December 24, 2007

Pico de Orizaba

December 18th, 2007 was a monumental day for the team of climbers from Idaho and Utah attempting a summit of Pico de Orizaba, the 3rd highest mountain in North America! This expedition became a story with all the elements you would expect from high-altitude mountaineering; from determination and courage to frostbite and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema.
With wind chill, the temperature on the summit was -25F when Garon and Chad, first to reach the summit, stood at the roof of Mexico. A few hundred feet below them, Rolf, Karl, Andrew and David, a climber from British Columbia who had joined our team, were all enjoying views from the glacier-capped North Summit. Thirty minutes later the team from the North Summit arrived at the highest point - the South Summit. Despite the freezing temperatures, the entire group spent time on the summit enjoying the magnificent vistas, taking summit photos and even testing the new MSR stove (reputed to work efficiently at any altitude).
Below us, at 17,500 feet, a drama was unfolding. Bill Lewis, who had been complaining of fatigue and difficulty breathing, was experiencing High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid because of the extreme altitude. If not treated quickly, HAPE is deadly! Also feeling the affects of the extreme cold and altitude were Jeff Hopkin and Scott Hurst. And though he had received several hours of sleep the night before, Doug Mason was just running out of steam. All four wisely chose to descend from 17,500 feet - a high point for all four climbers. The slope of the glacier steepens abrubtly at 16,000 feet to nearly 65 degrees in spots. The final 3,000 feet of climbing is over bulletproof alpine snow and ice on a slope of at least 60 degrees. The accomplishments of all the members of our team cannot be understated!
We climbed during what we later learned from local guides was the coldest period of weather in 10 years or more! Bill suffered frostbite on the tips of one or two fingers, Jeff was temporarily blinded by a frostbitten cornea, and all four who descended from 17,500 had climbed several thousand feet even under the strain of AMS symptoms (Acute Mountain Sickness).
The story of nine climbers from Idaho and Utah who went to summit one of North America's highest mountains is one of determination, courage, drama and success. Every member of our team achieved a new highpoint! But most importantly, we worked together and achieved the most important goal... everyone returned home safely.
The fact that, in spite of encountering the types of illnesses, cold and fatigue that most people believe only happen on Mt. Everest, our team employed years of mountaineering skill, talent and technique exhibited by the worlds best mountaineers!
Our team will never be famous, but the things we accomplished can never be taken from us. Individually and collectively we acheived a monumental feat in the battle between man and nature...the battle known as mountaineering!


Dean Lords said...

Hey, how come you've been holding out on us with your blog dude?? I thought we were friends...

Congrats on your success in Mexico!

Dean and Heather

Anonymous said...

Good job Garon.

I am very thankful to have climbed with such a great group of guys. This experience will be with me for all times. One could not have had a better group to work with, to care for and to share the difficult times with. I for one am calling this trip a great success for me personally and for the group. It has shown me just how strong one can be, given the difficulties presented, and to what lengths one must go to give his best. I honestly gave my best and paid the price for my love of the mountains and to be around good friends. I know I was in good hands with any one of you and I would do the same for anyone of you. We all share a common thread in more ways than one and this will be near my heart forever.

Thanks for the support and everything else that we all did.
Bill Lewis

Garon Miskin said...

Hey thanks for the comments guys. I guess I just haven't been very pro-active about sharing my blog since I didn't think that I had very much that was worthwhile. But I'm really excited that you guys are checking it out!

Garon Miskin said...

I feel likewise, Bill. This trip was an experience that I will cherish for many years to come. I feel privileged to have shared it with men whom I call friends even outside the realms of mountaineering.

Brendon said...

Great stuff. I've been noticing your stuff in the Standard Journal. Saw your Orizaba article this morning. Eventually I'd like to hit the Mexican volcanoes.

Garon Miskin said...

Thanks, Brendon. Mexico is a great place! The people were extremely nice and the whole experience was so great I'd love to do it again!
Let me know if you'd like some additional pictures or any information on climbing in Mexico.

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