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Denali Expedition: Cifelli & Team Carry Gear to 13,500ft

Monday, June 17, 2024 - 12:50 am PT

We got to sleep in! At least what we consider… The day started with wake up at 6:30am and leave camp by 8am. The route today was 11,000' Camp up Motorcycle hill, up Squirrel hill, across/up the Polo Field, around Windy Corner and stop at 13,500 to bury food and other items that we won’t need until 14,000' Camp and higher. Then head back to 11k camp We got moving with a little chill in the air and some slight wind. Enough to make us all continue to question what layers of clothing should we wear? It’s a constant struggle in the mountains. I literally wore three different types of gloves today as the temps changed. We’re now wearing crampons and carrying our ice axes, so it feels like the climb has officially started! We started right off with a long steep uphill - Motorcycle Hill, which alone took an hour! It was certainly a good way to warm up! Since it is Father’s Day, I took the time during the climb to think about my dad. He and I came out a week before the climb and took a small tour of Alaska between Seward and Talkeetna. It was a blast to hang with him. I thought a lot about him telling me how proud he is of me for climbing Mt McKinley. After all, we carry the same former name as the mountain! Aside from today, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on the encouragement from friends and family. The mental game of the mountains can be tough. We know it’s physically tough, but mentally it can take a toll on you as well. Self doubt, anxiety, overthinking can set in bad. What’s helped me the most is encouragement like this: “I am so incredibly proud of you and excited for you to have this opportunity. You are going to be great. Be safe, show ‘em what you got, stay tough like I know you can, and help others.” I’ve reflected a lot on that one piece of encouragement. That’s the kind of stuff that can drown out the doubt and keep me moving forward. If you’re reading this blog you’re probably one of those people, helping to push all of us along and suppress the negative thoughts that can come in this environment. We all can’t thank you enough for your support and love. And letting us leave for a month...

The sun came out and we moved at a gentle pace. We buried food and such and then made our way back down. The best part of the day was right before dropping Squirrel hill and Motorcycle hill when Nicole, the guide on our rope team pulled me aside and asked me to take the lead and guide our team down the two remaining steep hills. I was speechless. I wasn’t sure I could do it. My other two companions on our rope team spoke up and told me that I’d be great, and that they hadn’t seen such raw mountaineering talent since reading about Ed Viesturs in “No Shortcuts To The Top”. I looked at Nicole and asked, “Do you think I can do it?” She pulled down her sunglasses, looked me straight in the eye and said “Think? No… I KNOW you can do it, and that’s the RMI difference!” Of course, none of the is true. However, I did lead our rope team down, but that’s because the guides like to lead from the back when going steep downhills. All three rope teams did this. Our guides, Dominic, Nicole and Seth are fantastic. They do so much to make this experience the best.

All in all, we had a great day and are very excited to enjoy a rest day tomorrow at the 11,000' camp.

RMI Climber Dave McKinley


Comments (12)

Way to go David! Your CrossFit OTR Family believes in you! We’ll be waiting for you with lots of ice cream upon your return! Kill it! (fist bump)

Posted by: Christina Roll on

Proud of you for pushing the limits. Keep killin’ it!!!

Posted by: Bren on

Proud of you, brother, no doubt you will make it!! But just remember….don’t eat the yellow snow

Posted by: Cameron Fuller on

I’m loving the updates. The climb has STARTED! Keep pushing, Dave!

Posted by: Tristen Hines on

Love it dude!  So excited for you.  Push on and conquer that mountain.  Inspired by your courage.

Posted by: C.J. Stephens on

My hero! Great update—what a day! Motorcycle Hill sounds like an absolute bear. I know you’re strong enough (physically AND mentally) for ANY challenge this climb brings your way though. Rooting for you each and every day! Can’t wait to buy you a beer when you get back to celebrate this monumental achievement. Love you lots and so, so impressed by you!

Posted by: Joshua Rouse on

Great job Dave! Great Blog post!
Glad we can follow along on your climb!
Have a blast climbing! You’ve got this!!

Posted by: Lauren on

It’s great to be able to follow your adventure, Dave.  Wishing you and the team the best.  I hope you remembered the PNS flag for the mandatory summit photo op.

Posted by: Bill Schick on

Dave, my Son in who I am well pleased. It was a Great time in Alaska. Keep Climbing and don’t look back. Praying for the strength for your entire team as you realize your dream!

Posted by: Steven McKinley on

Dave! So proud of you. I smile every time I think of how you carefully and intentionally prepared for this climb mentally and physically. Cannot wait to hear all about it when you get back. I looked at this quote on my bulletin board today and thought of you and your leadership style: “You don’t inspire your teammates by showing how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing how amazing they are”.  Robyn Benicasa   Sending you a hug and a HIGH FIVE.

Posted by: Sonja Rom on

Dave you are such a great leader and team member. Always leading by example and encouraging everyone around you. I’m so excited you are on this journey you’ve dreamed about. I am praying for you and your team. That you will all stay physically and mentally strong and pick each other up whenever it’s needed. You make all of us at PNS proud.

Posted by: Robin Hutcheson on

Cameron and I will have shots ready for you when you get back! Keep smiling that Dave smile and stay strong! So excited for you!

Posted by: Carrie Fuller on

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