Marolts’ highlights on high peaks
Following are the highlights of the Marolt brothers’ ski-mountaineering expeditions, as recounted by Mike Marolt.
1990: Denali. “This was our first major peak. This was a training trip with (Aspen-based guide) Bob Slozen. This was our first taste of real altitude and we were sold.”
1997: Broad Peak, Pakistan. “This was our first 8,000-meter peak. We experienced a hard-core approach that entailed 80 miles of trekking and then got our first taste of big-league mountaineering.”
2000: Shishapangma, Tibet. “Shishapangma was where our love for major expeditions, climbing, severely thin high-altitude air and skiing came together. It was at a time when only the greatest alpinists of the day considered skiing the high Himalaya, and yet everything to that point told us we needed to try. We took advantage of a bit of luck with weather, and pulled off the first American, north and south, ski descent from an 8,000-meter peak.”
2007: Cho Oyu and their second Everest expedition. “This was a massive jolt to better understanding our capabilities. In 2003, although we did manage a first American ski of the North Ridge of the peak, the expedition was fractured and difficult on many levels. We wondered if Shishapangma was a fluke. We attained our second 8,000-meter peak ski on Cho Oyu, becoming only the fifth people ever to obtain multiple 8k ski descents. We then headed to Everest where we didn’t summit, but climbed to over 28,000 feet and then skied the North Ridge from 25,500 feet for a second time.”
2009: Norjin Kansang, Tibet. “This peak had not seen any climbers for a decade and was located remotely in the opposite direction in Tibet from Everest. Beta on the peak was nonexistent, and no one had ever skied on the peak. We managed to obtain our sixth ski descent from above 7,000 meters, making us world leaders in total ski descents from above 7,000 meters/23,000 feet.”
2011: Mustagh Atta, China. “We had climbed and skied this peak in the normal season but this expedition found us at the base in late January. No one had ever climbed the peak in winter, let alone skied. The hoards of people on the 7k and 8k peaks in normal season forced us to look to the Himalaya in the winter. On this peak, the temperatures were ranging from minus-40 at base camp to minus-100 at the summit. The fierce cold and wind netted us little success, but the expedition forced us to look at the sport as something completely different than normal season climbing.”
2012-14: Corapuna, Peru; Chimborozo, Ecuador; Illimani, Bolivia. “Between winter attempts in the Himalaya, we realized we needed to learn how to ‘flash’ high peaks unacclimated to simulate long pushes required with climbing in the winter Himalaya. Illimani ranks in our minds as one of the best days ever in the mountains.”
2016: Himlung, Nepal. “Himlung was our fourth winter Himalayan ski attempt. Toward the end of the trip we found ourselves painted into a corner with weather and time, and we set off from base camp and climbed continuously with a three-hour stop at 18,000 feet to refuel, and nearly 40 hours later were back at base camp. We failed to reach the summit, but did manage a ski descent from over 21,000 feet, a record high winter ski descent.”
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.