. The bulk of them still do this, rather than what you've said above.

Trekking in Nepal/India has always been popular with Australians, since the 1970s at least, and so there were always people who did a slightly different transition from easier to harder treks and adding on some peak on the side, then increasing the height and difficulty of those peaks. Given the low technical difficulty of many popular peaks - Island, Mera etc - it's not unreasonable for some people to start this way, if it's accompanied with some basic technical skills as well. You can practice crevasse rescue and self-arrest just as easily on a glacier in Nepal as outside Seattle, and the former will be more realistic. Plenty of 6000m peaks are safer and technically easier than Mt Rainier or Mt Blanc, despite traditional 'wisdom' and no NZ, Rainier or Banff tech course can prepare you for the grind and reality of altitude.

In the last 10 years or so there has been an increase in Australians signing on to commercially guided trips to popular high peaks, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe because they don't know what else to do, and they can afford it, maybe they're time poor, maybe they have no partners because few people here are mountaineers, maybe because we have no lower mountains to get our fix on here so we have to go overseas and trips such as those are easy to organise, requiring little imagination, knowledge or experience, maybe they're corporate suits wanting a big impressive tick and want to shortcut the traditional path. That last one might be a popular modern conception, but it's still not the majority.
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby divnamite » Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:07 pm

Thanks, Damien! Makes perfect sense. I figure there are ton of climbing in Asia (Japanese Alps, China) that most Aussie and Kwiws would head up that way, but flights are probably ridiculously expensive.
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby WillP » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:05 am

I second the 'go to NZ' advice, but be prepared to be humbled. I did my first NZ alpine season at age 19 a few weeks after climbing Island Peak and Lobuje East. Thought I was going to get some gnarly stuff done on some of the big ones in the Cook area. The reality was very different, I was reduced to tears leading an ice 'climb' that had been skied before.

Go to NZ to improve your technical skills (take a course if you can afford it, or as Damian said, private instruction shared is even better as long as you're all of similar experience) and to learn how to look after yourself in the mountains; but don't expect to cruise like you did in Nepal. You'll really understand the difference between 'mountaineering' and 'alpine climbing'!

But whatever you do, enjoy, be safe, and maybe see you out there! PM me if you're still interested in something over 6000m after your first NZ season, I need another foray to those heights.
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Re: Advice on next peak

Postby Damien Gildea » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:41 am

divnamite wrote:Thanks, Damien! Makes perfect sense. I figure there are ton of climbing in Asia (Japanese Alps, China) that most Aussie and Kwiws would head up that way, but flights are probably ridiculously expensive.


China has an unbelievable amount of big unclimbed rock. It's only just getting visited by climbers in the last few years, including quite a few Australians. The number of Chinese climbers is exploding too.

It's about $1,200 to get to Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan) so not so bad, though Nepal is usually only $1,500 or less and you can often get to Hong Kong for $900. But the red-tape and security issues in China put more people off going there, plus there is very little structure or tradition of expedition support like in Nepal or India. Otherwise it could be our best alpine destination. Maybe give it a decade or so as some of the lower (4000-5000m) snowy peaks are opened up. Australians could climb ice in Japan or Korea in our Jan-Feb holidays but the language barrier puts most off, so if they're keen they go to Canada, CO or Europe.

These images below are some nondescript anonymous crags by the side of the road, which I shot through the bus window in Oct 2011 in northern Yunnan. I don't know of any climbing ever done there. They're indicative of the kind of things littered all over this part of China.
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