Entries By ben liken

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Weather the Storm at 14,000’

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 08, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

It snowed through the night and into the morning here at 14,200 ft.  Not heavily, and there wasn’t much wind finding our camp, so it wasn’t like it was an awful or epic storm.  But it was enough of a storm to keep us from going climbing today.  We caught the odd view of the mountainside through occasional cloud breaks in the morning and saw dramatic avalanche scars in the Messner Couloir and Orient Express that matched the rumbling we’d heard.  After a long breakfast, we turned the day into a rest day to shore up our acclimatization.  By evening, the clouds were breaking up and it seemed that weather was improving again.  We’ll try again tomorrow.

Best Regards,

RMI Guide Dave Hahn & Team

14,000' Camp on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Back Carry to 13,500’

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 06, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

July 6, 2014 - 10:18 pm PT

Today, our first day at 14K, wasn’t very difficult.  We got up just slightly ahead of the sun, which made it past Denali’s West Rib at 9:20 AM.  We had a big breakfast and then geared up to go rescue our cache from the ravens.  It only took a few minutes to walk down to 13,500 feet.  And then a bit longer to dig up our food and gear -which, thankfully, hadn’t been attacked by birds.  Then it was just about an hour in the hot sun to get back to camp.  We had a short training session in the afternoon to review techniques that we’ll employ on the fixed rope section between 15,000 and 16,000 feet.  And around dinner time, we were happy to welcome Adam Knoff’s victorious team back into 14 camp.  They drank water and repacked while telling us stories of the upper mountain.  Then they eased out of camp on their way to 11K while we dined, chatted, and headed for bed.  The sky has clouded up again and light snow is falling, but we’ll hope that tomorrow’s weather stays good enough for us to carry up to 16K. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI team's 14K camp on Mt. McKinley. Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team are Fourteeners

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 06, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

July 5, 2014 - 10:18 pm PT

We gladly used another perfect day to move up from 11,000 to 14,000 ft.  We managed to get as far as Windy Corner enjoying cool, morning conditions, but there is no way to sugarcoat the walking weather for the final ninety minutes into camp, the sun was intense, the air was still and the climbers were plain old hot.  That said, it was tough for anybody to complain too much at the combination of great weather and sweet route conditions.  We’ve kept our streak alive, nine days and half a mountain without having to step over an open crevasse.  All were interested and a touch apprehensive to see a raven hopping around our 13,500 ft cache as we approached.  He or she hadn’t had any luck in getting to this one though, and we took a moment to pack down the five foot deep snow covering the buried treasure -one more time.  We’ll retrieve that food and gear tomorrow if all goes well.

It was fun “catching up” to the other climbing teams at 14K, although we haven’t really as they are a day or two ahead of us now and are closer to moving up than we are.  Also great to follow the progress of the only other RMI team on the mountain via radio today as Adam Knoff and crew hit the jackpot for stable weather for a summit bid. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Cache at Windy Corner with climbers in the background. Photo: Lindsay Mann

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Celebrate the 4th of July at 11K Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 04, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

July 4, 2014 - 11:34 pm PT

In observance of Independence Day, we rested at 11,000 feet.  Having put in a pretty full seven days of work and in the hopes of maximizing our acclimatization before making the big jump to 14,000’, it seemed smart to take it easy in this beautiful place on a magnificent day.  So breakfast was at a leisurely pace once the sun made it around the West Buttress at 9:15.  We put a bunch of meat into fry pans over camp stoves for a-mid afternoon simulated barbecue.  For fireworks, we watched the sun blaze brilliantly in the Alaskan summer sky.  The team is excited for the move to 14K tomorrow.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Looking up from Mt. McKinley's 11K Camp. Photo: Katy Reid

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn and Team Don Crampons Instead of Snowshoes

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 04, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,000'

July 3, 2014 - 11:19 p.m. PT

The forecasts had us optimistic that today would work out well for a carry to 13,500 ft.  At seven AM though, it didn’t seem that Denali’s clouds had read the forecast.  It was socked in above, below and to the West of us.  Even so, there was a mass exodus from 11,000’ camp underway.  The five other guided groups that we’ve been playing leap-frog with for the past week were all busting down their camps and getting early starts at moving up.  By the time we’d finished breakfast, we had the place pretty much to ourselves (to our knowledge, no other climbers have come onto the mountain behind us).  The weather, although a little murky and more threatening than we’d expected, seemed stable enough for our mission.  We put crampons on our boots today instead of snowshoes, an ice axe in our hands instead of two ski poles, and we elected to give our sleds the day off, loading all food and gear for the carry onto our backs.  At just after 9 AM we started up the steep “Motorcycle Hill” above camp.  We made steady progress onto “Squirrel Hill” and then into the “Polo Field” laid out below the end of the West Buttress.  By the time we reached Windy Corner at 13,300 we were thankful for the cloudcover which was keeping things just cool enough for comfortable climbing.  And significantly, Windy Corner wasn’t windy.  We cruised up and around it to our intended cache site at 13,500 ft.  Digging a raven-proof cache occupied us for long enough that the clouds began to clear while we were at it.  This meant we were treated to some spectacular views during our descent.  With lightened packs, we got down without difficulty.  The route was in fabulous condition due to so much recent snow.  We haven’t crossed an open crevasse since leaving basecamp whereas in other years we might well have stepped over a hundred at this stage of the climb.  The forecasted fair weather arrived and made our afternoon and evening resting back at 11,000 camp sunny and easy.

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team ascending from 11,000 ft on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: RMI Collection Climbers approaching Windy Corner, Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn and Team Settle in at 11 Camp

Posted by: Ben Liken, Dave Hahn, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 03, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,000'

Hello everyone!

Today has been a day of a little work and a lot of rest.  We woke up to a delightful breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and bacon and after some casual conversation it was time to go retrieve our 10,000’ cache.  All was well except for a minor raven attack…...thankfully the only casualty was a bag of ramen noodles.  It was a 3 hour round trip and before long folks were back to relaxing and drinking glacier fresh water.  Our plan for the rest of the day is to keep hydrating and get ready to carry a load to 13,500 ft tomorrow.  Stay tuned as we continue our slow but steady climb up this giant pile of rock and ice.

RMI Guide Ben Liken

An RM Team camped at 11,000 ft on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Enjoy an Easy Day

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 02, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,000'

July 1, 2014 - 11:13 pm PT

Today was a relatively easy move for the team.  We were walking out of our 9,000’ camp at 7 AM when things were crisp and cold.  The track was in pretty good condition due to the number of teams that had been over it in the preceding 24 hours and our loads were light.  We began in clear conditions but by the time we reached the big right hand turn at Kahiltna Pass, we were in cloud.  Passing our cached gear at 10,000’, we began the more serious hills leading to 11 camp.  The team rolled into camp at around 11:30 AM and set to smoothing out tent platforms.  Right about then it began to snow, just as had been predicted.  There are at least a half dozen other guided teams in camp, a few more than we expected to see, but most are staffed by friends and acquaintances.  The team took a well-earned rest for the afternoon. 

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team moving to 11,000 ft Camp on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: Lindsay Mann

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Make Carry to 10,000’

Posted by: Ben Liken, Dave Hahn, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | July 01, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 9,000'

June 30, 2014 - 9:44pm PT

Hey Everybody!

Last night we got our first taste of Denali weather as a wet snow fell, dusting our camp with six fresh inches.  The little storm began to lift after a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns and we were soon able to pack our bags for a carry to 10,000’ feet.  Along the hike we witness spectacular views down the Kahiltna Glacier and up to the start of the West Buttress.  We are now back in camp resting and awaiting a tasty dinner of tortellini prepared by Zach.  All is well here in the great north as the sun splashes some light into our dinning tent. 

Thanks for following along!

RMI Guide Ben Liken

View of 11,000' camp on Mt. McKinley. Photo: Chris Villar

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Moving in the Right Direction

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | June 29, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,000'

June 28, 2014 - 10:07 pm PT

So good to be on Denali.  So good to be on the move again.  With our late flight onto the mountain yesterday evening, there wasn’t so much time to be ready for the late season tradition of walking out of basecamp at 4 AM this morning.  We built our camp and put priority on getting good rest instead.  Our thinking was that with so much snow (30 inches from the last storm) that we might get by just fine without the early start.  We’d plainly seen the lower Kahiltna Glacier during our flight and it certainly didn’t look like crevasse bridges were going to be a problem.  So we got up at a civilized 7:30 AM and did our organizational work and set out for a daytime Denali departure.  As we’d allowed ourselves to hope, crevasses were no problem.  In fact the glacier was in better condition than it had been for late season in decades.  We made three hour-long pulls with some fifteen-minute restbreaks in between.  But in the end we decided not to push on to our normal first day camp goal of 8,000 feet.  Despite our snowshoes, the walk was getting strenuous due to the great amount of unconsolidated new snow softening with the heat of the day.  We camped at 7,000 ft where the East Fork meets the main glacier and we’ll happily begin earlier tomorrow to get ideal surface conditions.  Nice to see a few of the other late season guides on the move today as well, a bit of a reunion.  Especially nice to hear from Adam Knoff at 11K on the radio and Billy Nugent on top.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Dave Hahn's June 24th, 2014, Denali Expedition team. Photo: Dave Hahn RMI's June 24th, 2014, Denali Expedition guides. Photo: Dave Hahn Flying above Denali Basecamp. Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Train in Talkeetna on a Rainy Day

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon, Zach Lovell | June 27, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 348'

June 27, 2014 - 12:00 am PT

We were up and hustling to get ready this morning, anxious for the chance to get on Mount McKinley.  But it turned out, after breakfast and a walk in the rain to the airstrip, that there wasn’t too great a chance for flying today.  The word was that several feet of new snow had fallen overnight at Basecamp.  The snow, cloud and wind were predicted to continue up there for the day, but we were put on standby just in case things broke.  We made good use of the day in the K2 Aviation hangar, reviewing rope techniques for glacier travel.  The rain and low cloud persisted, but we stayed dry enough.  We had one more “last” dinner in town and turned in to be ready for another day and another try.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Guide Sean Collon prepping the McKinley team on a rainy day in Talkeetna. Photo: Dave Hahn Team Hahn's gear ready for Mt. McKinley. Photo: Dave Hahn

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