Entries By zeb blais

Mt. Rainier: Four & Five Day Climbs Turned Around

Posted by: Billy Nugent, Zeb Blais | September 22, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 12,300'

The Four Day Summit Climb September 19 - 22 led by RMI Guide Billy Nugent & the Five Day Summit Climb September 18 - 22 led by Zeb Blais were unable to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  The teams left Camp Muir en route to the summit but were forced to turn around at the top of Disappointment Cleaver (12,300’) due to a cloud cap that was descending.  The cloud cap brought limited visibility and increased winds.  The teams returned to Camp Muir to rest and dry out.  They began their descent from Camp Muir a little after 8 am en route for Paradise.

We look forward to seeing the groups at Rainier BaseCamp later this morning.


Mt. Rainier: September 3rd - Teams Turned Around at 12, 300’

Posted by: Brent Okita, Zeb Blais | September 03, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 12,300'

The Four Day Summit Climbs August 31 - 3 September were unable to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  RMI Guides Brent Okita & Zeb Blais reported poor visibility and increased winds and precipitation as the teams reached the top of Disappointment Cleaver (12,300’).  The teams made the decision to turn around at that point and return to Camp Muir.  The teams were able to relax at Camp Muir before starting their descent to Paradise.  We look forward to meeting the groups at Rainier BaseCamp later this morning.

The ascending climb gets briefed by RMI Guide Andy Hildebrand before the final stretch to Camp Muir on September 2.  Photo: Katrina Bloemsma

Mt. Rainier: August 30, 2013 Update

Posted by: Brent Okita, Zeb Blais | August 30, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 11,200'

Our Four Day Summit Climb teams led by RMI Guides Brent Okita and Zeb Blais waited out weather in the early hours of the morning before starting their summit attempt of Mt. Rainier.  The teams headed out at 4am and reached Ingraham Flats before encountering firm, icy conditions on the route.  They made the decision to enjoy the sunrise at the Flats before heading back down to Camp Muir.  Brent and Zeb both commented on the strength and toughness of their teams and were very proud of their achievements on the mountain.

Congratulations to today’s teams!

Climber at sunrise on Ingraham Flats - RMI Photo Collection

Mt. Rainier: August 19th Team Summits!

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer, Zeb Blais, Andy Hildebrand | August 19, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Four Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer braved the winds to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  After a short rest on the summit, the team began their descent shortly before 8 am.  They will return to Camp Muir to refuel before descending to Paradise later today.  We look forward to their arrival in Ashford this afternoon.

Congratulations climbers!

RMI Guide Eric Frank and the Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons continue to spend their days training.  Today the team moves from their camp on the Inter Glacier to Camp Schurman in preparation for their summit attempt.

The Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons at camp on the Inter Glacier  Photo: Eric Frank

Mt. Shuksan: Jake Beren & Team Summit!

Posted by: Jake Beren, Zeb Blais | August 11, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *North Cascades
Elevation: 9,127'

Summit! Jake Beren called in from Mt. Shuksan with an update on his team. They set out yesterday a little later than usual due to stormy weather, but the climb went great. The team is hiking out from their high camp today and will celebrate their success in Sedro Woolley.

Congratulations team!

Sunset from Mt. Shuksan. Photo: RMI Collection

Mt. Rainier: August 5th - Teams Reach the Summit!

Posted by: Solveig Waterfall, Zeb Blais | August 05, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

The Five Day Summit Climb led by RMI Zeb Blais and the Four Day Summit Climb led by Solveig Waterfall reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning.  At 7:03 am the teams began their descent from the crater rim.  Solveig reported a beautiful, calm and sunny day from the summit of Mt. Rainier.
Both teams will return to Camp Muir for a short break before continuing down to Paradise this afternoon.  We look forward to seeing everyone at Rainier BaseCamp this afternoon.

Congratulations to today’s summit climb teams!


Mt. Rainier: July 30th, 2013 Summit!

Posted by: Solveig Waterfall, Paul Edgren, Zeb Blais | July 30, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

Our Four Day Summit Climb Teams led by RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall and Paul Edgren reached the summit of Mt. Rainier early this morning. The cloud covering made for a beautiful sunrise today. The teams have started their descent and are en route back to Camp Muir.

RMI Guide Zeb Blais and the Expedition Skills Seminar – Emmons team also reached the summit of Mt. Rainier via the Emmons Route.  The team will descend the route back to Camp Schurman, spend another day training and will return to Rainier Basecamp tomorrow.

Congratulations to today’s teams.

Sunrise on Mt. Rainier. Photo: Katrina Bloemsma

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Return to Talkeetna - Trip Complete!

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Mike King, Zeb Blais | July 17, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 358'

The alarm was set for 11:30 PM at 8000 ft on the Kahiltna Glacier.  The rain began at 10:00 PM and continued on and off until 11:20.  Rain wouldn’t be considered a good thing if you were laying in your sleeping bag hoping that the glacial surface would freeze up in the night to permit safe and easy passage to the Southeast Fork and a possible airplane pickup.  So at the appointed wakeup time, we had a soggy glacier, groggy climbers and a murky vision of the world.  Although it is still light for twenty four hours in this part of Alaska in mid-July, it isn’t very light between about midnight and four.  But we made the decision, along with Rob Gowler’s AMS group camped nearby, to make a break for the airstrip before the storm got worse.  We were on the move by 2:00 AM and stumbling along on snowshoes in the gloom.  Surprisingly, it rained no more.  It was slow going at first, hitting big crevasses broadside, without being able to see them ahead of time and take evasive action.  But conditions improved as we got further down glacier… there had been a great deal of new snow (bridging crevasses) the sky overhead was clearing and the snow surface was consequently freezing, and it was getting lighter.  It was a great help to be backed up in route-finding by Rob and the AMS team.  Together, as the last climbers on the mountain, we worked through the early morning hours.  By seven, we’d solved all significant problems and found ourselves at the foot of “heartbreak hill”. We climbed the Southeast Fork to the airstrip and called in the ski-planes.  Conditions overhead were good, but it took a few hours until our planes could even get into the range.  The bigger storm was still coming in, but all passes into the mountains were already clogged with cloud.  We considered ourselves lucky to be flown out in the afternoon.  What followed was a whirlwind of drying/sorting gear, connecting with the outer world again and showers and shaves.  We enjoyed a fabulous West Rib victory dinner celebration,  a summit certificate awards ceremony and copious amounts of laughter over our shared experiences of the past three weeks.  Day 20… Trip done… all we could possibly have hoped for in defining a fine expedition.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Guide Dave Hahn snaps a photo of Mt. McKinley as the last RMI 2013 Expeditions flies from the Kahiltna Glacier.  Photo: Dave Hahn RMI Guides Erik Nelson & Dave Hahn return to Talkeetna on July 16th after a successful Mt. McKinley Expedition.  Photo: Suzanne Ruse

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team at 8,000’ Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Zeb Blais | July 15, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 8,000'

Monday, July 15th, 2013
It was still very calm at 14K camp this morning, but it was obvious that the next storm system was moving in.  So we moved out.  At 9:15 we pulled out of Genet Basin and dragged our sleds to Windy Corner.  The going was easy as others had plowed a nice trough through the recent snows.  There has to be some advantage to being the very last team to come off the mountain.  We made it around the corner, down the Polo Field, across Squirrel Hill and down Motorcycle in about two hours.  At 11,000’ we dug up our cache of food, snowshoes, and miscellaneous gear and took about an hour to reorganize.  Then it was down to the main Kahiltna Glacier in excellent condition for travel.  It only took us two hours to make the bottom of Ski Hill.  By that point, however, glacier surface conditions were getting soggy and slushy -as expected.  So we built camp to wait for the cool of night before going the last few miles to the airstrip.  We need the freeze to firm up about a thousand snow bridges over crevasses between here and Basecamp.  It is a relief to be low again.  Our first time in over two weeks to be taking in so much oxygen with each breath.  And we aren’t even remotely cold after conditioning to the frigid heights of Denali.  There is a downside, of course… there are smells again.  The one in the guide tent has been described as “hot garbage.”

Perhaps we will make it to Talkeetna and showers tomorrow morning. 

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI climber traveling on lower Kahiltna Glacier. Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Descend to 14K Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Zeb Blais, Mike King | July 14, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Back at 14K.  A couple of long, hard, exhilarating days have come and gone.  When we left 14,200’ two days ago, we were happy to even have a chance at getting to 17,200’.  It wasn’t certain that we’d get there with the leftovers from that two-foot snowstorm.  And as we moved up, we were aware that teams were coming down from 17,200’ because of avalanche conditions between there and the summit.  But we had a perfect day for moving up and we weren’t used to perfect days on this trip… we took advantage.  The going was a little slow, what with trail-breaking, but it was better than we expected to find.  We were able to walk on avalanche debris for a good portion of the approach to the fixed ropes.  The climb up along the crest of the buttress was spectacular and difficult with our big packs, but all handled it well.  It took 8.5 hours to reach camp at 17,200’.  When we got there we were overwhelmed at the generosity of the teams who’d been waiting there for days.  They gave us water and helped to build our tents… And most importantly, they pointed out that recent winds had virtually eliminated the avalanche hazard on the route to Denali Pass.  They were going for the top in the morning and we were invited.  It was just a matter of whether we could get camp up, dinner down, and people in sleeping bags fast enough that the team would be rested for a try on the top.  The next day dawned cloudless and windless and our teams were all enthusiastic about a chance to climb.  We took off at 10:20 AM just behind Rob Galler with AMS and Dennis with AAI.  We’d discussed things extensively and were determined that the last guided parties of the season would work together to achieve this unexpected summit.  Rob did a lot of the hard work breaking trail on the steep slopes to Denali Pass.  We took over a little past the Football Field to make a route up to and along the summit ridge.  Throughout the day, it seemed nearly unbelievable that on a storm-plagued trip, we’d get such a perfect opportunity for the top.  The wind never blew and we were comfortable the entire day… no freezing hands, faces or feet.  We hit the summit at 6:40 PM and stayed there for an hour, taking pictures, shaking hands and marveling at our good fortune.  A few thousand careful steps later, we pulled into high camp at 11:30 PM.

Everyone worked to get some dinner down before turning in.  The guides were up for hours more, melting snow and filling water bottles.  It seemed a great gift that the good weather continued into this morning.  It is always rough packing up at 17K after a summit day, but it was made immeasurably easier by the calm, sunny morning.  We set out at 1:00 PM and climbed ever so carefully down the narrow ridge crest and the steep fixed ropes with our giant packs.  It was quite hot by the time we reached 14,200’ and it seemed a good idea to set camp rather than chancing rockfall around Windy Corner.  Tomorrow will be another big day as we’ll try to make it to 8000’, putting ourselves in position to go out the lower glacier early the following morning.  Probably too much to ask, to get another nice day, but we’ll ask anyway.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Climbing Teams on Windy Corner. Photo: Lindsay Mann

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