May 9, 2013

PSU student strives to reach top

By RUTHANN ALEXANDER Contributing Writer

---- — PLATTSBURGH — For five years now, Michael Bowyer has had his heart set on climbing the Himalayas.

The SUNY Plattsburgh senior will scale Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, next fall.

“I started off doing long-distance backpacking in the New England area,” he said, describing how he came to become a climber.

“A lot of my climbing has been done in Maine in the past five years to do technical climbing.”

Last May, on an expedition with a SUNY Plattsburgh class, he rock- and ice-climbed in Scotland and Wales. From there, he went sea kayaking on a multi-day tour.

After that trip, he went to Holland to recover from the adventure before taking some courses at the International School of Mountaineering in Switzerland.

His next challenge was the Swiss Alps.

Mountains he scaled there include the Weisshorn, Breithorn, Riffelhorn, Rimpfischhorn and Mont Blanc.


Climbing mountains is a journey beyond the actual excursion, Bowyer said.

“It’s about the process involved. I’m attracted to all of the byproducts of climbing.”

He was drawn to SUNY Plattsburgh by its expeditionary studies program, his major. His specialization is ice- and rock-climbing with a supplementary degree in sea kayaking.

Bowyer has found the discipline of climbing has improved his writing and self-awareness.

He practices yoga, cycling, strength training, running, swimming and meditation, all of which help make him a stronger mountaineer.


For his Himalayan adventure, Bowyer will go with a Romanian team; he met member Vlad Capusan when climbing in Switzerland. And then he established a relationship with the team through email and Skype.

He leaves for training with those climbers in August and sets out for the peak in November.

“I’ve been training for this expedition since February,” Bowyer said.

“I’m on a regimented schedule.”


A bulk of his preparation for the coming climb has taken place in the Adirondacks at Chapel Pond in Keene Valley.

“It’s a very instinctual activity,” he said of the sport. “If you have proper training, you can get over your fear.”

Ice climbing is particularly hazardous to one’s health, he said.

If the ice is not bonded to the rock, you can have a lot of ice fall, called delamination, in alpine settings.

High altitude is a factor that climbers should be ready for, Bowyer said, as it can cause altitude sickness.

Altitude can have terrible effects on the body, he said. Climbers can become delirious because the brain and lungs fill with fluid.

Train at altitude to prepare for altitude, he advised. Also, perform exercises to boost lung capacity.

“I spent so much time swimming to increase my lung capacity,” he said.


Manaslu, also known as Kutang, sits in the Mansiri Himal, part of the Nepalese Himalayas in the west-central Nepal.

For the climb, Bowyer will bring crampons, a high-altitude suit, two tents, a cooking pot, a WhisperLight stove, a climbing harness, shell jacket, expedition clothing and sunglasses.

Manaslu is not technical terrain-degree ice-climbing. In other words, the terrain is not vertical but high-angled.

The climbers will be on rope teams as they scale the peak.


In Nepal, a permit is required to climb a mountain higher than 6,000 meters, Bowyer said.

He hopes to cover that and other costs by acquiring sponsorships.

“It’s a fairly new process to me,” he said.

“(But) I can’t seem to make up all that money working in construction and bartending.”

Attending school cut into his available work time.

He will need roughly $4,000. The money pays for Sherpa support to base camp, the plane ticket and gear.

Bowyer, who graduates next week, hopes to persuade a gym and maybe a bar in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pa., to back him.

“Each company has different needs,” he said of potential sponsors. “I will produce a unique slideshow for each company. When I pitch at the bar, I’m going to discuss the cultural experience I’ve had. At the gym, I am going to educate people about the physical-fitness routine.

“It’s harder and harder to get sponsors now because people have been doing it for so long,” he added.


It is not as difficult to get sponsorship in Romania and other European countries because climbing is part of the culture more than in America, Bowyer said.

Mountainous environments are more accessible in European countries than in the United States.

“It puts them in better standing in their culture,” he said. “They are considered high-level athletes.”

He is already looking beyond Manaslu.

“Hopefully, we’ll see if my life allows me to climb in Pakistan.”



Michael Bowyer is accepting contributions to help with his costs to scale Manaslu in Nepal.

Reach him at (610) 653-1177 or visit his webpage and click the sponsors link. Independent sponsors or donors will receive recognition in his video and on his website.