By Tom Reed
Reprinted from The Leader, Summer 2001, Vol. 16, No. 3
In May an expedition comprised of 16 high school girls attempted to climb a 6,222 meter (21,408 feet) mountain in South America as part of their graduation requirements. Fourteen of the students were from Oldfields, an independent school near Baltimore and two of the girls were from a public high school in San Francisco.
The International Non-traditional Teaching Initiative (INTI) 2001 Expedition attempted to climb Mount Chinchey, located in the Cordillera Blanca region of the Peruvian Andes. The effort was the brainchild of Ret Talbot, publications manager for Oldfields and an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School.
After arriving in base camp, expedition leaders assessed the intended route and determined it to be out of condition. The Andes are undergoing a rapid rate of glacial recession and the resultant ice fall and crevasse hazard on Chinchey was deemed too great, according to Shari Kearney, one of the expedition's instructors.
"We turned our attention instead to Haupi, a nearby peak on the opposite side of the valley," said Kearney. "We established two camps above basecamp. After scouting the route, we again had to adjust our goals as Huapi had a section of unconsolidated snow at 17,200 feet that prevented our safe passage onto the summit ridge."
In the end, seven students summited the 17,000' pass between Huapi and Choco. This was no small accomplishment that required hard work and dedication by the whole team to reach this elevation.
The expedition was deeply rooted in NOLS traditions and techniques. Several expedition members were NOLS instructors or graduates. The climbing coordinators for the expedition were NOLS instructors Christine Lichtenfels and Shari Kearney, both accomplished mountaineers with a long history of climbing big mountains around the world. Additional NOLS connections included instructors Doug Grady, Michelle Smallman, and Tina Eide, who undertook much of the preliminary logistics work as well as scouting the route before the expedition took place. Award-winning filmmaker, Justin Dittmer from Aspen, Colo., and his assistant, Allison Horovitz, are NOLS instructors. Dittmer filmed the expedition. Finally, one of expedition's faculty, Brad Bond, was a NOLS alum, as was student Gretel Stoudt.
The expedition was endorsed by Bancroft Arnesen Explore, a group formed by Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, who were the first women to cross Antarctica on skis. Their expedition culminated in January. Both women served as mentors for the young women on the expedition. Their organization, yourexpedition.com, sent Mariko Miyamoto to Peru with INTI expedition to file Internet reports from basecamp.