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Denali Expedition: Cifelli & Team are on the Move

The jagged, monolithic peaks of the lower Kalithna begin to make themselves visible again.

We have just torn down camp. The anticipation of this moment has been building even greater since our departure was delayed by yesterday’s fog. The midnight sunshine just beyond the horizon still illuminates us deep into the night making the time of 1:55am seem wildly incorrect. We begin to move.

It’s now 3:12am. We’ve descended the hazy 600ft from base camp and sit just beyond the danger of the house-sized seracs looming off the side of Mt. Frances. Directly in front of us as we sit and replenish ourselves with food and drink is Mt. Crosson. Just left of it looms the beautiful Mt. Foraker, its upper half hidden just hidden behind a small cloud system. Our rest comes to an end. It’s time to begin the ever so slightly increasing grade up towards our next camp.

As we move the air is light and serene. Other than the sound of our snowshoes crunching the snow beneath our feet and our sleds sliding, there is no other noise for miles around us. In my left earbud plays Fryslan by Phil Cook. The pattern of our movement becomes hypnotic. My world becomes managing my pace to avoid stepping on the rope in front of me, interspersed with seconds of beholding the ether that surrounds me. To our right, an orange and magenta hue begins to materialize in the Alaskan sky as the sun begins to return from its brief absence beyond the horizon. Looking upward towards it presents our desired destination, veiled in a partially transparent fog, like a bride on her wedding day, Denali appears. It beams with a beauty matched by very few other things in this world.

We continue forward entranced by the sight. The weight of our heavy packs and sleds begin to melt away as we gaze upon the peak. A solemnity fills the moment that feels religious in nature. There is no more music playing in my earbuds. It is just the rhythmic beating of our snowshoes that fills my ears, and this epic sight that fills my eyes. I am totally absorbed. Quickly as this moment came, so it did depart, as again the mountain would hide itself behind an immense fog, abruptly returning us to the physical realm.

Enriched by this experience, we press forward, climbing steeper terrain before reaching a plateau which will lead us to our next camp site. The going is slow and heavy. Chilling cold air pockets move through our path at times. We break one final time before making the final mile push to camp. Upon arrival our guides probe the area upon which we will be building our living quarters for the next couple days (hopefully). We finish just before 9am. Crawling into our sleeping bags for “night,” we adorn the proper attire of sleeping masks to block out the now powerfully shining rays of the sun to spend the day resting for the journey which is set to continue early tomorrow morning once again.

As I now lay in my sleeping bag, my tent mates asleep beside me, I sense a number of emotions within me: satisfaction, anxiety, excitement, connectedness, all of which seem to stem from the same place: a determination to succeed at this challenge as a team. I close my eyes as gentle folk music softly plays in my earbuds once again. “One thing at a time,” I remind myself.

For now, all there is to do is to rest.

RMI Climber Thomas Goossen 

Comments (7)

Seeing this team out there and tackling such challenging terrain is inspiring. We would love to know what drives your every step. I’m sure all will have great stories to share when they return. Can’t wait to hear them. Get them ready.

Posted by: Matt and Maria on

Beautifully written Thomas!!  Your words not only provide a visual but you can almost feel the emotion!!  So proud of you!!  Wishing you and your mates a safe journey to the top!!

Posted by: Aunty Gwen on

So beautifully written Thomas! Dad and I are excited for the journey ahead for you and your mates! Onward and upward! xo Missing you too!

Posted by: Cheryl Goossen on

We’ll done! Keep trudging upward!

Posted by: Nicholas Reitz on

Beautiful account of your journey! Beautifully written - I almost feel I am there with you guys!  Say Hi! To your tent mate, Chris !!

Posted by: Xenia von Lilien-Waldau on

Dave keep on keeping on. So proud … love the narrative of your climb!

Posted by: Steven McKinley on

Wow! You transport us all with your writing- what a joy to read/visualize

Posted by: Kim C on

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