Mt. McKinley: Van Deventer & Team’s Expedition Comes to an End

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer, Geoff Schellens, Robby Young | July 11, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley

Wow! The close to expeditions happen so quickly.  After spending two weeks working our way into position, and then waiting for our summit window, the descent flew by.  After a day of waiting for winds to die to leave 17k, we left camp in much more moderate winds, but with moderate snowfall added to the mix.  The group did a great job of working down the exposed sections of the West Buttress and down the fixed lines to 14k.  We ran into Dave Hahn’s group there, and traded stories while sorting and organizing our cache, and then continued on our way down to 11k for the evening.  Once again the weather moved in, and we arrived at 11k with a chilly wind and snowfall.  We set a hasty camp, dug our cache, and ate a hot dinner, before heading to bed.  With snow in the forecast for the next day, and hoping to have some visibility, we opted to wake in the dawn hours of morning.  The day turned out to be perfectly clear and calm, and we walked out under warming conditions, arriving at Basecamp just in time to see five K2 airplanes land to take out 24 climbers that had been waiting to leave for several days.  We were next in line, but spent the day on standby, as K2 launched plane after plane to come get us, only to have to turn around due to clouds and obscured visibility in the passes that allow access to the Alaska Range.  Finally, at 8 pm, we got word that the last flight for that evening had turned around and that we would spend another night on the glacier.  We set a hasty camp, and cooked up a big dinner out of all of the tasty looking ingredients we could pull from our remaining meals.  The next morning dawned clear, calm, and warm, but again, clouds hung in the passes, preventing planes from making it to us, until later in the afternoon.  Finally, we had planes on the runway, but the pilots hurried us along, saying it wasn’t going to last, and sure enough, as we headed out, pass after pass had shutdown with big white banks of clouds.  As we rounded the corner of the Pica Glacier towards Pica Pass, we say the hole we needed and scooted through, with gray rock and white glaciers giving way suddenly to bright green forest and bog lands.  Landing in Talkeetna is always a shock to the senses, as smells of grass, trees, pavement, jet fuel, and everything else come flooding in.  We stepped off of the planes Tuesday evening to a warm, bright, scented scene, excited to be off the glacier, and gratitude to K2 for trying so hard to get us off. 

This trip brought together seven climbers who previously had never met to attempt and test themselves on the tallest peak in North America.  The group did an amazing job quickly coalescing into a very functional team.  We moved over the mountain efficiently (critical for the weather we would see in the second half of the trip), set camp quickly and solidly, and everyone supported everyone else.  It was a pleasure for the three of us guides to work with the group, and their dedication showed as the conditions became more challenging, and everyone persevered despite. 

Thanks for tuning in and watching our adventure progress. Until next time,

RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Geoff Schellens, Robby Young, and team signing out!

Mt. McKinley, 20,320'. Highest Point in North America. Photo: Bradford Washburn

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