Entries By eric frank

Alpamayo: From Oceaside to High Mountains

Posted by: Eric Frank | July 01, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Peru

Greetings from South America!

This is the RMI Expeditions Alpamayo team making our inaugural check-in from the Peruvian city of Huarez. After spending most of yesterday on planes, the team had a brief layover in Lima last night before catching a shuttle up into the mountains today. With a dinner of Alpaca steaks, we are currently nestling into bed and getting excited about the days to come.

RMI Guide Eric Frank & Team

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Mt. McKinley: RMI Guide Eric Frank’s Final Thoughts

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 19, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 348'

June 19, 2014 - 9:34 am PT

As the wheels of our bush plane touched down in Talkeetna last night, my mind breathed a bittersweet sigh of relief. On one hand, we were back in civilization with amazing conveniences, such as flush toilets and food with expiration dates, but the trip had not turned out the way I hoped in previous months of dreaming about it. After taxiing through the airfield, we unpacked the plane and I cataloged the 36 hours of frenzied activity leading up to that point.

The weather throughout this trip was challenging. Aside from the first few days traveling up the lower Kahiltna Glacier, we battled ominous and unpredictable forecasts, and lots of marginal weather. The team did a great job of staying positive, always assuming that after the snow ended we would get our break. Day followed day, but the snow didn’t stop. It wasn’t a blizzard by any means, but just bad enough to not be able to move up high and make a summit attempt. Every morning we would get up and either watch snow fall, or see wind howling across the summit plateau. 

After nine nights at 14,200’ camp we were in a difficult position. We had managed to get a food cache up on the route, just below 16,000’, but the snow was presenting avalanche danger, the forecast hadn’t improved and the days were counting down. The group had a long discussion about schedules and desires, eventually coming to the conclusion that we would split ways. Part of the team would stay, join another RMI team for support and wait for better weather. The other half of us would pack up most of the gear and move downhill toward the runway. Family, friends and work obligations were calling our names. After a 15-hour, 14-mile walk through the night, we made it to the landing strip, caught a plane and found ourselves on terra firma Tuesday night around dinner time.

As a guide, these trips are some of the most difficult to manage. The puzzle was one piece from coming together, but it wasn’t meant to be. The frustration was not solely ours. This has been a rough year in the Alaska Range weather-wise. When we flew onto the glacier, the summit success percentage was a depressingly low 16%. It has hardly risen since then.  It would seem as though this season has been one of failure, but I prefer to view it differently. As a team, we did everything we could to be ready, the mountain simply said “no.” That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have an enjoyable trip with lots of good memories. Quite the contrary, we had several good weeks together filled with learning and bonding. I am reminded of the very applicable mountain phrase, “The summit is for the ego, but the journey is for the soul.”

Final thoughts-

To our three climbers- Andy, Jesse, and John. Thanks for arriving fit, ready to climb and with great senses of humor. You guys were a riot to hang out with in the cook tent, and on the rope. I have every confidence that given a decent weather window, you guys could tag the top.  Unfortunately, not getting a chance to summit is sometimes part of big mountain climbing. You guys handled it with class and smiles. I hope our paths in the mountains cross many times in the future.

To my fellow RMI guide, Geoff Schellens, it is always a pleasure to work with you. Good times, buddy. You are smart, patient and ridiculously strong at altitude. I felt lucky to be up there with you.

To all the family, friends, armchair mountaineers and acquaintances who followed along in the last few weeks; thank you for the support. Your comments on the blog and daily positive vibes were the fuel that pushed us along up there. We thought of you in every decision, and with each picture we took.

Until next time, keep warm and enjoy every moment of life.

RMI Guide Eric Frank

Talkeetna, Alaska - Sunset at 1:49 a.m. Photo: Eric Frank

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team Weathers Another Day

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 16, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 15, 2014 - 11:26 pm PT

We awoke this morning to blue skies and our excitement spiked. Unfortunately it quickly became apparent that this was only a trap door, the forecast is still looking poor for the next few days. We decided to stay put here at 14 camp, and by early afternoon the clouds and snow were back. The team is beginning to become discouraged and there is talk of heading down hill without a better weather forecast. That’s all for now.

RMI Guide Eric Frank and the McKinley Upper West Rib Team

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team Takes Another Snowy Rest Day

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 15, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 14, 2014 - 10:55 pm PT

Well another day has come and gone, but Denali refuses to give us a decent weather window to climb.The team is all prepped to go, and we have had numerous conversations that will improve our efficiency and safety up high. At this point we are just keeping our fingers crossed and watching both the forecast and morning skies to decide when we will move upward.

Thanks for following along.

RMI Guides Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens and the UWR team

Mt. McKinley's 14K Camp. Photo: John Race

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team Waits for a Weather Window

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 13, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 13, 2014 - 6:45 pm PT

After caching food and gear on the ridge yesterday, we are back at our 14k camp waiting for a weather window to move up. The forecast is showing an improving trend in the next few days. For now we are waiting, passing the time by throwing the football around, playing ice axe horseshoes, and sport eating. We are, of course, anxious for the weather to improve, but spirits are high and the rest is only making us stronger. Well, that’s all for now, we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather.

Thanks for following our progress.

RMI Guides Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens and the UWR team

Panorama from Mt. McKinley's 14K Camp. Photo: Billy Nugent

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team Climb and Cache

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 13, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 12, 2014 10:25pm PT

After sitting watching the wind blow furiously for two days, we finally got the break we needed to climb up to the Rib and cache some gear. The trail breaking was deep, often between mid-calf and mid-thigh and required us to swap guides breaking trail every stretch. Conditions on the Rib itself were great. The wind had swept away most of the powder, leaving perfect Styrofoam snow- an ideal surface for cramponning. Eventually we found a cache location around 15,800’. The weather above us was windy and cold, but we were able to bury the gear and head downhill without getting punished by the weather. As we tuck into bed, the team has a content feeling that everything is in order and all we need is suitable weather to push for the summit.

Thanks to everyone who has followed our progress. Much love and warm thoughts.

RMI Guide Eric Frank and the UWR team

An RMI Guide digging Cache. Photo: Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team takes Weather Day at 14,000’

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 12, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,000'

June 11, 2014 10:53pm PT

We awoke this morning to clear skies and the sound of howling wind thrashing the mountain above us. It was a cold day at 14 camp despite the winds easing a bit in the afternoon. We finished building our snow walls and made some snow statues- a mailbox and planter among them. At 3:00 pm the winds had let up enough that we took a walk to the Edge of the World, a vista point on the 14k bench. The forecast is looking better and we are hopeful that we can get a cache up on the Rib tomorrow.

Thanks for following along with us.

RMI Guides Eric, Geoff and The UWR Team

The View from the Edge of the Word. RMI Photo Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Upper West Rib Team Rest at 14,000’ Camp

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 10, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,200'

June 9, 2014 - 10:15 pm

After two days of climbing, we took a rest day today at 14,200’ Camp on Mt. McKinley. We enjoyed a leisurely morning of coffee drinking and a breakfast of cream cheese and lox bagels as we relaxed and enjoyed some sun in Genet Basin. In the afternoon we took to the snow saws and built walls around our camp that would make Troy look like a toy castle. More relaxing followed as snow began to fall. We are hoping to make a carry up to the West Rib, around 16,200’, tomorrow but we’ll see what the weather allows. That’s all for now.

Thanks for following

RMI Guides Eric Frank & Geoff Schellens

Camp walls built around camp at 14,000ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Frank & Team Make Camp at 14,000’

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 09, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 8, 2014 - 10:49 pm PT

The team broke camp for the first time in three days this morning. We loaded our remaining gear into our packs and made the climb up to 14,000’. Even though the sun bore down on us for the last few stretches, we climbed strong and were in camp by mid-afternoon. As a group we are working on efficiency in building camps. So far we have had plenty of time and warms temperatures to put up tents and get organized. We are very strong and efficient when climbing, but on the upper mountain we can’t wast any additional energy setting camps. I’m confident we’ll get there.  Light snow is falling and we are all tired from a long day. Good night.

Thanks for following our progress,
RMI Guides Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens the UWR team

Andy sends love and hugs to his lovely wife Vivian and kids Jessika, Milli, Jayden, Jaylyn and Devon

Climbing teams on Mt. McKinley's Windy Corner. Photo: Lindsay Mann

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Mt. McKinley: Frank & Team Cache Gear at 14K Camp

Posted by: Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens | June 07, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

June 7, 2014 - 7:33 pm PT

The team got busy today by hauling a load of food and personal gear up to the next camp at 14,000’.  Everyone performed well and we were able to cover the distance in just over four hours- a great pace.

All along the trail, we passed groups who were either hauling gear up to cache or moving camp from 11,000’ to 14,000’. It was fun to say “hi” and encourage groups we have met along the way. The small tent city that has surrounded us for the last few days will reassemble up higher as groups ready for a summit bid.

Sitting at 14,000’ this afternoon, the team got our first good look at the route. We talked through the flow of the climb and got excited. Hopefully, a few more short days will bring us the time to see if all of our preparations are sufficient to get to the top.

Thanks for following our journey.

RMI Guides Eric Frank, Geoff Schellens and the UWR team

An RMI team carries supplies to Mt. McKinley's 14K Camp. Photo: RMI Collection

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