Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Mountaineering

Irvine woman with rare disease conquers Mt. Everest

Cindy Abbott displays her National Organization for Rare Diseases banner at Camp 4 before leaving for the summit of Mt. Everest. Cindy Abbott lives with adversity. The Irvine resident  started losing vision in her left eye more than 15 years ago, and began having a slew of mini-strokes and vertigo. No one could explain to her why any of it was happening.

Finally, in 2007, Abbott was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare and potentially deadly disease of uncertain cause. Affecting 1 in 20,000 adults, Wegener's Granulomatosis is characterized by the inflammation of blood vessels, a condition that restricts blood flow and can lead to lung, kidney and other organ damage.

Abbott, 51, has no idea how long she has left to live because of the incurable disease. But she did not let the debilitating affliction hold her back, and on May 23, she became the first person with Wegener's Granulomatosis to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

"I had decided to climb Mt. Everest prior to my diagnosis and becoming functionally blind in my left eye," Abbott said. "After the disease was stabilized, I continued my goal of climbing to the top of the world."

Abbott persevered with her dream, becoming one of fewer than 45 U.S. women to successfully summit the 29,035-foot peak.

"After years of training, spending six weeks on the mountain going up and down getting my body adjusted to the altitude, and the actual summit climb, I still find it difficult to believe I did it," Abbott said. "It was very difficult on many levels -- physical, mental and emotional."

And the weather made the attempt even more challenging. "I am talking about tent-destroying and cold," Abbott said. "The weather had all the climbers pinned in at different levels of the mountain." Adding to the difficulties was a cyclone that was moving toward the world's tallest peak, leaving a narrow two-day window for Abbott and other climbers to attempt the summit.

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Big Bear Lake's Jordan Romero, 13, becomes youngest person to scale Mt. Everest


Jordan Romero, a 13-year-old from Big Bear Lake, Calif., has become the youngest person to scale Mt. Everest, the world's tallest peak.

The eighth-grader's contingent confirmed by satellite phone on Saturday (Himalayan time) that his climbing group, which included his father, Paul, and three Sherpa guides, had reached the 29,035-foot summit. Previously the youngest climber to scale Mt. Everest had been Nepal's Temba Tsheri, who accomplished the feat on May 23, 2001, at the age of 16 years and 14 days.

Romero's group climbed the northern route out of Tibet. They still have to make the trek down the mountain, which is a perilous route that claims the lives of climbers each year.

"Their dreams have now come true. Everyone sounded unbelievably happy," a new statement on Jordan's blog said late Friday, Pacific time.

Before he was about to make the ascent, he wrote on his blog: "Every step I take is finally toward the biggest goal of my life, to stand on top of the world."

Romero's accomplishment finishes his quest to climb seven of the tallest mountains on each of the continents around the world. His other climbs were: Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa) on July 22, 2006; Mt. Kosciuszko (Australia) on April, 2007; Mt. Elbrus (Europe) on July 11, 2007; Mt. Aconcagua (South America) on Dec. 30, 2007; Mt. Denali (North American) on June 18, 2008; and Carstensz Pyramid (Oceana) on Sept. 1, 2009.

--Dan Loumena

Photo: Jordan Romero leaves a hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 11 during his preparation to climb Mt. Everest.

Credit: Prakash Mathema / AFP-Getty Images

Climber falls to his death from Alaska's Mt. McKinley

A view of the West Buttress of Mt. McKinley on a crisp, clear day.

A French mountaineer fell to his death Sunday while climbing Alaska's Mt. McKinley. According to the news release, Pascal Frison, 51, and his climbing partner were approaching a feature known as "Lunch Rocks," near 12,000 feet on the West Buttress. Losing control of his sled, Frison attempted to stop it from sliding over the ridge, but both Frison and his sled tumbled toward the Peters Glacier. Frison, who was un-roped at the time, was unable to stop and fell more than 1,000 feet to a steep, crevased section of the Peters Glacier.

A nearby team witnessed the fall and made a radio distress call shortly after 3 p.m. to Denali National Park rangers. The park's high-altitude helicopter arrived at the accident site within five minutes, where spotters on board saw several pieces of fallen gear, and followed the fall line down to what appeared to be the climber laying in a crevasse at approximately 10,200 feet.

The steep terrain at the fall site offered no feasible landing areas, so helicopter and crew returned to the Kahiltna Basecamp, where they picked up mountaineering ranger Kevin Wright and returned to the area with Wright on a 'short-haul' line, hanging beneath the helicopter at the end of a 120-foot rope.

Pilot Andy Hermansky attempted to lower Wright into the crevasse, but could not safely reach Frison; however Wright readily determined that the climber had not survived the fall. Rangers plan to return to the site Monday for further reconnaissance and to determine if a body recovery is an option. Frison’s accident is the first known fatality in this area of the West Buttress route.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of the West Buttress of Mt. McKinley on a crisp, clear day. Credit: National Park Service

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New eyewear allows for hands-free video recording

50000 ikam Time for a new pair of sunglasses? You might want to check out i-Kam Xtreme eyewear, which allows the wearer to be their own videographer.

That's because each pair features a built-in video recording device, allowing for hands-free recording of your latest outdoor adventure. Be it hunting, fishing, skiing or even a ballgame, outdoor enthusiasts of all types have an easy way to record what they see, and play it back later for future enjoyment.

With no cords or battery packs required, the glasses have a digital camera incorporated into the frame, offering 4GB of built-in memory for up to 3 hours of recording, plus an integral microphone to capture all the sounds to go along with the video. The eyewear  will also accept a Micro SD card for an additional 8 GB of memory. 

The glasses can be hooked directly to a PC or Mac with the supplied USB cable to view video. When using a Micro SD card, it can be inserted into a card reader to watch footage.

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South Korean is first woman to ascend 14 highest mountain peaks

South Korean female mountaineer Oh Eun-son, foreground, moves towards a second camp on Mount Annapurna. Oh has become the first woman to scale 14 of the world's highest mountains. A 44-year-old South Korean became the first woman to ascend the world's 14 highest mountains, crawling on all fours Tuesday as she reached the peak of Annapurna in the Himalayas. 

The Associated Press reported that Oh Eun-sun arrived at the final steep stretch of the summit 13 hours after leaving the last base camp.

At the top, she pulled out a South Korean flag, waved, and wept before raising her arms and shouting, "Victory!"

Her feat was broadcast live in South Korea by KBS television. Footage showed Oh breathing heavily after each step in minus-20 degree temperatures on snowy Annapurna.

"I'm so happy, and I would like to share this joy with the South Korean people," said an emotional Oh, murmuring, "Thank you, thank you."

The mountaineer reached the summit -- 26,545 feet above sea level -- 13 years after she scaled her first Himalayan mountain, Gasherbrum II, in 1997. 

Oh had attempted to summit Annapurna last year but turned away just hundreds of yards from the top because of bad weather. Snow and wind also stopped her from making the attempt last weekend.

"I gave it up because of a sudden ominous feeling that something bad would happen to either me or my peers, including the sherpas, on my way back to base camp," Oh told the Korea Times last month.

The entire summit team was in good health and making its way down to the base camp, said expedition coordinator Song Hea-kyong, adding that they are expected back in Katmandu by the weekend.

Oh narrowly beat Spanish rival Edurne Pasaban to the record. After reaching Annapurna earlier this month, Pasaban, 26, has only the 26,330-foot-high Mt. Shisha Pangma left on her list.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: South Korean female mountaineer Oh Eun-son, center, moves towards a second camp on Mount Annapurna. She has become the first woman to scale 14 of the world's highest mountains. Credit: Associated Press / Blackyak

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Rescue efforts to resume for climber who fell into Mt. St. Helens crater


Washington state authorities plan to resume efforts this morning to rescue a climber who fell into the crater at Mt. St. Helens Monday afternoon.

Rescuers believe that the 52-year-old Washington man was hiking with a friend and moved to the rim to have his picture taken when the ledge of snow he was standing on gave way, sending him sliding about 1,500 feet into the crater.

The rescue attempt was suspended Monday evening when high winds made footing unstable for search personnel.

One rescuer reached the floor of the volcano's crater, but had to abandon efforts to find the man because strong downdrafts were dislodging rocks, said David Cox, Skamania County undersheriff.

At last sighting he was not moving.

"The pilot did a reconnaissance flight, got up relatively close, could not see any movement," Tom McDowell, North Country Emergency Medical Service director, told "Good Morning America" Monday. "He didn't make any effort to signal the helicopter."

The man has been described as an experienced hiker who has climbed the mountain as many as 68 times.

The now-dormant volcano erupted with catastrophic force in 1980, devastating 230 square miles of forest and creating the crater at the top of the mountain, now a popular hiking destination.

The climb to its crater provides outstanding views of the lava dome, blast area and surrounding volcanic peaks, but the U.S. Forest Service warns of the instability of the cornices and strongly advises extreme caution be used near the crater rim, as it is unstable and prone to sudden failure

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Some cornices on the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey


Climber falls into Mt. St. Helens crater; rescue effort underway

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Idox Traveler Series case is handy for those on the go

Idox A new device has been created which could be useful for outdoor enthusiasts who don't want to leave home without their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPod Nano.

The idox Traveler Series case is a simple, yet durable multi-purpose case that securely protects such devices in whatever bag they're being carried in, be it a daypack, backpack or tacklebox.

With rubber grips to help keep the idox from sliding, it can even be used when boating.

Once settled in, the idox can be opened and set up so that devices can be used horizontally -- as an alarm clock, to watch video or to access apps.

The idox retails for $34.95 for the larger case and $24.95 for the smaller case, designed to fit the iPod Nano, and can be purchased online.

-- Kelly Burgess

Image courtesy of idox

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Oregon may require locator beacons for Mt. Hood expeditions

Trees in the foreground belie the immensity of Mt. Hood as early morning sunlight glints off the mountain peak.

The recent death and disappearance of three climbers on Oregon's 11,249-foot Mt. Hood has revived debate about requiring mountaineers to carry personal locator beacons on the mountain.

Following an eerily similar incident in 2007 -- one climber was found dead and two others never located -- the Oregon Legislature considered a bill requiring winter climbers to carry the device, though it never passed the Senate.

Backers of such a stipulation contend that locator beacons would help search-and-rescue teams pinpoint lost climbers, reducing the risk for those searching, and saving time and expense.

Those opposing such a requirement believe it could lead to climbers taking excessive risks because they assume they will be located and rescued.

As a casual hiker, I would never attempt to ascend mountains such as Mt. Whitney or Mt. Hood -- locator beacon or not -- knowing they are out of my league.

But I'm curious what readers' thoughts are. Would personal locator beacons be a good idea to help track down the lost and reduce risk to rescuers, or would hikers and climbers attempt more difficult paths, believing that if they got stuck or lost someone would come save them?

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Trees in the foreground belie the immensity of Mt. Hood as early morning sunlight glints off the mountain peak. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press

Search effort for missing climbers on Mt. Hood suspended; becomes recovery mission

A helicopter flies past Mt. Hood's Crater Rock on Sunday in search of two missing climbers.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office announced this afternoon that the search for two climbers that have been missing on Oregon's 11,249-foot Mt. Hood since Friday has been suspended and is now being handled as a recovery effort.

"One of the most difficult decisions I have to make as Sheriff is the decision to suspend search operations. I have consulted with all of the search-and-rescue experts at my disposal, along with the family members of Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietta, and have made the decision to suspect search operations at this time," Sheriff Craig Roberts said in a news release.

"My condolences go out to all the family and friends of Luke Gullberg, Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietti. I would like to thank all of the search-and-rescue personnel for the many hours they have spent on this search and others. Without these dedicated individuals, we could not perform difficult missions."

Avalanche danger and severe weather has kept search and rescue teams from reaching the area where  24-year-old Anthony Vietti, of Longview, Wash., and 29-year-old Katie Nolan, of Portland, Ore., are believed to be.

The climbers' families praised the efforts of search and rescue teams at a news conference today, reports Oregon Fox Television affiliate KPTV.

"They have risked their lives," David Nolan, Katie's father, said. "They have sacrificed time with their family and children. These guys have courage and valor."

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: A helicopter flies past Mt. Hood's Crater Rock on Sunday in search of two missing climbers. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press


Officials say chances are slim that missing Mt. Hood climbers are still alive

Severe weather may halt search for missing Mt. Hood climbers

Poor weather, avalanche danger hamper search for missing Mt. Hood climbers

Officials say chances are slim that missing Mt. Hood climbers are still alive

Nolan Officials believe it is unlikely that the two climbers missing since Friday on Oregon's Mt. Hood are alive, reports Oregon Fox Television affiliate KPTV.

An authority on mountain survival spoke with family members of the missing climbers Tuesday and told them that the possibility of Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., and Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., surviving conditions on the 11,249-foot mountain for this many days is exceedingly slim.

"Unfortunately, in this case, time is no longer in our favor," Terri Schmidt, a Oregon Health & Science University hypothermia expert, said later at a news conference. "What we know is after 48 hours, the chances of finding someone alive after that go down to about 1%."

Rescue workers are still on standby, but whiteout conditions and the risk of avalanche made any search effort impossible Tuesday and unlikely in the coming days. 

Portland Mountain Rescue team leader Steve Rollins said it would take four or five days of good weather to ease avalanche danger, and such weather on Mt. Hood at this time of year is unlikely.

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Severe weather may halt search for missing Mt. Hood climbers


Whiteout conditions may prevent search and rescue crews from continuing efforts to locate two climbers missing on Oregon's Mt. Hood since Friday. Officials told Oregon Fox Television affiliate KPTV that "crews remain on standby" as the situation is being assessed almost hourly.

Authorities are still hoping that experienced climbers Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., could be found alive.

Sadly, a third climber, Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., was found dead on Saturday. An autopsy showed that Gullberg died of hypothermia, said Clackamas County Sheriff's office spokesman Jim Strovink.

On Monday, a helicopter was able to search the summit after clouds cleared enough for the pilot and crew to examine high altitudes they were unable to scour previously, but no sign of the two climbers was seen.

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Poor weather, avalanche danger hamper search for missing Mt. Hood climbers

MissingAuthorities and the mountaineering community are still hopeful that two climbers missing on Oregon's 11,249-foot Mt. Hood are alive, but conditions today have been too hazardous to perform a ground search at high altitude, and a crew aboard a military helicopter, as of 1 p.m., had not located sign of the climbers, according to a spokeswoman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities earlier today told the Associated Press they had not given up hope that experienced climbers Anthony Vietti, 24, of Longview, Wash., and Katie Nolan, 29, of Portland, Ore., could be found alive. However, time is not their ally, and neither is the weather. Avalanche danger, which is considerable today, is expected to become high on Tuesday.

Sadly, a team of mountaineers located the body of the duo's companion, Luke T. Gullberg, 26, of Des Moines, Wash., on Saturday. The excursion began Friday on the mountain's west side. The climbers were near the summit, based on photos downloaded from Gullberg's camera, which was found near his body.

Here's today's avalanche forecast for Mt. Hood from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center:

"Temporarily decreasing snow showers should be seen Monday morning. New slab layers are most likely on lee northeast to southeast slopes. Cautious route finding and conservative decision making should be essential on Monday morning.

"A front should cause strongly increasing southwest winds, increasing moderate to heavy snow and warming Monday afternoon and night. This should build layers of increasing density and add loads to buried hoar frost or previous weakened layers. New slab layers should be most likely on northeast to southeast slopes but may be possible on other aspects such as in the Cascade passes. Natural or triggered avalanches should become likely Monday afternoon and night."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Anthony Vietti is one of the two climbers missing on Mt. Hood in Oregon. Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.