Entries By zeb blais

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!

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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
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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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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Summit!

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Zeb Blais, Mike King | July 14, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 20,320'

Saturday, July 13th, 2013 2:30 am PST
Hey this is Dave Hahn with RMI’s Denali team, the last one of the season. I’m on the summit of Denali, 20,320’, on one of the more magical days that I can remember up here in 30 expeditions. It’s really worked out great. We teamed up with some of our good friends from Alaska Mountaineering School and Alpine Ascents International. Great to be up here with good climbers and, like I say, just the most spectacular day. We stepped onto the top at 6:40 PM, and we’ll stay up here for a while. It’s very comfortable. There is maybe a one and a half mile an hour breeze and massive sun. Clouds are probably about 10,000’ feet under us. We will get back to you when we get back to camp. We wanted to let you know that we got extremely lucky. Bye now.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013 8:00 pm PST
This is Dave Hahn calling from High Camp. We got back from the summit, no problem. We spent about an hour up there, altogether. I figure it took us about 13 hours and 15 minutes round trip. We left at 10:20 this morning and we got back about 11:35 this evening. Can’t do a written dispatch; it’s 1:30 now. After doing dinner and filling everybody’s water bottles and all the normal chores for getting us in the bed. But we’ll catch you up on the story in the next few days. The long days continue. This one was spotless weather but very long day. Tomorrow promises to be one as well going down the month. We’ll catch up, and let you know how things are going. Thanks.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

The view from the top of Mt. McKinley. Photo: RMI Collection Summit ridge of Mt. McKinley. Photo: Seth Waterfall An RMI team descending from the summit. Photo: Seth Waterfall


Dave Hahn calls from the Mt. McKinley summit.


Dave Hahn calls in from Mt. McKinley's High Camp.

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Move Up to 17K Camp

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Zeb Blais, Mike King | July 13, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 17,200'

Hey, this is Dave Hahn calling from 17,200 feet on Mount McKinley. We made it to High Camp. Huge day, beautiful day, great weather. One of the nice things that started off the day for us was we got to talk to Mike King. He and Will and Shawn had made it to Basecamp by this morning and they were looking to get picked up within a half an hour of our conversation. They reported good conditions down there and they had a smooth exit from the mountain. We were very happy to hear that. And a big happy birthday to Mike King and a thank you for all that hard work.  We set in with our hard work right after that. It did take a long time to get up here to 17,200’ because we had so much snow on the Headwall. 

If tomorrow is a decent day, we’re going try for the summit. And that’s it for tonight. Talk to you soon.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Making a Call from 17,200'. Photo: RMI Collection


RMI Guide Dave Hahn calls in from 17,200 ft on McKinley.

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Sit Tight at 14,200’

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Mike King, Zeb Blais | July 12, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

Thursday, July 11, 2013
We couldn’t have asked for a much nicer day, but we’d have loved to have used it differently.  It was clear and sunny from start to finish at 14,200’ ft, just as we’d hoped it might be to settle the slopes above us.  But I’m sure every climber on the team would rather have used such sparkling and fine weather to climb, rather than for waiting to climb.  It was a bit of a tough day for the team as we had two climbers descend with Mike King, bound for base and Talkeetna.  Their problems, a head-cold and a sore foot, were relatively minor, but 14,200’ is not the best place for such issues to resolve and we had a golden chance to team Mike up with a descending team led by guides we know and trust.  But we are sorry to not finish the entire climb together.  It has been a great team.  We can’t say for sure that we ourselves won’t be headed down in a day or two, but we cling to a slim chance for getting to the summit.  Zeb and I went on a short recon mission on the suspect slopes and found things better than we’d expected.  Good enough that we will make an attempt on 17 camp in the morning if the weather cooperates.  We are still getting reports from those at 17,000’ that the route to Denali Pass (18,300 ft) is presumed to be avalanche prone and impassable at present, but we’ll just try to solve one set of problems at a time. 
The National Park Service rangers at 14,000’ used the fine day to remove their seasonal base.  A B3 helicopter flew laps for several hours to get the gear and personnel down.  Camp -and the mountain in general- is getting very quiet as we near the end of the climbing season. 

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Expeditions tent at 14,000 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Mt. McKinley: Team Hahn Watching the Snow Fall at 14,200’

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Zeb Blais | July 11, 2013
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,200'

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Last night’s snow shower turned into the “heavy fall of snow” that we’ve been promised on a daily basis by our forecasts these last ten days.  It snowed, it snowed and then it snowed some more here at 14,200 ft.  We estimated that it was coming down at a rate of 3 inches per hour.  Zeb got out at three to rally a shovel brigade in retaking the camp from the tent-bending powder deluge.  We could hear great avalanches roaring repeatedly down the steep and icy flanks of the West Buttress.  It didn’t ease until around nine in the morning, by which point we figured about 24 inches had fallen overnight.  Needless to say, today was not a climbing day for us.  The wind was still pulling huge streamers of snow off the route we’d hoped to trace along the crest of the Buttress.  And the slopes leading to the ridge were now all suspect in terms of snow stability.  So much snow falling so quickly doesn’t give the stuff a chance to settle.  One of the ways it settles on a mountainside is to avalanche.  There was plenty of visual evidence (when the clouds parted for a minute here and there) that a number of avalanches had already occurred on the route to the fixed ropes, but there were also still vast stretches of undisturbed deep new snow.  We needed a hot and sunny day to glue things in place and to make it all safe again.  But you can’t always get what you need.  Our day was mostly cloudy with light snow showers.  Zebulon gave a great lesson in basic snow science, demonstrating how to identify weak layers in the snow pack, how to compare the hardness of those layers, and in how to conduct a “compression test” on an isolated column of snow in a study pit.  Our climbers then dug their own pits and made their own observations as a way of understanding our challenge in these next few days.  We need to figure out the level of hazard that exists on the slopes above us without exposing ourselves to that very hazard.  And we don’t have much time to do it in.  We only have a couple more days of food available.  Our greater cache of food is now the one sitting above the suspect slopes… In perfect position for our summit bid, but out of our reach until we determine that the avalanche hazard has diminished.  Lots to figure out on Denali.  We aren’t alone though.  The other teams, mostly at 17 camp have similar dilemmas What we all need, first and foremost, is a break from continued bad weather.  As is normal, we need a little good luck.  Despite the challenges, the team is still in good spirits.  Today, we went over the blog comments together.  We can’t surf the web with our setup, but the RMI office was kind enough to cut and paste the comments into an email for us.  Thanks, from the entire team, for keeping us in your thoughts.

Best Regards
Dave Hahn

RMI Guide Dave Hahn in deep snow at 14,200 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection

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