Keens Chop House

Keens Chop House
She's old, but still catches your eye

Pipes Galore

Pipes Galore
90000 Pipes are stored here

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Providing "Value"

One of the most important things to a guy, beyond the material things such as making enough money to pay the bills, is to be recognized for the accomplishments, achievements, and contributions he makes to his organization, job, family, or community.

This is a fundamental need for men.  To have someone say, "good job", "we appreciate what you have done for us", or "you really made a difference", provides a man the lift he needs and the motivation to keep going.  The military saw this a long time ago, when some general came up with the idea of awarding medals for valor, courage, and contribution.  Think of it. A young man puts his life on the line, gets shot at, perhaps wounded, and undoubtedly scared out of his mind.  Shortly after this traumatic event that would send most people into a fetal position, a high ranking officer comes into his life and presents him with a small piece of colored ribbon, that costs less than a buck, and not worth anything to a pawn shop.  But to the soldier, it means the world.   As a result, he re-enlists when his contracted time of service is up.  Now obviously the medal is not the only reason that the soldier re-ups, but it is a key factor.  The man was recognized for what he contributed; for his value; for what he has given to the community.

In the civilian world, we do not have such medals, ribbons, and awards.  We do not wear our accomplishments on our chest.  Therefore  it becomes more important to pay attention to the day to day accomplishments and contributions that a man makes.

When something takes significant effort, recognition of the achievement, takes only a few considered words to ensure that the man will provide the same effort in the future.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Old Rag Mountain - a Virginia Munro

This last weekend had all the ups and downs that a weekend could have. It has been over 36/37 degrees C here for the last three days - talk about a change! Hot and Humid.
Went to Old Rag Mountain on Saturday - It stands 1042 M high - It would qualify for a Munro :) It has all the fun stuff of a rugged challenging day. Uphill hiking, some rock scrambling, beautiful views.

As is normal for these trips, Ken had put out an invitatoin to a bunch of folks he knows, some of whom had not hiked before, but were looking forward to the experience. Those that have hiked with us before, were anticipating the "treats " at the top. At the top, Ken and I broke out Wine, cheese, hummus, pita, grapes, pate, crackers - a veritable feast for the 13 or so that were with us.

Earlier in the day, there was a bit of a tricky spot that was giving a Girl Scout troop some difficulty. I had climbed part way down, braced myself and gave each one a hand up - Moms and Girls. At the top, they came by where we were sitting and serenaded me with a song. It was so CUTE :) I blushed and loved every minute of it.

On the trip down, one of the 15 yr old girls with our group went out in front of the group as she was anxious to get back to the bottom for ice water, etc. She took a wrong turn before anyone saw her. We were missing her for about 1 1/2 hours, during which he mother was crawing right out of her skin with anxiety. Neither one had been on a hike like this before. Ken's wife, Karen, kept telling her that Ken and I did this all the time and that her daughter would be found quickly because we knew what we were doing. I called the park service and initiated a quick search, with my study of the map predicting where she might have gone. A park steward drove in a vehicle and found her fairly promptly and all ended well. Mom was pretty grateful.

Old Rag is one of those Virgina Treasures that is so nice - mostly pristine, and so out of the rat race of washington DC, as to make one think they are in another country. It helps to clear the brain and reset one's heart

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reclaiming History - One Pipe at a Time

In 1976, my father took me to Keens Chop House in New York City. I was a Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was on a business trip. Years before, when he was a college student at Manhattan College, and working on the second tube of the Lincoln Tunnel, Keens Chop House was one of his regular spots. It was then that he first joined the Pipe Club, and had his pipe stored with the pipe warden at Keens.

Keens had a history of being at one time, a Pipe Smoking Club, where individuals would leave a "chuch warden" pipe, made of clay with a long stem. In those days, the clay pipe was too fragile to be put in a purse or handbag, so individuals left their pipes at the inn inder the care of the Pipe Warden. So in 1976, when smoking was still allowed in New York City, it had been a number of years since he had been to Keens, but it was still a smoking establishment, with each table featuring a tin of tobacco in the center, and large smoke-sucking fans, keeping the air clear.

When he called for his pipe, a waiter brought him his pipe with his serial number and signature. My Dad was actually amazed because it had been so long. Naturally, I joined the pipe club that night, signed my pipe and turned it over to be stored when dinner was finished. For years I kept the card, even when I had heard that Keens had closed down (not knowing if it would reopen).

In the years since I graduated from West Point, a career in the Army, and being moved around in my businesses, I am not sure I can find my pipe card. My father passed away in 2003, and I may or may not be able to find his card either. But I am on a mission to honor the memory of my father and see if I can locate our pipes.

I tell you that story to tell you this one:

Last week I was in New York City for the first real time since about 1980. I went to Keens Chop House. From the outside it is very non-descript - to the point that you had better know what you are looking for if you are to find it. Inside it had not changed from the time I remember it. It is a real old school classic in the heart of NYC that maintains the traditions of yore and a decor to match. 90,000 pipes are racked on the ceiling in each of 4 restaurant rooms, as well as along many of the walls. I was able to identify precisely where my father and I had sat 32 years ago.

I asked the Maitre D' if I would be allowed to take photos of this Excellent establishment and proceeded to tell him my historical tale asking if there was a way to find my pipe and that of my father. He told me that if I had the card (s) they would certainly be able to find the pipe.

WhenI returned from New York, I wrote to Keens asking about how to go about finding the pipes. I know that at one time there was a registry of pipe holders. I do not actually recall if I signed a registry in 1976 or not. I also know that that registry has many distinguished signatures and as such, is a true treasure, that demands the utmost care. On the chance that I and my father did sign the registry, I asked if there was any possibility that I would be allowed (with
assistance) to look at the registry to try and find our pipes. Within 2 hours, I received a call from the General Manager, who told me that the search is on.

Some things are worth following up, if for no other reason thanto preserve history and the tales of our forefathers.


An Olde English Chop House and Pub

In 1976, my father took me to Keens Chop House in New York City. I was a Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was on a business trip. Years before, when he was a college student at Manhattan College, and working on the second tube of the Lincoln Tunnel, Keens Chop House was one of his regular spots.

Here is a Description of that wonderful Place.

When David King arrives on a visit to New York from London one of his first stops maywell be Keen’s Steak House in Manhattan. Grant is a top executive with Cutty SarkWhisky and Keen has listed his top selling spirit ever since 1935 when the brand was firstintroduced to the U.S. market.” Milton Esterow the highly esteemed editor of ARTnewslocated just around the corner and a “regular” says humorously that his editors refer toKeens as the posh magazine’s “cuisinart” or staff dining room.Keens has achieved a fame of unusual sort. The turn-of-the-century restaurant housed inthree aged brownstones, arguably has the largest collection (more than 150 labels fromthe Highlands, Lowlands and Isles) of single malts in this country including Cutty’s siblingthe most impressive Glen Rothes, a Highland malt of note.Its collection is nothing short of spectacular with such stars as Glenfiddich 30-year-old,Glenmorangie Limited Edition, Glen Farclas cask strength, Balvenie’s Founder’sReserve, Auchentoshan Three Wood, Bowmore Darkest and Rosebank Cask Strength11-year-old.Page 7 of 11 Sommelier NewsFor experimenting, diners are helpfully offered dinner flights such as Tobermory 10-year-old Island of Mull, Springbank 10-year old Campbeltown, Glenlivet 8-year-old Speyside and a Balvenie Port Wood 21-year-old Highlands for an “economical $24 But it’s collection of blends such as Cutty is also extensiveKeen’s is possibly one of the last remaining steakhouses of historic note in New York having been founded in 1878. It’s only three blocks from the Empire State building and convenient for well-heeled tourists en route to shopping at Lord & Taylor or a night’s attendance at the theatre.Not to be overlooked is a distinguished wine list created by the critical palate of John McClement wine and spirits director for All Weather Management Group (that also includes New York’s Temple Bar and Elephant & Castle in Dublin). The list is equally impressive with such choices as Château Cheval Blanc 1982 Saint Emilon, Chianti Clasico Riserva 1987 Castello di Cacchiano, or a Chateau St. Jean 2001 Sonoma.Of course, it’s the restaurant menu that is the main attraction. The food is also rooted in the 19th century. The house is noted not only for its mutton chop entrée but also its massive sirloin steak accompanied by creamed spinach and baked potatoes. Seafood is not ignored with such pairings as filet mignon with scallops along with Maine lobster as a showpiece and then for closure there’s a distinguished cheese selection and dessert tray.As Regina Schrambling, a highly regarded food writer for the august New York Times, wrote, “The creamy dressing on the ‘three leaf’ house salad like the polished room itself made me realizes why classics become classics.” For trivia collectors, a millionth chop was served in 1936 and went to a long-forgotten but obviously delighted diner named Warren T. Godfroy.Forgive the cliché but dining at Keen’s, named for its London founder, Albert Keen, is a step back into Americana with an English accent. It’s possible he would not understand that mandatory reservations can now be made on line but that’s a tribute to technological changePrior to 1885 Keen’s was part of the Lambs Club, the famous theater and literary group founded in London. In that year Keens opened independently in New York’s Herald Square Theater district and became the rendezvous of the “well known.”A detailed history of the chophouse recalls that actors in full stage makeup hurried through the rear door to ‘fortify’ themselves between acts of the neighboring Garrick Theater in a room full of producers, playwrights, publishers and newspapermen.The ceiling of Keen’s is decorated in a memorable British fashion with long stemmed pipes. A tradition of checking one’s pipe had its origins in 17th century England where a customer would keep his clay or favorite stemmed pipe at an inn since it was too fragile to be carried away.The Keen’s pipe club originated at the Men’s Grill of the Lambs Club where a pipe warden was employed to catalogue the collection of pipes delivered to members (who paid $5 for a life membership) after dinner. The register includes the signatures of Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, John Barrymore, Babe Ruth, General Douglas MacArthur, Adlai Stevenson and George M. Cohen in no particular order. Contemporary celebrities include such notables as Ted Turner, Glenda Jackson and Isaac Asimov. When a member died, the stem of his pipe was broken and the pipe restored to its customary place among 90,000 other such treasures.Page 8 of 11 Sommelier NewsLadies were not allowed in Keens Chophouse until Lillie Langtry, the enchanting British actress, and close friend of King Edward VII, entered the restaurant in 1901. Dressed in a satin gown and a feather boa, Langtry asked to be served a mutton chop. The waiter refused. Lillie sued and won. Keens is said to have taken the defeat gracefully and installed the following sign, “Ladies are in luck and they can dine at Keens. More like a private club than a traditional restaurant, Keens has four private rooms. The Bullmoose Room, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, has a cozy ambiance and a working fireplace. The Lincoln Room contains the original theater program of “Our American Cousin” which President Lincoln was holding when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. A large painting by Alexander Pope dominates a third space in TheLambs’ Room and finally and somewhat ironically, the Lillie Langtry Room remembers the first lady to be seated at a table. One wall is decorated with a poster for the Broadway show, “Peck’s Bad Boy” one of the largest and earliest surviving American color lithographs.The bar at Keens is also 19th century and certainly in true saloon tradition although its patrons have changed over the years. Today it’s three abreast from noon on and crowded to the hilt with young executives from nearby ad agencies, financial establishments and just plain “singles.” Martinis are in vogue but so is beer. The tradition lingers albeit somewhat modernized and attire is casual, not tie and jacket.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

That's One Big Mountain

It started out several years ago, when my friends Ken Stringer and Bob Gaskins and I discussed the possibility of climbing an exotic mountain - out of the USA, something that entailed more than flying to a domestic airport, renting a car to get to the base and simply climbing. Aconcagua had all of the ingredients. Plus it had the cache' of being one of the Seven Summits. At 22.841 ft, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in South America, and is also the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

After months of planning and arranging (I hoped) the correct logistics, we all headed to Argentina. This is the story of our days on the Mountain.

Diary of a Mountaineer

Prelude – Our trip to Aconcagua started a few years ago, as Bob, Ken and I looked for an adventure. Not wanting to use a guide service, and wanting to tackle the Mountain on our own, we recognized that we needed help with some of the logistics. I contacted Fernando Grajales in Mendoza, who, as it turned out, runs one of the more established, and complete services in Argentina and has bee since 1976. That find was one of our luckiest achievements. The rest is a recount of our trip – with all of it ups and downs.

January 15th
This was the big travel day – most of which was spent in the Santiago, Chile Airport waiting for the flight to Mendoza. Leaving the US was a breeze. Nobody took any critical gear from my bags, and once I finally arrived in Mendoza, a golf pro who had struck up a conversation with Ken and I while in line, gave a wink and a nudge to the Mendoza Customs official and we were through with no questions.

We were promptly met by a car that Fernando Grajales had arranged and shuttled to our hotel where our reservations were indeed in order. Already the logistics of this trip (which had been an area where I was most nervous), were turning out to be impeccable.

Mendoza is a fairly modern city with a large Pedestrian Mall with shops, restaurants, including several mountaineering shops. I bought a pair of sandals for about $40 and Ken and I enjoyed dinner in an outside café.. Not knowing Spanish, and having no familiarity with what the menu items really meant, we ordered blindly. The beer was no problem – Andes – a pretty good beer, actually. Ken ended up with a pretty big steak, and I had a dish with Sauerkraut, chicken, sausage and ham. Both dishes were a surprise..

Every time we saw someone with an oversized watch (altimeter), looking at a topo map, or speaking English, we struck up a casual conversation of Aconcagua and whether they were going or coming. Later, when we returned from the Mountain, we would be able to pick them out immediately as well as determine whether they were coming or going.

Temperature in Mendoza was 85o F

January 16th
Bob was due to arrive in Mendoza. I called Fernando Grajales on the Sat Phone to ask about Bob’s pickup, and pick up at the hotel, as well as the weather on the Mountain. Fernando had answers for all my queries
Ken and I had a breakfast provided by the Hotel, including yogurt, toast, ham cheese – a fairly European continental breakfast indeed. We bought some white gas and a lighter for later on the Mountain, and walked around the shops. We stopped in a pharmacy to find some tape so that we could label our meal bags as we sorted them. This was an adventure in itself. The Pharmacies do not have anything within reach of the customers. So you take a number and approach the counter. When your number is called, you tell the clerk what you want. The clerk writes up a ticket, which you take and stand in line to pay a cashier. The cashier gives you a receipt that you take and stand in line to hand over to another clerk who hands you your merchandise. No shop lifting here!!
We also bought a couple liters of white gas for our stoves – repackaged by the local merchant in used Pepsi bottles. Ya gotta love the recycling!
Mendoza Weather
Temperature - 79o F
Humidity – 25%

January 17th
Today we had a nice leisurely breakfast and spent the morning loading up the duffle bags and packs with food, etc, for our trip to Penitentes. There was a little confusion when checking out as to the price of the hotel, but in the end, we worked it out. About $55/person/night – not bad
Carlos, the driver for Fernando Grajales took us across town where we paid for the permit at what appeared to be a government facility where people pay their bills. The lady there gave us a receipt/voucher. We then drove several blocks to the Secretary of Tourism to get our actual permits. Carlos then drove us the couple hours to reach the foot of the Andes – Penitentes – a ski area with a base at 7935 ft altitude. As we drove up to Penitentes, we saw Rio Mendoza, which flows out of the mountains. It is the destination for a number of white water rafting companies. The thing is – there isn’t any white water. Oh it churned and flowed in what looked like Class 4 Rapids, but the water was soooo full of silt and dirt from the mountains, that it looked exactly like Chocolate milk! Thick, brown McDonald’s Shake – looking chocolate milk.

Across the highway from the ski area that marked our debark point, was the logistics center for Fernando Grajales. We were introduced to Mauricio and Andreas, the two honchos of Fernando. They knew what our plans were, what our needs were, and had all of the details worked out. I must say, every time I dealt with Fernando Grajales (either his company or him personally), I was always impressed with the details that he covered.

As a little adjustment hike, we climbed up to the top of a chairlift at Penitentes. When we got to the top of this little 600 ft part of the mountain, we were winded and dry-mouthed. This got us all feeling like what it was going to be like for the next couple weeks. After all, we were only at 7900 ft climbing to 8500 ft. the wind was blowing up to 34 mph. tep was 79 degrees F.

We repacked our duffle bags for the mules using a giant scale as the basis for moving the weight around.

Ken checked us into the Ayela Hotel, where we sat down to a pretty decent dinner and met Mike, a tattoo artist from NYC as well as Jim and Laurie from Colorado. Jim is a cop and Laurie is a personal trainer. Jim and Laurie had been in Ecuador for a month trekking around and they have the Seven Summits in their sights. Cool people all the way around.

18 January

Today we climbed up to Confluencia Camp at 10, 892 ft. We left the trailhead at Horcones Valley at 9185 ft. The climb was over a distance of 10 miles.

When we wok up, we had breakfast at the hotel at 8 AM.. we loaded up the van between 9 and 10 AM with Mauricio and drove to Horcones Valley, a few mile up the road. At 10 AM after checking in with the Park Ranger, who gave us a trash bag with a dire warning that we must return it full or empty or face a $100 fine, we took off up the trail. It was beautiful, lush and green. The hike took us 2 ½ hours. We had planned for a 4-6 hour trek. When we arrived at Confluencia, we were pleasantly surprised. Grajales has a permanent operation with a cook tent, dining hut and latrine. Veronica runs this camp and she set out drinks, cookies, salami and cheese. We almost feel guilty for feeling so good at this point. A quick check-in with the park ranger finished the official business.

The ground is rocky, so we don’t use tent stakes. The tent is anchored with rocks and guy lines to keep the effects of the wind to a minimum.

I realized when we got here that I had left my GPS on the rail of the balcony at the hotel. ( It was taking awhile to acquire the satellites in the Southern Hemisphere). On the trek into Confluencia, the sat phone did not work due to the high mountains on either side of the river valley we were following up, but at Confluencia, there seemed to be a little more sky and it worked alright. Between using the Satphone to call Fernando and the Radio that Veronica had to talk with Andreas at Penitentes, we were able to locate and recover the GPS, which got scheduled to go up with the mules tomorrow. Funny thing about the radio communications – it’s a really effective way to start learning Spanish by the seat of your pants!

Tonight I took a Diamox to offset any High Altitude Symptoms (mostly periodic breathing while sleeping). Also, my ribcage was really hurting, due a fall last week while skiing, especially when I laid down. The pain subsides after awhile and is not debilitating.

I woke up twice during the night to pee. It is the diamox starting to dump off alkalis.

19 Jan

After 8 hours and 15 minutes of climbing we arrived at Plaza De Mulas, the Main Base Camp. It is amazing! The second largest Base Camp for mountaineering in the world (second to Everest). We arrived at 5:05 PM.

Wind is 9 mph sustained, and the temp is 50 degrees F. wind Chill is 45.

The hike in was very long. We covered 10 miles and ascended form 10, 392 ft to 14, 170 ft. There was a lot of up and down however, which made total ascent a little emore. Just as we would climb down to cross a stream or something, we would find ourselves climbing back up. Overall, since we left Penitentes, our total ascent has been 23, 310 ft over three days!

We saw two dead mules along the way. Needless to say it was rough going, with most of the ascent in the last couple hours. But Plaza De Mulas was a welcome sight.. It is literally a small town, constructed of tents. All of the big guide services have permanent tents during the climbing season. A couple were offering satellite phone, internet service, wine, beer, and hamburgers (spelled hambuergors). Grajales’ setup is near the high side of the camp. The cook tent is run by Santiago and Ivana, two very friendly people who fed us a dinner of a small steak with mashed potatoes. The potatoes ahd a little mustard mixed in for a very interesting flavor..

Overnight I had a mild case of diarrhea – partly food, partly high altitude, partly diamox continuing to dump base from my system. The key now is to hydrate as much as I can.

Jim dropped by and we checked our PulseOx (oxygen in the blood). I was 88 pulse was 83. Not too bad for 14000 feet.

A lot of people have been returning from the high mountain, as it is called above 14000 feet. All say how cold it is, -35 windchill.

20 Jan

Today was more packing and gear sorting and a lot of rest. Not much else to say, except that we are all still good spirited, joking, etc. We are really starting to understand just how dirty this is going to be. Rock dust is everywhere. And it gets in everything.

We took a little hike over to the Hotel Refugio - The highest hotel in the world. It is about a 20 minute hike from the base camp. It offers rooms, and thick walls, but it is not heated, the water is tapped from a small glacier pond. They do have a restaurant and a place that you can set up your own cooking gear for a small fee. We have reservations for after the climb, but now I think we will rely on Santiago and Ivana for their hospitality when we finish on the high mountain. Besides, it seems as if the logistics of getting our gear here to the hotel, and then down the mountain is somewhat convoluted.

21 Jan

We slept in until the sun came up into the valley, and started climbing at 11:11 AM. We climbed to Camp Canada, which is at an elevation of 16,300 feet. We arrived at 3:30. Today we carried all the food we will need for the next 7 days as well as few extra meals for weather delay days. We also carried our extra warm clothing, crampons, cook kit including, 2 stoves, pressure cooker, 6 liters of water. The pressure cooker is turning out to be very well worth its weight. It’s a heavy son of a gun, but it decreases the time needed to boil water from what might be longer than an hour, to about ½ hour for 3 liters.

When we arrived at Camp Canada, we unloaded everything. Ken and I carried our Down Coats back with us to Plaza De Mulas, because they would not fit in the duffle bag.

Temp at 3 PM at Camp Canada is 30 degrees F.

Side note: For the last couple days in Plaza De Mulas, we have had a few Frenchmen near us, eating in the other half of our hut. They have not seemed to be very outwardly friendly having not joined in conversation and they have not tried AT ALL to use any Spanish words or phrases with Ivana who brings them meals, etc. The real kicker came last night. We were all asleep in out tent, when one of them knocked on the tent at about 1:00 AM, saying “Meester can you pleeze do somesing against your sno-ring?” I was pissed! What a pompous jerk! Here we are in a place where there are more than 100 tents, guide tents, cook tents, mules, people partying until all hours of the early morning in celebration of reaching the summit, people hacking and coughing because of high altitude, and this chucklehead decides that he can’t sleep. Either my snoring is REALLY loud or he was a butthead. I choose the latter.

Now that we have returned from 16000 feet to 14000 feet, at 6 PM, it is snowing like a banshee. A storm rolled in from the Northeast (the wind up until now has been out of the South), bringing a goodly dump of snow .

Santiago, true to form has prepared a dinner of Chicken on sautéed vegetables. The logistics support we are getting from Grajales is just phenomenal. Before heading off to bed, we packed up three duffle bags with gear and food that we will not need on the high mountain. Grajales will secure the bags for when return.

22 Jan

Today was our move to Camp Canada at 16, 300 ft. We are now on what the Argentineans refer to as the “highmountain” we left at 12:26 with packs that weighed approximately 50 lbs. Total climb today was about 4 hours. On the way up, we stopped to rest at Conway Rocks for a water break (about 15000 ft), and chatted with a couple, Boris and Heather, from the Scottish Army (Territorial Reserves). Boris seemed to be a real mountain guide sort. Heather is a member of the Perth Fire Company. Both knew Paul Lemer, who is a Scottish Mountaineering instructor who had taught Ken in Scotland. Paul also had provided Ken’s amd my guides (Nick and Ian), when we did the Isle of Skye traverse in 2002!! Small World and Cool People

When we arrived at Camp Canada, we got the tent set up just in time before the snow hit. When we started out this morning, the wind was out of the North. I predicted that I thought we would be getting snow later on.

Temp is 29
Windchill is 14 with a wind of 10 mph.

We got the gear in the tent and dined on Beef Rotini. The pressure cooker still works great, but we are finding that even with the boiling improvements, the boiling temp is lower because of the higher pressure provided by the pot, and therefore the food is not rehydrating as fully as we expect it to. Everything is al-dente.

23 Jan

10 AM – Sun not over the mountain yet
Temp is 23
Wind Chill is 7

Sun reaches the camp at about 10:30 and people start moving around. Today is another Carry day to the next high camp.

Bob had a wicked headache and Ken said that he had trouble breathing during the night. All three of us had CRAZY dreams. Altitude is really starting to have an effect at this point. Ken and I each took a Diamox.

Today, we loaded up all of the food, fuel and extreme cold weather clothing, and carried it up to Nido De Condores (Nest of the Condor). It was an extremely difficult climb as we ascended to 17, 898 feet in 4 hours. It seemed like a lot longer time than that. We found a spot to leave our equipment behind. Bob and I went out to fill black plastic bags with snow from a nearby snowfield in the hopes that some might melt when we climb back tomorrow.

By the way, Nido Condores is higher than the base camp at Everest – Pretty cool! A little mini storm came blowing through at about 5 PM, but no snow to speak of.

24 Jan
Today was the final climb out of Camp Canada to Nido Condores. We had a very late start – 1:45 PM. Camp Canada was very cold in the morning and there was a pretty heavy cloud cover that kept the sun from providing any warmth. Again it was a pretty difficult climb that seemed longer than it really was (about 3 ½ hours). This time we had several periods of cold wind and snow. Once we got to camp and started wetting up the tent, the first real snow started. We barely got the tent up and ourselves inside when a real blizzard hit. As it was covering our tent and supply cache, with snow, I had to open the tent to go out to get the food, empty water bottles, and fuel to bring inside, as well as position the snow bags from yesterday outside the tent door for access.

I was getting covered in snow, which translates to wet clothes. Furthermore, once I got back inside the tent, the wind was blowing the snow up under the tent fly into the vestibule and into the opening where my head goes. At this point, I am not a happy camper. Then, as I assembled the stove, and struggled to light it in the wind coming up under the vestibule, so that we could melt snow for water and food, Bob raised a concern that the tent was not vented. Now this is a legitimate concern. But, considering the circumstances, and the fact that the tent fly is somewhat breathable along with a vent in the vestibule, and fact that we needed water, I had been willing to take any risk. I honestly did not know what other alternative I had at that point. The wind is blowing; we are inundated with snow, I am wet, and any opening in the tent is going to make it all worse. The episode made me pretty angry because I was doing the majority of the work , while my tent mates were in their down bags nice and comfy. You feel a little put out, I suppose, when someone questions what you are doing or how you are doing it, when you are the only one doing anything. I made an effort to clear the air with Bob saying that I didn’t think he was being disagreeable, just insensitive to what I was personally dealing with. Bob vented. He let me know that he felt that I was snapping at him every time he had a suggestion and that he felt left out - that somehow this trip was Tom and Ken on one side and Bob on the other. Bob is one of my best friends and it hurts when you fight. I apologized and told him that I would take extra care to listen and consider carefully before answering.

25 Jan

It snowed most of the night. We were buttoned up pretty well though, and while the air was chilly, we stayed warm in our sleeping bags. I have to keep the Sat phone, Radio, camera, gps, and medical kit inside my bag. I slept fitfully and woke with a tiny headache. Most of our activity is inside the tent as we rest today – melting snow for water.

At noon, the temperature warmed up to a balmy 24 degrees with a mild wind of 6 mph - - wind chill 15 degrees F. I called base camp at Plaza de Mulas for a weather update. No sun tomorrow and a little storm.

26 Jan

Today we left some trash and waste at Nido Condores and took all of our gear for our climb to Campamento Colera. This will be our third and final high camp before a Summit attempt. As much as we had been talking about a light carry (less food, etc) on this last day of equipment carry, it was not to be. Our packs easily still weighed 40 lbs and when you are going from 17, 898 feet to 19, 149 feet, every step is areal effort. I am not out of breath when we climb, but I now have a cough that kicks in when we have to do bursts of work. Our climb took 3 hours. Most of the climb was in driving wind and snow. It was not very comfortable, and we stopped to get some hand warmers into Bob’s gloves as his fingers were pretty cold. We put the tent up in the snow and got the packs inside. I think Ken finished the climb of this part on pure adrenaline. He and Bob got into their sleeping bags ASAP to warm up, and maybe catch some rest. I still had to collect what snow I could and start the process of melting snow, boiling water, making some sort of meal with our freeze died selections. There is a certain intensity and sense of purpose that is required on a climb like this. At moments like this – when the wind is howling, tent has to get up, stuff has to get done, I feel like I was born to this. As hard and uncomfortable as it is, you do what you have to. I think this is why Bob and I are ski Patrollers to begin with.. I like to feel like I have what it takes.

I tried to call Plaza De Mulas but was not able to reach them.

As I write this, I am also writing down phrases in Spanish to use on the high mountain. Phrases like, “ we have arrived”, “I am going to call”, “Tomorrow we try”

I called Fernando on the Sat phone. He speaks English. He tells me that the weather tomorrow is supposed to be mostly clear but windy. He also says that he will relay our message of our location to Plaza e Mulas.

It is more than obvious to me that there are a few things that you have to contend with at this altitude, that you don’t usually have to worry about.
- the cold
- the wind
- your body gets colder faster because there is less Oxygen to burn
- Your mindset.

You can’t do this if you don’t have the will. It is very easy to talk oneself out of continuing.

The cough I have still persist when I exert myself, but I feel healthy enough to try for the summit tomorrow.

27 Jan

Summit Day
Woke at 4 and Dressed
Guided trips around us are moving around at the same time. We left at about 5:45 to climb out of Campamento Colera up to Refugio Independencia. The climb to this critical point of decision took 3 ½ hours. Independencia is a small shelter that was built years ago as a rescue shelter so that climbers could take refuge in very dire straits. Now it is not much more than a frame. No shelter. It sits above 20,000 feet – actually higher than Denali.

As we stopped to rest, put on crampons, and eat a power bar, Bob noted that his feet were extremely cold and he couldn’t feel his toes. We opened hand warmers to put on his feet, and Ken took off hi down pants to wrap Bob’s feet in. Ambient Air temperature was still below 20 and Bob’s feet were not warming. Bob made an enormously difficult decision to stop and turn back. He was not willing to sacrifice any toes for this summit (or any other). At the time I offered to do the summit again on the following day with Bob because we had the time. Ken and I continued up a snowy slope while Bob headed back down to the camp.

For the next 4 ½ hours every step was an act of extreme effort as we made it across the Grand Acerro (great traverse) to the Canaleta (Big Ditch). We would take 5 steps and stop to breathe, resting on our trekking poles. The Canaleta is the last 100 feet of ascent and it is a 36 degree slope. It is called the Canaleta because of the loose rock that spills through it from thousands of years of erosion and mountain sloughing off rocks. We rested at the base of the Canaleta in a large overhanging rock formation. For the next three hours, we trudged from snow to rocks to snow, ever upward, ever tired. Ken’s crampons did not fit as well as they should over his neoprene overboots he was wearing over his double shell boots. The crampons came loose several times on the way up, and because his (and my) were unable to respond as they do at sea level, when that happened, he would fall. Every fall took that much more energy away. Finally, when we thought we could almost go no further, we achieved the summit. My eyes got teary knowing that I was finally standing atop the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The second highest peak in the seven Summits. Ken and I were both exhausted, and in retrospect, I think Ken was well beyond the midpoint, meaning it was going to take everything we had to get back down to Camp.

Storm Clouds rolled in just before we got to the Summit, so in addition to being exhausted when we go there, we didn’t get the magnificent views. The temperature was 14 degrees with 14 degrees wind chill. It is said that one can see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day – across the entire country of Chile, in addition to having the entire Andes Range at your feet. Ah Well. Such is the luck.

Ken placed the Rosary in memory of his Mother in Law, Mary Ann Rozbicki. I had forgotten a sticker that I had intended on placing on the cross alongside the other stickers previous climbers had placed. We both signed the Summit book and did the picture taking thing along with two Polish climbers and a Japanese climber who got to the summit at about the same time we did.

After about 45 minutes waiting for the storm to blow over (it did not) we started to descend. The snow was coming had with the wind out of the North, and visibility was not the greatest as we climbed down the Canaleta. Ken fell a couple more time coming down this tricky slope due to his crampons still coming loose. Each time, I would go to him, lay down to try and refasten the crampons. We resized them and tried everything to make them fit tightly on the boots. Unfortunately, I think neoprene is just a little too much like jello and no matter how tight you clamp down on it, it still manages to squeeze itself loose; in Ken’s case, releasing the crampon from his foot.. Once he fell and started to slide down the steep snow covered slope. I dove and grabbed him to stop his slide, thinking that we were both getting to the point of “epic”.

The traverse was very long. In my opinion, Ken’s legs were getting to the point where they would not respond when he needed them to in order to catch a stumble. It was very slow going. We kept telling each other out loud – “one step at a time”. Finally, we reached Refugio Independencia, where we had the opportunity to take off the crampons. But now it was definitely getting darker. When the sun finally set, at about 10:30, we were still a long way away from camp and we knew that Bob would be worried. I called Plaza de Mulas to try and convey to them that we were still on the mountain, but were not in any danger, even if we had to spend the night on the mountain.. I wanted them to call one of the guides in their service at Camp Colera to have him go over to our tent and tell Bob. That message did not get through, however. I also called Shelli, on the Sat Phone to have her call Fernando Grajales so that he could do the same. I don’t think Shelli understood what I thought I was saying. I did get the altitude of Camp Colera from Ivana, though and knew that we still had about 600 feet to descend. In quiet moments when there was no wind, I yelled, in Spanish, for Camp Colera – Show me a light. I was not able to find the head lamps that were in Ken’s Pack. I shouldered ken’s pack as we had a short discussion about, spending the night under a rock somewhere, climbing back up to a couple of tents used by guides once in awhile, but did bit seem to occupied at the moment, or continuing to descend, at least until we reached the proper altitude.

I tried to take the batteries out of the radio to put in my GPS. In the pitch dark I put a battery in backwards and it jammed. My fingernails were ripping out and backwards as I tried to blindly get the GPS to work, but could not. Ken fell a couple more times and commented that as lovely as the Argentinean night sky was, he had had enough..

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of following the edges of scree paths in the snow, and yelling every time it got calm, a light flickered below us. We both felt that it was at the high point of our camp and were overjoyed. Slowly, slipping, falling, we descended towards the light arriving at a lone climber form Mexico who indeed had set up his tent on the high side of a rock formation that separated him from the rest of the Camp. He showed us a path through the final rocks to him. He was from Mexico, and I was never so grateful . A guide from Patogonicas Adventuras, also came around the rock formation and escorted us back to the main camp. We saw the tent where Bob had left a light on and called his name. He ran out of the tent and hugged Ken and I, and got us into the tent to warm us up. The time was 1:30 AM. We had been out for 19 hours.

28 Jan
Descent Day – From Camp Colera above 19000 feet to Plaza de Mulas