- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Lindsay Fixmer
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- JM Gorum
- Casey Grom
- Billy Haas
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- JJ Justman
- Andrew Kiefer
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Caleb Ladue
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Jeff Martin
- Stoney Molina
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Robby Young
Entries From McKinley 5-21-13
Friday, June 7, 2013
Yes, we’re back in Talkeetna after an incredible walk back to Base camp in the early morning hours. I think most of us are relaxing now after a much needed shower. In a short while we’ll be back together for a great dinner not prepared by the guides and perhaps accompanied by an adult beverage ...and certainly including dessert. We’ve had a great run!
I for one will miss the company of a stellar group of individuals I can now call friends.
Perhaps you’ll excuse their absence from your lives again sometime as we pursue our passion for the mountains. Of course, you’ll always be close to them through these dispatches.
This will be our last, and I appreciate all your support and interest. The people you’ve been following are incredible individuals. We are fortunate to call them friends.
Bye for now,
Thursday, June 6, 2013
If our good luck holds out, this is our last night on Denali. It’s just a little bitter sweet. This place has been on our thoughts and in our dreams for so long, and has given us an experience that will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
But now our thoughts turn to home, family and loved ones. Oh, and perhaps to a great meal and beer too.
To get to where we are now, back at our 11,200’ camp, we’ve just descended 6000’ feet of steep terrain with heavy loads. Everyone did well getting down the technical part of the Buttress and fixed ropes, then came time to tether the sleds and load up the stuff we cached at 14,200’ camp.
And now, finally, we’re back at 11,200’ camp. A hastily set up camp followed by a quick dinner and we’re horizontal. The chores have all been done and even the guides are in bed by 10:00pm. And just as well because we’ll be up at 1:30am to get on a night time schedule to travel on snow that’s hard and frozen, thereby insuring us safe travels over the crevassed glacier of the lower Kahiltna that warm and melt incredibly fast in the Alaskan summer.
But the best part of the trip is yet to come. Walking down the Kahiltna while the sun is just below the horizon has given me some of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever witnessed, with the rosy tint of dawn hitting these hugely majestic Alaskan peaks all around us.
We’re hoping to get to the airstrip by mid morning, so with luck we’ll be back in Takkeetna tomorrow.
A little closer to you, but a world away from the mountain that has been our focus and challenge for the past couple of weeks. We’ll miss her, but will carry with us a treasure of fond memories of our life spent here.
On The Map
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Leah awoke just before me and the first words out of her mouth when she went outside were: It’s beautiful out. The sky is blue, there’s no wind. I think it’s the nicest day yet. And so the wheels were set in motion: firing up the reluctant stoves from their below zero degree slumber to get breakfast and hots going for the team, then waking everybody up to let them know that we were going for it again.
Even with yesterday’s aborted attempt that certainly burned a bit of energy, the crew was excited and ready. This time, we didn’t have to break trail up to Denali Pass. At first we were nervous about the colder temps, but these concerns proved unfounded as the sun shone brightly and warmed things up. As we ascended, things just got better and better, and our climbers responded well. In fact, they climbed flawlessly today. To say that I am particularly proud of everybody would be an understatement. No slips or oops or loss of focus that seem just an inevitable thing when a large group of folks climb for twelve hours. We reached the summit at about 4:00, the first team to summit today. After the hero pictures and summit hugs, we made our way back to camp well before the sun slid over the ridge.
Enjoying another dinner together was the finishing touch to a great day. We even got some singing out of one of our favorites, tired of body though he might have been, his spirit was obviously on a high. Now our thoughts go to the descent from this lofty camp. A couple of hard days and, with a little more luck, we might be seeing our loved ones soon. But for now, the cold of night is chasing me into my bed of down.
Goodnight from RMI Guides Brent, Logan and Leah, 17,200’ on Denali.
On The Map
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Hi, this is Brent calling from the RMI Okita McKinley Expedition and we’re calling you from the summit of Mt. McKinley. Right now it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon on a beautiful day here, minimal winds and a few high clouds around. It is just gorgeous! The team did a super job getting up here today. We are taking photos right now and getting ready to head out and get back to camp. I will try and give another call when we are back to camp. I just wanted to let you know everyone is doing super well at 20,320. Congratulations to the team! I am a bit emotional. It has been a great day. Bye.
RMI Guide Brent Okita calls from the summit of Mt. McKinley, 20,320 ft.
On The Map
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
We were excited this morning as we awoke to a windless day which followed an equally windless night, a far cry from our first night here. With the sun just lightly obscured by some high clouds things looked reasonable for a summit bid. It was even relatively warm at camp, though our team mate from the South might well disagree with that assessment.
We knew today was by no means a sure thing, and went into it with our eyes wide open. And, as you might have guessed by now, we did not tag the summit today. But we did get to Denali Pass, 18,400’, which was a huge accomplishment! Unfortunately, the weather up over the summit was not particularly inviting, and we had a light but annoyingly cold wind at the Pass where we are obliged to take a break after over two hours of climbing.
So, we spun it. But we all got so much out of it. The route had quite a bit of snow on it so it was good to kick in the trail. Also, just doing that first part of the route will help everyone the next time we go up it. And, that could well be tomorrow.
Some people suggest that tomorrow might be the nicest day of the period. We’re definitely ready for a return to beautiful blue skies, even though the weather forecast reads: more of the same, that is low pressure bringing with it snow and clouds.
The team is ready to go back up tomorrow.
And so am I!
On The Map
Monday, June 3, 2013
Our first encounter with snow and wind came after we hit the sack last night. Comfortably tucked away in our well anchored tents, and snug in our mounds of down that encapsulate us each night, we knew we weren’t in any danger, and by Denali standards our visit with foul weather was fairly mild. But the winds still kept many of us up more than we would have liked.
So, when I checked the weather at 7:30 and didn’t like what I saw, I don’t think there was a one of us that missed hearing my wake up call for a summit bid. An hour later the winds calmed and things did look better, but not perfect, so I let the team sleep in.
At breakfast we all confided that we were happy that the day did not turn out good for the summit. Even some of our studs of the trip admitted to feeling the altitude and having some fatigue left over from yesterday’s efforts.
Our morning was spent building up walls to protect us from the annoying wind, then by lunch we were back in the tents enjoying the incredible warmth that the suns rays produce at this elevation. Even though outside it was chilly, inside our watch thermometer got as high as 113 degrees. OK, it was measured at the ceiling and we had all the doors closed, but though a little excessive, the heat felt wonderful soaking through our bodies.
Right now the weather looks good. The ominous cloud cap that had settled on the mountain for most of the day has disappeared and I am more optimistic than I have been. The forecast remains the same, for whatever that’s worth.
I think we’re all thinking that it might just happen tomorrow, but who knows. All I really know is that we’re all ready if the day dawns fair. Which means that I too should probably get some sleep.
Goodnight from 17,200’ camp.
On The Map
Sunday, June 2, 2013
The weather has finally changed. No more perfectly sunny , windless days. Instead, this morning we saw some clouds both below us and above. But they were fairly light clouds and the winds remained calm. A change none the less. After sixteen days of perfect weather these clouds might seem ominous, but in reality the weather was fairly nice. So, we picked up and moved up to high camp at 17,200’.
Gambling on the weather is one of those things that is just a part of mountain climbing. Do you stay or do you go? Given the relatively benign weather forecast I opted to take advantage of a nice day to move up.
An early start allowed us to reach camp by 3:00 where we were able to have our pick of walled tent spaces. We were even able to dig in the Posh House. After a little while some snow started falling and we figured we’d just have a simple dinner and allow the team to eat in the comfort of their tents. After all, we had had a big day with heavier packs that our previous climb and folks could feel the effort. But, not this team. It’s impressive that when offered room service at 17,000’ everyone of the team chose to get together for dinner.
No, today there was no singing, but everyone was in good spirits and hoping to get a good nights sleep. Our plan is to check out the weather in the morning and go for it if things are good. Otherwise, we’ll have a good rest day.
It’s great to be in position for a summit bid finally. All we need now is one good day.
Wish us luck!
RMI Guides Brent, Logan and Leah
On The Map
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Just knowing that today we had absolutely nothing to get accomplished gave us all that sense of ease and happiness often felt on the first day of a great vacation. Breakfast (yes, smoked salmon, bacon, fried bagels and cream cheese) didn’t even start until the sun had warmed up camp, and lingered almost to lunch.
We relaxed outside in the sun and inside away from its strong rays. Some got horizontal and read or napped, while others of us hung out in the Posh talking about everything from music and movies to food, wine and other delicacies.
Those of us with FM radios gave a brief news summary, and like many discussions of any depth, eventually the tide of our conversation turned to politics. But with such a nice group of folks who are fast becoming good friends, the talk was of a healthy sort and not the ugly type seen all too often elsewhere.
I don’t know if it was the Indian cuisine we had for dinner or what, but dessert was accompanied by song, poetry, comedy and a lot of good natured ribbing. The day has ended all to quickly, we all agree.
We ended our day by listening to the evening weather forecast, which has been calling for an end to the incredible high pressure we have been enjoying and calling for clouds and some snow, but all with fairly light winds. I’ve certainly heard of worse forecasts, so we’ll just wake up in the morning and see what we see. If the skies are anything like they have been, we’ll break camp and retrace our tracks back up the fixed lines and West Buttress, having the added confidence that comes with having climbed it once before. But we’ll need good weather to tackle that climb again. Otherwise, another day or two here will only make us stronger for the summit later.
Wish us luck!
On The Map
Friday, May 31, 2013
Excitement, trepidation, anxiousness and a whole slew of other emotions ran through the team last night and this morning as we prepared to make our carry up the fixed ropes to 16,200’ and beyond. How would we do on terrain steeper than any most of us have yet tackled? How would we do with the altitude? Everyone had similar questions that only time would answer.
Our day started in the early morning before the sun hit camp. Temps were probably around 0-5 F. But we knew we wanted to avoid any traffic jams on the fixed ropes if possible. And an early start would help insure a smooth ascent.
An hour and a half and 1,200’ above camp the sun finally warmed our bodies. It amazes me still how in a five minute period it can go from bitingly cold to almost sweaty hot. With the fixed lines above we were psyched that we would have warm conditions to deal with them.
We all progressed well up the lines, so well that everyone wanted to continue further up the West Buttress to make our cache.
With climbing conditions on the ridge in great shape our progress was good, and before we knew it we were less than an hour from 17,200’ camp. Although a challenge to climb at that altitude, everyone was up to going all the way to camp. Most people find just getting up to 16,200’ challenge enough. But around 3:00pm we were there!
What made this day so especially memorable was the fact that this was the first time in my twenty three Mt. McKinley expeditions that the entire team had made it all the way to 17,200’ camp.
We’re back at 14,200’ camp now and are looking forward to another well deserved rest day. After dinner we enjoyed reading all your blog replies. Thanks so much for all the support!
Good night from 14,000’
On The Map
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Awakening the crew just before 9:00 a.m. to enjoy a breakfast of blueberry pancakes in our posh house as the sun warmed up camp was a real treat. We knew the noon hour was upon us and a few clouds began to gather around camp. We booted up to walk to the Edge of the World, a place from which you can look 7,000’ down to the NE fork of the Kahiltna. From here we were treated to dramatic views of a vertical world, in fact, you could even see our very first camp of the trip, a place we past through, which seems so long ago, but in fact was only eight days ago. Some swirling clouds added the drama of being there.
The rest of the day was spent rebuilding our latrine with blocks cut from the snow to protect us from the weather. And later, we welcomed our other RMI team down from 17,200’ camp after their summit day yesterday.
Tomorrow we’ll be carrying a load to above 16,200’, perhaps as far as 17,200’ camp. It’ll be a big day for us but we’ll do fine. Of course, the first time up the fixed ropes is always a bit of a challenge, but this rest day has been good for us, mentally and physically to get ready for it.
We’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, we’ll just end with another birthday greeting: Nic, Happy Birthday from Dennis and the team.
RMI Guides Brent, Logan and Leah
On The Map