Entries from Denali
September 2, 2015
RMI Guides Casey Grom and Leon Davis along with their Four Day Summit Climbs remained at Camp Muir overnight due to high winds. The teams were unable to make a summit attempt and will start their descent from Camp Muir later this morning. We look forward to seeing the teams at BaseCamp later today.
9:00 am PST
Guide Casey Grom checked in with the RMI office. With a bit of a break in the weather the team was going to take a walk on the upper mountain and plan to depart Camp Muir at around 11:30 am today.
Thinking about Ron, Dan, Sam and Mikey!
Posted by: Linda Parsons on 9/3/2015 at 6:45 am
HBD Matt! We are excited to hear about your adventure and celebrate your big day down here in the Valley of the Sun!
Posted by: Mama Baby on 9/2/2015 at 2:06 pm
My climbing/guiding career on Denali (Mt McKinley) spanned four decades. Some of the most memorable trips were independent ventures with friends in the early 1970’s. I have been witness to innumerable changes over the years, and always find it fun to look back at the way things were. The mountain hasn’t changed, but we have certainly refined and improved our means and methods of climbing it!
- My friend, Dave Campbell, and I drove a VW bug up the Alaska Highway, which in those days included 1200 miles of unpaved surface (dirt!). His V-dub gave up the ghost in the Yukon, about 100 miles short of the Alaska border, so we hitch-hiked to Anchorage and took the Alaska Railroad to Talkeetna. Two guys in a pick-up, moving to Alaska after time there in the army, went hundreds of miles out of their way to deliver us to Anchorage. That anybody would pick up two straggly dudes along with 1,000 lbs of backpacks, food and gear, left a most favorable impression with me.
- Later in April, my first day in Talkeetna. It was snowing mightily as I stepped from the train and observed a wedding procession passing by the Fairview Inn on Main St. The bride and groom were mushing a sled dog team to the delight of revelers lining the street. Being a ‘Cheechako’ (tenderfoot/greenhorn/newcomer) I couldn’t help but wonder if the couple planned to honeymoon in a nearby igloo.
- Our 4-man team brought 30 days of food: breakfast, lunch and dinner for four, packed inside two dozen 3-gallon metal containers (to thwart cache-raiding birds). As it turned out, we needed every morsel as we were on the mountain a total of 33 days (and didn’t make the summit; must be some kind of record!)
- We had elected to fly with Don Sheldon’s competitor, Cliff Hudson. Cliff headquartered out of his home; a quonset hut, strewn to the absolute brim with various electronics and innumerable airplane parts (plus, his wife Ollie, and four young sons). There was no Talkeetna State Airport that I remember. Rather, we took off and landed from the ‘village strip’ across the street from the Fairview (a wind sock was strategically placed on the roof).
- Climbers did not pay a Special Use fee, but the NPS required each party to have a radio capable of reaching Talkeetna from Base Camp. It was rented from ABC Communications in Anchorage, and required a $500 deposit (a fortune to us at the time). Cliff Hudson provided the necessary 12-volt car battery and jumper cable to power the radio, as well as a dozen 12’ spruce boughs (which he crammed into the fuselage of his Cessna 180, along with our food cans, group and personal equipment, and finally, us!). The small Cessna’s that pilots preferred in those days meant multiple trips to and from the mountain, transporting climbers.
- Base Camp was approximately 7300’ on the SE Fork of Kahiltna Glacier. We dug a snowcave for leaving the radio, battery, spruce boughs, and misc. personal affects. We marked the roof circumference with willow wands and a 15’ section of PVC pipe (it snows a lot there), adorned with a small flag, to denote the cave entrance. Over three weeks later we returned and located the cache (which required extensive digging to excavate). The spruce boughs were lined up in a row on the glacier surface, and radio antennae wire strung from the cave to each, like a telephone pole in the middle of nowhere. Power was connected to the radio, and we commenced trying to reach Cliff in Talkeetna to inform him we were ready to be picked up. If the radio didn’t work (some years it wouldn’t) our backup was the CB radio (Citizens Band), potentially capable of reaching a passing aircraft. In those days, bush pilots were acutely aware of location and progress of ‘their’ groups on the mountain, in order to guesstimate when pick up from Base Camp would be needed (in case the radio didn’t work).
- In 1972 sleds were not in vogue, and the four of us carried back and forth in between camps to fully stock the next, higher, site. That required as many as three days of stockpiling. In retrospect, we wasted a lot of good weather while low on the route, and experienced unsettled conditions during the time we spent at high camp.
- Underway, we observed three people descend from Kahiltna Pass, early-on in the trip. It turned out their fourth member had been evacuated from 14K with suspected pulmonary edema. These were the last human beings we saw for the better part of the next three weeks, until we were descending the ‘infamous’ fixed line between 15,000’ – 16,000’ (we met a party coming up the rope; worst spot on the whole route to pass!).
- All nine RMI Denali expeditions reached the summit of Mt McKinley (May, June, and July).
- 87% of our 2015 Denali clients reached the summit.
- The vast majority of guides and climbers jet to Alaska and ride a shuttle to Talkeetna.
- K2 Aviation’s fleet of de Havilland Beavers and Otters can transport an entire team to Base Camp in a single flight.
- Satellite phones and daily dispatches of expedition progress take the guess work out of when to pick up climbing parties.
- RMI expeditions averaged 18.4 days roundtrip this season.
- Guides and climbers alike raved about the new Expedition Sleds.
- There were no accidents or injuries requiring evacuation or hospitalization on any RMI Denali expeditions this season. _____
Joe Horiskey began guiding for RMI Expeditions in 1968 at the age of seventeen. Since that 1972 expedition, Joe has participated in 23 Mt. McKinley expeditions and has 235 summits of Mt. Rainier along with expeditions to peaks across the globe. Joe is a co-owner of RMI Expeditions and director of our Mt. McKinley expeditions. Have a question or thinking about climbing Mt. McKinley? Call our office and talk to Joe; he loves to talk all things Alaska!
Wow Joe ! What awsome surprise to stumble apon
Your story of back in the early days” very very enjoyable & congratulTions on your recollection on the details that long ago” I too remember it well. Sure be great to talk sometime or g-mail me anytime”
Your old climbing buddy
Ph (360) 961-7641
Posted by: Dave Campbell on 12/22/2015 at 8:39 pm
Today was a good but tough day for our team on Mt. Elbrus. We enjoyed a great night’s rest at camp along with a hearty breakfast this morning. After several cups of coffee we geared up and headed up towards 15,000 feet to acclimatize.
As we neared Pastuhkova Rocks the wind kicked in and the once clear, unobstructed view of Elbrus became shrouded in clouds and heavy wind. Our team gritted their teeth and displayed great strength as we reached the rocks.
We are now back down in camp where things are a little calmer and sunnier. Tomorrow we will review some more mountaineering techniques before we take on a summit attempt.
On The Map
Hey Dennis…..Climb strong…Love
Posted by: Debbi on 7/16/2015 at 5:33 pm
Hi this is Mia. I just wanted to say hi to Dennis Garcia and let him know I miss him and hope he is having a good time:) come home soon!
Posted by: Mia on 7/16/2015 at 8:01 am
Sunday July 12th 7:41 pm PT
The team woke at midnight to cloud and light snow at 11,000 ft. We got up and rallied anyway, packing and eating a hot breakfast. We set off into the murk at around 2:30 AM and snowshoed for several hours by Braille in the whiteout. Finally we got a little visibility down at 8000 ft, the base of Ski Hill. The glacier surface didn’t freeze up last night and so we had some nervous moments crossing soft and saggy crevasse bridges. One of our team went neck-deep in a complicated hole just below Mt. Francis - one of the very last crevasses we had to deal with, actually. We plucked him from the ice, but not without a fair bit of grunting and cursing and straining at the ropes. Then it was a simple but strenuous uphill climb to the old site of basecamp (there is nothing there now -which is normal in late season). Quite literally, we’d just put our packs down, at around 11:40 AM, when two beautiful K2 Aviation ski otters landed and took us to Talkeetna. The afternoon was a busy one, drying and sorting everything around the K2 hangar and connecting to the world again. We’ll have a victory dinner tonight at the West Rib, perhaps with a toast or two thrown in. And then we look forward to a comfortable night’s sleep at the Talkeetna Motel. Tomorrow we’ll leave each other and be out on our own for the first time in three weeks.
Thanks very much for keeping track of our climb.
Until Next Time,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
Gary/Team Hahn: Congratulations on a safe and exciting trip. Finish strong. Enjoy the moments of satisfaction that mother nature has provided and allowed.
We’ll look forward to hearing all about it.
Now get eastward bound to St Louis. No hitchhiking, no motorcycles, and no sleeping in the wooods. All the best,
Posted by: Chip Sniffin on 7/13/2015 at 6:11 am
Thanks Dave Hahn and your co-guides for excellent job!!! I am so happy your expedition is safe now and saying goodbye&luck; to each other :-)
Posted by: Wienio on 7/13/2015 at 2:07 am
July 11, 2015
July 11, 2015 7:58 pm PST
All enjoyed the “low” altitude sleep at 11,000 ft last night. Such a relief from the past few days at higher and colder locales. As was always the plan, we chose to stay in place today in order to get on a night-time schedule for exiting the lower Kahiltna Glacier. It was a fine day for resting, even as the weather seemed to deteriorate around us. Our hope was that clear skies and a cool night would make travel safer (from a crevasse standpoint) and easier. That might not happen tonight as there is still plenty of cloud, but we’ll get up at midnight and head for our pickup point anyway. As usual, we’ll need good luck and good weather to get down and off the mountain.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
CONGRATULATIONS! Thanks to Dave Hahn and his assistants for the successful climb to the summit. Job well done by all. We deeply enjoyed the daily reports, Dave. Thank you. Gary, your Dad & I have been getting into shape to climb next year with Dave next year. Keep in mind we didn’t say which Dave. Looking forward seeing you in St.Louis. Come home safe. Hugs and Lots of Love.
CONGRATULATIONS! Thanks to Dave Hahn and his assistant making the climb a success for the team. Gary, we are super proud of your success. Dad & I are practicing the hill in Ohio, getting in shape to be on Dave’s team next year. Keep in mind we didn’t say which Dave. Looking forward to seeing our son in St. Louis. Hugs & Lots of Love.
Posted by: Dad & Mom ROSS on 7/13/2015 at 1:24 pm
Gary/Team Hahn: Absolute CONGRATULATIONS. Enjoy the moments of VICTORY!!!!!!!
All the best for now,
Posted by: chip snffin on 7/12/2015 at 5:59 pm
July 11, 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015 - 2:50 am PT
What a difference 24 hours makes. Yet again, we all worked late, yet again it is 1:30 AM. But we’ve got plenty to show for our labor. We began the day at 17,000 ft, blessed again with perfect weather. We are ending the day down at 11,000 ft in the clouds. It was tough work and we had plenty of dangerous steps to get just right, but we negotiated each of them safely. There was the airy walk along the crest of the West Buttress, the steep and strenuous fixed ropes, the awkward side hill of Windy Corner, the new snow to plod through on the Polo Field and Squirrel Hill and a few well disguised crevasses to sidestep on Motorcycle Hill. Done. Almost. Now for some rest and a cruise out the lower glacier.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
July 10, 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015 - 2:14 am PT
Hey, This is Dave Hahn calling from 17,000 feet on Mt. McKinley. It’s about 10 minutes after 1 in the morning. We had a big day yesterday, on the 9th of July. We summitted Mount McKinley! It was a beautiful day, start to finish, nice and calm and sunny, clouds down below. It was perfect climbing conditions, but it was hard climbing conditions, we had to break trail. We shared that work with a few of the other guided teams that were up here. That made all the difference; breaking trail through new snow and being able to trade off that job. But it still took a long time, I think we were out for 14 hours today. We were on the the top at 6:45 until 7:15. It was beautiful up there, really wonderful day, and all of our team made it. I believe that means that RMI is 100% for this season; all of the RMI summit teams have made it. That’s just about it for the Denali season, the groups that we were going to the top with today were some of the last. I think there’s maybe one more team that is a day from being in position. So far so good for us, we’re up at 17k for now and we’ll head off the West Buttress tomorrow. But, it really turned around, turned nice for us in these last couple days and we’re very appreciative.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn calls from 17 Camp after reaching the summit of Mt. McKinley.
On The Map
Hooray for everyone on Team Hahn. Impressive on any day, but especially digging new trail. What an accomplishment. Peter you rock!
Posted by: Laura Taft Paulsen on 7/11/2015 at 2:39 pm
CONGRATULATIONS to Gary and Team Hahn! Very glad your summit day was so beautiful. Can’t wait to heat the stories Gary. Hope your trek back is beautiful too. - Rob
Posted by: Rob Reynolds on 7/11/2015 at 9:47 am
July 9, 2015
Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - 10:51 pm PT
No forecast could have predicted a day as nice as the one we just had, and certainly none did. They were calling for more snow, and perhaps it was snowing below the immense blanket of clouds that we looked down on all day. But right from our 6 am start at 14,200’ Camp, it was nothing but calm, blue sky and sunshine - where we were and up above where we wanted to be. We got climbing just after 9 am and made excellent progress, reaching our previous high point in a little over three hours. We then worked up the crest of the West Buttress, climbing steep snow with a hand on perfect granite from time to time. There was plenty to concentrate on to ensure safe climbing, but there were also moments devoted to pure pleasure, gazing down at ridiculously steep drop offs and at the gigantic faces of neighboring mountains. We rolled into 17,200’ Camp after about six hours and fifteen minutes on the route. This gave us plenty of time in the strong afternoon sunshine to build a strong camp and eat a good dinner. We are all ready to go climbing to the top tomorrow if the great weather continues.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
Congratulations! You did it. We’re mighty proud of you and the team. Thanks to the team guides. Job well done, by all. We are at Bill’s home using his computer. Dad called Karen to tell her, You made it to the summit. CONGRATULATIONS1 AGAIN AND AGAIN. May all of you follow the same FOOT PRINTS in the SNOW coming down the mountain. We Love You lots and lots. You’ll get a Super Big HUG WHEN WE SEE YOU.
Posted by: Dad & Mom Ross on 7/10/2015 at 8:20 pm
I hope everything went well and you made summit. Congratulation!!!! To all of you!!!
Keep safe and come back home
Posted by: Iza Smolokowska on 7/10/2015 at 6:35 am
July 8, 2015
Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:56 pm PT
Not surprisingly, this morning wasn’t quite right for moving higher. It was socked in, snowing and a little blustery through the night. By morning, the blustery part was finished at 14 Camp, but we could hear the big winds still raking the crest of the West Buttress, a few thousand feet overhead. The team met for pancakes in the POSH and then dispersed to do camp chores and more wall building. In the afternoon, as the storm seemed to be losing a little energy, RMI Guides Steve Gately and JM Gorum raced up to 16,200’ to fetch back some of our cached food. With the extended forecast being a little sloppy, we want more supplies at 14,000’ just in case avalanche conditions should develop between here and the cache site. They were up and down again in less than two hours. As we ate dinner, the upper mountain weather continued to improve. By bedtime, there was plenty of optimism that despite the forecasts, we’d get the break we need for moving to high camp.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
On The Map
Every extra day waiting for safe conditions to ascend is another day to spend soaking up the wisdom of Master Hahn. And pretty soon you’ll all be snow masons with the great walls you’ve been building. Good luck all on the next stage of the journey!
Posted by: Charlie Thomas on 7/8/2015 at 7:40 pm
we anxiously await the climax to the summit but happy to hear of the precautions taken by the team leaders…thinking about you Pat!
Posted by: mom and dad grengs on 7/8/2015 at 12:36 pm
July 7, 2015
Billy here checking in for the last time from this year’s Denali expedition. Our team showed tremendous poise after our butt kicking on our first summit attempt and rested through another marginal day on the way to our eventual summit day that was absolutely beautiful. We encountered some moderate winds in the 30 mph range but generally enjoyed clear skies and decently warm temps. It took us just over 12 hours of solid work to make the round trip mission from our high camp at 17,000’ and the whole team was pretty worked by the end. The next morning we awoke at a leisurely hour, packed up camp and descended the West Buttress back to Camp 4 at 14,000’ where we were greeted by Dave Hahn’s expedition with cheesy bacon quesadillas! Quite the treat… After picking up our cache at 14 we continued down through extremely deep snow to 11,000’ where we ended up camping again because the team was pretty wasted yet again. Our final day on the mountain was surprisingly clear with only occasional sections of whiteout as we marched down the Kahiltna towards Basecamp. Except for a little excitement involving a crevasse fall the trip was mostly a slog. And as we arrived at the lower airstrip around 6 pm we could see the runway markers of the upper airstrip but were relieved to hear from Lisa that we wouldn’t need to travel any further. K2 was already on the way and going to land right next to us. And just like that we were in the land of the living slamming burgers and downing beers with all of the tourists in Talkeetna. Talk about a culture shock! Needless to say, the gang went big rocking the Fairview and ended up closing down the Teepee (and nearly getting kicked out!). A proper way to end a successful Denali expedition. Too much fun!
I’d like to thank both Mike King and Sean Collon for their hard work and the good times and the rest of the team members for persevering despite crummy weather forecasts and tough odds. It’s a trip I won’t forget for a while.
See ya next year!
RMI Guide Billy Nugent.
Congratulations RMI and my ole buddy Doug. Glad to hear you guys had a great trip. One more notch in the belt.
Posted by: John Newland on 7/8/2015 at 5:51 am
Great going what a trip ! Congrats Kevin , sober up & come home to get ready for another party.
Posted by: Irma on 7/8/2015 at 4:01 am