Mountain Name, Altitude, and Times Sumitted

Mt Shasta 14,162'    2 of 3  

Mt Lassen 10,462'    3 

Mt Hood 11,245'  1 of 2  

Pyramid Peak 9,983'  4  

Eagle Buttress 8640'  

Jacks Peak 9856'  

Dicks Peak 9974'  

Mt Tallac 9735'     3  

Mt Hawkins 10,024' 

Mt Sill 14,154'  

North Palisade 14,248' 

Mt Gayley 13,510 

Mt Ritter 13,143'   1 of 2  

Mt Dade 13,600' 

Bear Creek Spire 13,734'  

Mt Hoffman 10,850; 3 

Thompson Peak - 9,003  

Cathedral Peak 10,911  

Mt Dana 13,053  

Kuna Peak 13,002'  

Koip Peak 12,962'  

Mt Whitney 14,505'  

Kaiser Peak 10,320'  

Huayna Potosi 20,000'  

Cerro Jankho Huyo 18,079'+  

Pequeno Alpamayo 17,618'  

Unnamed Peak, Bolivia  16,000'+  

Mt Carrie (WA) 6995'  

Telescope Peak 11,043' 

Whorl Mountain  12,033'  2 of 3  

Matterhorn Peak - 12,279' 

North Peak Yosemite - 12, 247'  

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Scaling South American Heights

By Michael A Wong

Every climber has dreams of going for the big ones – most times, they stay dreams. In the beginning of 1983 I told my wife, Lorna, “I think this is the year to do it.” While I was researching different climbing companies, a close friend and fellow climbing partner 

Recommended the American Alpine Institute.


There are only a few places in the world with mountains 20,000 feet plus. Bolivia is one. I knew I would see those mountains after putting down my $250.00 deposit. I had already had most of the necessary climbing equipment, but I had to purchase warm clothes, be inoculated for just about everything, and get my registered birth certificate and a passport. During all this I found myself more and more excited.


I was even a little scared getting on the plane which flew via Houston to Miami. My final destination was to such a faraway place. But when I linked up with two of the other climbers, I felt a little relieved. From Miami we flew to Lima and caught the flight to Cuzco where we met our guide, Peter Getzel, and discussed our acclimatization program. By the second day I felt great, and we hiked to some spectacular ruins, one of which was Sachahuacaman – those Incas could really build! 


We continued to hike high above Cuzco to other ruins where I photographed and talked to the Indians along the way. One family even offered their crude alcohol drink; I was glad I don’t drink. But the next day I knew something was wrong with me as I got into the van to ride down to the once-a-week marketplace in Chincero, an ancient Incan city with Spanish architecture. Before collapsing from my illness, however, I took as many pictures as possible. The rest of my group hiked to the bottom of the Sacred Valley of the Urubcomba, where the driver and I caught up with them. We made several stops along the way – sometimes for me to be sick, and often times due to a water leak in the van.


I slept the rest of the day at the hotel in Ollantaytambo, getting up only for some soup, and slept again until morning, despite the train which ran literally under the balcony window and some happy drunks singing in the street below. This little inn is situated about halfway between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. The layout and stone work of this ancient city on top of a mountain were incredible, and as I roamed through it, photographing this boulder city, it was hard to imagine what life was like so long ago. My fellow climbers decided to hike to the top of Huyana Picchu, which is about 10,000 ft. high. The summit overlooks the entire ruins complex as well as the winding switchback road leading down to the train tracks at the river. I was still weak from being so extremely ill the day before, but after climbing, I felt a lot stronger and was able to relax on the six-hour train ride back to Cuzco. Next was a flight to La Paz, Bolivia.


From the plane, Salcantay, a 22,574 ft. mountain, seemed to be at eye-level, and that was only a preview of what was to come. Even the La Paz airport at 13,000 ft. seemed to rise up to greet our plane as we landed. In La Paz we met our next guide, Geoff Bartram, and said good-bye to Peter, who was off on a climb called Ancohuma (23,012 ft.) with other clients. Both guides were professional, and I soon learned the difference between me and them. In La Paz, I also learned the difference between the U.S. and South American countries.


The food in Bolivia was good, although you couldn’t find beef at times. Bolivia was suffering from a bad drought, which forced the proud Quechua people down into the city every day to sell or otherwise earn a few cents. Transportation is terrible, and people were standing in quarter-mile long lines to get back to their villages. From my “Hotel Gloria” window I saw people still waiting at midnight for buses. 


We are really spoiled here in the states. Ninety percent of Bolivia’s food is imported. For an American traveler, South America can’t be beat, but inflation is running wild. When we arrived the exchange rate was 680 pesos to the dollar. When we left, it was 800. An American can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable about the exchange rate when you can get a good dinner for $2.50 or buy an Alpaca wool sweater for $5 that would cost $100.00 in the states. We could only hope that our spending money would help a little. 


Yet, surrounding these human conditions in town were the most magnificent mountains in the world. I couldn’t wait to get climbing, although I realized the importance of proper acclimatization if I wanted to make a successful summit take.

One of the days we spent becoming acclimatized was especially interesting. Hasito picked us up- a familiar day’s start. On our way up to the Altiplano and the ruins at the Tinanacu, we passed thousands of people waiting for transportation. Tinanacu is pre-Inca, and no one is certain how much art and statues were taken from the temples. Most of the surrounding towns were built with the stones from this city, but in a Spanish style. Some of the art treasures are on display in La Paz’s outdoor city center.


Hasito then took us to the beautiful Lake Titicaca, where we visited an island where reed boats made. We learned that these people were hired to build the Raww II in Egypt for a National Geographic special. I was honored to photograph two of the boatbuilders. The village could have been existing hundreds of years ago. People were farming, weaving, and of course, building their boats. The people seemed to be in harmony with nature. It was very peaceful – such a contrast to the people of the Altiplano. I would like to have stayed for a few more days. The view of the whole Cordillera Real mountain range was spread out in front of us. I could see Huyana Potosi as plain as day although you can see this peak and others no matter where you are, because of their huge size. We went back to La Paz and after a few more days of acclimatization and a couple of nights out on the town, one at a folk music nightclub, my wishes to get to the mountains were finally beginning to come true. 


After spending many hours preparing our backpacks and equipment for the llamas to carry, we loaded up Hasito’s taxi and took off past serene lakes, through beautiful countryside, with Indians and llamas. What I thought to be a trail from the taxi window turned out to be the switchback road we were to take. The drop from the narrow road was 200 ft., and was scarier than any climb because I had no control over anything.

At 15,200 ft., we met our Quechua people – a man and wife and seven children who live in a stone house with very little firewood. I still don’t understand how they survive, but I know that The American Alpine Institute works with them a lot. As we had lunch and played with the kids, the equipment was loaded on llamas. The oldest son and his mother, carrying a baby on her back, started out around a lake and up a pass. This was the highest altitude I had ever been to, and we had driven this high in a taxi. The highest I had ever been previously was Mt. Whitney, which is 14,495 feet above sea level.


We started out and, needless to say, everyone else was quite a bit ahead of me. By the time I arrived at camp (16,850 ft), all our tents were set up and ready for the evening. Surrounding mountain peaks were more than 18,000 ft high! In the morning we awoke to hot tea made by our guide, had breakfast, and then we were off to a 17,400 ft. mountain. After reviewing some basic technique on some rock, we hiked toward the glacier. It’s a lot of work putting on the crampons and getting ready for six hours on ice. After pushing hard all day and taking pictures, my first peak was under me.


Our second day of climbing started about the same way, except for the results of an avalanche the night before, fortunately not too near our route. Even after observing the mountain for two days, I still couldn’t see a moderate route until Geoff said: ”We’re going up the middle.” From a distance, a mountain may look impossible. When you are on it, you’ll see a lot of details and usually it isn’t as steep as you first thought – which doesn’t mean it isn’t steep.


Avoiding the crevasses as we climbed, the views became more grand. The ice was fluted with millions of sharp points you had to walk between as you tried to keep as many points of the crampons as flat as possible on the ice, always quite a strain on the ankles. As we climbed the last 45 degree angle pitched dome, I’ll never forget stepping onto the top of this 18,100 ft. peak to marvel at 360 degrees of magnificent view. Looking across the valley we could see out Indian friends hauling our equipment down on llamas. They looked like ants. We descended from another side of the mountain, which turned out to be more difficult than expected. The glacier was badly broken up toward the bottom, and finding a route was like being in a maze. Finally on rock again, I scrambled down quickly even though I was exhausted.


After a good sleep I arose to see the sun creeping into the valley next to a beautiful lake. I took a hike to the top of a hill to photograph the rare sights, before Hasito in our taxi came chugging up the mountain pass. Our llamas and their masters were already on the trail through the mountains to meet us at the Condoriri Lake area. We took the worst dirt road I’d ever been on, but finally met our llamas and Indian friends at road’s end. On the far horizon was Huyana Potosi, looming to 20,000 feet, its summit shrouded in clouds. Our llamas packed up and our stomachs full, we set off toward Condoriri Lake.


As we started our journey, we passed a water supply canal, peaceful Indian dwellings, llamas, cows grazing- out and out beautiful country. At one point a Quechua man ran past me to talk to Geoff, who seemed to be a little irritated. We continued hiking on the trail that followed the contours of the hillside. The further we walked into this magic valley, the more beautiful it became. We were now looking down on a deep blue lake with a small island in the middle. In the distance was a huge mountain with a giant hanging glacier. I was getting more and more excited. Condoriri (the Condor) has what appears to be a head and two spread wings. The head was covered with clouds as we looked at it. Soon to be seen was Lago Condoriri, and with it, a whole glacier system made itself known. I am a slow hiker, so when I arrived at camp, the tents were again all set up at the end of the valley with walls of glaciers nearby.


The plan was to climb Pequeno Alpamayo (17, 800 ft.) in two days. We were to set up a high camp and go for the summit the second day, but our luck ran out when it snowed all day. I did get up that morning to photograph the sunrise and the reflections on the huge lake. There were other climbers in the area, mostly Germans. They had been trying Condoriri itself, but the ice was of such poor quality, they did not succeed. Dan, our 48-year-old climber from Colorado, and I spent the day climbing smaller peaks a few miles from camp, although it continued to snow heavily and photo conditions were very poor. By the time we returned to camp, the weather had cleared, so I took a hike to the main glacier, knowing we would be going up it on an all-out attempt the next day.

Four in the morning came – way too soon as we chowed some food down and put on our miner-style headlamps. Two hours or more of hiking brought us up a fair distance on this giant glacier. Two of the climbers stayed at camp, but nothing would stop Dan and me. I kept thinking of some of the German climbers, a little jealous of some ascents they had made while we sat around camp or climbed at lower elevations.


As we approached the top of the glacier, Alpamayo was still not visible. After climbing a steep fluted peak to its summit, we caught our first view of this powerful, pyramid-shaped glaciated peak. By this time, I was a little psyched out. It was still so far, and since we were already on top of a mountain it could have been enough to be satisfied.  Our guide asked us to make a decision. Sensing that he almost didn’t want it himself, I said: ”If you lead, we’ll follow.” We then climbed up a rock peak and down the side onto another glacier. We followed a thin ridge connecting the two mountains, along very steep ice. Roped together, we tried to keep the rope taut, tossing the rope over ice pinnacles for protection. At the angle we were approaching the mountain I could see a rock band (and it wasn’t the Rolling Stones!) spiraling toward the top, but couldn’t tell if it actually led to the top. Geoff is a purist; he tried several times to set ice screws on one of the steepest ice walls, but the ice was too brittle. After bringing the rocks on the other side to his attention, he agreed to try that route. We descended steep ice to a rock platform where we took off our crampons and rope. Rock being my specialty, I went ahead while Geoff made sure Dan got up safely. We did approach some difficult rock pitches toward the top, but I had no problems. 


As we climbed, we could look down into ice caves with giant icicles hanging inside. Geoff was again in the lead, and when I heard him beginning to chant an ancient Indian word, I knew we had made it. At the top, he always left candy or other food for the gods.  Pequeno Alpamayo was under us now, and I was extremely proud and happy. The weather was closing in on us by now, and the nearby mountains were giants jutting from the valleys. The terrain was much more jagged and intense than on previous climbs, and so steep that we remained roped together in case of a slip. It snow harder and harder as we rappelled down to safety, then down the rock route back onto the glacier. From the glacier we were still miles away from our cozy lakeside camp, but I couldn’t help thinking that we had accomplished a climb the Europeans hadn’t even considered.


Next on our agenda was a trek south in the Cordillera Real. Maria Lloca (18,000 ft.) was next, with Potosi to follow. As we got up in the morning, an Indian and about twenty llamas came through our camp. The Indian exchanged a few words with our guide, shook hands, and left. It all fell into place now. It was the same man who had approached us in the beginning. Our guide told him that he had been using our llamas for years, and didn’t need his services. The man tried to tell him he had a monopoly on packing equipment. Of course, Geoff told him otherwise, but when we checked, our llamas were gone! They had been lured away, led by a female llama, during the night. We looked for them all day, but finally set the tents back up. Arrangements were made to have some horses and donkeys haul our equipment out the following day.


In the morning we packed out in freezing temperatures and were brought back to where we started, our equipment dropped in the middle of nowhere while one of the boys who had lost the llamas went to find someone to take us to La Paz. We looked really “cool” sitting around with all that equipment among hundreds of llamas, none of them ours. It was also quite a sight to see all our equipment in a giant pile in the lobby of Hotel Gloria when we arrived there.

The next morning, however, Hasito’s taxi was waiting, and we shoved off toward the mountain we had come to climb. I managed to call my wife before I left, but upset her by telling her we were leaving for the big one and I was a little scared. On the way, we stopped at a grave site where a bloody war had taken place between the miners and the government. It was doubly impressive with the giant mountain in the background. Low camp was set up at 14,000 feet, and the next day we were to set up high camp at 18,000. Just to give you an idea of the physical shape of Geoff, our leader, he left for high camp with 80 pounds on his back, dropped his load, and came back down to low camp for a second load as we were leaving for high camp. He then passed us up before we had even reached the glacier. This is the difference between a pro and an occasional climber. I had my hardest day that day because it was the first real load I had to carry. I did take a lot of photos even though I pulled a muscle in my chest. Every breath was as deep as it could possibly be so as to extract as much oxygen as possible, and it hurt.


I was last in line, and as I approached high camp, I unroped, and stopped to rest. I heard a yell from behind, and looked up; to my surprise a tent was gracefully floating through the air down the mountain. As it came closer, I noticed it was our tent! I jammed my ice axe in the snow, ran back about 40 feet and grabbed it in time to pull it down. I was so exhausted by then I couldn’t move, just leaned on the tent, waiting for Geoff to come down. If it had kept going we would have been in serious trouble.


Sleeping on ice is real fun! Your pads insulate you, but I don’t think you ever really get warm. Five a.m. came awfully early and the winds had been severe during the night. The granola tasted terrible as I chomped down as much as I could. Jim wouldn’t get out of the sack, so four of us were climbing that day. One of the less experienced climbers had problems getting his equipment on and kept forgetting things. A good climber prepares the night before to be ready to grab his pack and go. We started up this massive open glacier, avoiding crevasses. Our first real obstacle was a 300-foot, 45-degree pitch that required ice screw protection. As Geoff set this all up, I photographed a sunrise at 18,500 feet. After the lines were set, I jumarred up the rope with Steve behind me. A chunk of ice came tumbling down and hit him on the side of the face. He became dizzy, and had to descend. He then decided to go back to camp – this mountain had overwhelmed him. 


It was old faithful Dan and I again. Geoff was a little upset with Steve because he didn’t just shake it off and finish the climb. The three of us went on to make it past this ice obstacle and continued walking, unroped, for about two miles at 19,000 feet. I felt pretty good that day. We could see the summit ahead: it looked impossible with 1,000 feet to go, really another mountain in itself. 

I set in my mind that I would not go back until this mountain was under my feet. Nothing could have stopped me. After all the preparations and acclimatizing, it came down to 1,000 feet of fluted ice (caused by sun and wind) and a rock outcropping. We roped up, Geoff, Dan and I, in that order, and started kicking those points in and swinging those ice axes. A tremendous amount of energy was spent at this altitude. 


As we approached the rock outcropping, it seemed that the boulders were held in place only by ice. It was also getting warmer. Water had started to drip off the rocks. Geoff went ahead and set up a protection as he relayed me up. As I was climbing, I kept asking Geoff ”Are you sure the rock will hold?” But of course I knew it would, because he had just climbed it. Dan followed as I rested and looked toward the jungle part of the country. It was all ice climbing now and I could smell the peak. I could hear Geoff chanting his holy Quechua word up ahead to warn the gods that we were visiting. As I was stepped up on the ridge to look down the vertical west face, even if I had fallen, I would have died with a smile on my face. We had done it!

We spent about half an hour on top taking photos. I shot one photo of a hole that goes completely through the summit ridge. I don’t know what caused it. Geoff told us of the vertical west face that he and Peter Getzels had climbed a year ago, as the first party ever to take that route. It literally made me dizzy to look down it. 


We descended on an easier route, but the exposure at times was intense! When we got down to a flatter part of the glacier, we unroped and walked into a really interesting ice cave. I took more pictures and stepped back onto some soft snow. Immediately I fell past my waist. My crampons had jammed into ice and I could not get myself out. Everyone had a good laugh as they pulled me up, but I looked down the hole and realized how much more serious it could have been.

We followed our trail down, rappelling down two ice pitches that we had climbed earlier. We hiked down the giant open glacier, finally making it to high camp. The other guys had already packed down to low camp, so we loaded up the rest of the gear, which meant that I was carrying an extra fifteen pounds of tent. I was totally exhausted, sore, and hungry. My joints, lungs, and muscles were wasted. Finally off the glacier, we descended on rocks and boulders for what seemed like forever. I could see our camp now as the trail got steeper. I kept telling myself ”You’re flying home tomorrow, just keep pushing.” That night Geoff made a stew, which helped, but I woke up hungry in the middle of the night because of the energy spent.


We returned to our hotel Gloria to clean up and pack our gear for flight via Hasito’s taxi to the airstrip. This taxi is an old Plymouth with a bald front tire. The bolts on the left rear tire had been tightened so many times they were starting to go through the holes. Hasito always had a rough time shifting, too. We all had to get out a few times to clear dirt humps in the road. A few episodes in this car were almost as exciting as climbing the mountain. Later in the afternoon we all met for coffee and talked of our adventures. Geoff told us of a climb he and others had planned in Nepal; some big sponsors had agreed to finance the expedition. These are men of another breed.

It was now time to fly home. During the taxi ride it looked as though we weren’t going to make it to the airport. The car would cut out and stop. It’s a 500- foot rise to the airport, but that old “la bomba” finally made it through. After twenty or more hours in the air, and six take-offs and landings later, San Francisco Airport never looked better. As I got off the plane, sunburned around my glasses and tired as I could be, I was getting anxious to see Lorna. She was waiting with a rose, and we cried on each other’s shoulders.

First published December, 1987 in Beachcomber magazine. All rights Reserved. 

PHOTOS

MIKE'S BIKES

Yamaha 60: What can I say...my first.

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Yamaha 100 Trailmaster

1967: This is the same type of Bike that I bought from Ira Dahm, only mine was yellow.

1967: This is the same type of Bike that I bought from Ira Dahm, only mine was yellow. 

Kawasaki Mach III 1971

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 That's me chanting to the sun god (actually pushing my hair back)and Bill Koppler playing god. Kurt Moseley clicked the camera. That's his MG in the back ground. Note the plastic pot plant next to my front wheel. This was shot on Serena St. in Linda Mar.  Man, I miss those pants!! 

Yamaha 180

This one was  fast. Custom made chrome twin expansion chambers. Beat most of the big 350 Hondas.

 As with all of my bikes, this one was expecially fast. Note the custom made chrome twin expansion chambers. I beat most of the big 350 Hondas of the
day. 

Kawasaki Mach III 500 cc 1970

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 It would turn 12.5 seconds out of the box. Never got any tickets on this one, they couldn't catch me. The front end wouldn't stay down. The older I get, the faster I was. 

Honda 550-4

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 My tour bike. Gary Kellogg and I did an epic journey into WA state loaded down with back packs to climb in the Olympics. This bike was horribly slow but always reliable. 

1984 Honda V30 Magna

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 I loved this bike, and it was fast. Had the smoothest gear box that I ever felt. V4, an expensive way to build a motor. Man, wish I still had this one. 

Honda CB1-400

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This bike can out-handle most any bike on the road. It has gear driven cams, 41 mm forks with big springs, carbs are jetted and breath completely freely, open pipes, redlines at 13'500 rpm, wide sticky tires, radar detecter, stops and turns on a dime and is my favorite color.     

2004 Honda 599 a.k.a. Hornet

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 My current bike. CBR F3 600cc engine.