Category Archives: Climbing

Alzheimer’s and Alan and All We Can Do…K2 Style

I love the mountains. In some ways I think it is because I know so little about them. My mind yearns to understand the hugeness, the velocity of their formation and the impact they have on weather here, there and everywhere. Growing up in the Pacific North West afforded me the all to often taken for granted luxury of seeing big mountain wherever I looked. My favorite mountain growing up was Mount Baker. This is the view I remember from years of staying a my grandparents’ fishing resort on Baker Lake. Tarr’s Resort it was called.

Baker Lake

Mt. Baker from Baker Lake, WA

I hiked all over these forests in the shadow of the mountain throughout my youth. It started my life long interest in mountains and the people who climb them.


Ida and Alan

After my 2012 trek to the base of Mt Everest, a co-worker who works with senior programs told me that a man who had climbed Mt. Everest was speaking to seniors here in Vegas.  I took note and then looked him up to see if she had the info right. Boy did she. It was Alan Arnette, a tireless worker for the eradication of Alzheimer’s as well as accomplished mountaineer who has climbed the Seven Summits (The tallest peak on each continent) and an impressive list of summits and attempts beyond that including such wonders as Ama Dablam, Cho Oyo, Lobuche East, Ben Nevis, Mt. Blanc and on and on. Add to that countless fourteeners in his back yard in Colorado. Clearly a man who loves the mountains and the challenges they pose, he has something he works harder, longer and more passionately on than any one of those climbs. The eradication of Alzheimer’s.  His beloved mother, Ida, suffered with this disease and he has worked tirelessly to see that funds are raised to rid us of this thing. Recently, Alan announced that he was going to climb K2. One of the, if not the most dangerous, difficult climbs on the planet. He is doing it to continue the fight against Alzheimer. I am excited to say that I have joined his team as a fundraiser. He is looking to raise 1 million dollars for the cause. Now listen to me here…HE DOES NOT EARN ANYTHING OF THE FUNDS HE HELPS RAISE! He has linked up with very reputable organizations in order to bring in money that will be used for research and eradication, not climbing. So when the chance to join in and be a team leader was presented to me I jumped on the chance!


K2: 21,251 feet high

I am a team captain. My team is “In Memory of Alida: K2 Climb Against Alzheimer’s”. Join with me and help raise that money. Every breath Alan takes in preparation for his climb and while he is on K2 is about ending Alzheiner’s and not about him. That is the kind of guy he is. Click the link here and you can join my team and we can all help. From the least amount to the greatest, every single individual penny counts. Just like every single individual memory does. Our minds are as huge and powerful as the great mountains of the world. They do so many things that are just amazing. But when they start to malfunction because of a disease that just has to have a cure, we are all vulnerable and we can all try to do something.


Karen and her Grandmother Alida Ida Tarr. Diagnosed in the early 90’s, passed in 2005. But it started much earlier.


The picture above is my grandmother. One of the sweetest women who graced the planet. She was smart and funny and she, along with my grandfather, ran that little fishing resort where I first found my love of the mountains. Where Mt Baker called out to me every one of those wonderful Pacific Northwest Days. I don’t know what I would do without those memories.


The home stretch to the trek is here. Two months from today I will board a plane and leave for what has been a two year plan. I find myself exhilarated and anxious at the same time. Since I made the decision to do this trek, so much has happened. I am so glad I told myself early on  to enjoy the journey. Along the way I have made great friends at Crossfit Max Effort. I have made great friends at the climbing gym and kayaking. I have enjoyed hiking and going to climbing walls in Red Rock and at Mt Charleston. I have learned and gained more friends at As a matter of fact, one of the great mountaineers there made it possible for me to get a free pair of yak trax to try out on the trek!

During this time my father’s health has been declining. We have been in the hospital with him twice in the last month. This raises obvious worries with regard to what may happen while I am gone. The rules have been placed: I will not receive any information regarding my father while on this trek. The family believes that there is nothing I could do if something happened but worry, so finish my trek and come home, hopefully to regale my father with adventurous stories of the Himalayas.

I have added biking into my fitness activities. It is something I used to do regularly all through college. I got a new road bike at Christmas and hope to continue to gain back my health and fitness and do some organized rides.

Another benefit of this two year preparation is that I am not done when the trek is over. In July or August I plan to climb Mount Shasta:

Then Mount Baker:

Then Machu Piccuu:

And maybe after that, Kilimanjaro:

So, as you can see, this has changed my life. This is going to be what I do with the time I have here on this orb and I cannot tell you how much more enriching it is to be out there amongst the greatest creation in history, THE PLANET!

Gallery Wall…and Then it Rained.

The rain threatened, but gave us hope with this little rainbow!

Today’s trip to Gallery Wall in Red Rock was absolutely delightful! The hike to the wall was short but lots and lots of scrambling. It gave me a chance to see if I am feeling stronger, more agile, more confident and more fit. I am happy to report a resounding YES to all of those categories!

I found that the burpees I was forced to do last week at CrossFit Max Effort gave me some arms to use when lowering myself onto boulders or when getting up on a boulder above. I am sure the rowing also assisted in overall conditioning.

It was such a nice morning. I love getting up early and heading out to Red Rock. I am

Four of a Kind!

always the happiest with my choice of living areas on days I jump on to Blue Diamond and take the road to the turnouts. It was quiet with only the bicycles beating us to the day. For them, it gets hot even earlier. We simply try to get as much shade on the wall as possible before the sun comes over to chase us away.  During the climbing, I take a chance to test out my camera skills and record the others as they lead, repel, limb and generally have a great time. Today would not disappoint as we headed up to Gallery Wall. They guys

The Way Up.

headed out and I, as usual, trailed behind. I got to the rocks to scramble and the fun began. Lots of pulling, pushing, leveraging my way up to where thee guys had headed. Finally I got there and felt a real sense of satisfaction that I worked hard and kept going and had FUN!

The rain was lingering over on the hills, leaving us alone, but it looked inevitable that it would come our way. The guys were finishing up what had been a great couple hours of climbing and I thought I should go on down and get a head start since I am slower, So off I went. Going down is tricky as I am not

Goofin on the Rock

always confident in my balance. Especially with my pack on. And today, the pack was awkward with my camera rolling around inside. But I felt more in control of my feet than I had in the past. And my arms were of great help, whereas in the past they have simply been more to carry with me. I was tracking the trip on EveryTrail and was happy to see that the half mile had round 300 feet of elevation gain from the lowest point. I had to keep in mind that in order to get to where that gain could be attained, we had to hike down, then up. That means even steeper ups were presented.  My knees took a bashing but that is par for every hike. After I got back to the parking lot, I jumped in my car and headed out. The drive back was nice and I felt good. I stopped in Blue Diamond to grab a tea and visit the locals,….the burros that is! Can’t wait for the next time to play outside!

The Blue Diamond Wild Burros...who come right up and hang with you. So much for the wild side!

Dog Days of Summer

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area ent...

Image via Wikipedia

It is late July in Las Vegas and the weather is hot, humid and sometimes plain uncomfortable.  It is difficult to spend a lot of time playing outside when it is like this. I prefer to keep on getting out and enjoying myself withouyt the confinement of four walls. But it means making sure to DRINK, DRINK, DRINK or find myself spread eagle on a trail somewhere like a bad episode of Death Valley Days

The last week or so of July always feels like summer is endeing. This, despite the fact that the weather will not cool for a couple of months.  The best of kayaking for the summer is yet to come and the days are still nice and long.  I still like going to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area when it is hot, even though people say it is crazy to do it.  But I am not the only one because every weekend there are bikes, hikers, climbers and walkers all over that place. It is only Tuesday, but my mind is outside playing, and I cannot wait to get there! 

1996 Everest Disaster — Dueling Perspectives

Cover of "The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on ...

Cover of The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest

I have read both Jon Krakauer and Anatoli Boukreev‘s books explaining the events that occurred on Mount Everest in May of 1996. INTO THIN AIR is Krakauer’s and THE CLIMB is Boukreev’s.

I must admit, some of the differences in the information are disturbing. I have always enjoyed Krakauer’s writing but given the answers provided him about his criticisms of Boukreev, and that he and his publishers got them prior to publication makes me ask why he never changes his criticisms. One of the biggest Criticisms of Boukreev is that he did not dress well on summit day.  Photo evidence debunks this assertion outright yet Krakauer does not move from his statement. Pictures of Anatoli in the top state of the art climbing gear that existed in 1996 are easy to find.

The Climb By Anatoli Boukreev - Boukreev On Everest Summit Ridge Near Hillary Step, Anatoli Boukreev and Martin Adams on Everest Summit May 10, 1996

I truly have read most that I can find written by Krakauer. And my decision to use Mountain Madness came after reading his treatment of the 1996 event and before reading Boukreev. But I feel dismayed that Jon seems not to have been able or willing to adjust to facts that were provided to him and his answers to why, with regard to some of them, left me outright appalled. What he thinks and what he feels are far less significant than what is trye when telling this story. There are times he claims he had heard conversations that he later, after being confronted with statements disputing his presence, says that he FEELS that what he heard was more accurate than what the first hand witnesses retell. For instance. He claims to have heard a conversation between Anatoli and Scott Fisher in which Anatoli was never told to descend immediately. Yet another climber present at the time claims the questioned conversation took place after Krakauer had begun a repel down, making it impossible for him to have heard what was or was not being discussed.

Whatever exactly happened on that mountain during that climb will never be completely clear. Anatoli is dead now. So is Lopsong Sherpa. Certain knowledge died with them. But the core of what is disturbing about INTO THIN AIR, is that Krakauer seems to have played fast and loose with the facts in order to hang the blame on one man….Anatoli Boukreev. And to what end? Both were on the same climb during the awful events that occurred.  In my opinion, as a guide, Boukreev had a responsibility to his clients on the mountain. By all accounts he felt that way too. Krakauer was not a guide and had no professional responsibility to assist when Boukreev asked for help going back up to search for missing climbers. I don’t judge any non-guide’s decision not to foray out into what probably was a death sentence for themselves to assist climbers, some of whom were not well prepared to even be on that mountain. But Boukreev pulled off what truly is amazing. he got Sandy Hill-Pittman, who by most accounts was not a prudent climber, having used up more than her share of oxygen while ascending/descending among other counter productive actions that chipped away at others’ ability to get down the mountain alive. He got two other women down that were struggling and assisted a male climber in getting back to camp IV. All after his own ascent and decent and taking him out into the same storm that would kill 8 people that night. All with nobody willing or able to assist him. He made every attempt…repeated attempts…to gather helpers to no avail. He gave up his own emergency O2 supply so others could use it.  In the end, Boukreev got all of the clients that Mountain Madness had taken fees from off that mountain. The only loss was company owner, Scott Fisher. The captain went down with the ship.

Rob Hall was a captain too. He was the captain of the ship Krakauer was riding. But the clients of that expedition did not do near as well. Rob was high up the mountain dying. The Sherpas and guides were either in camp or themselves lost and did not attempt to go back up to get anyone.  Several died. Beck Weathers was left for dead more than once, only to defy the grim reaper with his own gumption and get to where he could be taken off the mountain. Badly and permanently injured for the efforts.

So what is Krakauer’s real beef here? Why soil a man’s reputation that did so much that night. Agree or disagree with his methods, they seem to have been chosen for the purpose of the clients and not to be self-serving. But no matter the evidence presented to Krakauer to show that, he persists in his outright campaign to keep Boukreev the villan.

This has made me become a little skeptical of one of my all time favorite writers. His books read so well and are absolutely some of the best story telling I have ever encountered. He truly is an artist. But if he is compromising facts along the way for what motives can only be known by him, then I will find myself less willing to read his work. If the integrity of the writing is sacrificed, it becomes but an empty, hollow shell.

More Books about that same day in Everest history:

  1. Everest: Mountain Without Mercy, Broughton Coburn
  2. Dark Summit – The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season, Nick Heil
  3. Climbing High: A Woman’s Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy, Lene Gammelgaard
  4. Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, Beck Weathers
  5. High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, Michael Kodas
  6. Mountain Madness, Robert Birkby
  7. Dead Lucky, Lincoln Hall

My Three Year Old Does That One…..

Image representing EveryTrail as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

At work, when we are standing around the proverbial water cooler and I am regaling them with stories of my weekend adventures, one or two of them often tell me their three year old kids can do that. It is all in good fun. But it is true also. Their kids are out their burning up trails I am struggling with.

Yesterday, my brother and I went to the South Loop of Mt Charleston. Charleston is the highest peak in the area. We had no plans of going to the summit, but we were hoping to go to what is called the Saddle. I was a bit nervous because this hike starts at 7600 feet. I am always worried that I will start out and find that as the altitude increases I will find some aversion to it that will indicate I am one of those people who cannot do the altitude thing. I am borrowing worry. I know.

We started out and as usual for me, I get winded right off the bat. I never know if that is because I try to keep up with my brother or if it is just the way I warm up. My brother asked how it was going and I said fine, but he kept telling me we were on the flat. He lied. And he laughed about it after. I know he lied because when I was coming down later, my knees took a beating on that part of my decent. I guess since he doesn’t have a three year old to brag about running full speed on these trails, he just lies about the trails.

We passed a lot of people coming down. And my kayaking pal Kate Sigworth was on the trail with her dog (over three).

Kate and her trusty hiking pup

 She started when we did but was coming down when we were just to the first overlook. She had offered to hike with us but I told her that I was so slow that she would not get done what she was there to do.

I use a trip tracking program to track distance and altitude changes in the hikes I do as well as to map routs to climbing walls. It is called EveryTrail and this is the South Loop information it recorded for me. I find that it does some strange stuff. If you look at it it seems to go off and record some weird running around stuff that I know never happened.  But it is what I have right now and it recorded that I gained 2200 feet in elevation on 4.5 miles. SO my hike was 9 miles and topped out at 9800 feet of elevation.  

My Base Camp trek will start at 9350 and actually descends from that altitude to 8700 feet that first day. I don’t think altitude hits me hard but will have to get higher to have a better idea of that.

Going up was very slow for me. Four hours to get 4.5 miles in 2200 feet. Coming down took 2 hours. Mainly because there were lots of little stair steps that wreak havoc with my knees.  In the first mile going up I had two huge blisters on my heels and coming down my toes and balls of my feet were either dead or on fire. That means the Asolo boots I got are not the ones for me. I will go back to the Keens I had before. But as I sit hear today, my muscles are not sore. My knees and feet are, mainly bone sore from bad boots and lots of steep decent. So all in all, I might not beat your three year old. But I can drive and don’t have to go to bed early. So there is a trade off.

Panty Wall Preview

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It has been a long weekend of eating and being a suburban dweller, totally separated from the rocks and mountains just outside the pavement and sidewalks that comprise Las Vegas. But it is finally Sunday Eve and in the early morning I will be gathering my harness, rope, shoes and warm cloths in my pack and heading to Panty Wall. It is nice that Iactually feel like I have missed the outdoor activities I have been doing more and more of over the last year.

Here is what the Mountain Project is saying about some of the routes:

Mountain Project’s determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Panty Wall:
Sacred Undergarment Squeeze Job 5.8 Sport, 1 pitch, 70 feet
Brief Encounter 5.8 Sport, 1 pitch, 60 feet
Boxer Rebellion 5.8 Sport, 1 pitch, 60 feet
Panty Raid 5.9+ Trad, 1 pitch, 80 feet
Panty Line 5.10a R Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 80 feet
Panty Mime 5.10c Sport, 1 pitch, 50 feet
Totally Clips 5.11a Sport, 1 pitch, 60 feet
Viagra Falls 5.12a Sport, 1 pitch, 50 feet
It looks like I may be able to do some of these routes!

Rocking the Wall

Wednesday night climbing has become a mainstay of my week. Me and some of the other Las Vegas Meetup folks gather at Nevada Climbing Center (one of the two indoor climbing facilities in Las Vegas.)and do walls for a couple hours. It is a great workout and a great group of people to spend time with. I have not done great the last couple weeks but hope to get my mojo soon so that I am back to more walls. Tonight was a couple climbs and a bunch of belays. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I am cooking now and getting ready for the holiday. Let’s hope that he holiday does not do too much damage!

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