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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Powder Wading

July 17, 2014 - 8:45 pm PT
In just under 24 hours, our climbing team went from the 17,200 ft high camp to the 7,200 ft basecamp.  It wasn’t remotely easy.  Luckily, we had a calm start to the day which allowed us to balance carefully down the exposed and spectacular crest of the West Buttress.  Things got tougher at the base of the fixed lines when we needed to virtually swim through bottomless powder snow.  We reached easier terrain upon which one could walk laboriously in knee deep new snow and this ground got us to 14 camp.  We did a fry-up of a few quesadillas while reorganizing gear and then set off in cloud toward Windy Corner.  Plenty of snow kept us walking funny and breathing hard as we negotiated the side hills and corners of Squirrel Hill and then Motorcycle.

At 11 camp we threw up tents and downed dinner.  The team wanted to just sleep for a few hours before resuming the march to BC at 2:30 AM.  The early start would give our best chance at catching the lower glacier in a frozen (rather than slushy) state.  We pushed on through the night gloom, a few thick fog banks and miles of glacier.  It was great to see -as expected from conditions on the way in- that the lower Kahiltna was well put together.  Very few crevasse crossings troubled us.  Finally we got working, trudging and sweating up Heartbreak Hill.  As we progressed, the weather improved to the point that with our arrival at the former site of Basecamp (nothing remains so late in the season) it was good enough to dial up K2 Aviation on the Sat Phone and seek a pickup.  The K2 pilots did their normal exceptional job in whisking us out of winter and into the Talkeetna summer.

Day 21 of our climb will end with a victory dinner in town.  True, we stopped a couple thousand feet short of the summit, but victory is still ours.  It feels that good to have endured Denali together.

Best Regards and thanks for following,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

An amazing 21 days for the team and for those of us who climbed vicariously with you all the way up and back down!  We do not regret missing the summit, since the climb is a great success in itself, proving who you all are, and allowing us “lowlanders” to share in your successes!

Dennis and Georgia

Posted by: Dennis and Georgia on 7/18/2014 at 10:30 am

Congrats on your safe return.  It is always a good day when you live to climb another day.  Now you can plan your next climb!!  :o)

Safe travels.

Posted by: Mary on 7/18/2014 at 3:47 am

Mt. McKinley: Hahn and Team Descend to 11,000’

July 16, 2014 - 11:37 pm PT

Hey,  this is Dave Hahn with the last team on Denali.  We did make it out of 17,000’ today.  We woke up, the weather was stable and we started working our way down.  And sure enough, we found some deep snow, it was hard going, sometimes waist deep but we made it down to 14,000’ and then plowed through a bunch more new snow to get to 11,000’.  We are taking a rest here at 11,000’ and our hope, everybody is feeling pretty enthusiastic, about trying to get to the airstrip tomorrow morning.  We are just going to rest a few hours and get on the trail again.  We expect it to be a little bit easier now that we are down low and conditions will be a bit better than what we were dealing with.

All is well with us. 
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Guide Dave Hahn calls from 11,000ft on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.

On The Map

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Mt McKinley: Significant Snowstorm Keeps Hahn & Team at 17K Camp

July 15th, 2014 - 7:16 pm PT

Yesterday’s storm hit hard at 17,200 ft.  The heavy snow continued through dinner and the night, with plenty of wind to make things noisy.  The team took turns through the night, going out to dig snow in order to keep tents from being crushed.  The hard workers would come back into the tents coated head-to-toe in rime ice.  By morning, several things were clear.  Significantly, the sky wasn’t one of them.  Our climbers were wet and cold from the rough night and our summit ambitions were now going to take a back seat to getting down the mountain safely.  Even before we could see the Autobahn, we knew it couldn’t receive two plus feet of snow overnight without gaining a significant avalanche risk.  Sure enough, after the morning shovel session and breakfast we did get some clearing and couldn’t see any evidence of our track to Denali Pass.  The slope had dramatically wind sculpted snow slab from top to bottom.  We won’t mess with it.  Winds died in the afternoon, which made it a little easier for the team to dry out and get some rest.  We’ll give the slopes below us a day to cook in the sun and stabilize and we’ll hope the next storm pulse holds off long enough for us to get down from the ridiculously high West Buttress.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Job well done to the whole team! Wish you could have made the summit, it is much better to be safe than risk get into trouble. Have a wonderful and safe journey down. Joe and Sean, can’t wait to hear about it. Cheers to all of you!!!

Posted by: Tower on 7/16/2014 at 11:12 am

It’s been fun learning about your trek. Be safe out there. Kb, I look forward to hearing a bit more about everything.

Posted by: Patrick Bell on 7/16/2014 at 10:44 am

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team - A Heavy Fall of Snow

July 14th, 2014 - 7:45 pm PT

At seven this morning, a good chunk of the sky was clear.  We could see way out into the tundra to the West and there were mountains visible in the South that we were seeing for the first time on this trip.  Our objective, Denali’s South Peak, was in the clear and there didn’t appear to be any wind blowing at Denali Pass.  We geared up to climb for the summit.  There was a bit of cloud to watch in the Northwest though.  As we broke trail toward the base of the Autobahn (the route to Denali Pass) we watched that cloud in the NW come a little closer.  We climbed some of the steeper terrain of the Autobahn while still in morning shadows.  It was cold and progress was slow due to our need to re-establish the snowed over route.  The clouds encroached on the North Peak.  Then they formed a cap on the South Peak.  We were still in relatively calm conditions, so we pushed on to about 17,900 feet, in order to give the clouds a chance to change their mind and flee.  This didn’t happen.  The clouds became a snowstorm and so we spun around and worked carefully back to high camp.  Since the storm showed no signs of abating, it seemed a good time to retrieve our emergency cache of food from 16,200 feet.  A few intrepid guides accomplished that mission just in time to avoid strengthening winds on the West Buttress.  We’re safe in our tents now at 17,200 feet, waiting for the storm to go elsewhere before we try once again to climb Denali.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

We are cheering for you all and keeping the faith for good weather!  Stay warm, stay positive and see you soon!

Posted by: Sarah Jayne on 7/15/2014 at 9:15 am

Another snow day!!  Look forward to summit report tomorrow.

Posted by: Mary on 7/15/2014 at 3:50 am

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Higher Than Most

July 13, 2014 - 10:58 pm PT

Yesterday was a tough climb to reach high camp at 17,200 ft.  Bad weather at the start of the day caused us to get on the trail later than we’d have liked and a couple inches of new snow on the route made the steep pitches a little more exhausting than they might otherwise be.  Even so, with heavy packs and tired legs, we were thrilled to balance along on the crest of the West Buttress, enjoying an endless sunset of golden light.  We pulled into camp at 9 PM, just as the sun got tangled in thick cloud.  It was a scramble to build camp and get stoves going before the real cold took hold.  We ran stoves until 2:30 AM in order to have enough water.  As we worked hard to get dug in, we watched a team of two guides and one climber make a late descent of the “Autobahn”.  They’d managed to thread the needle and hit the summit and as they neared camp, the weather came in again with clouds and wind.  Our tents stood up to a few good gusts in the night and the usual blowing snow but as tired as we were, it didn’t keep us awake.  Morning was calm and easy where we were but too windy and mean up above, so we finished getting our camp in order and took it easy instead of climbing.  The team of three has descended now and we are left alone in our quest… Likely the highest people in North America, even as we simply sit in camp on what has become a beautiful evening.  If the good weather lasts until morning, we’ll know how to use it.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

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Mt.McKinley: Hahn and Team Arrive at 17,000’

July 13, 2014 - 4:05 AM PT

Hey, this is Dave Hahn calling in from 17,000’ we made it up today, a better than expected day.  It didn’t start out too good but we made good use of it. We left 14,000’ at 1:30 in the afternoon and got up here at 17,000’ at 9 PM, which was a little bit late but we managed to get all buttoned down before the storm started again. All are doing well at 17,000’ and now we’re ready to get lucky up here.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from 17 camp on Mt. McKinley.

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Great effort everyone ! Hope you can summit soon. Wishing you every success from Switzerland !

Posted by: Beat on 7/14/2014 at 2:57 am

Dave & Team - look forward to following you all the way. 

Travel safely. 


Posted by: Mary on 7/13/2014 at 9:04 pm

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Sitting Tight at 14,000’

July 11, 2014 - 11:04 pm PT

There wasn’t much reason to get up early for climbing this morning at 14,200 ft.  It snowed throughout the night and continued through the morning, piling up to about 8 or 10 inches.  Luckily there wasn’t much wind with it though, so we slept well.  Our radio conversations with the folks hanging at 17K revealed that they hadn’t gotten snow, but had gotten plenty of wind.  The consensus seemed to be that if the weather eased, folks would be bailing out of high camp and quitting the climb.  We made the best of calm conditions at our camp to get out for some exercise.  The gang built snow walls and dug tunnels and watched wind and cloud buffet the upper mountain.  Things did ease in the afternoon and our friends on high began descending.  Ben Liken counted 43 climbers eventually making their way down the fixed lines.  That number represented five different guided teams from three different companies.  They’ll head for the airstrip tomorrow, leaving us alone at 14,200 and virtually alone on the mountain.  One guided team of three (two guides, one climber) remains at 17,200 hoping for better luck, it would be great if we could get up there to keep them company.

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Hi Dave.  With a good supply I know the weather will clear soon & you will get the team up for a really awesome summit. safe travels & post more photos.

Posted by: Mary on 7/13/2014 at 1:26 am

Hi Dave -

I’ve been following your teams journey.  This latest dispatch reminds me of when we were down on Vinson and ended up being the only team on the mountain.

You’ve probably already heard from RMI HQ that the latest issue of Outside magazine has a large article about what happened at Everest this year.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you guys get a weather break and are able to continue upwards.

-Larry Seaton

Posted by: larry seaton on 7/12/2014 at 7:26 am

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Staying Put at 14 Camp

July 10, 2014 - 10:32 pm PT

Hey all,

Today we awoke to just about the same weather we went to bed with yesterday, that is mostly cloudy with a little wind and snow.  Knowing that we weren’t walking up hill in it, we had a multiple-course breakfast of bacon, fried tortillas with sugar, bagels, eggs, and even some sausage gravy.  By the time we finished up the weather had trended from poor to stormy.  With winds and snow on the rise, everyone helped in building some walls and re-anchoring our cook tent.  Looking above to high camp we radioed with some of the other teams. They said they were in pretty much the same weather and were staying put.  The whole team is keeping vibes positive as we wait for Denali to stop what it does best…..storm, storm, storm.

All the best,
RMI Guide Ben Liken

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Thanks for the birthday wishes Joe and Sean. Hope you and the rest of the team get a break in the weather soon. Cheers to all of you and have a wonderful day!

Posted by: Tower on 7/12/2014 at 4:27 am

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Holding Steady

July 9, 2014 - 10:34 pm PT

It wasn’t such a bad day to start.  There was plenty of blue sky overhead at 6 AM and a little wind to contend with up high, but the day had potential to be just right for moving to 17,000 ft.  The team was feeling good and ready.  But we held off, talked some on the radio to friends at 17K (teams up there were staying put, not going for the top) and we watched the weather deteriorate.  The winds increased, a cloud cap formed on the mountain and the rest of the sky began to cloud up.  Before it clogged up completely, we roped up and took a short walk to “The Edge of the World” to look down on the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.  We belayed each other out onto the overhanging prow of rock for hero shots.  Then we headed back to camp and hunkered down in the tents for an afternoon of light snow and heavy cloud.  We’ll hope for better weather tomorrow.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Carry Some Gear Up the Fixed Lines

We broke a few personal altitude records today.  Our stoves were lit shortly after 6 AM while Genet Basin was still deep in cold shadows.  The weather didn’t look perfect, but that was more of a concern for two of the other guided groups camped alongside us since they were trying to figure whether to commit to a move to 17K.  We were just contemplating a carry to the top of the fixed ropes at 16,200 feet and we could do that in iffy weather.  We set out at 8 AM and made easy progress as the clouds washed in and out a few times.  Within a few hours we were at the foot of the intimidating fixed lines.  The slope angle goes up in a hurry at that point, and looking at this incline for several days from 14K can psyche one out.  Best to come to terms with the fixed section of the climb and to gain confidence on it, which was what we did today.  We topped the ropes and made our cache at 16,200 feet in calm and sunny conditions.  People were heard to say “This is pretty cool” in English, German and Russian.  The confidence building continued as we dropped back down to 14 camp without difficulty.  We own the place now as the other groups made their move to 17 camp.  We all got a good look from above at a hundred empty tent snow walls, impressing us with how “crowded” this important camp can be in mid-season and how delightfully uncrowded it is now. 

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Reading your updates every day here in Russia, sending best regards to Alexey! Keeping our fingers crossed for the whole team!

Posted by: Nina and Ksenia on 7/10/2014 at 12:25 am

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