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Archive for February, 2013

Mt. Washington: Winter Blow Out!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

This is recent update from one of our USAF 7 Summits Team Members- Maj Malcolm Schongalla.  He will be climbing Lobuche Peak in Nepal with the Everest Team and has been hard at work training in NH and the surrounding states.

Kelly and I took advantage of a stalled cold front and blustery winds to get some great cold weather acclimatization in today (17 Feb 2013). ¬†At 7 AM we started up from Pinkham Notch at 12 degrees F, and the temperature just kept dropping as we made our way along the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Winter Lion’s Head route. ¬†It was Kelly’s first time with crampons and an ax, and she handled the crux in good style!

People climbing down reported hellacious conditions above– “the worse it is, the better!” we said. ¬†Topping out above¬†tree-line¬†on the Lion’s Head, it gave some perspective to “the world’s worst weather” reputation. ¬†If this were McMurdo Station, Antarctica, it would have been Condition 1 (no travel allowed).


We practiced some good risk management, and set some firm criteria for turning back.  Towards the intersection with the Alpine Gardens Trail, a mere 1 mile from the summit, we called it off.  Strong gusts were knocking us off our feet, and visibility was barely good enough to see cairn to cairn.


Image Credit: Mount Washington Observatory website

So, I’m 0 for 3 on winter attempts on Mt. Washington. ¬†It would have been great to summit. ¬†But my goal was not to summit, my goal was for both of us to walk in our front door and have a beer on the couch, at the end of the day! ¬†The mountain is still there, and hopefully next week, I’ll be there again too. ¬†Breaking in a new pair of boots, perhaps…


Wounded Airmen Aiming to Reach Everest Base Camp!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Send these American Airmen on an epic journey sure to help them heal from their ordeals mentally, physically, and spiritually. ¬†We need to raise $20,000 before Feb 25th to ensure these wounded warriors have plane tickets, permits, guides, and lodging as they accompany the USAF 7 Summits Challenge on our trek to Everest Base Camp. ¬†Using the link below, your donations to the AF Rescue community’s charity, “That Others May Live Foundation” are tax deductible and will go directly to the mission to send these Airmen on this important and powerful trip deep into the Himalayan mountains.




Senior Master Sgt. Robert Disney, 35, USAF Pararescueman, survived a gunshot wound to the head on April 18, 2003, when enemy forces ambushed his special operations team as they inserted to a remote location in Central Pakistan.¬† A shining example of resilience and the warrior spirit, Disney has also endured a helicopter crash (Aug ‚Äė02), witnessed the death of six close friends in another helicopter crash (Mar ‚Äė03), and suffered a traumatic brain injury from a 15-foot fall onto his back during helicopter operations.¬† He was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, GA (‚Äė98-‚Äô04, ‚Äė07-‚Äô11) and RAF Mildenhall, UK before joining the Standards and Evaluations division at Air Combat Command Headquarters, Langley AFB, VA.¬† Disney is a devoted advocate for Wounded Warrior issues and has become a highly successful public speaker.¬† Robert is from Central Illinois and is married to Tess Disney from Nashville, GA.


Tech. Sgt. Daniel Houghton, 28, USAF Pararescueman, was wounded Feb. 17, 2007, in a devastating MH-47 helicopter crash in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.  Despite near fatal injuries and a snow storm, Houghton maintained a security position in the fractured wreckage until he was rescued four hours later. While recovering from a follow-on surgery in June 2009, he learned that his brother, George Bryan Houghton, an F-16 pilot, had died in a training accident at Hill AFB, Utah.  Undeterred, Houghton fought his way back to a full recovery as an operational Pararescueman through the aid of the Athlete’s Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze, FL.   After four years as a Pararescue School Instructor at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, he was recently selected as a Special Tactics Recruiter at his brother’s former home of Hill Air Force Base, UT.  Dan hails from Asheville, NC and is married to Marjorie Houghton from San Antonio, TX.

Capt Augustin Viani, 28, USAF, entered Combat Rescue Officer training directly after graduating the Air Force Academy in 2007. In Jan 2009, he sustained a fall during helicopter rope ladder training, resulting in a concussion and fractured spine. He was surgically repaired with a titanium spinal fusion. He recovered and was waivered to resume training 6 months later. In Dec 2009, he graduated as a Combat Rescue Officer, being assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan AFB. After 2 OEF deployments (250 missions), Capt Viani was in a canopy entanglement with another teammate during parachuting training in August 2011.  The crash-landing resulted in a concussion, multiple pelvic fractures, rib fractures and torn knee ligament. He was immediately repaired with titanium hardware, followed by knee surgery 5 months later after being wheel chair bound for 3 months. Capt Viani recovered and was waivered again to resume training in Oct 2012.  Gus is married to Emily Viani from Albuquerque, NM.



Interview w/ Alan Arnette

Monday, February 4th, 2013

One of our Everest climbers was interviewed by Alan Arnette, who runs the most popular Everest / 7 Summits website on the planet.¬† The team met Alan during the 2010 climb of Antarctica’s highest peak, Mt. Vinson.¬† Alan was climbing the 7 Summits to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s and has gone on to create a huge website dedicated to high-altitude mountaineering.

Today he released an interview with Major Rob Marshall, one of our Everest climbers and the co-founder of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge.¬† The interview does a great job summing up the ‘Challenge and the team’s goals.

Alan’s site is viewed by hundreds of thousands of consistent readers and his support of the team should be a great help in spreading the exciting message of this Everest climb.

Check it out on Alan’s site: http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2013/02/04/everest-2013-interview-with-rob-marshall-us-air-force-7-summits/

Descending from ‘high camp’, Antarctica 2010

Risk Management & Mountains

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Risk Management is a huge part of mountaineering. ¬†Heading out into the wild involves an increase in risk, since outdoor adventures are often far from tools we take for granted: medical facilities, warmth, shelter, a helping hand, etc. ¬†But, that doesn’t mean we have to stop heading into the wild or participating in adventure sports.

The climbers on the USAF 7 Summits Challenge use Air Force Risk Management tools on a daily basis. ¬†However, there are few, if any, more demanding environments in need of Risk Management than on high altitude mountains. ¬†Just like a pilot or war fighter must make split second decisions that carry huge consequences, the mountaineer must do the same. ¬†All our climbs start off with a detailed plan of the trip, what you could call “Deliberate Planning”. ¬†This would include things like: bringing the right medicines and knowing how to use them, plotting on a map where all medical facilities are, studying the historic weather data so we know how cold/hot it can get, reviewing all our gear to ensure we have enough equipment to handle just about every situation, planning out how many calories we’ll need, bringing extra equipment and spare parts in case a crampon, tent or other piece of equipment fails, and figuring out all our on-mountain communications (radio, sat phone, cell phone, etc).

Once on the mountain, with our deliberate plan in effect, we start on the expedition. ¬†Of course, conditions and schedules change, so we then move into “Real-Time” risk¬†management. ¬†This is when good situational¬†awareness¬†is critical- as it impacts all the decisions the team will make. ¬†Real-time decisions might deal with changing a route due to instable snow or ice, delaying the schedule a day due to someone’s health or poor weather, pushing up the schedule to take advantage of good weather, etc. ¬†Paying attention to the changing environment and pausing to¬†reassess¬†the way forward (or back, if a retreat is the best choice) is a cycle we’ll be dealing with daily on Everest.

Want to read more about this sort of thought process? ¬†Check out this great article from the king of mountaineering himself: Ed Viesturs. ¬†It’s a cool article from Slate Magazine in which Ed talks about some of the dumbest mistakes he’s made while climbing high-altitude mountains and how he learns from his mistakes.


“Climb High, Fly Low” ¬†–Rob M