Sherpas May Install Ladder On Everest To Lessen Crowds

A controversial plan to install a ladder on Mt. Everest has been met with a less than enthusiastic response from the mountaineering community. The mountain guides behind the proposal say that the ladder will help to alleviate traffic jams near the summit, while purists claim that it will detract from the overall challenge of the climb.

The plan was first made public this past weekend when Dawa Steven Sherpa, a prominent mountain guide and member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal, revealed that the organization was considering installing a ladder at the Hillary Step, a crucial point in the climb on Everest’s South Side. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to scale it, the Hillary Step is located at 28,750 feet. The 40-foot rock wall has been the cause of bottlenecks in recent years as climbers attempt to negotiate the tricky route while wearing crampons and other heavy climbing gear. Since only one person can be on the ropes at any given time, others end up standing around watching and waiting for their turn. This can be especially dangerous due to the thin air, cold temperatures and weather conditions that have been known to change abruptly.

According to Dawa, the ladder would only be used by climbers who are descending, which would have little to no impact on the level of challenge related to the climb. It would simply direct the traffic heading down in a slightly different direction, thus eliminating congestion and diminishing traffic jams.But opponents of the plan say that those coming to the mountain should already know how to safely climb a relatively easy technical section such as the Hillary Step. They argue that the ladder will enable even more people to attempt Everest, bring more inexperienced and untested climbers to the mountain. Critics say that it could possibly even lead to further crowding in the future.

It should be noted that ladders are already used on certain sections of Everest. For instance, climbers on the South Side use them to traverse the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous section that would be nearly impossible to pass through without the aid of a ladder. On the North Side of the mountain, which falls inside China controlled Tibet, there is a permanent ladder installed at a place called the Second Step. That rock face is far more difficult than the Hillary Step however and without the ladder there, almost no one would successfully reach the top along that route.

Personally, I feel that if Nepal truly wants to make the mountain safer they should limit the number of permits that are issued each year. That won’t happen however, as the permits bring in a lot of money to a country that is otherwise extremely poor. Given the alternatives, I’d say adding the ladder is a wise move.

Mountain Climbing Course Brings Skills From Experts

Just after completing the second ascent of Kilimanjaro‘s Breach Icicle 25 years ago, Scott Fischer and Wes Krause realized that they were hooked on adventure. Since then they have faced grizzly bears, walked among lions, rode avalanches and made first ascents, founding Mountain Madness to provide the highest quality experience for beginner and advanced mountaineers and trekkers alike.

Coming up in October, Mountain Madness guides head to Red Rocks, one of the best desert rock-climbing areas, offering something for every climber from challenging sport routes to long and classic multi-pitch traditional climbs.

“Few climbing locations have as much sun and varied climbing as the beautiful canyons found in the Red Rocks National Conservation Area” says Mountain Madness on its website – and they should know. Mountain Madness was selected by Outside, America’s leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, as a recipient of its first-ever Active Travel Awards earlier this year.In addition to the diverse Red Rocks terrain, unique to the Mountain Madness program is the freedom to adjust your itinerary as the weather, climbing conditions and the objective allow.

The scheduled five-day course starts with an orientation and equipment check, with a review of essential knot tying skills and proper use of equipment. Top rope set-up, anchors, belaying a lead climber, cleaning protection, rappelling and rope management take up the rest of the day that ends at a nearby campground.

The next day is devoted to practicing skills including a warm-up multi-pitch climb with the evening saved to enjoy the Las Vegas nightlife. After that, guides cover anchoring systems, and equalization techniques with time to apply the skills learned throughout the course in the multi-pitch climbing arena.

The course gets an early start each day to beat the crowds and the heat, giving flexibility regarding which routes to climb in Red Rocks, depending on skills and interests.

The October course starts at $795 per person with one guide for every four students and includes group-climbing equipment. Check the Mountain Madness website for more information.

Want to get an idea of what its like to climb Red Rocks? Check this video:

[Flickr photo by justonlysteve]

Video: ‘Wild Love’ And The Adventure Stories We Rarely Share

Here at Gadling, we often tell stories of adventure: of traveling to far-off lands and meeting fascinating locals and sampling unpronounceable foods and returning home with bug bites and slipper tans and tales to be told over cocktails at dinner parties.

But the stories we less often share are the stories of what we sacrifice for those adventures: the patterns we disrupt, the worries we create and the often heartbreaking agony of being apart from the people that we love.

That’s why this short film from the Wild Love Project was familiar and somewhat painful to watch. The film follows a couple, Jake Norton and Wende Valentine, as they try to reconcile Jake’s love of mountaineering with the obligations of family life. Though it’s difficult, the couple makes it work so that they can impart to their children the importance of pursuing what makes them come alive.

In a release for the film, which premiered last month at the Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Jake discussed some of the questions at the heart of the film:

In my experience, the climbing community has some topics, which they generally don’t want to discuss… how does climbing fit in with love, life, family? How do climbers evaluate risk and continue climbing when the responsibility changes and a spouse and children are added to the mix? Is continuing to climb simply selfish, or is there another explanation, a philosophy about life and passion and living which explains the need to keep climbing?

I’m sure most travelers can relate. I sure do.

Five uses for carabiners (besides climbing)

I’m a big multi-tasker. I’m also tiny, cheap, and a “lite” traveler. Even when I’m going on the road for a couple of months, I somehow manage to cram it all in my backpack. I use a daypack for carrying my essentials (passport, credit cards, cash, documents, sunblock, sunglasses, water, etc..), but it’s only so big. At 5’2″ I don’t like to haul around something the size of a parasitic twin.

This is why I love carabiners. These oval, pear-, or D-shaped metal clips–of the style used by rock and mountain climbers–are handy and versatile, and come in a variety of sizes, gauges, and prices. I never use professional carabiners, which are more weighty and costly than my intended uses (they also have screw, auto-, or triple-locks, rather than straight gates, which I find more handy for light use). I do, however, purchase heavier, stainless carabiners of the sort found at REI or other outdoor stores.

I seem to find a new use on every trip, and admittedly, I sometimes resemble either a pack mule or a bag lady after a day of exploring, shopping, or hiking. But who cares? It’s better than wrecking my back by using a bigger pack or traveling with shoulder bags that don’t don’t compress well (I do, however, keep a canvas tote rolled into the bottom of my big backpack so I can haul souvenirs home).

So what exactly can you do with ‘biners? Read on.

1. Carry your baseball hat or shoes on your backpack
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this, both on my daypack and large pack. Sometimes I don’t have enough room to pack my running shoes, Chaco’s, or hiking boots, or maybe I need a spare pair of shoes for a day trip (apologies to former seatmates who have endured the stench of my sweaty shoes during flights). I also wear a baseball hat for sun protection if I’m doing any kind of outdoor recreational activity, but once I’m done with it, snap.

2. Clip on some shopping bags
I travel with a nylon shopping bag in a stuff sack (I recommend ChicoBags) so I can cut down on plastic if my daypack is full. But it’s a pain to carry multiple shopping bags, regardless of material–especially if, like me, you’re easily distracted and tend to leave them behind at every stop. Clip ’em on to your day bag and they’ll make it back to your accommodation. I also carry my travel coffee mug this way (obviously, you want to purchase one with a full handle, which can be tough to find for some reason).

[Photo credit: Flickr user chriscom]3. Air-dry your bathing suit
Knot the straps or, if you’re a guy, use that little waistband tie (many boardshorts also have key rings in their pockets). Um, don’t forget a change of clothes.

4. Key ring
I love travel-size tubes of sunblock that come with carabiners on them. Not only does it provide me with an accessible way to reapply when I’m paddling, hiking, riding, or skiing, but I get a free key ring out of it once I’ve refilled the tube to death. When I’m traveling, I snap my hotel keys (card keys are few and far between on the budget traveler trail) to a carabiner, and attach them to my body or within my daypack. Some people prefer to leave keys at the front desk, but the control freak in me likes to hang on to them.

5. Makeshift/emergency zipper
I discovered this one last week when I acquired a few too many ponchos and woolen hats in Chile. My tote bag was overflowing, so I snapped a large ‘biner onto the handles. It helped contain the alpaca within, and kept my souvenirs from scattering throughout the overhead bin on the plane. The same concept applies if you have a zipper break on a bag. It won’t solve things if it’s an item that requires checking, but at least it will help keep your belongings together until you find a replacement.

Got any cool travel uses for carabiners? We want to hear about them!

Video of the Day: Wile E. Coyote in 127 Hours

127 Hours tells the story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who had a boulder fall on his arm and trap him in a canyon in Utah. It’s an epic tale of survival and a harsh reminder that adventure travel can be gravely dangerous. The film features some gruesome scenes, including Aron cutting off his own arm to escape. Thankfully, this parody starring Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner is much easier to watch.

Stay safe out there, kids. Pack a first aid kit and always let people know where you are. We do, however, recommend that you leave your dynamite at home. The TSA frowns on you bringing it on planes.

[Via Vulture]