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 PETER G. GREEN

For Peter Green's Interview see Green's Q&A Page

INTRODUCTION:

I'm an ordinary guy with a job and a family that loves mountain scenery.  As a modest 'claim to fame' I made a strong contribution to the successful 1992 Russian-American Expedition, putting my own Camp 4 at 8100m on K2 (higher than the south col of Everest actually -- we camped quite a bit higher than many folks' top camp on the Abruzzi). I have also climbed some other notable big peaks and have had fun skiing on a few great, some rarely skied, slopes at home and abroad.

Remember, no one had summitted via the Abruzzi for 5 straight years (1987 through 1991), and no one got above 8000m this year (1998) either.

I've never climbed as a profession, but consider myself as experienced as most professional climbers. (And I don't seek extreme skiing, just extremely enjoyable skiing.)

I apologize in advance for either factual errors or possibly causing offense. I simply enjoy chatting about mountains, and am happy to be corrected when necessary.

 

PETER G. GREEN's Mountaineering Resume updated October 1998

Born 1962; raised in Northern California

Lived in Massachusetts 1984-89 while earning Ph.D.

Now settled in Southern California mountains

Working in Environmental Chemistry

MEMBER

Alpine Club of Canada since 1980

American Alpine Club since 1988

LOCAL CLUBS AND PAST INSTRUCTION OFFERED

Stanford Alpine Club (including co-president)
MIT Outing Club (including rock climbing and winter mountaineering instructor)
Harvard Mountaineering Club (equipment manager and ice climbing instructor)
Caltech University Alpine Club (past and current President)

PUBLICATIONS


Canadian Alpine Journal:
1989 -- Aconcagua
1991 -- Mt. Steele, including 2 half page photos
1994 -- Mt. Blackburn, including 2 photos
Harvard Mountaineering Club Journal:
1989 -- Humbug Spires, Montana (new routes)
1994 -- K2
Couloir, the backcountry skiing magazine:
two articles, with photos
Slide shows:
more than 20 in recent years with audiences up to 100.

SKI ASCENTS AND DESCENTS

Karakoram:
From 20,000' on K2 down to Godwin Austin glacier.
(First use, perhaps still only, of skis on the flanks of K2.
45 Degrees on initial slopes.)

California:
Mt. Shasta, Avalanche Gulch, 7000' up and down in one day

Sierra Nevada -- skied five 14ers:
Mt. Williamson (2nd highest in California) net 7500' skied
North Palisade, U-Notch Couloir
Mt. Whitney
Split Mtn (north ridge) and Mt. Langley both telemark,
plus 13ers:
Mts. Goddard (among the most remote in the range), Lamarck, Jepson,
and Black Giant all telemark plus Red Slate and Red & White Mtn.

Southern California (from summits of):
San Jacinto, North Face (Snow Creek drainage)
complete from summit to desert 9500' below (net 6000' on skis)
45 Degrees at steepest; done four times (perhaps most by anyone)
Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) North Face once each randonee & telemark
Mt. San Gorgonio (11,400') North Bowls twice tele, and one-day range traverse
Mt. Baden-Powell, East Ridge, probably a first descent
Telescope Peak (overlooking Death Valley) 4000' summit to car

CLIMBS

K2: Member of highly successful 1992 Russian-American expedition.
Reached 8100m (26,500') to establish a new Camp 4, retreat due to weather.
At that time, no American had yet ascended the Abruzzi ridge.

Dhaulagiri:
Climbing leader for successful expedition 1994 (8167m = 26,795') with 4 members to the world's sixth highest summit -- no oxygen, no high altitude porters, and we completely cleaned our camps.

Makalu:
Organized 1997 post-monsoon attempt to 8000m, no one summitted that season on many peaks due to wind.

Alaska/Yukon:
Denali via West Buttress (skis most of the way) Mt. Logan (highest in Canada, 19,551'= 5959m) on skis, only 12 days total Mt. Blackburn (4th highest in US at 16,500' = 5030m), new route Only un-assisted ascent of peak (no plane or dog-team support) Only the second ascent anywhere on South side Have also attempted the unclimbed West side Mt. Steele (Icefields Range, 5th highest in Canada only 2 peaks are higher in US)

Andes:
Aconcagua (Ruta Normal, performed successful rescue from 21,000' on descent) Huascaran Sur (Garganta Glacier) Other minor peaks in Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Real Mexican Volcanoes: the two highest

Sierra Nevada nearly a hundred ascents including many difficult classics such as:
Mt. Sill via Swiss Arete twice
Mt. Whitney via East Face three times
once led entire route with full pack, once a 2 hour simul-climb
Charlotte Dome (IV 5.8), twice, one in March with ski approach
Lone Pine Peak, Direct South Face (V 5.8)
twice: one was the first free ascent,
and the other was the first winter ascent with ski approach
Fairview Dome, Regular North Face (IV, 5.9)
Middle Cathedral Rock, East Buttress (IV, 5.10c)
El Capitan, East Buttress (IV, 5.10b), a November ascent
Clyde Minaret, SE Face (IV, 5.8) 1st ascent that year, ski approach

Wind Rivers, Wyoming Wolf's Head and Pingora
New England Ice Climbs
Many, including Pinnacle Gully
(the most difficult in Mt. Washington's Huntington Ravine)

Other regions with ascents:
Bugaboos
Alps (including Monte Rosa, highest in Switzerland)
Canadian Rockies
Tetons (including two routes on Grand Teton)
New Zealand, winter ascents of three North Island volcanoes

To 8100m on the Abruzzi Ridge of K2:

A Brief Account of the Successful 1992 Russian-American Expedition.

by Peter G. Green, Autumn 1992

By chance, a friend of mine invited my brother Robert and me to join a low budget international expedition to K2 this past summer.  It was a loose network of 18 members on a Russian permit but was mostly Americans (to foot the bill), and unclear whether adequate planning was being done.  The style of climb included fixing ropes and establishing camps, as well as having bottled oxygen available, so we accepted, but kept our expectations low. Never having been to Pakistan, we were ready to consider simply seeing the mountain a success. Reaching the summit would have been beyond our wildest dreams.  Realistically, topping 7000m (about 23,000') for new personal altitude records was a reasonable goal.

It was clear upon arrival in Islamabad (June 8) that virtually none of the necessary planning had been done.  The Russian and Ukrainian members were a week overdue and still making their way overland through China.  All but one piece of Rob's and my luggage were lost in the Middle East. Such is travel in the third world.   Wasting more than a week, we finally overcame the necessary bureaucratic obstacles, collected everyone and all our luggage too.  After more waiting due to a suspicious diesel shortage, we took the jeep road out of Skardu only to be stopped short by a damaged bridge and a washout.  That meant two extra days marching to Askole, where the trek normally begins. The extra pay for our 180 porters began to strain the budget. 

Eight days of dusty trekking got us to base camp (16,500') on June 30th.  A Swiss-French expedition that did not fix ropes was just giving up.   They had hauled on the old, tattered ropes from previous years, and had luckily survived several rope breakages.  A Mexican-Swedish-New Zealand expedition arrived just ahead of us.  Our group and theirs had agreed in Islamabad to bring 5000' of rope each; we used it all.  Base Camp temperatures were a little below freezing each night but pleasant in sunny daytime.  Only one day in the five weeks we spent there was very windy. Several times we got a little snowfall -- once mixed with rain. We had very good cooks, who made the best of bland Russian provisions. They kept us much healthier than neighboring expeditions.  Despite considerable effort to keep up my weight, I lost the five pounds I had gained during pre-expedition training and feasting.   Neal, a competitive marathoner and 5.12 leader, was shocked to have gone from a lean and muscular 150 lb down to 130 lb. 

From base camp on a medial moraine of the Godwin-Austin glacier, our route followed the moraine and crossed two stretches of avalanche debris from the South face.  We kept to the far margin of these even though the summer avalanches never came out very far.  A short icefall in the glacier guards the base of the Abruzzi Ridge.  Some of us used crampons and roped up to pass the seracs. Most of us left our technical gear on the ridge and just used a ski pole; rescue ropes were cached at each end. One time an ice block did topple Scott off balance, leading to a dislocated shoulder.

At the base of the Abruzzi Ridge (17,500'), scree slopes lead to 35 degree snow -- usually wet, heavy, and even sticky, with ice underneath.  We started fixing ropes at about 18,500' where the route began alternating between rock and snow. Staying out on the open snow-slopes risked avalanches and rockfall from above. About a hundred feet at a time, fixed ropes (and helmet use) were un-interrupted from there to Camp 3 at 24,500'.  Only a couple of short stretches were superfluous. 

Camp 1 at 20,000' was tucked behind a rock pinnacle.  Camp 2 at 22,000' was on a 40 degree slope hidden under a buttress for protection.  Gear accidentally dropped from there did not stop for 4000'.  Just below it is the famous cliff band passage, House's Chimney.  It is incredible that it was climbed in the 1930's.  I recall seeing it rated 5.7 somewhere.  Fair enough, but the rock is incredibly crumbly (on the entire route in fact), and the awkward face moves, chimneying and stemming are strenuous enough even with a solid fixed rope and ascender in one hand.   And then there is the fresh snow on the holds, ice in the back of the groove, and crampons on your over-sized boots!

The average angle of the Abruzzi route, from its base at the edge of the glacier to the summit, is 45 degrees.  Given a stretch of relatively gentle ground on top of the shoulder, the rest of the time it must be averaging about 50 degrees. That is really pretty steep for several thousands of feet of snow mixed with loose rock at quite high elevation.  Without fixed ropes, the many trips up and down would be far more time-consuming and dangerous.  Fortunately, we never had terribly icy conditions except for the gentle slopes at the bottom where the summer warmth was eating away at the snowpack.  More often we had deep snow from recent storms; whoever was strongest got to break trail.  It is necessary to make maximum use of every day since perfect days are rare.  One must be on the mountain, as high as one can get (or can tolerate) when the weather clears. Otherwise, you won't have enough time to take advantage of the break.   Of course, storms leave deep snow which impedes travel and can avalanche.   Waiting out 4 stormy nights at Camp 2 before our summit bid, Rob and I lucked out with a storm that didn't dump too much, and ended with light winds and mild temperatures to produce a firm pack.

Above Camp 2 we stayed closer to the true ridge than some of the early expeditions.  A 50' wire ladder led up one rock cliff much harder than House's. One could go around, but would have to face more avalanche danger.  One late morning, after a storm had cleared, I watched the heat of the sun send avalanches down on both sides of the route.  To reach the start of the shoulder, one follows the `Black Pyramid'.  At times one is just a few feet from a big vertical drop; it is beautiful.   At 24,000' steep snow ramps lead between overhanging ice cliffs to a patch of level snow.  At first we had set up Camp 3 at an inferior location and had tents buried and destroyed during a week of bad weather.

From there, broad slopes with a few crevasses lead up to a very steep section. Poor snow conditions would make this section very tough.  Poor visibility would be terrifying without more glacier wands, perhaps every 100'.   Finally, one gets some gentle ground.  Approaching 8000m it is mighty welcome.   Rob and I strolled up at a steady 4 breathes per step. Vladimir had put Camp 4 at the highest possible location, a rib of snow on the ridge proper at 8100m (26,500'), and just away from being under the tall hanging glacier on the summit pyramid.

Six of our group made the summit, on three different days spanning from August 1st to the 16th.  After our stormy vigil at Camp 2, on August 1st and 2nd Rob and I moved our tent to Camp 3 and then Four and felt great.  Our oxygen tanks were left below, having been too heavy to bring along.  We had intentionally (and necessarily) traveled light, with the agreement to head down at the first signs of bad weather.  Throughout the season, fine weather arrives with a light, north `China   Breeze' (and doesn't last long). Storms come from the south, bearing moisture from the Indian Ocean.  Nasty monsoon clouds had been lurking in the distance and in the middle of the night, strong winds gusted up from the south. In the morning we bailed out for home.  I reckon very few people have ever departed down from that camp feeling strong and with clear skies.  We have no regrets whatsoever.  By afternoon it was overcast.  The next morning it started snowing on the mountain and was a raging blizzard by mid-day. The three who were at Camp 4 with us and who had tried for summit despite the incoming storm, had a hell of a time getting down.  Alexei, who did summit, suffered some frostbite to his hands. Chantal, a Frenchwoman with the earlier Swiss expedition, also made it and suffered minor frostbite and some snow-blindness.   They both took all day and all night to return to the high camp. Thor, who avoided the night out but still suffered frostbite, had the energy to save their lives.

Rob and I left everything useful in the group tent at Four: pad, stove, pot, fuel and food, but took all our garbage down.  At Three and Two we picked up garbage again, and continued to One.  Stumbling on down the now rockier route below, then glissading and sliding scree to the glacier, we navigated the icefall for the 7th and last time. By descending 10,000' in 10 hours, we escaped the storm and could call our Mom to tell her we were safe and coming home.

Peter

 

My background and a summary of the people involved in the 1992 Russian-American expedition to K2 including what they have been doing since.

by Peter G. Green, October 1998 in support of Everest News (with great appreciation for their back-to-basics, minimally commercial web-site! )

My grandfather grew up in Lake Placid, revering the surrounding Adirondacks, so I was raised with a love of, and deep respect for, mountains.  I was hiking and skiing from the age of 2 and on multi-day backpacks and mountaineering scrambles by 9.  As my older brother Robert and I grew out of our teens, and Dad correspondingly slowed down, we set off on our own and with friends for ever higher peaks, promising to be careful.  In 1981 we flew to Mexico for the volcanoes and had a wonderful time.  By the late 1980's we had four successful trips to the Andes between us and rounded up two friends for Denali in 1989.  I returned to that region for less crowded outings in 1990 and 1991, but we were both already gazing at Asia and might have headed for the Pamirs if the Soviet Union wasn't unraveling just then. At the start of 1992 funding for my job was drying up, and Robert was tired of his, so when Dan Mazur (an acquaintance) invited us to K2 for $6000 each we said sure.  I called Charley Mace and invited him.  Neither my brother nor I had ever been on any sort of outing with an official 'leader', nor would we do it again, but the plan to have a lot of fixed rope and everyone taking care of themselves (no high altitude porters) sounded fine.  We brought our own food and tent; I packed skis just for fun.  Yes Mom, we'll be careful.

Before saying anything about the trip, let me state that everyone's point of view is different, and can change upon later reflection.  Two facts of human nature are that people differ, and everything changes.  Even more so than in everyday life, people experience things differently from each other in the mountains -- and more so the higher one goes.  So, this is all simply my spontaneous point-of-view, through the perspective of 6 years' hindsight.

K2 was pretty quiet for several years following 1986, especially with the regional tension produced by the 1991 Gulf War.  A fairly professional group of Europeans tried in early season, made it only a little above camp II, and were just heading home when we all got to base camp.  Chantal Maudit stayed on to climb with us, and became the only summitting woman alive.  (Before her, Wanda Rutkiewitz was the only woman of three previous summitters, all in 1986, to survive -- she disappeared high on Kangchenjunga in the 1992 pre-monsoon season.  Since then, the only woman to summit has been Alison Hargreaves, in the face of an approaching storm, and she and several others did not successfully get back down.)  

Ours turned out to be a pretty disorganized trip; we actually needed a lot of the Europeans' leftover food.  A tri-national sponsored group with a satellite phone was a little ahead of us, and with 5000' of fixed line apiece, we had just enough to cover the steep ground from 1000' below Camp I all the way to Camp III -- 7000' vertical at an average angle of 45 degrees. Whether by luck or as the only bit of pre-expedition planning, it gave the trip a good chance of success, and of safe descents.  That group included the legendary Kiwi team of Rob Hall and Gary Ball, plus a Mexican friend of my brother's, Hector Ponce de Leon.  Another Mexican, Hector's friend Adrian Benitez, was the only fatality our year.  Ball and Hall had tried K2 the previous year, as well as in 1988, composing two of the previous 13 consecutive expeditions that had failed on the Abruzzi Ridge -- in fact 17 total on the Pakistani side.  (In between 1986 and 1992, 6 expeditions had attempted the Chinese side, with 3 of them putting a total of 7 climbers on top.)

Our membership was quite a mix, and I am sure I don't know everyone's past and life since.  But, we numbered 18 (plus 5 mentioned above from the two other Abruzzi expeditions that summer) and this is a brief summary of us all: our prior backgrounds, how we did, and what we have done since (-- for several I have no news).

Two had little climbing experience (the Russian doctor and one American -- mostly a rock climber), and ended up doing little climbing.

Four more of us, including me and my brother, had only 6km experience in Alaska, though Neal was a world-class ultra-marathoner with a previous invitation to Everest that fell through when the permit was sold to a different leader.

Six more had Asian expedition experience over 7000m, but hadn't summitted any 8000m peaks yet.

And the most experienced six had summitted Everest (or Lhotse in the case of Scott Fischer, the first American ascent and had reached 28,000' on Everest) with Vladimir and Ed having Kangchenjunga under their belt, too.  Most of this latter group climbed and guided as their profession.

During the expedition, almost everyone in our group did well.  Our six, plus Chantal, reaching the top were generally the most experienced and most career oriented, with 5 more of us surmounting the 8000m mark -- including me and my brother from among the least inexperienced.

Scott summitted despite a dislocated shoulder early in the ice-fall, and his and Ed's rescue of Chantal after her summit.  My brother and I cruised from Camp III, already far higher than we had ever been before, to our higher-than-usual Camp IV in just 5 hours -- carrying a complete camp and placing wands, too.  Others took two days to cover the same ground in the same conditions starting the previous day.

Those who might have done much better had various good reasons.  Neal ran out of time and had to go back to work.  Doug's overboots wouldn't accept his crampons.  On his last try Larry hit his head on the rock overhanging camp II causing such a bad headache he decided not to go up.  The last two just didn't seem to acclimatize well.

Of course, the years since have seen several lives end, starting with Adrian rappeling above Camp III.  Gary died guiding Dhaulagiri the next year, and Rob and Scott on Everest in the famous 1996 pre-monsoon season.  Chantal died in her tent on Dhaulagiri.  And Vladimir died in a car accident in St. Petersburg, working part-time as a taxi-driver.  He attempted the north side of K2 in 1993 -- trying to become only the second person yet to summit the mountain twice.

I only have news of about half of the others, starting with Gennady (the photographer) who retired from expedition climbing.  Of the other summitters, Ed is doing well on his all-14 quest, with lots of coverage in the Everest IMAX film and Charley was the first American to climb Manaslu just last fall -- finally finishing the list for that nationality. 

Neal helped save Scott's clients from the storm on Everest.  Dan and Jonathan round up customers to fund their expeditions in Asia and elsewhere. Larry and my brother have also climbed other 8000m peaks, while I've enjoyed organizing two expeditions with friends, plus great trips back to the quieter peaks of Alaska and the Yukon.  So, nearly everyone has kept up good climbing, one way or another, and from our group of 18, only one has passed away in the mountains -- may it long remain so.

Peter  

For Peter Green's Interview see Green's Q&A Page

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