Ethics of Ambition, 2013
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, skiing, ice, women, Switzerland, Europe (Tuesday October 29, 2013 at 11:25 am)

Why would a climber speak to a class on the Ethics of Ambition?  Does climbing pose ethical dilemmas? It may - if you’re a sponsored climber and under pressure by sponsors to perform. Or if you have a very ambitious goal.

Mt. Everest

I’ll describe recent scenarios  of climbers around the world that involve decisions made by climbers, guides, and Sherpas.

First, ambition requires a great deal of egotism and selfishness, as I’ve discussed before in previous year’s classes.

Once our ambition drives us to set goals such as climbing the world’s highest mountain, or being the fastest person to climb El Capitan, then these goals require much time spent training, and in the case of Mt. Everest, a very large sum of money - about $65,000 to $100,000 (per person) for a guided climb.

Today, many of the rich and would-be famous sign on with a guide to climb Mt. Everest, some inspired by the book, Seven Summits, by Dick Bass and Frank Wells.  In the book review, it states that, “For their third and final attempt on Mt. Everest, Wells had to choose between the summit try and his family.”

Driven and ambitious climbers, after paying $65,000 or more for their chance at the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, have walked right by dying men and left them on the side of the trail alone, to die.

In 2006,   German climber, Thomas Weber,  collapsed and died, less than 20 yards from the trail. A British climber, David Sharp,  became seriously ill and died. IN 2006, 40 climbers, intent on the summit, refused to help. Climbers often pass dying climbers on the mountain without stopping to help - either, because they lack the strength and skills … or, because they are intent on reaching the summit.

In 2012, the Guardian posted a blog about “the ethical dilemmas facing climbers” as they describe how one climber found many bodies attached to the fixed lines and had to walk around them. In conclusion, they ask, “has human life come to count for less than the fulfillment of a personal ambition?”

In 2013, Sherpas attacked Swiss climber Ueli Steck and two of his friends  and threatened to kill them.  Steck says that after passing the Sherpas on the climb, when they returned to camp they were met by “a mob of 100 people hitting us with rocks and they threatened to kill us.”

Swiss info asked Steck what his sponsors said, and Steck replied, “they understand but on the other hand … we don’t get anything for free. The sponsors want to benefit from me. And now, all three of us have to deal with financial disaster. We spent a lot of money…  the world keeps on spinning and I have to keep going.”  Steck said he would not return to Everest after this threat on their lives.
In Oct. of 2013, Steck returned to the Himalayas to solo climb the south face of Annapurna, and said that, though he’ll not forget what happened on Everest, that “I think I’m beginning to find the fun in life once again!”

Büchel and Deutsche Welle looks at the dark side of extreme sports and sponsorship in “the Dark Side of Red Bull - the Perils of Extreme Sports.”

In 2009,  three athletes died while doing (paid) stunts for Red Bull: skier Shane McConkey, parachuter Eli Thompson and basejumper Ueli Gegenschatz - who was  filmed when he was killed.

The press asked “who is responsible for deadly maneuvers?”

Büchel said that McConkey was under tremendous pressure: “In order to stay in business, McConkey perceived himself as challenged to perform ever-more reckless acts - like combining extreme skiing and base-jumping.”

Robb Gaffney, a medical doctor,  described Red Bull marketing as unethical.

And last, but not least,  what about kids climbing? In July 2013, 12-year old Tito Traversa was killed in a fall to the ground when his incorrectly-assembled equipment failed. The Italian prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against five people - the gear manufacturer, the store selling the gear, and the manager and instructor of the club the organized the trip on which Tito was killed.

But who’s really responsible? In my opinion, not the store or manufacturer, if the quick draws are sold unassembled, but whoever put the draws together incorrectly. And whoever checked (or failed to) check them.

My father, Richard Hechtel, and the Peuterey Integral
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Eulogies, Europe (Sunday June 19, 2011 at 9:53 am)

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Richard Hechtel (l) and  Günther Kittelmann (r)

This Father’s Day, I want to remember my father for the things   most enjoyed - reminiscing about his climbs.

In 1953, my father and Günther Kittelmann completed the first ascent of the Peuterey Integral - the complete Peuterey ridge on Mt. Blanc.

The Alpine Club Guidebook describes this climb as “the longest and probably the most difficult traverse of its kind in the Alps. There is more than 4500m of ascent over all types of terrain and in magnificent situations” (Alpine Club Guidebook by Lindsay Griffin.)

Even today, the climb is described as one of the hardest and most committing climbs in the Alps.

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At the Col de Peuterey

My father  describes this climb in his book, The Merry-Go-Round of my life: an Adventurer’s Diary.

The climb starts in Italy and covers more than 4,500 meters of technical climbing.

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Kittelmann on the south ridge of the Aguille Noire

Jonathan Griffith  filmed a great video of this climb, which shows the length, magnitude, and exposure of this epic climb. Watching this film impressed me what a great climb my father had done.

Sadly, he has passed and cannot watch this film himself. Nor can I tell him  how I miss him; miss climbing with him; and wish he could do one more climb with my son and me.

Riesch wins World Cup title over Vonn after FIS cancels final two races
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Germany, Switzerland, Europe, Colorado (Saturday March 19, 2011 at 11:54 am)

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Riesch wins WC title, narrowly beating Vonn

Getty images
Germany’s Maria Riesch won the skiing overall World Cup title, beating Lindsey Vonn,  after the FIS canceled the final two  races that were to be held in Lenzerheide, Switzerland at the “World Cup Final”.

Vonn won the WC overall title the past three years and was within three points of Riesch. Vonn said she felt devastated at not being able to defend her WC title when the  two races were canceled.

Officials canceled both the men’s and women’s giant slalom and super-G races due to weather: rain and warm weather had eroded most of the base on the race course.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) had packed four men’s and women’s races plus a one day team event into only five days, making it likely that one day of poor weather would result in cancellation of more than one race.

US head coach Alex Hoedelmoser said that the FIS should not have called off the race in the morning, but made more effort to put on a race.

Vonn said that the FIS should allow races to be rescheduled in bad weather.

I agree with Vonn, that the FIS could allow one extra days at each venue to make up any race postponed due to weather.

Ted Ligety won gold in the Beaver Creek WC  GS in December 2010, but the downhill race was canceled on Friday before the GS.
The super-G in Lenzerheide  starts at 6,852 feet and ends at 4,957 feet, lower than Denver, Colorado and much, much lower than ski areas in the Rockies. The base elevation of Keystone, where I teach skiing, lies at 9,300 feet, with the top at 12,200 feet.

Beaver Creek, site of World Cup races in December,  goes from 7, 400 feet to 11,440 feet.

Vail and Beaver Creek will host the alpine skiing World Championships  in  2015; let’s hope all the races will be run!

Riesch and Vonn battling for World Cup Title
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Germany, Switzerland, Europe (Friday March 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm)


Tina Maze at Lenzerheide slalom

Universal sports photo

In the closest women’s battle for the overall World Cup title since 2005, Maria Riesch now leads Lindsey Vonn by three points.

Tina Maze won her first World Cup slalom on slushy snow.  Riesch placed  4th, gaining her 50 points for a total of 1,728 points,  and Vonn came in 13th, which gave her 20 points to place her at 1,725 points for the overall title.

The overall title will be decided in Saturday’s Giant Slalom, after rainy weather forced cancellation of both the women’s Super-G and men’s GS, due to be run on Thursday.

 Vonn earlier won the super-G title, and was disappointed when Thursday’s super-G was canceled, as she had high hopes to gaining points in the race.
Vonn won

Screw shoes for hiking and running on snow or ice
Posted by sibylle in ice, Germany, Switzerland, Europe, Colorado, Idaho, Canada and PNW (Thursday February 24, 2011 at 11:14 am)


My running shoes with screws added for traction

Two years ago, my son made me  “screw shoes” for Christmas (when he asked what I wanted, I said that I wanted  “screw shoes”). I hike in these even in snow, by using gaiters over the show and a vapor barrier inside the shoe. This can be a fancy vapor barrier liner sock, as made by several suppliers, or as simple as a plastic bag. I use grocery bags over my socks, which keeps my feet dry and warm down to zero degrees.

You can also turn hiking boots into screw shoes, and simply remove the screws in spring. I like running on snowy trails, so I use running shoes.

I’ve had the above pair of screw shoes for two years now, and they’ve held up well. Use a relatively new running shoe, with a thick sole, and make sure the screws are short (about 3/8 inch), so as to not feel them

Other outdoor hikers prefer the Yaktrax,  or the Kahtoola MICROspikes work with a heavier hiking boot, but I like traveling light and fast.

Matt Carpenter, 17-time winner of Pikes Peak ascents and marathons,  describes how to make a screw shoe on his website.

Camping in Europe
Posted by sibylle in Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland (Monday May 19, 2008 at 6:48 am)


Matt, at 1,235 meters

Several people asked about camping in Europe. We’ve camped in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France. We found the best camping in Spain- pretty sites, great views, and the most amenities for the price (hot showers!). A difference between the US and Europe: on the continent, in many places, no one minds if you camp in a farmer’s field for the night. I traveled to six climbing areas in three countries with a group of German climbers, and we’d climb all day, drive ‘til late to the next climbing area, and pull up to the nearest empty field and pitch a tent.
No one ever bothered us, and they told me they do it all the time.

View from Matt toward Brüggler

Here’s our (admittedly limited) experience:
Switzerland: We camped at a mountain hut named “Matt”, near the base of the Brüggler.
Fees were:
Parking, per day: Euro 3.50
Tent, per night: Euro 7.50
Sleeping in hut: Euro 3.00
Tent, per person: Euro 1.50
Which amounted to Euro 14.00 per night for the two of us in one tent. This was a private campground, run by the Alpkorporation Vorderschwändi, basically the town / village owners. The owners of the land up the road from the hut had working dairy farms and grazed their cows in the meadows across the street. At night hundreds of cowbells, from large, deep ones to smaller higher-pitched bells, lulled us to sleep.


View across valley from Matt

The hut had toilets, an outdoor sink with cold running water, and a small room indoors with tables and chairs. We cooked inside on the rainy days and ate outside on sunny days. It’s the best campsite we found near here (the Schwändital, near the town of Näfels). We headed east from Zürich on 3 toward Sargans and the south on 17 toward Glarus. This isn’t a major tourist area, but a small climbing area where my father enjoyed climbing. An English couple stayed here to climb and said it was also the best camping they’d found in the nearby mountains.

Please comment if you’d like to share favorite camping areas in Europe. Click the red number right of the title to comment.

Switzerland—camping at Matt
Posted by sibylle in Switzerland, Europe (Tuesday May 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm)


A typical Swiss “Brunnen”

A friend asked me where we’d go this summer. Tristan graduates from high school on May 24 and we’re going on a long road trip. This summer we’ll head to Tuolomne Meadows and the Sierra Nevada and then up to Squamish Chief, Canada.
We climbed at Squamish last year and Tristan declared it to be one of his two favorite places in North America, along with the Indian Creek / Moab area. When it gets too cold in Squamish, we’ll head down to the desert, and then maybe to Portrero Chico, Mexico.
We’ll winter in Summit County and work in ski school and then in March we head to Australia, Nepal in April, Turkey in May (Chad talked us into checking out his favorite places in Turkey, which he says has as good, if not better climbing than Greece but cheaper eats and sleeps).
Then in late May we head to Spain, then Germany to visit family and a side trip to Switzerland, only 2 hours or so from my cousin’s place in Waiblingen, Germany.
Two summers ago we camped at Matt and climbed nearby at the Brüggler and the Gallerie. We used the Brunnen, or spring, as our refrigerator. The water coming from deep underground stayed quite cold and we’d put our fresh pasta, mozzarella, and yogurt containers in the Brunnen for the day while climbing. Sleeping on top of that long grass provided some of the softest camping we had anywhere. Weekdays we had the campsite to ourselves; Swiss and German climbers headed up for the weekend.

Posted by sibylle in Switzerland (Sunday October 7, 2007 at 6:56 pm)


Approach to the Gallerie

This definitely beat the approach to the Brüggler! We’d hop out of the car, go under the tunnel and climb the stairs so that we were on top of the road. Despite the proximity of traffic, the thick concrete kept the noise from penetrating and climbing above roaring cars remained surprisingly serene. Plus, it was nice and level so we could easily lie down and sunbathe on the rare days when we had some sun (this is in July!)

Some enterprising locals had carried up a nice wooden bench with backrests and armrests, so we could belay sitting in style if we wanted to climb the routes near the bench. Unfortunately, most of the climbs in good sitting range were somewhat above even Tristan’s abilities, never mind mine!

After climbing, we’d head to the nearby village of Näfels to watch the Tour de France at the Sportzentrum. The Sportzentrum was like a very fancy gym plus gourmet restaurant; clearly the most modern building in town and somewhat the social center. We got to watch the Tour in the restaurant on their huge TV because it played at a time that was past lunch and too early for dinner. So as long as I bought Tristan lots of Karamelköpfli (a fancy crème brulee or flan-like dessert) or his other favorite Swiss desserts (which include Pfaffenhütchen, a triangular pastry filled with nuts; Vögelnestli, and Gipfeli, a filled croissant) they were happy to allow us to sit and watch the Tour.

Switzerland - Gallerie
Posted by sibylle in Switzerland (Wednesday October 3, 2007 at 2:52 pm)


Tristan leading at the Gallerie

We camped near the Brüggler in a small meadow by a Swiss alpine hut named “Matt”, at 1,235 meters, with a spring, toilets, and tables for eating and cooking both inside and outside. However, since our first night we’d listened to loud thunder crashing around us, and been almost blinded by lightning flashing much too close for comfort, we opted to sport climb instead of hiking up toward the Brüggler and starting up a long climb.

The Gallerie was one of those typical small European cliffs that all the locals climb at but no one comes from very far. They all wondered why we would bother to climb here when we were so far away. Well, for one thing, we didn’t want to go up on a bigger climb at higher altitude in what seemed pretty threatening weather.

Also, the quality of the rock was superb. We climbed on a dark limestone with lots of little side-pulls and edges, quite different fro the pockets we’d gotten used to in Spain. We found several of the climbs surprisingly difficult for their grade and heard from some locals that they climbed here every week and had gotten the routes totally wired.

Despite struggling on what we thought were grades we should be able to climb, we loved the rock. The Gallerie also had the most unique approach—via a staircase up to the roof of a tunnel above the local road!


Posted by sibylle in Switzerland (Tuesday May 1, 2007 at 8:46 pm)


Schwändital below the Brüggler

This spring reminds me of our climbs last summer in Switzerland — all that green grass after rain. We camped up the hill from the valley above near the the Brüggler, a pleasant limestone face with numerous easy routes (plus some harder ones)! It’s near Näfels, south of Zürich.
We met a German friend, Günther, to climb a 5 - 8 pitch route on the Brüggler. (How many pitches long depends on how many you run together)!

We camped on a small, but grassy and very soft meadow beside a Swiss mountain hut. A spring nearby provided not only water but also a type of refrigeration: we’d stick our food in the water during the day to keep it cool. The hut was open for cooking in case of rain (frequent, in Switzerland) and they allowed climbers to sleep on the floor.

The cows, each with its own bell, grazed on the meadow across the dirt road and at night we’d go to sleep to the tolling of dozens of cow bells, from small high-pitched bells to large, deep bells. We saw foxes and a type of deer. We had some of the most beautiful camping here, and enjoyed it so much that we stayed here and drove to nearby climing areas rather than move to another place.
After climbing at the Brüggler, we headed to do some sport climbing at the Gallerie. We figured that we can always climb good quality granite back in the states, but top quality limestone sport climbing seems way better in Europe.

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