Fraser Valley climbers take aim at Ama Dablam in Himalayas |

Fraser Valley climbers take aim at Ama Dablam in Himalayas

Reid Armstrong
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

Two local businessmen are headed this month for the summit of Nepal’s Ama Dablam.

Jack Gerstein, 58, of Winter Park, and Roger Hedlund, 50, of Fraser, will be part of a five-person, guided expedition to the summit of Ama Dablam, departing from Lukla on Nov. 4 for the Ama Dablam Base Camp. Fabrizio Zangrilli of Boulder, who just finished climbing K2, will guide the expedition.

The 22,493-foot peak is the third-most climbed summit in the Himalayan Mountains.

Both Gerstein and Hedlund have been involved in mountaineering and adventure sports for a long time, but this will be their first trip doing anything of significance together.

Jack Gerstein

Gerstein, who grew up in Chicago, “ran away from home in 1972” and ended up in Winter Park where he opened Ski Depot. “I came to Colorado for the adventure,” he said.

Rock climbing was his first passion, but that naturally progressed into a love for mountaineering.

“It’s the purity, the challenge, the remoteness, and the camaraderie of interesting characters. It’s a thinking man’s sport,” he said.

Gerstein now sells real estate for Coldwell Banker.

Gerstein, who has been chasing the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent), has attempted the summit of Everest twice. But, after experiencing a small stroke on Everest in 2006 at around 22,000 feet, he has realized that, for now, he has to scale down the elevations he climbs and make the peaks more interesting.

Gerstein said he’s drawn to the Himalayan Mountains because “it’s such a spiritual place,” and he likes this peak in particular because of its altitude: “It’s a high peak, but by Himalayan standards not particularly high.”

“There are technical challenges to it and the route is interesting,” he added. “It’s a very airy peak with a lot of exposure.”

Roger Hedlund

Hedlund grew up as a military brat, traveling around the world with his family before showing up in Fraser in 1982 “without a job or much of anything.”

He started Mad Adventures and, in 1984, opened Home James.

“I’ve been living the dream since then,” he said.

Hedlund said he is, by nature, extremely goal-oriented and motivated.

“Climbing in the mountains is a great mixture of difficulty and intimacy, physical and mental,” he said. “At the same time, there’s a huge spiritual side of things – it awakens my soul when I’m in the mountains.”

Hedlund said he’s only been trekking in Himalayas, “but it’s a natural progression, I guess.”

Having climbed all over the Rockies in North America and on Aconcagua in South America, the mountains he’s summited have gotten progressively “bigger and badder.”

“I don’t have any sort of life goal,” Hedlund added. “The Seven Summits, sure, but it’s not a major issue in my life. My goal is to have fun and connect with nature, to live life to its fullest.”

Hedlund was drawn to Ama Dablam because, “It is so aesthetically beautiful,” he said. “It doesn’t have the huge height of an Everest, but it has a beautiful line and the climb is a classic. It awakens my soul.”

Preparing for the Climb

Eating enough calories will be a challenge for both men.

“On my first trip to Everest I lost 25 pounds,” Gerstein said. “Keeping weight on, staying hydrated and preventing any other altitude problems will be my goals,” he said.

“When you are up there, that’s the hardest part – taking care of yourself,” Hedlund agreed.

To prepare for the climb, Gerstein and Hedlund have been training at CrossFit Thin Air in Fraser, which is run by Dave and Karen Zinc out of their garage in Fraser. It’s a high-altitude training facility for ultra-endurance athletes that Gerstein and Hedlund used as their base.

Gerstein also hiked up and down the Winter Park Ski Area and Berthoud Pass more times than he cares to remember, dragging 3.5 gallons (about 30 pounds) of water with him, while Hedlund has been running, swimming and climbing throughout Eldorado Canyon and on Byers Peak.

“I like to push myself physically and mentally,” Hedlund said. “My aspiration to get into the mountains adds to it … I do it for the adventure and for my love of the mountains.”

Gerstein, who has had both knees replaced, said his greatest challenge will be to take care of his body and to take his time.

“It’s always important for me to slow it down,” Gerstein said. “The first time I tried to climb Everest I rushed through it,” he said. “I want to be in touch with the people, not just fly through. I’m trying to not let too much testosterone get in the way.”

“I am really fighting the baby boomer thing,” Gerstein added. “I am out there for the baby boomers.”

Hedlund said his biggest challenge will be to remain mentally focused. “The physical aspect doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s the mental aspect of being on the mountain, continuing to stay focused and to be in present moment.”

“Michele and Oslo are the best reasons for coming home,” Hedlund added.

To follow their journey, visit

Ama Dablam Route Description

The Southwest route weaves its way up through an ever changing environment of rock towers, ice humps, snow and ice platforms, and terminates upon a ramp of steepish ice and snow before rounding off to a spectacular summit mound where the views of Everest and a multitude of other peaks abound. It is the outlandish exposure, a mind-boggling variation of scenery and topography, and the little hidden discoveries along the way up and across the ridge, that make climbing this route such a tantalizing experience.

Base Camp Trek

The expedition will start with an extraordinary trek from Lukla to Ama Dablam BC with three nights in Namche along the way to ensure acclimatization. A warm-up climb on Island Peak will give everyone a chance to get their skills in order on a much less technical peak.

Base Camp to Camp 1

Leave base camp 4,600 m and head towards the SW ridge via a well worn trail. Climb up scree and possible snow slopes to the large talus field. Do your best to follow the rock carins through the talus where you will eventually see the site of Camp 1 and the start of the fixed lines, the slabs. Helmets on, either climb the low Class Five slabs or jumar up fixed lines to Camp 1 at 5,650m. (4-6 hours from Base Camp)

Camp 1 to Camp 2

Climbing up to Camp 2 Follow the ridge, and likely the fixed lines, for an amazing day in the hills. Classic slabby climbing with a few short steep pitches that can easily be free climbed at about 5.6. Be prepared for insane exposure on both sides of the ridge. The crux of the route is the Yellow Tower located right before Camp 2 at about 5,965m. Jumar or climb the 5.9, 35m near-vertical rock pitch, dont look down. Camp 2 is situated about 100 horizontal meters from Camp 3 at 6,000m (3-5 hours from Camp 1)

Camp 2 to Camp 3

Be well prepared for this day, both physically and mentally. The exposure is out of this world and the climbing is non-stop, in your face from right out of Camp 2. Ascend the Grey Tower, usually a moderate mixed climb of M4 or lower. Watch out for climbers above as the rock is very loose. Traverse onto the ice and gain the Mushroom Ridge right before the new site of Camp 3 at 6,350m.

Summit Push

Climb the final sections of the Mushroom Ridge to the site of the old Camp 3. Ascend the 50-degree hard ice and snow slopes around the right side of the Dablam. Take a breather, cross the bergschrund, and follow the left trending ridge 45 degrees line directly to the summit. (3-5 hours from Camp 3)

It is advisable to get off of the mountain as quickly as possible. It is common practice to descend from the summit to Camp 3 or Camp 2 and down to base camp the next day. A true classic.

*Route description from

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