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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Ready for Expedition

What a day!
A team meeting over breakfast followed by our park service orientation was just the beginning. The real work started at the hanger of our flight service, K2 Aviation. It was here that the tedium of going thru our gear, both personal and group stuff will pay off hugely when we get to the mountain and are stuck with the equipment we’ve chosen. REI has yet to set up shop on the Kahiltna Glacier.

As we wind down the day a great meal sits in our bellies and we look forward to a final night luxuriating in a real bed where a hot shower and toilet lie but a few carpeted paces away. Tomorrow will be different!

With luck we’ll be flying onto the glacier at 9:00am to start our trip… One that we have all been working so hard and dreaming about for so long. And we start it as a group of individuals already well on our way to being a team of climbers and, more importantly, friends.

I know that we’re all excited to get under way.  I know too that I’m excited to climb with this very impressive group.

Well, all for now from the cozy little town of Talkeetna.

RMI Guide Brent Okita

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Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Doug and Audrey - we’re thinking of you every step of the way.  Hope you’re enjoying it and seeing remarkable views.  Love, Mom and Pops

P.S. Twins are losing to Detroit

Posted by: Matt and Sue on 5/26/2012 at 1:31 pm

Please tell Phil Usher: uphill and into the wind! Heather

Posted by: Heather Grahame on 5/26/2012 at 10:04 am

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Smooth Sailing

What a day! Right from the start everything fell in place perfectly. Our last breakfast at the Roadhouse was savored before we made our way to our air service, K2 Aviation, who were great about getting us off the Tarmac ahead of schedule. This set us up to walk out of Basecamp at a reasonable hour, which allowed us to reach camp at 7,800’ by 5:30.

But the real highlight of the day was just how well everyone climbed and dealt with what is usually a pretty tough day. I’m impressed. I must say, though, that the weather cooperated today too. Warm temperatures, blue skies and calm winds might have had us perspiring just a tad, but I didn’t hear much complaining about it. Although some evening clouds formed while we were having dinner, I think we might have a good day tomorrow as we make our way up Ski Hill to 9,500’ camp.

Talk with you then.

RMI Guide Brent Okita

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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team at 9,500’ Camp

Today marked our last day pulling full loads, and I think we’re all pretty psyched about that! Our five hour climb began after waking up to three inches of snow and white-out conditions. But such conditions are certainly not unusual on the Kahiltna, and so after a hearty breakfast of fried bagels, cream cheese and bacon we tackled Ski Hill.

Pulling huge sleds and shouldering monstrous packs is a given when climbing Denali, but is no small measure of character and sheer physical tenacity of the climber who accepts that challenge. And it is by meeting that challenge today that this team has really demonstrated a strength of will that will serve them well on this trip.

Tomorrow begins the time in the trip when we start splitting up our loads and ferrying them up the mountain in stages. We’re looking forward to this, but I know that these first two days have only made us stronger, and in the end, better prepared for the demands that lie ahead. We’ll move camp up to 11,200’ camp tomorrow and finally enjoy setting up a camp where we’ll be for at least three days. I think the crew is going to welcome finally being able to build a ‘proper’ mountain home, replete with protective walls around the tents and enclosed commodes. What an energetic and motivated team. I’m a lucky guide.

RMI Guide Brent Okita

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Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Hi Brent:

Wishing you and your team good luck and a successful trip to the top of Mt. McKinley.  Considering the miserable condition of your trip, please stay safe and healthy.  We are proud of what you are attempting to accomplish.  Keep up the good work!!

George & Fujiko Okita

Posted by: George and Fujiko Okita on 5/30/2012 at 9:17 pm

Phil- Wishing you and everyone a safe and good climb. You definitely have earned it with all the training you have done. Have fun. Stay warm.  Carol and Jon Holmquist

Posted by: Carol Rank on 5/27/2012 at 6:53 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Do Well on Move to 11,200’ Camp

With packs lightened down after leaving a cache at 9500’, the team made easy work on the climb to 11,200’ camp today. Our three and a half hour jaunt was made all the nicer by bluebird skies and sunny warm temperatures. To top things off we moved into a nice campsite that required minimal work. Although its snowing lightly again, we are looking forward to another easier day tomorrow, where we will retrieve our cache from 9500’.

That’s all from 11,200 feet.

RMI Guides Lindsay Mann, Leon Davis and Brent Okita

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Gary,  All is well here.  It was obvious to us that you didn’t plan the days hike!  Only three and a half hours!  LOL. We love you and miss you.  Angela and Ian

Posted by: Angela Rennie on 5/29/2012 at 6:20 am

Kristen- thinking of you every day! Hope you’re having the time of your life! Only three and a half hours of walking for the day? Is this making Mauna Kea look hard?
Miss you. Be safe and love you!!!

Posted by: Timothy Kelliher MD on 5/28/2012 at 6:13 am

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Feeling Strong at 11,200

Today was a good day. The sun peeked thru the clouds timidly at best, with snow spitting occasionally and clouds being more the norm. But that didn’t deter us from enjoying another easy day with a thirty minute walk back to the cache we left at 9,500’ leading to a pleasant romp back to camp in the early afternoon.
With the days work behind us we had only to review some climbing basics with our ice axes and crampons to get ready for tomorrow. It is beginning with the terrain above that the real climbing starts. And we’re ready for it. Lighter packs and steeper slopes will be a welcome respite from the slogging done thus far.
Our last fresh food meal of burritos revealed that everyone was feeling strong here at 11,200’ as the team left nothing uneaten.
We’d love just a bit more settled weather for our climb up Motorcycle Hill, Squirrel Hill and Windy Corner on our way to our cache site at 13,600’, but I suppose if we just have calm weather we’ll be happy. At eight hours round trip this will be our longest day, and our first day of higher altitude, but I know the team is ready for it.
We’ll leave you with a little poem Lindsay composed:

“With sleds in our pack
We take the downhill track.
Zipping to 9500’ for the cache
We grab the food stash.
Back to 11 we go
With light weight sleds in tow.
Tomorrow we will carry up the hill
And hope to continue our good weather fill”

Until tomorrow,

RMI Guides Brent Okita, Leon Davis and Lindsay Mann

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Audrey and Doug - I’m thrilled to hear that things seem to be going well for you guys so far.  I have been thinking of you and I’m sending good thoughts as you continue onward and upward.  Good luck to you both and to the whole team.  I’ll be watching the blog for more updates. Stay safe and have fun! xoxo

Posted by: Liz Millman on 5/28/2012 at 10:27 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Carry Above 11 Camp

Awakening early this morning we were surprised at just how warm and windless it was. At first our views were obscured by thick clouds, but moments later we could recognize the faint outlines of the ridges above us and realized that in fact we were at the top edge of a thick cloud bank enveloping the Kahiltna below us.
Everyone was excited, and perhaps just a bit anxious about the climbing ahead. After all, we were to face our steepest terrain yet.
Now, in our tent after a wonderful meal of pasta followed by blueberry cheese cake, all I can say is how proud I am of how this team climbed today! Everyone handled the loads and the climbing really well. About as well as I’ve seen. This sure bodes well for later.
We really appreciated the early start being over an hour ahead of any other team. It felt like we had the mountain to ourselves, and we did. That is, until we descended and saw the throngs of humanity ascending the slopes we had passed long before. At dinner many in the group reflected on what they saw and asked, “Did we look like that?” referring to the hunched over postures of people battling altitude, steep terrain and a notable lack of technique and training. We were delighted to say, “no, you guys are climbers!”

RMI Guides Brent Okita, Leon Davis & Lindsay Mann

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Sounds like you are doing great Gary! Enjoy!

Posted by: Matt Rhoads on 5/30/2012 at 7:12 am

Hey ” AA “, I wonder how the tap in your bedroom it is been abused by extrangers, but been so nice (ME), I am still very proud of all of you ...keep going strong and Good Luck…...I hope you have your car key too ......

Posted by: Paco on 5/29/2012 at 9:39 pm

Mt. McKinley: Nugent & Team Carry and Rest

May 29:
Holy guacamole, another sabbath (day of rest) here at 14 camp. Definitely well-deserved after yesterday’s hard work getting a cache in up on the West Buttress. We spent the day hanging out and worrying about ambiguous weather forecasts, philosophizing as usual, and helping Mike Walter’s crew get settled in and reinvigorated after their successful summit push yesterday. Our plan is to make our move up to high camp at 17,000’ tomorrow and hopefully put ourselves in a good position to take a crack at the summit in the near future. The weather is a definite concern but with a little luck the team will hopefully be standing on top in the next few days!
Lots of hard work lies ahead.

Wish us luck,

RMI Guide Billy Nugent and the gang

May 28:
Caching at Washburn’s thumb
A clear and cold morning slowly gave way to a hot climb to the fixed lines.  As we managed our layers we climbed higher gaining better views of Mount Hunter and Foraker.  Ascending the fixed lines with out incident we reached the West Buttress proper and began climbing towards Washburn’s thumb.  Picking our way through rock outcroppings and steep snow ridges with GoPros rolling we made our cache at 4:00 PM.  Retracing our steps we reached the fixed lines and descended into the afternoon clouds.  A long day concluded back at 14 camp with Indian Fare, rice, and hot drinks.

RMI Guide Geoff Schellens


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we have been following your progress. We weren’t able to write from Pinetop but could log on at the rec center and see where you and the other two teams are at. Laura says it seems as if the trail never ends…Kids miss you. I do, too. God’s willing the weather cooperates for your summit. take a lot of photos.
Hugs and kisses from the three of us

Posted by: janina on 5/30/2012 at 8:41 pm

To Paul from Chloe:
I can’t wait for you to get to the top & come home.  I really miss you. xoxo air kiss and air hug

Posted by: Regan on 5/30/2012 at 6:23 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Reach 14 Camp

We awoke this morning early again, trying to take advantage of another windless day. With blue skies overhead we were optimistic of our chances of getting to camp at 14,100’
The crew had breakfast and struck camp as quickly and well as I’ve seen. Obviously they were some pretty motivated climbers.
A slight breeze kept us wrapped up in most of our layers, and we even put on face protection climbing through Windy Corner. But the team climbed even better today than yesterday. However, leaving our high point of yesterday and ascending the final 700’ to camp reminded us all of the big jump in elevation we were making. Although everyone climbed really well, even the strongest of the team struggled a bit with the last bit of elevation gain.
But all this is expected and a normal part of the acclimatization process. An easy day tomorrow will find the team feeling better as our bodies adjust to the altitude. We’re looking forward to it.
Getting into camp early today allowed us to establish a nice camp, dry out sleeping bags packed in haste this morning, and settle in to our new home before the sun disappeared behind the ridge. Our bags will be especially welcome tonight.
Talk with you again tomorrow.

RMI Guide Brent, Leon and Lindsay

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Phil,  Just checking in on you….looks like the weather gods are on your side!  Enjoy the climb

Posted by: Susan and Kris on 5/30/2012 at 8:09 pm

Kristen…I can’t believe you are almost there!!!!  Your perseverance and determination is inspiring.  To think you only have a few thousand feet more after all these years.  It sounds like everything is going so well.  Savor this moment.  I love you. 
-Mamma Joe.

Posted by: Joe McClearn on 5/30/2012 at 2:34 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Back Carry and Train

What does normal feel like at 14,200’? Certainly not what it feels like at home. At least not at first. The headaches and weariness that some felt last night evaporated by morning and it was nice to see smiles on everyone’s faces at breakfast. Yet still, we are not fully adjusted to the elevation. This becomes obvious when some normally easy things like shoveling snow or even walking to the ‘bathroom’ cause our respirations and pulse to surge a bit. But, it’s getting better.

Today we retrieved our cache from 13,500’ and did some training in preparation for the most challenging climbing yet. Becoming comfortable with the mechanical ascenders that we will use for protection while ascending the steeps of the fixed ropes leading to the West Buttress is critical for our safe and efficient ascent. Next, being proficient in dealing with running belays used for protection on our climb up the exposed and most beautiful ridge of the Buttress is essential. And I’m happy to say that everyone is well prepared for tomorrows climbing.

Good news from our friends, RMI 2, led by Billy Nugent, who are now at 17,200’ camp, is that there are plenty of supplies at camp there, so our packs will be fairly light on our first foray up to 16,000’ or 17,000’.

Our climbing tomorrow serves two purposes. We do need to get food and fuel up to our next camp. But more importantly, tomorrow will serve to heighten our acclimatization greatly, allowing our bodies to feel even more normal up here. And the more ‘normal’ we start feeling here at 14,200’, the more prepared we will be for our eventual move to high camp at 17,200’.

But that’s jumping ahead a little. For now we’ll just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other for a few hours and see if we can’t get a cache in somewhere above us.

Goodnight from 14,200’ camp where our expected low temp tonight will hover around 0 degrees.

RMI Guides Brent Okita, Leon Davis, and Lindsay Mann

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Good Luck boys!!! So wish I was there physically as its warmer with 3 in a tent but I am there in spirit!!

Posted by: Shoshana on 6/14/2012 at 6:49 pm

I’m so proud of you mom. Keep eating those sourpatch kids!

P.S I’m in computer class right now and Evelyn says hi!

Posted by: Sheena on 6/1/2012 at 11:39 am

Mt. McKinley: Okita and Team Rest at 14,000’

Breakfast was early this morning as the night was fairly warm and if we were to make a carry we wanted to not be caught up in the sometimes crowded scene that happens on the fixed ropes later in the day. But a quick survey of how everyone was doing at breakfast confirmed our suspicion that the day would be better spent resting and fortifying our camp from windy, nasty weather that can happen at any time. After all, we’d been going strong for six days straight. So, we enjoyed a leisurely meal of western omelette, bacon and bagels, followed by some warm pop tarts. And the best part of the morning was when Roberto Pellegrino took over and started turning out some killer pancakes leftover from another days breakfast. The morning amounted to a relaxed time just enjoying each others company. But of course my mind is always spinning and after my third hot drink I thought it might be worthwhile to at least get some food up to our high camp, and perhaps even see our friends Billy, Geoff and Gilbert. So, off Lindsay and I went. It was her first time actually on the Buttress itself, and it made for a fun trip. And visiting with our other team at 17,200’ was great too.

Tomorrow we plan on all climbing up the fixed ropes and on to the Buttress. How far we just don’t know. But, we’ll be sporting nice light packs, a very welcome change for us all.

We’ll be in touch tomorrow night as long as we get back early enough.

Brent, Leon and Lindsay

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Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Way to go Elizabeth, Brandi, and the rest of your team.  The photos are absolutely stunning. We miss you here but are glad you’re having a wonderful adventure!

Love, Victoria

Posted by: Victoria Bailey on 6/1/2012 at 1:20 pm

Doug and Audrey, we’ve enjoyed following your journey and wish you well.  I hope you’re having a blast and enjoying a look at life “from the top”.  Much love.


Posted by: Sue Rusch on 6/1/2012 at 10:02 am

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