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Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team On Their Way Home

We all finally got off the glacier yesterday afternoon as our flight service, K2, did a wonderful job getting everyone out when conditions seemed like they might close in and shut down flights.

After a remarkable twelve days at 17,200’, we are all skinny and inhaled large portions of meat, fish, and beer last night. I write this last dispatch as we are riding to the airport to return home to loved ones, and put this remarkable trip behind us.

Huge kudos go out to a very strong and committed team of climbers, and to two incredible guides, Leon Davis and Lindsay Mann, who worked so hard to make this trip safe and enjoyable, and who were there at the end when the climbing got really tough and the mountain could not have been harsher.

That’s all for this year. I need to see my wife and play with the dog. And I’m sure the lawn needs mowing. Thanks for following us on this unprecedented trip. I’ll be back next year for a shorter, and less exciting expedition.

RMI Guide Brent Okita

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Congratulations to all of you.  Amazing accomplishment!

Posted by: The Parella Family on 6/18/2012 at 5:41 am

12 Days At 17.2k has to be some kind of record! What tenacity & an epic climb.
I leave Tues for my turn—have to be honest, hope we’re not stuck up at high camp that long—but you all have paved the way.

Posted by: Tim McLaughlin on 6/17/2012 at 10:26 pm

Mt. McKinley: Brent & Team Summit!

Hi, this is Brent from 17,000’ on Mt. McKinley and I just wanted to report that we did summit here last night and we actually just going to bed right now, [it’s] about 3:30 in the morning. It was a bit of an epic night with some trail breaking and some cold winds but everyone did really well and we are all safe back at camp. So congratulations to the team here, we will be descending down to probably 11,000’ [camp] tomorrow. Alright, talk to you later. Bye bye.

- RMI Guide Brent Okita

Brent from High Camp after Summit Day

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Gary,  Congrats!  It’s been awesome to follow along!  Rory keeps asking me “how does Uncle Gary do that?”  He’s excited to get back to the climbing wall!  Love, Lorrie, Chas, Carson and Rory

Posted by: Lorrie, Chas, Carson & Rory on 6/16/2012 at 4:37 pm

Congratulations Kristen!  We want to hear all about it when you get back to the Upper Valley.

Posted by: ASOLO USA on 6/15/2012 at 1:39 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team - War and Peace

Held hostage by the fickle nature of the weather for ten (or is it eleven now?) days at 17,200’ my brain is in hardly any shape to draw all the parallels to that epic saga and our own story here. But some stand out:

Ours has become a very long story of the challenges we face when not all elements in our world are in our control. And in our struggle to deal with these challenges, we face a bit of an emotional roller coaster as optimism fades when a new reality asserts itself.

This morning the hope of a nice summit day came crashing down as we received heavy snow and high winds starting in the wee hours of the morning.  Tyler Jones at 14,200’ camp reported over two feet of new snow and 50 mph winds.

So, once again we dug out camp with face protection, heavy gloves or mittens, and ski goggles on before breakfast. It was here that, given what we’ve been through up here, and the reality of just how long a human being can actually live at this altitude and harsh environment, we chose Thursday as our ‘up or down’ day.  But, this still gives us a chance to summit. Tomorrow might not be perfect, but, Thursday has been forecasted to offer ‘light and variable’ winds.

I’m generally an optimist, but at this point even I can succumb to a heaviness in my outlook after having so many of my summit plans thwarted.  But, as we discover in Tolstoy’s classic, sometimes what matters most is not some obvious achievement, but rather a deeper sense of accomplishment or understanding that comes with living life well, and to the fullest.

Let’s hope tomorrow our dispatch will be a bit more succinct. Like just one word.

Love, kisses and heavy thoughts from your team at 17,200’.

RMI Guide Brent Okita

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Nice work Kristen, we’re all excited for you here in Norwich. Put some rocks in Brent’s pack and tell him Stu says hello.

Posted by: Stuart Close on 6/15/2012 at 5:52 pm

I am the mother of one of the climbers from Alpine Ascents who made the summit on Saturday, June 2—I think the last team to summit.  He has been back home for a week now and you guys/gals are still up there (we hope). Just want you to know that we have all (son, father, mother, neighbors for goodness sake!) been following and cheering for your team and checking on you every day. You have provided immense entertainment—and inspiration. We think if you make the summit you are the team of the season. Our very best wishes…

Posted by: Sue Seitz on 6/14/2012 at 4:15 am

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team - A break!

Last night we received another foot of snow, though it wasn’t nearly as windy as the previous night. Although it was a significant storm, come morning something about it felt different causing me to check the   weather regularly. Sure enough, by the time we got up at 9:30 the skies had cleared and it was beautiful. Except for the winds blowing the new snow around Denali Pass and the ridge above.

It was yet just a little too windy for us, plus all the trail breaking of the previous days was gone, so we hung out at camp and enjoyed our nicest day at 17,200’ yet. Another day for the snow to settle will help reduce any avalanche risk as well However, a report by another guide that poked his nose into the conditions affirms what we have been seeing already, and eases my mind considerably.

After a breakfast of grits, Leon, Lindsay and I went down to 16,200’ to help out our next group led by Tyler Jones by bringing their cache of food and fuel up to 17,200’. This eases their move day enormously, and gets some provisions up here in case our already less than stellar luck with the weather turns south even further.

And now, for the first time all trip, I’m very optimistic about our chances for the summit. Things seem like they are finally falling info place. Of course, tomorrow is another day ...

Right now it is warm and windless, and we are getting ready for dinner. Wish us luck!!!

RMI Guide Brent Okita

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Brent, Malcolm and I are thinking of you.  Can you believe your mother is following you by EMAIL?  Come down safely.
Lots of love from us both.

Posted by: Marjorie Okita on 6/12/2012 at 1:19 pm

Our prayers and high hopes are with you and your team. Good luck, good karma, and good weather tomorrow. Bobcat

Posted by: Robert Bender on 6/12/2012 at 12:41 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Experience Unexpected Storm

Last night as we were drifting off to sleep our first big storm with high winds and some snow hit us out of the blue. Even with the protective walls around our tents the winds were strong enough to buffet them and make you wonder how much stronger the winds would need to be to collapse them. But we had done everything right and all the wind served to do was keep us from sleeping as well as we might. Oh, and I guess it kept us from the summit once again.

My biggest concern was for our Posh tent that relies on a single pole to support the paper thin fabric of the body. But, thankfully, besides about 600 pounds of Snow drifted onto one side, the thing held up well. So,  we’re still in business with our dining/cook tent. And a good thing that was when Kristen brought out her deck of cards for a few afternoon games of poker.

Just some routine maintenance around camp, shoveling, repairing sagging walls, had us out for a little while after poker, but we’re all back in the tents relaxing and even getting in a little sleep.

All for now from 17,200’ (where we’re waiting patiently for better weather to find us)

Until next time,

RMI Guides Brent, Leon and Lindsay

P.S.  As I send this a few hours later the latest weather forecast indicates that Tuesday or Wednesday may bode well for an attempt. That’s good because that’s about how much food we have left for up here. But we’ll have some major trail breaking to do given the snow, It’ll be a du challenge.

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Way to stick it out up there! Ive been off the mountain for almost a week now and was surprised to hear you guys were still up there! For all that you guys have endured staying at 17 that long I really hope you get a chance today or tomorrow, you deserve it!!!

Posted by: Evan on 6/12/2012 at 3:04 pm

Even when here in San Diego is COLD (68) I am a good sport and wish all of you the best Summit ever, Good Luck ~!!
P.S. Hey AA, I hope you have the car key over there !!!

Posted by: Paco Santoyo on 6/11/2012 at 6:59 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team take walk towards summit

Well, we’re still here at 17,200’, day 7 up here and no summit in sight. In my 22 years of doing this I’ve never stayed here over seven days. I guess there’s a first for everything.
But the team is still strong and committed to tagging the summit despite our little weather delays. And it’s still only day 17 for us, so we’re still well within our time frame for these trip.
This morning was nasty, so we relaxed in our tents until 11:00am and had the brunch that has become all too familiar these days. At that time the wind and snow abated somewhat and I entertained for the first time doing an evening climb of sorts. With a bit of a cloud cap over the summit conditions were not ideal, but we had been having some rather consistent clearing in the afternoon and evenings, and with daylight throughout the evening, late starts are not unheard of.
So, we set out for the summit knowing full well that if we encountered worsening weather we’d simply turn back. The important thing for us was to get in some walking to maintain out strength, acclimatization, and mental health.
The route that we had punched in the day before was gone, so we had to plow through 1-2’ of snow to establish the route. Luckily the snow was quite stable and allowed us to reach almost 18,000’ before I made the tough call to turn back in the face of some increasing winds and certainly not improving conditions.
But, we had reestablished the route and gotten in a little exercise. And everyone had climbed well! We’ll be ready when the weather gods finally allow us to climb.
Back at camp over dinner we discussed just how long we might stay here at 17,200’ waiting for our opportunity. Wednesday seemed like a date that would be reasonable to make our last day here. We have food and fuel to go beyond then, but for those of you wondering when your loved one will be coming back, I would say a few days after that would be reasonable. That being said, we do have some on the team that are willing to stay on beyond then. And for them, I guess I’d have to say that I too would be willing to stick around.
But… Let’s not go there quite yet.

Kristen would like to wish Billy a happy birthday. And Gary would like to send Angela hugs and kisses from 17,200’ camp.

All for now. Thanks for reading our dispatches!

RMI Guides Brent, Leon , Lindsay and the rest of the team

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Kristin,  We are rooting for all of you !...keep us posted…..safe travels…..Debbie, Rich, Sean and Jen

Posted by: Debbie Collins on 6/11/2012 at 10:56 am

Brent and Kristen, keep it up!  You’re being thought of by many down here at sea level.

Posted by: Bob Maher on 6/10/2012 at 8:13 pm

Mt. McKinley Expedition: Okita and Team at 17k’

Day 6 at camp 17! Woke up to a foot of fresh powder around noon. Had a late brunch of leftover cereal, oatmeal, and soup. After some posh time we hit the shovels and dug out our tents. The rest of the afternoon we’ll be reading and eating, two of our favorite pastimes in the comfort of our tents. We’re cautiously optimistic that tomorrow will bring a summit bid! We’re in good spirits and have plenty of resources to stick it out for another couple days!

-Kristen and Gary

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Any day in the mountains builds wisdom and respect for the mountaineering experience.  You guys are sure getting your share!  Everything is crossed: fingers, toes, skis, ice axes, crampons,...  Safe travels.

Posted by: Nate Ayer and family on 6/9/2012 at 5:35 pm

277 highpointers here at Timberline Lodge are sending you the patience and will power to hang tough.

Posted by: John Mitchler on 6/9/2012 at 1:43 pm

Mt. McKinley Expedition: Okita & Team Waiting Patiently

Good things come to those who wait…

At least that is what we must remind ourselves of. Another day of marginal weather had us scratching our heads about the possibility of a summit bid while other teams have had enough and are headed down.  But with a fortified camp and a weeks worth of food and fuel, we plan to exercise patience and optimism. As storm days stack up, it is all too easy to let altitude and lethargy tear a person down.  Exercise is the best remedy, and so this afternoon we climbed the first hour of the autobahn to stretch the legs and open the lungs.  With new snow covering the route, we worked hard breaking new trail up to 17,700 feet, and the pickets that protect the steep slopes had to be dug out.  To be sure when our time comes to go for the top, our team will be the most acclimated and best conditioned team at high camp.

High and Mighty at 17K

RMI Guides Okita, Davis & Mann

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Hey Double A hope ypur not freezing your #$## off that would suck… Can’t believe you guys are hanging in there at 17k. Life at sea level is nice and warm but I’m sure the views and experience y’all are having is really special. Stay safe… Looking forward to good weather for you so you can achieve the summit, good luck too you and all your partners up there.

Posted by: mark on 6/8/2012 at 11:59 pm

“High and Mighty at 17K” is beautiful also in your realization of humility to circumstance—to your group, and specifically to Kristen who is the daughter of deepest friends and a young woman of deepest conviction, Godbless.

Posted by: Michael Rosen on 6/8/2012 at 5:10 pm

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Make Home Improvements

This morning we woke up to clear skies and beautiful views. Unfortunately, as we sipped on our morning coffee the clouds began to grow and the wind picked up. Today was not our summit day, instead we got the team moving around and doing more home improvements. I can positively say that RMI Okita has the best looking camp at 17.

Today’s renovations included lowering the floor of the posh ( or cook tent) and revamping the kitchen scene. After these improvements were made everyone enjoyed some reading and napping before a delicious dinner of tortellini served with a cream garlic sauce and sun dried tomatoes. The conversation was flowing over dinner, with stories of bike racing, pets, hunting and books.

Again we are optimistic about tomorrow’s weather, which is calling for a high pressure system to move in.

Wishing the wind away,

RMI Guides Lindsay, Leon, Brent and team

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Tomorrow will be day!  Power to the TEAM!

Posted by: phil usher on 6/7/2012 at 3:13 pm

Kristen & team - 265 Highpointers at the convention in Mt Hood this weekend are watching your progress.

Posted by: john mitchler on 6/7/2012 at 9:39 am

Mt. McKinley: Okita & Team Build Throne at 17,200’

No. I’m afraid there were no royal celebrations of summit success for us today as we began the morning getting up with guarded optimism that the clouds and wind above us would dissipate just enough to allow us to get in a summit bid. But that did not happen, and instead we retreated back to our tents after prolonging our time over breakfast in the Posh.

Unfortunately the clouds descended and eventually we were enveloped in wind and snow that just took some of the energy and motivation we needed to work on camp. So, instead we spent a restful morning in our tents, snug and warm from the elements just beyond the thin nylon fabric we rely so vitally on for our comfort and survival.

What do we actually do during these times while waiting for the weather to improve? Of course, reading, listening to music, playing games all come to mind, but simply catching up on sleep is huge. With winds buffeting our tents during the night, coupled with the excitement and anxiety that affects us all before a possible summit day, we can all use the downtime. In fact, it’s the climber that deals with this forced inactivity well that tends to be the better climber. A capacity for patience is a hallmark of good expedition climbers.

But, I never thought that spending an entire day in the old fart sack helped you out much in terms of adjusting to the altitude, so when we got a nice break in the weather we went out and built the nicest bathroom on the mountain, walled and roofed, and ready for whatever the mountain throws at us. At least we’ll take comfort knowing that, when that inevitable time comes, we’ll be able to answer that call without sheets of wind blown snow covering our clothes and all too vulnerably exposed parts of our anatomy.

As for tomorrow, though the forecast calls for high winds what I’m seeing right now makes me think we have a chance. The winds have calmed and it’s sunny and beautiful, with simply gorgeous views of the Alaska Range from our perch here just below the summit of the tallest peak in North America. 

And now, some closing words from the poet laureate of the arctic, our own Lindsay Mann:

At 17 we stay
Wishing the wind away
Cutting blocks and sawing snow
People see out camp and say wow!
A ceiling for our bathroom was done
To give us privacy from everyone
Stories over dinner we share
cause team morale is still there
Hoping to get the summit
As soon as these winds plummet
But for now we sit tight
And wish for a beautiful night

Good night from Brent Okita, Leon and Lindsay

On The Map

Leave a Comment For the Team (1)

Brent & Team,

Please ensure this marvelous structure remains intact for the next two weeks.  I hope to get the chance to witness such a fine piece of engineering with my own eyes.

Eric (Beren’s Team)

Posted by: Eric Schafer on 6/6/2012 at 8:47 pm

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