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Archive for January, 2013

Bluebird in the Whites

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Training Update: Bluebird in the Whites
by Maj. Malcolm Schongalla, LC-130 Pilot, US Air Force Reserves


The thermometer was in the single digits, and the winds atop Mount Washington were breaking 100 mph.  Clear, cold, and not a cloud in the sky!  It was the perfect weekend to get outside, and stretch the muscles on some New Hampshire ice.

Yesterday (26 Jan 2013), I had warmed up to the chilly temperatures on a short excursion up Mt. Cardigan. ¬†My dashboard read 5’F at thetrailhead,and the higher we climbed, the windier it got. ¬†The bald summit was buffeted by gusts topping 50 knots o rmore, but Kelly and I bundled up and took in a great panorama. ¬†The only obstacle to my view was condensation from my own breath, which relentlessly hung around my sunglasses.

Today, I was looking to venture a little farther afield, so Dartmouth ice climber Ted Sumers and I hit the road for Crawford Notch at dawn. Ted had chosen some classic, moderate, New England ice routes that he wanted to test his lead skills on.  I was looking forward to testing out some adjustments on my gear.  I had tweaked the fit on my crampons, and had some new layers of clothing to check out.  We were soon on the approach at Mount Willard.

Our early start wasn’t enough to beat the first party to Cinema Gulley, so we backtracked to another great route called Left Handed Monkey Wrench. ¬†It was only 25 minutes from the car, and we soloed up some some easy water ice on what the guidebook euphemistically calls, “a rather sketchy approach.”


This route proved to be a nice, comfortable warm-up. ¬†After some easy WI-3 and some more hiking, we arrived at the start of the ever-asthetic Upper Hitchcock. ¬†Conditions were looking pretty fat, and we’d have no problem burying our longest ice screws. ¬†The striking,overhanging wall on climber’s left helped keep us nicely sheltered from the persistent wind. ¬†My layers were working out well. ¬†I had put my heavy mittens awaybefore the first gulley, and didn’t have to take them out again the rest of theday. ¬†My relatively lightweightsingle-leather boots were even keeping my feet warm in the frigid temps of the morning. ¬†My core was toasty, but not sweaty.


Upper Hitchcock topped out in a small alcove full of beautiful, delicate icicles. ¬†The sun reflected through them, and it reminded me of what I love most about climbingice. ¬†We rapped back down one ropelength, and sidestepped over to theexposed East Slabs of Mt. Willard to get in another route. ¬†At 2pm, we ticked off the coldest,longest, line of the day. ¬†The sun was asserting itself against the Arctic weather system, and we experienced adiverse spectrum of ice conditions all up and down the mountain. ¬†This is no Ouray Ice Park… ¬†From plastic to rotten, brittle to near-slush, ice routes in the White Mountains will keep you on your guard!

Making our way back to the car, I made note of the things I wanted to shore up during the next two months before Nepal. ¬†I’m going to upgrade the toe bails of my old Sabretooth crampons- ¬†BD now makes them with a metal tongue-and-ring that comes up over the toe of the boot, to mate with the anklestrap. ¬†The crampon adjustments kept the ‘pons firmly on my feet today, so I know they have potential. ¬†I’ve had problems with them in the past, and I won’t takethat chance on Lobuche. ¬†I’m also looking for suggestions for new boots for Nepal, and the crampons will have to fit those flawlessly, too. ¬†For layers, I need a bigger technical shell witha size “long” cut. ¬†And comparing yesterday to today, I felt a real benefit to wearing ski goggles instead of shades, that I haven’t previously noticed in warmer conditions.

Overall, a great weekend! ¬†Today’s bitter cold was an ironic contrast to the melting temperatures that slowed my operations in Antarctica last month. ¬†This winter is shaping up to be a great improvement over last year, in the Whites. ¬†And I’m looking forward to lots of trail climbing with heavy training backpacksduring the upcoming weeks!


Ashland, OR Article on Everest

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

After a great weekend doing some winter training in the northern New Mexico mountains, we came back to work to find this cool article published by the Ashland Mail Tribune.  It covers some of the history of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge and highlights Capt Andrew Ackles, one of our Everest climbers.  A good read!



Schriever Air Force Base Article: Capt. Colin Merrin & Mt. Everest

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Check out this fresh article on Capt Colin Merrin of the US Air Force Space Command. ¬†He’s on the 7 Summits Challenge’s Everest team. ¬†It’s a great article and the first of three to be released!


ABC in Amarillo Reports on USAF 7 Summits Team

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Here is a link for an interview with Maj. Rob Marshall, one of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge: Everest 2013 climbers. ¬†It’s a short piece, but the people in Amarillo have been loving it and word is spreading like wildfire. ¬†http://www.connectamarillo.com/news/story.aspx?id=847326#.UPTDWonjlCR

Everest Snack Foods

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Spent the weekend¬†thinking about the gear necessary for the climb.¬† Luckily our team members already have most the gear we need, but there are always some additions necessary for each trip.¬† As I was finishing up a tuna sandwich last night, I started thinking about food on the climb.¬† I’ll probably be one of the lightest, if not the lightest, climber on this trip.¬† At 150lbs, I don’t have much extra weight on these ol’ bones.¬† So gaining weight before the climb is going to be important for me.¬†

So too will be the task of keeping that weight on as long as possible while going up and down Everest.¬† Good news is that I like to eat.¬† Even at altitude I’ve been able to push food into my mouth and chew it just long enough to slide it into my belly.¬† However, Everest will be unlike my previous climbs.¬† Even w/ supplemental O2, getting the calories in up at altitude will be a great challenge.

Last night I decided to make some bulk purchases of my favorite mountain snacks.¬† No, I’m not talking about Hostess Ding Dongs (even if they were still being made, they don’t make my list for best all-round snacks… though they sure do taste good).¬† The purchase included three cases of Clif Bars.¬† These things have always satisfied my hunger and when cold/frozen, they give me something to gnaw on for a long time,¬†like a cow chews its cud.¬† Flavor of choice: Chocolate Chip Mint (it’s called Cool Mint Chocolate or something like that, but you get the point).¬† The mint flavor keeps me from feeling like I’m eating slightly moist saw dust, as that is how m0st energy bars taste after you’ve been eating them for days straight.¬† Also bought some of the new Coconut Choclate Chip- haven’t tired ’em, but sounds good enough, and unlike any other flavor I’ll have on the mountain.¬† To round things off, I went with the ol’ standby: Crunchy Peanut Butter.¬† Been eating those since I was running cross country in high school.¬† Hard to beat.

I also grabbed two cases of Clif Shot Blocks.¬† These are essentially a cross between jello¬†squares and gummy bears.¬† Once again, it’s another nice thing to chew on slowly.¬† I used to play a game while climbing 14er’s in Colorado- how long could I make a gummy bear last once I tossed it in my mouth?¬† When you are hiking tons of miles in a day, it’s nice to have something dumb and easy like that to entertain yourself.¬† I think I first tried a few different types of ‘energy blocks’ when climbing the Matterhorn in ’07.¬† I like the ones that have a sharp fruit flavor- they cut through the dry-mouth feeling and wake the back of your tongue’s¬†tastebuds up.¬† These things don’t pack as much long-term energy as bar, but they go down easier.

Also decided to pick up a few containers of Nuun.¬† Ever heard of the stuff?¬† They are little discs that you throw into your water for electorlytes, vitamins and flavor.¬† The container they come in looks just like an Airborne container- white cylinder that holds 8-10 of the discs.¬† I first tried Noon when on McKinley and loved the cola flavor.¬† Plus, I dig ’em because they’re from Seattle… gotta keep my purchases in the 206 when able!

And don’t worry- this isn’t some plug for Clif and Nuun.¬† I wish we had gotten some free stuff from them!¬† But as it always seems to be, these tasty treats will be coming from the fine folks at Visa credit cards… my card specifically.¬† ūüėČ

Not sure what else I’ll take up there.¬† It’ll be several pounds of snacks in the end.¬† Maybe some trail mix, gummy bears/worms, little pieces of chocolate, and some nuts.¬† Hopefully some of the other climbers on the team will bring up different stuff and we can swap once we get bored with our own goodies.¬† Got any suggestions for what works for you on the mountain or while outdoors?

–Rob M

Dawn Fresh Snow Training Run

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Woke up this Sunday morning as the sun was coming up. ¬†Threw on my running shoes and got the dog harnessed up. ¬†Then we were outside into the 15F morning to find a fresh blanket of snow… all untouched. ¬†Ran to local coffee shop for a warm-up and then back home. ¬†The dog jumped around and pounced in the snow all the way back. ¬†The snow flakes were still in perfect shape, but soon the sun was upon them and their transformation back to liquid began. ¬†But getting to see such a perfect winter morning before it was spoiled was a perfect setting for an early morning training run. ¬†-Rob

New York Times Article on the USAF 7 Summits and Everest ’13

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

This morning the New York Time’s released an article on the USAF 7 Summits Challenge and our upcoming climb of Everest on their “At War: Notes from the Front Line” page.


It contains an excellent narrative and some great climbing photos from the past few years of USAF 7 Summits events.

“Climb High, Fly Low!” ¬†and GO AIR FORCE