In late December I took the Avis family of 5 to Colombia. We trekked into the impressive Cocuy Mountains in the center of the country to climb Pan de Azucar, 16,720'. The high country in this area, the Paramo, hosts vegetation that appears more suited to the Jurassic, with tall, barrel shaped trunks and broad gangly leaves. We slept mostly in farm houses, until the final night next to the glacier. The top 500' of the climb was glacial and steep, with a knife-edge ridge leading to a picturesque corniced snow-mushroom summit. Two of the kids, all in their 20's, hadn't climbed before so this was a big step for them. Colombia has come a long way back towards civilization lately. It was an exciting culture to visit again. ( I spent a month there in 1974).
After a full ski season in Montana, Elizabeth & I spent 6 weeks in Australia in May and June. First we spent a few days in the Grampian Mts in the south for a reunion with some old climbing buddies of mine, including Peter Hillary, and his two sons, Sir Ed's son and grandsons. Peter is still active in the mountains, but his son's interests are elsewhere. It's fascinating how dissimilar generations can be. Then we flew to Perth & drove a 23' camper-van 3000 miles up the west coast, in two weeks. We camped wild, as they say there, meaning we pulled off the highway onto some sandy track and parked on the dunes overlooking the Indian Ocean, hoping high tide didn't come in at 2AM and wash us away. (It didn't). We snorkeled reefs, hiked in desert parks, poked around obscure towns, and did our best to survive the blasts of the Road-Trains, giant semis pulling 4 trailers with 98 wheels traveling at full speed on the 'wrong' side of the narrow roads. Terrifying. In the town of Broome we dropped off the van and met our eager clients, then spent the next two weeks making our way across the Top End, in the Kimberley, Kakadu, Arnemland, and finally over on the Great Barrier Reef. It's shocking how feral intruders have almost eliminated native species from the Australian bush. Millions of feral house-cats have killed off most of the terrestrial marsupials and many of the birds. Poisonous Cane Toads have eliminated most of the snakes and other predators. There isn't much left other than kangaroos & wallabies. Still, I managed to spot 224 species of birds. We finished with a few days on our own, hiking in the Blue Mts, outside of Sydney, which turned out to be really crowded since it was the Queen's birthday, a big holiday there. How quaint.
We spent a lovely Summer at home in Montana, where our organic orchard produced a bumper crop of cherries, pears and apples. I'll be in the pie all year! Later in August I took a full group of hardy people to climb Kilimanjaro, another successful venture up that impressive peak. It was my 30th ascent. There is still plenty of ice up there, the glacial wall is 50' high just off the summit. However, last time I was there, 3 years ago, the wall was 80' high. Do the math. Later, a few of us ventured out into an obscure corner of the Rift Valley and climbed Lengai, a wild experience on an active volcano half as high as Kili but twice as rugged.
It was another fine year. Both our kids are living productive and loving lives. Our two grandsons are just adorable.