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Misty Mountain High {Bolivia Style} Open this post

Jun 21

Posted in: Family, International, Newsworthy, Personal 15 comments
Author: admin Tags:

Misty Mountain High {Bolivia Style}

Here is a small portion from a rare email we have received from Sam in Bolivia.  She has climbed 2 smaller peaks maxing out at 17,650 feet.  She is now on her way to attempt a 22,000 foot climb. If interested, please the following excerpt:
Just a few quick words on this trip so far.

….It was [...]

Here is a small portion from a rare email we have received from Sam in Bolivia.  She has climbed 2 smaller peaks maxing out at 17,650 feet.  She is now on her way to attempt a 22,000 foot climb. If interested, please the following excerpt:

Just a few quick words on this trip so far.

….It was a drama that unfolded like no other, but they handled it so amazingly. Everyday Leila (or Ozzy, the head guide) takes our pulse oxygen saturation levels…mine have been consistently around 80 (which is good) but Chris´s was 50. He was beginning to drown in his own lungs but didn{t even realize it yet. I guess he has that 18 year old invinceable mindset….stiff upper lip, etc. Leila has never before administered Dex (short form for powerful steroid drug) at a base camp and had she not done so, and insisted she bring him down to La Paz at lower altitude, it would have gone very badly. I am telling you this because I want you to know that at the heart of everything they have our safety in mind first. Every cough, headache, sneeze is questioned and checked. Ozzy our lead guide is just incredible. So caring, so amazing. So selfless.

I am all over the map here, just bear with me.

WAnt to tell you a little bit more about the big climb. WE were only three (me, Heiko and Teri) and then 3 guides. This kind of a ratio is practically non0existant in the mountaineering world. Incredibly safe. We woke up at 2:00 am and put on our headlamps and walked 1.5 hours to the base of the glacier. The day previously we had been up there practising crampon techniques and self arrest techniques with our ice axes (picture this: I was pushed down the slope of the glacier with my slippery gortex layer head first and had to use my ice0axe to stop myself….VERY UNNERVING!). But a necessary thing to know how to do. At any rate, we got to the glacier and I could hear it crackling and moving. It sounds like thunder. Kind of creepy. I was roped in with Ozzy (lead guide…guess they drew straw to see who would get the rookie!) and Teri and Heiko were roped in with Sergio together while Juancho floated around with no fear and no rope and took photos. It was a tough slog up that glacier at a very slow pace. By the time we reached the base of the actual slope the sun was coming up. It was incredible to see. Then we had this 50-60 degree slope to climb and we zig zagged it (sorry, cant think of the actual term for that!). It was tough because it was icy and all we had to rely on were our crampons. But the whole thing with being roped in is that the basically your harness is tied with a rope that must stay taut with the guides harness. That way if someone falls or goes down a crevasse there is no slack and it is easy to stop the person. Back to the story…. as the sun was coming up I saw what lay ahead and I thought NO FREAKING WAY. It was just never ending. I could see what looked like the col (the section that is flat that connects two mountains) but after we got there it was only the beginning.

Then we had to climb up this pass called Tarija and it was nasty. We all just groaned when we saw it. I think it took 2 hours. AFter we get there, we had to take OFF the crampons because we were going to then climb down 60 meters over sheer rock…as in it was like rock climbing. But in reverse. I bummed it. Yes, I literally sat on my bum and gently and gradully got myself down. then when we got there we finally saw the route to the real mountain, Pequena Alpamayo. Heiko, who has summited a bazillion mountains said very audibly HOLY SHIT. Teri, who also is an amazon woman and has climbed a tonne, said “I{m just going to wait here until you guys are done.” The traverse was this knife-edge passage where we were only roped in together. On either side were drop offs (and crevasses). But the guides were amazing. One at a time they coached us through and never once lost their focus. They so have their stuff together. AFter that traverse we just had to climb one more really steep knife0edge passage until we got to the safety of the fixed ropes, at which point we were able to use an ascender and basically pull ourselves up to the summit. It was touch because there were some other climbers who were in trouble and ill prepared. One of the girls crampons had come loose and they were free climbing with just two ice axes each. Ethicially, our guides had to step in and help, but it meant there was a lot of standing around on the edge of a mountain…thankfully clipped in, but still very freaky. These guys were German and Heiko was so embarrassed he didn{t even acknowledge that he too is German! I´ve never seen such selfless, incredibly fast0moving quick thinking in my life. Our guides got them straightened out, allowed them onto their fixed lines (which, by the way, they had to install while we were on the traverse… Juancho the photographer guide dude was flitting all about the mountain with no fear installing these lines just 5 minutes ahead of us. And we would get through two and then have to wait so that they could go back and get the other original rope and use it again. (To have enough rope to do the whole approach would have been a ridiculously heavy load).

Finally, we got to the summit. I could not believe I had done it. It was incredible….. so peaceful and beautiful. We were up there for about 45 minutes, I bawled my face off. Took out a photo of my family and had pictures taken of me holding the photo. I dedicated the climb to you guys.

The whole way up I was starving but could not eat. I think my body was eating itself and I got up there on adreneline alone! The prospect of “how the hell do we get off this thing” occurred to me as Ozzy said “ok guys, five minutes”. Doing everything I just said when you are spent in reverse seemed like an improbable situation. My legs felt like cement. And looking down at the traverses that were so exposed was more daunting than looking up. To get down we absailed (sp?) which means Ozzy lowered us down a section with us facing the mountain and front pointing to the less steep part. I had to jump over this crevasse…CRAZY!!!! Then the weather started looking not good. CLouds were rolling in and we were still dealing with these ridiculous Germans.

Long story short, the hardest part for me was going back UP over the Tarija Pass which was all rock with no crampons. My thighs just had no gas left in them. I remembered Shalem saying ” no peudo mas, Pigger! En serio!!) and I said it a million times and shocked the guide who got stuck with me that I knew a little spanish. Poor Juancho….. I fell pretty far behind but eventually got off the friggin mountain and dragged my tired sorry butt back to base camp and collapsed in my tent. All in all it was a 15 hour climb that, to me, included every single element of the world of climbing. Steep passages, some technical stuff, crevasses, front pointing with your crampons up steep icy slopes, bad weather…. ridiculous, ill-prepared other climbers (tee hee).

And now? I have finally had a shower for the first time since Monday. Man it felt good. I am pretty nervous about Sajama as it is 6,500M and the one we just climbed was only 5400M. It is pretty much a mountain that stands alone in the middle of a desert. THere is a lot of wind and it is cold. And then there is the additional altitude. But I am going to just see how it is and even if I only get to high camp (which, is 5400M!!!) then I{m satisfied with what I{ve done thus far.

If you haven´t fallen asleep yet reading this little dissertation, I just want to share a few epiphanies I´ve had along this journey.

#1 I always feel guilty about being so blessed. I always wonder “why do I have such a good life…why me?” My epiphany is this: why NOT me? I´m a good person. I deserve what I get.

#2 Being away from my family makes me feel not whole. I need my kids and Alvi in my life and I realize that often I spend time with my head in the clouds or thinking of the “next thing on the to do list”. You guys are the most important part of my whole world. Without you I ache. I spent many a night alone in my cold tent just wishing that I could have a snuggle from Piper, or a hug from you, Alvi.

#3 While our little world goes on, there is a whole other world happening. People in Bolivia have so little, and they work so hard, and they are so selfless. It makes me realize how spoiled we are and how preoccupied we can get with acquiring things. I´ve decided I dont care about acquiring THINGS. I want to see the world, and teach our girls that there is a life beyond their back door.

#4 You get what you pay for. This is a huge epiphany for me. I now understand why this trip cost so much. It´s because it is first class. Every meal is prepared, coffee brought to the tents in the morning, and most importantly, Berg Adventures pays their guides and staff VERY WELL. They have changed these guys lives. They have invested in them and I could just cry thinking of how their employment with this organization has opened doors for them.

Many many more epiphanies……………………………………………………… but I am now running out of gas.

I want you all to know how much I love you. This has been an epic experience for me, and the real meat is yet to come. I cannot believe how much I have seen and done in the past 10 days. One of the local ladies herding the donkeys and llamas that ported our bags out was probably 25 or so…and she loaded up these animals with her 10 month old baby boy strapped to her back. And she had no socks on and it was -5 this morning. But she was smiling and happy and doing her thing. BLOWS ME AWAY.

At any rate, thank you for all your support. I am going off the grid again until Saturday. I feel pressure to get to the top of this mountain because once I start something I don´t want to quit. But I am going to be very cautious and smart about it. Getting to the summit is not the purpose for me anymore, it truly is all about the journey.

- Samantha

On a personal note, I miss my wife and the girls miss their Mom.  I/we could not be more proud of her in her accomplishment and following that dream. Regardless if she completes the final climb or not she will be “our” hero.  We will have more posts upon Sam’s return as she has taken many images from not only La Paz but also from the journey up the mountains.  One last thing, when I ask Saffy where Mommy is and her response is “Olivia” and then proceeds to point to the Nor’Westers indicating that Mom is mountain climbing.  That’s my Saffy!

- Alvis

To catch up or follow the climb with the dispatches, please check out this link

The following comments have been reposted from Facebook.  Please feel free to post in the blog.  THX!

admin: Sam you are an inspiration! what an accomplishment! And you are so right that living your life in the pursuit of material "things" will never lead to lasting peace or happiness. Our society as a whole is so messed up in that regard! Go get 'em girl!! xxxx 06.21.2010

admin: Wow, incredibly inspiring! Thank you for posting it! 06.21.2010

admin: Tanya Braye Hurtig - wow... so amazing.. I am so proud of u sam... You have accomplished many things on this trip and look forward to hearing your wisdom.. miss you and love u dearly xo 06.21.2010

admin: Cindy Watral - Oh Sam .... Such an amazing experience! I was hanging off of every word. Thanks to Alvy for posting this and keeping us in the loop as we cheer her on from the sidelines!! 06.21.2010

admin: Tammy Busniuk I'm trying to type with tears in my eyes. I always knew that Sam is an incredible person but after reading that, I am totally blown away. Her epiphanies are amazing. Her writing is spectacular. Her strength, courage and persistence is second to none..... And her love for her family is truly priceless. I am so fortunate to have met Sam, Alvi and the girls - they are an incredible family. Sam, I am cheering for you and can't wait to get together so that you can share your journey in person. As incredible, descriptive and feeling as your words are, I know that the best is yet to come when I see the animation in your face when you describe this. We are all thinking of you and miss you. Love Tammy, Kassandra and Nicole xoxoxoxo 06.21.2010

admin: Tanya Braye Hurtig - Tammy...... u could not have described how we r all feeling any better.. :) 06.21.2010

tash: hey alvi! are doing a fabulous job over there playing mr. mom AND dad! i have sent sam numerous messages...but seeing the blog post just makes me beam! you guys are such a strong, amazing can feel the love....i miss the girls so much...and am so excited for them to really learn what their super mom is all about! Sounds like they already understand! xoxo 06.21.2010

Trish: Sammy -- you continue to amaze and inspire me. The mountains I will climb in my life will not be ones of rock, but I think the fact that you have chosen real ones is all the more impactful. What a wonderful adventure. Love you to bits. Can't wait to talk "real time" about this life-altering journey. Trishy 06.22.2010

Oliver: .... спс за инфу!!... 08.22.2014

Luke: .... tnx for info.... 08.23.2014

Kenneth: .... thank you.... 08.23.2014

Samuel: .... tnx for info!... 08.24.2014

randall: .... thanks for information!!... 11.17.2014

kirk: .... ñïàñèáî çà èíôó.... 11.18.2014

sidney: .... tnx.... 11.18.2014

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Autumn + Chris engagement pix {guerilla-style}. Open this post

Jun 07

Posted in: Engagement 4 comments
Author: admin Tags:

Autumn + Chris engagement pix {guerilla-style}.

‘Twas a thing of beauty, really. The only structured thing? The date and time. Otherwise the engagement session for Autumn + Chris was completely off the cuff. And off the hook! In this regard, we don’t mean to infer it wasn’t thought out. Au contraire. The strategy was to employ a guerilla-style tactic to the [...]

‘Twas a thing of beauty, really. The only structured thing? The date and time. Otherwise the engagement session for Autumn + Chris was completely off the cuff. And off the hook! In this regard, we don’t mean to infer it wasn’t thought out. Au contraire. The strategy was to employ a guerilla-style tactic to the afternoon… anywhere, just get in the car and go! And impressively, despite the whirlwind location visits, Autumn managed to find time to change her outfit up (and her shoes. Sam is dying. Wicked shoes, she says!).

Autumn, a fundraiser for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Chris, CNC operator for Thunder Bay Hydraulics, did not find love in Thunder Bay. It was a situation of downtown Toronto meets Mississauga, thanks to an introduction by a mutual friend. Their engagement months have flitted by and this October they’ll culminate their last five years of togetherness with a little thing called a wedding. We are so excited to be documenting their Big Day!

Hope you enjoy this sneak peek of images. I have to confess, this is quite the mammoth amount of pics. There are so many awesome ones to choose from! Autumn, aside from the obvious fun you had in front of the camera, you exude such radiant beauty. Chris, dude, you’re beautiful, too. (awkward). No really, for a guy who was not too sure how he would come off on “film”, the pictures are something I hope you’ll treasure. Thanks for being such troupers and just going with the flow. I will look forward to our version 2.0 session out at your camp with the big bonfire. Enjoy!

Richard: .... спс за инфу!... 08.23.2014

bob: .... спс за инфу.... 08.23.2014

Clarence: .... спс.... 08.26.2014

everett: .... ñïñ!!... 11.19.2014

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Jess + Brad {and a charming little Cedar} Open this post

Jun 01

Posted in: Family 13 comments
Author: admin Tags:

Jess + Brad {and a charming little Cedar}

Dear September 10th, 2010:
As an act of humanity (altruism, really), we at Bliss Pictures feel it is in your best interest to give fair warning that your day, when it eventually rolls around, will be completely ROCKED! As the world now knows, Jessica + Brad will seal the deal in three short months. We’re [...]

Dear September 10th, 2010:

As an act of humanity (altruism, really), we at Bliss Pictures feel it is in your best interest to give fair warning that your day, when it eventually rolls around, will be completely ROCKED! As the world now knows, Jessica + Brad will seal the deal in three short months. We’re certain that you really have no idea what you’re up against (but no worries, ‘cuz we’re not judging); and we’d like to suggest that you prepare yourself in advance for some high-energy fun and a heartfelt exchanging of vows. Similarly, it has been inferred my numerous fans of your precious month that you will not disappoint weather-wise, and that in fact, you may surpass expectations altogether in that department.

But to be clear, consider this a courtesy “heads-up” memo. Because if Jessica + Brad have anything to do with it, your day is bound to go down in history. We’re just saying, is all.

Respectfully,the Bliss Team.

Dear Jessica, Brad + Cedar!

What an incredible engagement shoot — I think we can all agree that most importantly, your faithful companion, Cedar, is a real spotlight stealer! There are scads of photos for you to go through; these are just a smattering of some of our faves. I particularly loved the series we did against the concrete wall. Your warm energy and love for each other are such a wicked contrast to the cold of the stone. I appreciate that you just “went with it” and Jess, your ideas made my day! Keep noodling on others because as referenced in our letter to Sept 10th, that day will not know what hit it, especially after you put your signature touch on it. We’ll talk soon and please enjoy this sneak peak of imagery! –Alvis

Lyndsay Hupka: Love the pics! You guys look great...can't wait for the big day. Enjoy all these little moments it will go by fast. 06.02.2010

Rodi-Lynn: You guys rock (no pun intended!) What a good warm up shoot for the big day. Gorgeous pics you guys! 06.03.2010

deborah emery: brad & jess....the pics are wonderful! ps. Cedar is adorable 06.08.2010

Dave: Man! I now have a new definition for hawt;-) Well done kids! PS - pic #2 is SO profile worthy...LETS GO JES! 07.05.2010

dennis: .... tnx for info!!... 07.30.2014

jay: .... благодарю!... 08.22.2014

Dave: .... thanks for information!!... 08.22.2014

Leroy: .... hello.... 08.24.2014

Vincent: .... tnx for info!... 08.24.2014

harvey: .... good info!!... 08.26.2014

Joel: .... thanks for information!!... 08.26.2014

lawrence: .... thank you.... 11.17.2014

marc: .... ñïñ.... 11.20.2014

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