Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 1:11 AM PT
The longest day. The weather remained stable and perfect... to a scary extent. Some of us lay awake last night at 14,000 just listening to the violent detonations of rock hitting ice and snow at terminal velocity. The high temps were to blame and those high temperatures were part and parcel of the prolonged good weather that allowed us to summit. For those monitoring the rockfall, it was a relief that wake-up time was at 11 PM. Best to be up and busy eating and packing then to be hearing rock and imagining worst case scenarios for a team passing Windy Corner ridiculously close up under the cliffs. We were walking at 12:30 AM and soon got to see the battlefields where car-sized chunks of granite had left deep tracks and impact craters on either side of the “trail”. Sure enough, in the zone where rockfall danger demanded our fullest attention, the track began to go over crevasse after crevasse and crappy bridge after crappy bridge. We struggled (as every one does) the then, surprisingly, the route got better. We were pleased to find things frozen up and easy travel far below the point where we’d been told to expect freezing.
Once at 11,000' the nature of travel changed. We traded crampons for snowshoes and ice axes for ski poles. The morning/evening light was brilliant on Denali. Conditions on the lower glacier were way better than we expected. We just kept trudging as the light changed and found ourselves walking up Heartbreak Hill starting at 9:30 AM. It was 11:30 before we were at the “upper strip” on the SE Fork with all of our Basecamp caches relocated from the lower strip. Our pickup arrived just after 3 PM. We loaded and lifted off and flew into smoke as the pilots pointed their Otters toward Talkeetna. We got out of the planes in down jackets... immediately appreciating that the ambient temp at TKA was over 90 degrees F. Afternoon was then spent drying gear and reconnecting to the world. We met for a celebratory dinner at the West Rib and discussed our good fortune. Day 19 was a long one, but also a very good one.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Monday, July 8, 2019 - 7:36 PM PT
We woke up yesterday to a fabulous day to fly back to Talkeetna. Our monumental effort to get back to basecamp and the airstrip paid off as we barely had time to make coffee in the morning before the Otter ski planes came to pick us up.
We returned to shocking 90 degree temperatures. Having been on an icy mountain for the better part of the month, our sweat glands definitely got a workout.
The crew exploded their packs and duffel bags, dried out and sorted gear, and then repacked for our travels home.
After a dinner to celebrate our amazing adventure together, everyone needed the sleep we were deprived of for the last few days.
Thank you RMI Siete for the great adventure and the amazing efforts and attitude that lead to a very successful expedition.
RMI Guide Mike Haugen
Sunday, July 7, 2019 - 8:47 PM PT
The fine weather continued, except there was an irritating wind blowing at 17,000 this morning when we got stirring at 7:30 AM. The wind wasn’t particularly strong or cold, but it wouldn’t go away either, so it made breakfast and packing slightly less fun. We were out of 17,000' Camp by 10:30 and walking carefully down the crest of the West Buttress. The wind wasn’t strong enough to make anybody miss a step, but it made communication tricky. Even so, we made good time down the ridge and then down the fixed ropes. Traffic is nonexistent now as the very last three or four teams of the season were all above us and going for the top in the breeze. We reached 14,000 by 1 PM and decided to build camp. Tempting as it would have been to continue on down the mountain, we have to deal now with the downside to all the fabulous weather. The warm temperatures have caused the West Buttress to shed a lot more rock than usual. We’ll try to let it cool a little before venturing around Windy Corner. An Alpine Start is called for, so we’ll keep resting in preparation for a midnight departure. We’ll try to go all the way to the airstrip from here in order to get the lower glacier in cool conditions as well.
It MIGHT be our final night on the mountain. Stay tuned.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
We left 14,000' Camp this morning on a mission. We were going to make it to Kathiltna Basecamp. We packed up our heavy packs and sleds and headed downhill. The weather was just right for our long haul. We had a nice breeze all day that kept us from cooking on the sometimes brutally hot lower glacier.
We worked our way well over 10 miles of glacier and finally found our way to a deserted Basecamp and airstrip.
Since it was too late for the ski planes to come and pick us up, we hunkered down, set up camp, and ate a nice dinner. We even found a couple of beers in our cache. I wonder how those got there?
RMI Guide Mike Haugen and Team Siete
Saturday, July 6, 2019 - 10:38 PM PT
We got it. Only slightly ashamed that it was such a nice day. We didn’t have to worry about frozen faces or fingers or toes. We didn’t have to battle winds. We didn’t have to watch clouds building or encroaching. A lot of the normal stresses just weren’t there today as we cruised to the top of North America and came down to high camp safely.
The stoves were burning just after 5 AM this morning and conditions were exactly the same as when we’d gone to bed... clear and calm. We hit the trail at 6:55 and did battle for two hours with the steep and intimidating Autobahn -the route from 17,200' High Camp to 18,3000' Denali Pass. We found the sunshine up at the pass and then worked a series of steep snow rolls to reach Zebra Rocks, the dramatic black and white rocks along the ridge line. Then it was up and over the ridge formed by the Archdeacon’s Tower and into the Football Field at 19,500'. Things got steep again as we worked 600 vertical feet to attain the summit ridge. The views were overwhelming with no real cloud in our gigantic slice of sky. Just a bit of smoke still, but that didn’t prevent our seeing mountain chain after mountain chain and about a thousand glaciers. We cruised out the summit ridge to gain the absolute high point at 2:10 PM for a very respectable 7.25 hour ascent. There wasn’t any wind to speak of at the summit and the temperature was probably 15 or 20 above... balmy. We limited our very pleasant stay of 40 minutes and began working downward at 2:50. Only one other team went for the top today and we high-fived them on our descent to the Football Field as we passed them still going strong for the top.
We put together a few hours of careful steps and reached camp at 6:25 PM. We were tired but plenty satisfied as we ate dinner and secured things for the night. Several of our gang shattered their altitude records today.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Hey this is Dave Hahn with the final RMI Denali climb of the season. We are on the summit of Denali. We got here ten minutes after two, and it's ten minutes to three now, so we've been here a good 40 minutes. It's that kind of day, a perfect day, beautiful sunshine, nice and calm, absolutely wonderful day on top! We're going to have a nice safe descent back to high camp, and we'll be in touch. Bye for now!
Dave Hahn calling from the Summit of Denali July 6, 2019
Friday, July 5, 2019 - 11:02 PM PT
We woke up when the direct sun hit our tents and sprung into action. We had done coffee and ate some breakfast and headed downhill.
After a great climb along the ridge out of 17,000' Camp, we hit the fixed lines and made our way down to 14,000' Camp.
Since the temperatures have been so warm lately, we decided to set up camp here at 14k. We will head further downhill when the temps are cooler and the glaciers are more frozen. We will see how far we make it on our walk out tomorrow. We may make it as far as Basecamp and catch a plane tomorrow. If the snow gets too soft, we can camp one more night and head back to Talkeetna the next day. Let's hope for a good freeze!
RMI Guide Mike Haugen & Team Siete
I bet you are all ready to get off the mountain- Meghan did you bring any wine to celebrate?
Congratulations and hope everyone has an easy descent!
Posted by: Lisa Miller on 7/6/2019 at 10:43 am
Who ever thought you would need cooler temps to continue? Prepare yourself. It’s 100 degrees and higher, in many states throughout the US, and California has had its share of earthquakes/aftershocks during the past 2-3 days.
Enjoy yourselves and be safe as you complete this amazing journey. Kristen is looking forward to seeing you,Tym. Don’t forget to send a few pictures.
Friday, July 5, 2019 - 9:46 PM PT
Finally, the perfect weather arrived! We made good use of this clear, calm, sunny, relatively warm day as we motivated on up to 17,200' Camp. The alarms at 14 Camp went off at 4:30 and we were walking uphill in pleasantly cool shadows by 6:45. We had the advantage of having traveled this terrain before, we had the added advantage that other teams had tracked it in for us yesterday following the days of new and blowing snow. And finally we had the huge advantage of the extra acclimatization days and nights spent at 14,000. We were on the beautiful crest of the West Buttress proper before the morning sun found us. And we were up Washburn’s Thumb and taking a break close to 16,900 when we greeted Mike Haugen’s victorious team making their way carefully down the ridge crest. It wasn’t long after that -at 12:40- when we rolled into the camp they’d just left for us at 17,200. The early arrival and pre-built camp meant we had a very easy afternoon of resting and drinking water. We tried to limit our time out in the intense high altitude sun, but every now and then one of our climbers or guides could be found at the easily accessible edge of camp, staring wide-eyed at the drop down to 14 Camp or the bigger drop to the Kahiltna Glacier... or to the bigger drop down to Anchorage. There is still smoke in the air, but I didn’t hear many complaints about limited views.
In late afternoon we sat down to talk about the summit attempt we’ll make in the morning. The forecast could not be better. We’re feeling quite lucky and optimistic.
Even so, it will be a tough climb and it will work us hard. Every climber took an extra portion at dinner with the big day in mind.
Dead calm at 8:40 PM, sun still high in the sky, all for tonight. Stay tuned.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Thursday, July 4, 2019 - 11:32 PM PT
All of our hard work and efforts paid off today with a trip to the summit of Denali!
As soon as we woke up, we knew the the mountain was finally inviting us to go to the top. Although there were some pretty good winds along the summit ridge, it was clear and sunny and it allowed us to achieve our objective. What a view from the top today!
We are so proud of our team and all of their hard work! It has been a long day with over a 12-hour round trip from high camp!
I think we need some sleep!
RMI Guide Mike Haugen and Team Siete
Thursday, July 4, 2019 - 9:38 PM PT
Independence Day on Denali dawned clear and a bit gusty. Moving higher wasn’t terribly practical for us on this day, although it didn’t seem impossible. We were encouraged at our 9 AM breakfast to know that Mike Haugen’s RMI team was starting out from high camp bound for the summit. That will make our move tomorrow a great deal easier as we’ll be able to coordinate a "gear swap".
Today, forecasts called for high pressure building, hence the wind, but the prediction was that the wind would calm as the day went on, which is what we saw. It was still gusting pretty good as we set off at noon for the “Edge of the World”. Twenty minutes of roped glacier travel brought us to the very edge of the plateau we are camped upon. It is always a fun shock to look virtually straight down for thousands of feet to the glaciers below. After days of camping on a flat expanse, one can forget how high we’ve already climbed and a visit to the edge serves as a great reminder. The views of the West Rib and a portion of Denali’s South Face are stupendous and today we enjoyed smoke-free views of the southern Alaska Range. Mt Spurr and the Tordrillos seemed much closer than their hundred miles. We each ventured out on an overhanging granite boulder for a hero shot or two and a look into the abyss.
Back at camp we organized and pared down and packed for moving up.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn