Mt. McKinley Expedition: Haugen & Team - Last Dispatch

Posted by: Mike Haugen | July 08, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 348'

The last push is always the worst. We woke up at midnight to see the sun almost set. The alpenglow on Denali was spectacular. After a quick breakfast we headed down glacier for a pickup at the airstrip, which had moved even further up the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. We are forced to travel at night on the glacier because we need the natural snow bridges that provide the path over and around the cravasses to be as frozen and firm as possible. We made the trip in a little over five hours with each team member silently cursing their sleds that usually have a mind of their own on what direction to go and how often they tip over.

I have been so impressed by how well this group of guys works together and has meshed as a great team. It is so easy to get overly frustrated with the mountain, your sled, and your rope-mates. Our group managed to take out these frustrations with positive humor, which is a huge reason for our success on the mountain! Within an hour of arriving at the snow airstrip, we heard the growl of the planes coming to pick us up. Thank God for modern communication. We used our satellite phone to make sure that the planes were coming for us. The person from K2 Aviation was concerned that since it was socked in with clouds in Talkeetna, the airstrip would be too socked in to land. She was almost as relieved as we were that there was not a cloud in the sky where we were!

As soon as we landed in Talkeetna, we tossed or packs and duffles in the hanger and went for a monster breakfast to power us up for the task of sorting through the heavily used gear and clothing that we had been carrying for the past 21 days. After our post climb chores were completed and some napping took place we enjoyed our celebration of a truly great accomplishment.

Summitting the mountain aside, we had a highly successful expedition by all the measures of fun, learning, and camaraderie!

RMI Guide Mike Haugen

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