Still dreaming

August 1, 2013

I did not give up. My wife has a cancer, and therefore my priorities have shifted, but I restarted training, carrying my baby onthe back, which creates naturel weight 🙂

I did not give up Aconcagua. I don’t forget…

Update (March 2015):

My wife passed away in December 2014. I do not feel the energy to go back in such a tough mountain short term, but I will not give up, believe me…

#BELIEVE

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Quebec climbers sacrifice goal of reaching Mount Aconcagua summit – Montreal Gazette

April 28, 2012

Saving life of climber takes priority over reaching peak

By René Bruemmer, THE GAZETTE March 5, 2012
  “The summit isn’t as valuable as a life,” says Quebec climbing guide Dominic Asselin, pictured just after saving the life of U.S. police officer Bob Gabrych while attempting to climb Mount Aconcagua in Argentina on Jan. 25. Asselin’s clients had to forsake their chance to attain the summit.
Photograph by: Asselin family

Before he takes clients on mountain climbing expeditions, Dominic Asselin warns them that venturing into high altitudes can quickly degenerate into a life-threatening experience. If there’s a problem, the whole group might have to abandon their climb.

“They nod their heads, but you can tell they don’t really get it,” said Asselin, a 33-year-old Montreal native and founder of the Attitude Montagne climbing centre based in the Laurentians town of Ste. Adèle. “Death is not tangible when you’re sitting in a classroom.”

For his clients attempting to reach the top of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina in January, the concept of death would suddenly become much more concrete. There were five of them, all Quebecers, ranging in age from 25 to 49, four men and a woman. Three had some climbing experience, having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest summit in Africa, at 5,895 metres.

Like Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua is considered an easy climb in mountaineering terms, with no need for ropes, ice picks or supplemental oxygen.

While not overly technical, Aconcagua is 6,952 metres (22,841 feet) high – the tallest peak outside of the Himalayas, and the highest in the Americas. Altitude and weather are the most prevalent killers when it comes to mountain climbing. Climbers die every year on Aconcagua. Many are forced to turn back with altitude sickness, which can quickly lead to fluid in the lungs, known as a pulmonary edema, or fluid in the brain, a cerebral edema. Both conditions can quickly turn fatal. Only 30 to 40 per cent of climbers who set out will attain the summit of Mount Aconcagua.

Knowing that, Asselin has his clients carry gear, put up tents and push themselves so they learn something about what it takes to summit a peak. So that if they don’t make it to the top, they’ll have some sense of accomplishment.

Still, his clients have paid $4,895 each for the 23-day tour, not including airfare. About 10 of those days will be spent on the ascent, slowly plodding through the desert-like terrain of rock and sand in the thin air, trying to acclimatize so altitude sickness doesn’t kill their dream. They have been planning this for months or years, have told their family and friends about it, and spent a considerable amount of money. They want the summit. Asselin knows this, too.

Along with his 60-pound pack, he carries the weight of these expectations on his slight, 130-pound frame.

 As the Quebecers were ascending, eight U.S. police officers were climbing just ahead of them. Part of the Cops on Top non-profit organization that climbs to raise awareness of police work, the men were on Mount Aconcagua for Jonathan Schmidt, a Trumann, Ark., officer gunned down during a routine traffic stop in April 2011. Bleeding from a wound to the neck, the 30-year-old father of three pulled another officer to safety before dying.

Their climb was going badly. Four members had to stop because of altitude sickness. One was airlifted out with a pulmonary edema. On Jan. 25, two of the policemen set out from Camp 2 at 5,800 metres (19,000 feet) in the middle of the night to try to make the summit. Going from Camp 2 to the peak and back in the high winds and crippling cold takes 12 to 20 hours.

The remaining two officers, Ryan Hunt and Bob Gabrych of Arizona, were resting at Camp 2 and planning to make the summit push the next day. Then Hunt noticed that Gabrych, a former ski instructor with the U.S. Marine Corps, was ailing.

“He had a really glazed, blank look on his face. He was swaying in a circular fashion, like an intoxicated person,” Hunt said over the phone from Arizona. “I remember thinking ‘Bob’s sick. Bob’s got a cerebral edema.’ ”

In less than an hour, Gabrych went from being lucid and coherent to speaking with “extremely slurred speech and just wanting to lie down and basically die. It was amazing how fast it took effect,” Hunt said.

They didn’t have a radio to call for help. Even if they did, helicopters couldn’t come up that high because of the thin air. Hunt would have to get Gabrych to base camp, 2,000 metres below on a narrow trail. An Australian climber came across them and helped. There was no one else. They tried to walk on either side of Gabrych, but it was tough going. The trail was only about a foot wide, leaving little room for the men on the sides and Gabrych, who weighs 180 pounds, was weaving and stumbling like a drunk. Several times Hunt was sure Gabrych was going to knock him over the side, a 700-foot drop down a steep slope that would have resulted in serious injury or death. After two hours, the men had only covered 200 metres.

It was terrifying, Hunt said.

“We were quizzing Bob on the names of his kids, and their ages, trying to keep him alert,” Hunt said. “At some points he was drifting off. I thought we were going to lose him, to be honest with you.

“Here I am climbing with a sole officer for this common goal in memory of Officer Truman, and we’re losing an officer on the mountain. And a friend.”

 Asselin is one of the few guides in Quebec who has taken hundreds of hours in courses to be certified under the American Mountain Guides Association. Climbers are trained to look after themselves and their partners, Asselin explained. Trained guides learn how to protect, and save, their clients and others.

Asselin’s group started well, traipsing up the lower elevations in the 30C heat of the Argentinian summer. Seven donkeys carried their 380 kilograms of gear as far as base camp at 4,200 metres (14,000 feet). After that they were the donkeys, carrying backpacks and trudging in the plodding manner of high-altitude mountaineers fighting thin air. At Camp 1 (elevation 4,930 metres or 16,000 feet) they arrived in a snowstorm. One client was suffering from hypothermia and would take two hours to defrost. They were on the mountain now.

The next day, Jan. 25, while Hunt was labouring to bring Gabrych down, Asselin would have to send his youngest and fittest client back to base camp with the group’s second guide. The 25-year-old had severe altitude sickness. There would be tears of disappointment.

Asselin and the remaining four donned their packs and started the slow climb up to Camp 2. It was only a two-kilometre trip, but they would ascend 900 vertical metres over that distance. The hike, with packs, would take five exhausting hours. Two hundred metres from Camp 2, they came upon Gabrych and his companions.

Asselin acted quickly. He radioed the resident doctor at base camp, who advised him on what medication to administer.

The helicopter, with a ranger and doctor aboard, could come as high as Camp 1, 700 metres below. Or the doctor and ranger could hike up from base camp, but that would take a day. A cerebral edema can kill within two hours.

Stash your gear, Asselin told his clients. We’re going down.

Using his guiding training, Asselin fashioned a makeshift gurney out of ski poles. He had the others drape Gabrych’s body over his back so he could carry him down the narrow path. Hunt used the ski-pole gurney to provide extra support.

Gabrych stumble-walked part of the way. Sometimes he lost consciousness, his feet dragging, and the slightly built Quebecer would support the 180-pound dead weight. They descended 700 metres in two hours and reached the doctor and the ranger waiting with more medication and oxygen. Video footage shows an utterly spent Asselin tottering with fatigue as Gabrych is taken off his back.

By the time they loaded Gabrych on the helicopter, the combination of medication, oxygen and lower elevation had helped so much he was able to take pictures through the windshield. Asselin’s 25-year-old client was on the same flight out.

“Wow,” said Roger, an anesthetist from Quebec, as the helicopter lifted off. “We just saved a life.”

“Without Dominic, I wouldn’t have given Bob much of a chance,” Hunt said.

 The other two police officers reached the summit that day, and took a photo of a plaque honouring Schmidt that will be presented to his family. The Australian who helped in the rescue, Andy Mulholland, also made it to the top.

But a weather report predicting a storm moving in would abort the summit attempt for the Quebecers. They missed it by one day. When Asselin told them their chance was up, they went silent and remained so for most of the day. Their summit dreams were over.

There are bodies of climbers on Mount Everest who were left to die while expeditions walked by on their way to the top. For Asselin, there was never a choice.

“When I hold our pre-climbing meetings, the first thing I say is my goal is to bring everyone down alive – it’s the same for you, and for all the other climbers on the mountain.

“The summit isn’t as valuable as a life.”

For the clients, the profound disappointment was tempered over time by the fact they had done the right thing.

“If it was us in distress, we would hope that others would do the same for us,” said Bruno Miquet, a 41-year-old computer software analyst. Miquet is planning to climb Mont Blanc in Europe, then return to Aconcagua next year for another try.

Bob Gabrych underwent a full recovery in the hospital in Mendoza, Argentina. He is back with his family in Arizona.

Asselin will return to the mountains in July, leaving his wife and his 3-year-old son for weeks to lead expeditions in Peru. Asked why guides choose to do this precarious work, he said: “Because it’s in our blood, the feeling of being able to control all the aspects of the mountain. And the job make us proud.”

rbruemmer@montrealgazette.com

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
 
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Leaving for Penitentes

January 17, 2012

20120117-085439.jpg

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Mendoza

January 17, 2012

Got my permit to climb, will move today to Penitentes where I do not expect to have the internet anymore…

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Here we are

January 15, 2012

Here we are. We left on Saturday in Montreal to Miami. After a long layover we took our Flight to Santiago and then to Mendoza.

-20 celsius in Montreal, plus 37 here, what a contrast.

According to a guide just out of the mountain there is a lots of snow and wind currently, which may complicate the trip, we will see.

A message will be on attitude montagne facebook page daily.

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Aconcagua 2012 gears

January 2, 2012

Here is the exhaustive list of equipment I’ll bring for the Aconcagua climbing attempt thru the direct Polish route in 2012.

I’ve spent a significant time researching these items. The general rule is to get the better item based on weight and flexibility (Ideally an item can be used for multiple purposes like the verto 26, whippet, or Addidas Terrex Pro).

Pack & Bag

BACKPACK Black Diamond Mission 75 Backpack (Large/Cobalt)
DAY PACK: A 25+ liter summit pack The North Face VERTO 26 PACK
SLEEPING BAG: A bag rated to 0° to -20° F. Goose down because it is lightweight and compactable. Western Mountaineering Puma25 Degree Microfiber Sleeping Bag
COMPRESSION STUFF SACK FOR SLEEPING BAG The North Face VERTO 26 PACK
 Liner Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor liner
SLEEPING PAD – INFLATABLE: A full-length inflatable pad. Thermarest Neoair All Season Pad

 

Technical Gear

ICE AXE Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe
HELMET: A lightweight climbing helmet. Casque d’escalade Meteor III de Petzl
CRAMPONS: The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. Crampons Vasak à système de fixation LeverLock de Petzl Charlet
TREKKING POLES: Lightweight and collapsible, multi-function. Whippet Self‑Arrest de Black Diamond
Harness Petzl Adjama Harness
Prussik 2xPrussik
Slings 120cn 2xDynex 10 mm Runner 120C by Black Diamond
Screwgate Biner 4xPhantom Carabiner – Screw Gate by DMM
1xPetzl William Locking Carabiner
Belay Device Petzl Reverso 3 Belay / Rappel Device (Green)
Biner 2xBlack Diamond Neutrino Carabiner: Gray
 Caritool Caritool Tool Holder by Petzl

 

Head

WARM HAT: Warm and thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet. The North Face Accessories HIGH POINT HAT
BALACLAVA / NECK GAITER Outdoor Research Sonic Balaclava
BALL CAP OR SUN HAT Outdoor Research Palliser Cap
BUFF OR BANDANA Red Buff
GLACIER GLASSES Addidas Terrex Pro
GOGGLES: Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. Additionally, contact lens wearers may find a clear-lensed goggle very useful on windy nights. Julbo Revolution Zebra lens, Black Goggle
HEADLAMP Lampe frontale Spot de Black Diamond

 

Hands

LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVE: One pair of fleece gloves. Outdoor Research Backstop Glove
MEDIUM WEIGHT GLOVE: Wind/water resistant insulated mountain gloves. Regular ones from Costco
HEAVY WEIGHT INSULATED GLOVE OR MITTEN: Wind/water resistant, insulated gloves or mittens for protection against wind, snow and cold. Black Diamond Guide Glove – Men’s AND
Outdoor Research Men’s Alti Mitts

 

Upper Body

2 LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER
LIGHT INSULATING LAYER First Ascent Hangfire Hoodie
SOFT SHELL LAYER Mammut Ultimate Hoody Men
HARD SHELL JACKET MEC Truant Jacket
INSULATED PARKA with HOOD First Ascent Peak XV
NON-COTTON HIKING SHIRT Regular synthetic shirts, costco

 

Lower Body

2-3 UNDERWEAR
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER
CLIMBING PANT: Synthetic climbing pants offer a wide range of versatility.
HARD SHELL PANT: A pant made of breathable rain and wind-proof material
DOWN OR SYNTHETIC INSULATED PANT OR Neoplum
LIGHT WEIGHT TREKKING PANT: A lightweight, synthetic pair of pants is a good option for the approach trek

 

Feet

MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS
La Sportiva Spantik
HIKING BOOTS
SANDALS: These are used during river crossings
3 pair CLIMBING SOCKS: Either wool or synthetic. Ultra Heavyweight Mountaineering Socks
2 pair TREKKING SOCKS
GAITERS Outdoor Research M’s Crocodiles Gaiters (Chili/Black, XX-Large)

 

Other

Batteries Headlamp + Spot: 9 Lithium AAA Battery
GPS: 6xLithium AA Battery
GPS Garmin Oregon 400t
Satellite communication Spot GPS
Purification tablets Aquatabs
Sunscreen Scape 30 + Neutrogena 110
Blood Oxygen Monitor Nonin GO2 Pulse Oximeter

 

Medication

Lasix Cipro XL
Dexamethasone Adalat
Diamox Gravol
 Ibuprofene
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Aconcagua Agenda

January 2, 2012
Day Action Detail
1 & 2
Travel
Jan 14/15 : Vol/Flight Montréal=>Mendoza
3
Rest
Jan 16 : Journée à/Day at Mendoza
4
Base Camp
Jan 17 : Direction/Going to Penitentes
5-6-7
Jan 18-19-20: trek pour camp de base/trek to Base Camp (BC)
8
Jan 21: Repos au camp de base/Rest and acclimatization at Base Camp (4200m)
9
Camp 1
Jan 22 : Portage au camp 1, nuit au camp de base/ Carry to camp 1, night at BC
10
Jan 23: Camp 1
11
Jan 24 : Repos au camp 1/Rest and acclimatization at Camp 1
12
Camp 2
Jan 25 : Installation du camp 2, nuit au camp 1/ Carry to camp 2, night at camp 1
13
Jan 26: Camp 2
14
Jan 27: Repos au camp 2/ Rest and acclimatization at Camp 2
15
Summit push
Jan 28: Ascension du sommet/ Summit push
16
Going down
Jan 29: Descente du camp 2 au camp de base/ Camp 2 to BC
17
Jan 30: Journée de repos au camp de base / Rest at BC
18-19-20
Jan 31-Feb 2 : Trek de retour jusqu’à Punta de Vacas et une journée de surplus météo/ Trek to Punta de Vacas plus one buffer day for weather (could be used before)
21
Rest
Feb 3 : Journée à Mendoza/ Day in Mendoza
22-23
Travel
Feb 4/5 : Vol de retour/ flying back home

Please note that these dates are an approximation. There is one buffer day,+Feb 3 that could be used as a buffer also, and coming back to Punta de Vacas trek can be shorten too, so there is 3 days that can be used differently based on the weather

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Waypoints for Aconcagua

January 2, 2012

So I’m now near ready to leave for Aconcagua January 14. Training went well, a lot in the Adirondacks and 4 to 5 a times weeks on my treadmill or outside.

As I’m getting ready, I’ve prepared my list of waypoints for the Vacas valley route. I thought I could share that with you here: Waypoints Aconcagua

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Mount Algonquin, NY State

November 14, 2011

Made the mistake to NOT bring crampons. Huge mistake, it was really dangerous. I made it, but really slow in the last part, and going down was a huge challenge.

Wind at the top was really strong.

Otherwise I highly recommend this mountain. It’s fairly straight, not too hard if you have the correct gears (!), and the views are really amazing.

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Mount Colden

October 16, 2011

360 View from the Summit:

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