Entries By nick hunt

Mt. McKinley: Okita and Team Visit the Edge of the World

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | June 02, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

June 1, 2014 11:47 pm PT

It has been a perfect rest day for us. Not perfect climbing weather, but plenty nice at camp to enjoy the day. Although many climbers took advantage of the relatively good weather to go for 17,200’ camp, many others were suspicious of the cloud cap over the summit that threatened winds on the Buttress. In fact, no guided groups went to 17,200’ today. But we had no such decisions to make. Instead, we slept in until 9:00 then, as we’ve done before, and feasted on a sumptuous brunch of smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese. What decadence!

The guides had some chores and logistics to sort out, then we took the short tour east to the Edge of the World to take in the view from 14,000’ overlooking the Northeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, and affording views way down the glacier to where our very first camp of the expedition was.
We’ve done a lot of climbing since then, and have developed as a strong team caring for the well being of each other as much as ourselves. It’s nice seeing the kind of support these guys give each other.

Tomorrow brings us our biggest challenge of the trip, and everyone shares the mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness. We got through the headwall and fixed lines yesterday, but the Buttress itself is another beast. As is ascending the 3000’ to 17,200’, a new altitude record for many of us.
That this part of the route is the guides’ favorite part attests to the aesthetics of the climbing, and I think the team will get excited when they get on it.

We’re looking forward to a good, hard day. Because it will be a long day for us, which may even be followed by another even harder day (the summit?), this may be the last post of any length for a while.

Wish us luck!
RMI Guides Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, and Nick Hunt

RMI Guide Brent Okita preparing a smoked salmon, cream cheese, and bagel feast at 14,200' on Mt. McKinley, Alaska. Photo: Lindsay Mann Mt. Foraker as viewed from the Edge of the World at 14,000' on Mt. McKinley, Alaska. Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Ascend the Fixed Lines

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | June 01, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

May 31, 2014 - 11:21 pm PT

The weather cooperated, sort of, for our big day climbing the infamous fixed lines to 16,200’. These are ropes fixed in place on a steep part of our route that offer security to our team as we climb it. As seen from camp this headwall is particularly impressive, and intimidating.

The winds had calmed down completely by the time we got up, and the day was looking good. However by the time we actually started walking clouds had rolled in obscuring our views and the route. But the sun could be seen through this layer giving us confidence that we’d climb out of it. And we did.

The headwall itself was challenging, but our training yesterday helped immeasurably. We all made it to 16,200’ where we cached the supplies we carried up and took a well-deserved break. Our descent was slow on the icy terrain, but we managed it fairly well.
By the time we got back to camp, the team was deservedly happy to have climbed this much anticipated part of the route.

And now it’s bed time. We’re all looking forward to sleeping in and being lazy tomorrow.

All for now from 14,200’,
RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

An RMI team ascending the Mt. McKinley fixed lines. Photo: Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team’s Good Living at 14,200’

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 30, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

May 30, 2014 - 11:12 pm PT

The view from the vestibule this morning was not what I’d have called heartening. Clouds and snow dominated the picture, adding visual texture to the soft but incessant howl of the winds coming from the Buttress above. We could still see most of the landmarks around camp, but in the shadow of the early morning it didn’t look promising for our carry. So, after talking with Leah and Nick, I happily crawled back into my warm sack.

We later awoke at the more reasonable hour of 9:00 to get the stoves fired up and start our day. No one complained about not climbing. I think having a real rest day was welcome by all.

So what do we do on these days? First of all, we hang out in the Posh an extra hour or two, then we cut a few snow blocks to further reinforce the walls we built around our tents yesterday. It was impressive seeing the team rally and build some really good walls. I think everyone was feeling good and happy to be doing something. Twelve hours in a tent can do that to a person.
But a rest day is a rest day and some good tent time is a must. A group was playing an animated game of BS next door to us in the Posh. Others were catching up on things on the radio. Naps are never a bad thing, and in this tent a few games of cribbage were contested.  We even got in a bit of rope craft review and knot tying practice. 

Such is life for the climber hanging out at 14,200’ waiting for Mother Nature to offer us a little friendlier weather to continue our climb up the flanks of one of her most beautiful mountain creations.
We’re all doing well and happily waiting this little set back out.

Cheers,
RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

Post tent at Denali's 14,200' Camp with the fixed lines in the background. Photo: Lindsay Mann

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Settle in at 14,200’ Camp

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 30, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

May 29, 2014 - 11:07 pm

The team got through their first night here at 14,200’ in splendid shape. Most actually got their best nights sleep of the trip.

Although we got a few extra winks of sleep this morning,  we got up early enough to pick up our cache at 13,500’ and were back before noon. This allowed us plenty of time to get in some training before we hopefully make a carry up the fixed ropes and finally on to the West Buttress, the namesake of our route up Denali.
But before we could call it a day and enjoy some quality time relaxing in the tents, we built a ‘proper’ latrine complete with high walls to protect us from the wind and blowing snow. These walls do double duty to afford us some much appreciated privacy as well.
Walls were also built up around our tents, which will be of huge benefit if the forecasted winds appear tonight.
We’d like to end with a parting shout out to three generations of Greg’s family celebrating their birthday today. Happy Birthday Sarah, Robin and Ken!

Good night everyone.

RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Reach 14,200’ Camp

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 29, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

May 28, 2014 - 10:33 pm PT

Evaluating the weather at 6:20 this morning from the vestibule of our tent I saw a somewhat similar scene to what I saw yesterday. With one exception. A little lightness shining through the clouds to the north. Faint in the early morning light, but there it was. So with that small glimmer of hope that the weather might cooperate for us today, we set the wheels in motion. Stoves were fired up and the call to wake up made. Still uncertain if the weather would improve enough, we held off packing up the tents until last.
But finally the clouds parted enough to give us the confidence to head to 14,200’ camp. We could see the sun about 1,000’ above the clouds we were in. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t want to make it too easy and threw some gusty winds our way on Squirrel Hill. It seemed like the weather might be changing, but everyone was climbing well so we persevered and by the time we got above that hill, things had mellowed out. Even Windy Corner wasn’t too bad.
We eventually made it to camp at 14,200’ where the sun was out and it was warm and pleasant. To make things even nicer, we were greeted by the RMI group ahead of us who were camped there. Led by Pete Van Deventer, the whole team came out to lend us a hand getting camp set up.

Everybody had great appetites at dinner, a good sign given that we had just moved 3,000’ to our higher camp. It was a tired, but very happy team that put down bowl after bowl of Ramen tonight.

We’re all ecstatic to be here tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of how the team climbed today.
Well, it’s about time that I hit the sack as well.
Goodnight!

RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

RMI Guide Brent Okita takes a break near Motorcycle Hill on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: Lindsay Mann An RMI Team ascending Squirrel Hill, Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Have Wind, Snow, Wind and Some Relax Time

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 27, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

May 27, 2014 - 7:08 pm PT

Hearing light snow hitting the fly of our tent this morning prepared us for the possibility that today might finally be the day that stopped our upward progress on the mountain. Very light snowfall coupled with wind and clouds were part of the view from our vestibule. Neither the best nor the worst weather Denali has to offer, so we decided to get up and at least have breakfast while we waited to see if the day might take a turn for the better.
Over a breakfast that would rival the best your local greasy spoon could offer, the outlook for the day became ever more apparent, we were going to enjoy our first rest/storm day. That no one really voiced any complaint reflected the shared sentiment that we were all ready for a break from the constant pace of the trip so far.

Following our breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns, we set to explore and debate many of the world’s challenges and recount some of our personal histories. Of course, such heady conversation, fueled as it was by caffeine and unexpectedly unused climbing energy, soon left even the strongest of us deserting our Posh House tent for the cozy comfort of our tents and sleeping bags. And so has passed our day, playings cards, reading, listening to music, and just plain relaxing.

Life is great!

RMI Guide Brent Okita

An RMI camp at 11,200' on Mt. McKinley. Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Feeling Good!

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 27, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

May 26, 2014 - 10:46 pm PT

With just a little anxiousness about our carry up to 13,500’, the first real climbing of the trip, the team awoke early this morning to a pretty darned reasonable day. 7:00 AM at 11,200’ can certainly be chilly, and today was no exception. We washed down our oatmeal with some hot drinks to fortify ourselves for the big day, reviewing as we usually do some key points of the days.

Our climb of Motorcycle Hill was made before the sun hit the face, making for a chilly start to the day. But at the top we were rewarded with great views of the Northwest Buttress and Peter’s Glacier, not to mention the Alaskan tundra in the distance. Squirrel Hill followed and we found ourselves cramponing on perfect snow.

Conditions, in general, were quite nice all the way to our cache site at 13,500’. But what really struck us was how well the team was climbing. And how well everyone was feeling. Yeah, it was a good push for us, but we all took heart in having done well today. Our dinner of mac and cheese with loads of crumbled bacon stirred in hit the spot. There were no leftovers tonight. Cookies for dessert finished us off before we organized gear for tomorrow.

As for tomorrow ... As good as everybody is feeling, if the weather again cooperates, we might just move up to 14,200’ camp. Then, we’ll be ready for a couple of well deserved rest days.

We’ll see ...

RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

Rest break at the top of Motorcycle Hill (just outside of McKinley's 11K Camp). Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Move to 11,200’ Camp

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 25, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

May 24, 2014 - 11:21 pm PT

Going to sleep last night we didn’t know exactly what morning would bring. The winds last night had picked up and was blowing spin-drift all around. We could hear the winds coming off Kahiltna Pass into the wee hours, but when we finally awoke and peeked out the vestibule of the tent we were happily surprised to find gloriously beautiful weather.

Our move up to our new camp couldn’t have gone better. The team crushed it! What a nice change from the loads we had making our single carries. Tomorrow we will head back down to our old camp to pick up the cache we buried there.

Getting in to camp at 1:30 this afternoon was almost like having half a rest day. We even built a ‘proper’ Posh House. This is a big shelter under which we cook and can all dine together. Tonight’s menu: Indian cuisine, served on a bed of rice and preceded by a tasty soup. Of course, this is always followed by an after dinner drink. Coffee, tea, hot cider or everyone’s favorite: hot cocoa.

Wish us luck on the weather front. It’s been good so far. But regardless of what happens, we’re sitting pretty right now and everyone is doing well and in good spirits.

A bientot from 11,200’ camp.

RMI Guides Brent, Leah and Nick

An RMI Team camped at 11,200 ft on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Okita and Team move to Camp 1

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 24, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 9,500'

May 23, 2014 - 11:11pm PT

We awoke to wonderfully beautiful skies and not a hint of wind. What a nice reprieve to yesterday’s gauntlet with the persistent cold breeze that hit us head on all day. It was with this nice weather that we started our climb to our next camp. We knew that our loads would be heavy, but Ski Hill always manages to humble even the most fit of climbers. But try as it might to torture us with it’s deceptively constant grade, the team managed well and arrived at 9500’ with energy left over to build camp and get settled.

Our dinner of soup and burritos will hopefully sustain us for our next push: 11,200’ camp. Thankfully, today was the last of the huge loads we’ll be carrying as we plan on caching food, fuel and some personal gear here. We’ll pick this cache up the following day and bring it up to our camp at 11,200’. It’ll be nice to get to 11,200’ where we’ll finally be settled at the same camp for a number of days.

That’s the news from the Kahiltna Glacier these days.
Cheers,

RMI Guides Brent, Leah, Nick & Team

Hauling gear to camp. RMI Photo Colleciton

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Mt. McKinley: Okita and team Fly onto Glacier

Posted by: Brent Okita, Leah Fisher, Nick Hunt | May 23, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 7,800'

May 22, 2014 - 11:00 pm PT

Our day started great. Breakfast at the Roadhouse again and an early departure from Talkeetna, courtesy of the best air service in town: K2 Aviation. The first hint that conditions were not warm and pleasant came when we landed on some pretty hard snow. Then getting out of the plane we were hit by a chilly wind. But, everyone was excited to be on the mountain and we just put on a few more layers.

Our climb to camp went well, though we were challenged the whole day by that irritating and cold breeze. But that sure didn’t slow the team down any. Everyone really did well on this ordinarily difficult day with the heavy loads we were sporting. A quick dinner in bed and the team is now resting comfortably in their tents, getting ready for tomorrow and Ski Hill.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Leah and Nick who have been making sure that were all fed and ready for tomorrow. Wish us calm winds and more pleasant travels tomorrow. Goodnight from 7,800’ Camp on the Kahiltna Glacier.

RMI Guides Brent, Leah, Nick and the whole Team

Flying into Alaska Range with McKinley in the Background.  Photo: Dave Hahn

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Hey Steve,
Thinking of you! Be safe, good luck to all!
Bianca

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Posted by: Bianca on 5/23/2014 at 12:24 pm


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