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Entries By chad gaffigan

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Return to Talkeetna, Celebrate Great Climb

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 1:11 AM PT The longest day. The weather remained stable and perfect... to a scary extent. Some of us lay awake last night at 14,000 just listening to the violent detonations of rock hitting ice and snow at terminal velocity. The high temps were to blame and those high temperatures were part and parcel of the prolonged good weather that allowed us to summit. For those monitoring the rockfall, it was a relief that wake-up time was at 11 PM. Best to be up and busy eating and packing then to be hearing rock and imagining worst case scenarios for a team passing Windy Corner ridiculously close up under the cliffs. We were walking at 12:30 AM and soon got to see the battlefields where car-sized chunks of granite had left deep tracks and impact craters on either side of the “trail”. Sure enough, in the zone where rockfall danger demanded our fullest attention, the track began to go over crevasse after crevasse and crappy bridge after crappy bridge. We struggled (as every one does) the then, surprisingly, the route got better. We were pleased to find things frozen up and easy travel far below the point where we’d been told to expect freezing. Once at 11,000' the nature of travel changed. We traded crampons for snowshoes and ice axes for ski poles. The morning/evening light was brilliant on Denali. Conditions on the lower glacier were way better than we expected. We just kept trudging as the light changed and found ourselves walking up Heartbreak Hill starting at 9:30 AM. It was 11:30 before we were at the “upper strip” on the SE Fork with all of our Basecamp caches relocated from the lower strip. Our pickup arrived just after 3 PM. We loaded and lifted off and flew into smoke as the pilots pointed their Otters toward Talkeetna. We got out of the planes in down jackets... immediately appreciating that the ambient temp at TKA was over 90 degrees F. Afternoon was then spent drying gear and reconnecting to the world. We met for a celebratory dinner at the West Rib and discussed our good fortune. Day 19 was a long one, but also a very good one. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn
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Sounds like a scary end to your trip! Glad everyone is safe.  Hope you all are enjoying a Great dinner, hot shower,  and comfy bed!

Posted by: Shannon Smith on 7/9/2019 at 7:11 pm

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Descend to 14,000’ Camp

Sunday, July 7, 2019 - 8:47 PM PT The fine weather continued, except there was an irritating wind blowing at 17,000 this morning when we got stirring at 7:30 AM. The wind wasn’t particularly strong or cold, but it wouldn’t go away either, so it made breakfast and packing slightly less fun. We were out of 17,000' Camp by 10:30 and walking carefully down the crest of the West Buttress. The wind wasn’t strong enough to make anybody miss a step, but it made communication tricky. Even so, we made good time down the ridge and then down the fixed ropes. Traffic is nonexistent now as the very last three or four teams of the season were all above us and going for the top in the breeze. We reached 14,000 by 1 PM and decided to build camp. Tempting as it would have been to continue on down the mountain, we have to deal now with the downside to all the fabulous weather. The warm temperatures have caused the West Buttress to shed a lot more rock than usual. We’ll try to let it cool a little before venturing around Windy Corner. An Alpine Start is called for, so we’ll keep resting in preparation for a midnight departure. We’ll try to go all the way to the airstrip from here in order to get the lower glacier in cool conditions as well. It MIGHT be our final night on the mountain. Stay tuned. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Denali Custom Expedition: Dave Hahn Recaps Summit Day, Team Returns to High Camp

Saturday, July 6, 2019 - 10:38 PM PT We got it. Only slightly ashamed that it was such a nice day. We didn’t have to worry about frozen faces or fingers or toes. We didn’t have to battle winds. We didn’t have to watch clouds building or encroaching. A lot of the normal stresses just weren’t there today as we cruised to the top of North America and came down to high camp safely. The stoves were burning just after 5 AM this morning and conditions were exactly the same as when we’d gone to bed... clear and calm. We hit the trail at 6:55 and did battle for two hours with the steep and intimidating Autobahn -the route from 17,200' High Camp to 18,3000' Denali Pass. We found the sunshine up at the pass and then worked a series of steep snow rolls to reach Zebra Rocks, the dramatic black and white rocks along the ridge line. Then it was up and over the ridge formed by the Archdeacon’s Tower and into the Football Field at 19,500'. Things got steep again as we worked 600 vertical feet to attain the summit ridge. The views were overwhelming with no real cloud in our gigantic slice of sky. Just a bit of smoke still, but that didn’t prevent our seeing mountain chain after mountain chain and about a thousand glaciers. We cruised out the summit ridge to gain the absolute high point at 2:10 PM for a very respectable 7.25 hour ascent. There wasn’t any wind to speak of at the summit and the temperature was probably 15 or 20 above... balmy. We limited our very pleasant stay of 40 minutes and began working downward at 2:50. Only one other team went for the top today and we high-fived them on our descent to the Football Field as we passed them still going strong for the top. We put together a few hours of careful steps and reached camp at 6:25 PM. We were tired but plenty satisfied as we ate dinner and secured things for the night. Several of our gang shattered their altitude records today. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Congrats Luke and the rest of the team!! Glad you got to ascend on such a glorious day.

Posted by: Tom Donner on 7/8/2019 at 10:57 am

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Call from Denali’s Summit!

Hey this is Dave Hahn with the final RMI Denali climb of the season. We are on the summit of Denali. We got here ten minutes after two, and it's ten minutes to three now, so we've been here a good 40 minutes. It's that kind of day, a perfect day, beautiful sunshine, nice and calm, absolutely wonderful day on top! We're going to have a nice safe descent back to high camp, and we'll be in touch. Bye for now!

Dave Hahn calling from the Summit of Denali July 6, 2019

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Congratulations team!  Hope everyone is feeling and doing great!

Posted by: Shannon Smith on 7/7/2019 at 8:45 am

Congrats Hahn and Team! Gods speed home.

Posted by: Uncle Mike on 7/7/2019 at 4:43 am

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Ascend to High Camp, Ready for Summit Attempt

Friday, July 5, 2019 - 9:46 PM PT Finally, the perfect weather arrived! We made good use of this clear, calm, sunny, relatively warm day as we motivated on up to 17,200' Camp. The alarms at 14 Camp went off at 4:30 and we were walking uphill in pleasantly cool shadows by 6:45. We had the advantage of having traveled this terrain before, we had the added advantage that other teams had tracked it in for us yesterday following the days of new and blowing snow. And finally we had the huge advantage of the extra acclimatization days and nights spent at 14,000. We were on the beautiful crest of the West Buttress proper before the morning sun found us. And we were up Washburn’s Thumb and taking a break close to 16,900 when we greeted Mike Haugen’s victorious team making their way carefully down the ridge crest. It wasn’t long after that -at 12:40- when we rolled into the camp they’d just left for us at 17,200. The early arrival and pre-built camp meant we had a very easy afternoon of resting and drinking water. We tried to limit our time out in the intense high altitude sun, but every now and then one of our climbers or guides could be found at the easily accessible edge of camp, staring wide-eyed at the drop down to 14 Camp or the bigger drop to the Kahiltna Glacier... or to the bigger drop down to Anchorage. There is still smoke in the air, but I didn’t hear many complaints about limited views. In late afternoon we sat down to talk about the summit attempt we’ll make in the morning. The forecast could not be better. We’re feeling quite lucky and optimistic. Even so, it will be a tough climb and it will work us hard. Every climber took an extra portion at dinner with the big day in mind. Dead calm at 8:40 PM, sun still high in the sky, all for tonight. Stay tuned. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Denali Expedition: Hahn & Team Visit the Edge of the World

Thursday, July 4, 2019 - 9:38 PM PT Independence Day on Denali dawned clear and a bit gusty. Moving higher wasn’t terribly practical for us on this day, although it didn’t seem impossible. We were encouraged at our 9 AM breakfast to know that Mike Haugen’s RMI team was starting out from high camp bound for the summit. That will make our move tomorrow a great deal easier as we’ll be able to coordinate a "gear swap". Today, forecasts called for high pressure building, hence the wind, but the prediction was that the wind would calm as the day went on, which is what we saw. It was still gusting pretty good as we set off at noon for the “Edge of the World”. Twenty minutes of roped glacier travel brought us to the very edge of the plateau we are camped upon. It is always a fun shock to look virtually straight down for thousands of feet to the glaciers below. After days of camping on a flat expanse, one can forget how high we’ve already climbed and a visit to the edge serves as a great reminder. The views of the West Rib and a portion of Denali’s South Face are stupendous and today we enjoyed smoke-free views of the southern Alaska Range. Mt Spurr and the Tordrillos seemed much closer than their hundred miles. We each ventured out on an overhanging granite boulder for a hero shot or two and a look into the abyss. Back at camp we organized and pared down and packed for moving up. Best Regards, RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Wow! Truly amazing Meghan!  Happy 4th!!

Posted by: Peg DecFilippis on 7/5/2019 at 3:16 pm

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Remain at 14,000’ Camp

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 10:22 PM PT Yet another snowy, cloudy morning at 14,000' Camp. There was less wind today though, so it was easier to be outside. It wasn’t a day for moving up or down the mountain -everybody stayed put. We found diversions, like remodeling the walls of our bathroom and kitchen and generally just digging holes in the snow. There was a brief clearing around noon, but then things clouded up again and the wind appeared to ramp up on the South Peak. We did a mid-afternoon quesadilla session and then logged a little tent time. In the evening we attended a barbecue. The final National Park Service ranger patrol of the season is tasked with packing up the NPS camp at 14K and they decided they had too much meat. Not wanting it to go to waste, they invited all the remaining teams on the mountain to come over to socialize and get a cheeseburger, which we did. There were about fifty of us standing out in the snow, comparing home towns and countries and climbing goals. Up at 17,000 there may be another 25 climbers waiting for a weather break, but they are sadly out of cheeseburger range. Believe it or not, we STILL like the forecast. We’ll get moving again tomorrow or the next day. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Love you and miss you Tym!! Hang in there.

Posted by: Kristen on 7/4/2019 at 10:07 am

Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Wait out the Weather

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - 9:58 PM PT It started snowing around 4 this morning, which was contrary to predictions. The entire day ended up cloudy, snowy and windy... about the nearest thing to a genuine storm that we have had. Forecasts still call for high pressure and nice weather out there somewhere, but it hasn’t found us yet. We gathered for meals in the shelter of the dining tent, but spent most of the day in our own tents, listening to wind and passing time. We’ll chalk it up to an extra acclimatization day, which is hardly ever a bad thing. There were a couple of calm periods and a few minutes of sun here and there, but the clouds never pulled off the upper mountain. Walking around camp in the flat light was a challenge as we’d frequently stumble into old holes dug in the snow for kitchens or caches or tents. Still, it never got particularly cold and the wind never hit more than about 25 mph, so we won’t complain too much. Best Regards RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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I hope someone brought a flag so you can celebrate Independence Day on the top of the mountain.  Happy 4th to all of you.  Sandy

Posted by: Sandy Bemis on 7/4/2019 at 4:52 am

Happy 4th of July to those almost at the top of the world! Thanks for keeping us all updated on this amazing trip. Praying for good weather!

Posted by: Tracy Wilhelm on 7/4/2019 at 3:51 am

Denali Expedition: Hahn & Team Enjoy a Restful Day

Monday, July 1, 2019 - 10:34 PM PT Last night’s snowstorm was short-lived, we got perhaps one inch of new at 14 Camp. Afterward, the bulk of the night was calm and in the morning -with some of the smoke washed out of the sky- we were treated to long distance views of the Chugach Mountains to the SE and to volcanoes 150 miles or more to the South. Reports were that it was still windy high on Denali, but in our sheltered bowl at 14,000 ft it was a calm and easy day. We did a long and lazy breakfast of coffee and pancakes which took us pretty much up to lunch. Then it was time for napping, books, TV or movies on the phones, daydreaming, drinking and eating. An enormous cloud cap formed on the upper mountain and so it wasn’t nearly as hot today as it had been, but the mild temperatures have still made life at 14K considerably easier than usual. We are all for easy. With Mike Haugen’s team waiting up at 17,000 and looking to summit tomorrow, we’ll most likely wait another day at 14,000 so as not to crowd them. The forecast is calling for dry and stable weather, giving us the luxury of dragging feet for better acclimatization before we make the big jump up for our summit bid. Best Regards, RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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So captivating.

Posted by: Vvkidd on 7/2/2019 at 4:30 pm

Go team!  Great work on the carry to high camp!

Posted by: Ken Porrello on 7/2/2019 at 8:57 am

Denali Expedition: Hahn & Team Carry to 17K Camp

Sunday, June 30, 2019 - 10:26 PM PT Storms were forecasted for today... 90% chance of snow. But when we looked at the world at 4:30 this morning, things were just pretty, clear and calm. So we got up and ate breakfast. After breakfast it was still just fine in our neighborhood, so at 7 AM we set off to do a carry onto the West Buttress. The track was well packed and so we made great progress in the shadows, moving up a series of gradually steepening hills until we were at the "headwall" and the ropes fixed in place up it. The start was a little sporty since there was a small vertical wall to scale in order to get past the bergschrund (a particular kind of crevasse at the top margin of a glacier). But with the aid of the rope and some sharp crampons, we each clawed our way up and over the lip to begin the merely steep and never ending slope above. But it did end as we pulled onto the ridge crest at 16,200 ft which turned out to be the perfect place for a rest break at 10 AM. Then we began climbing the ridge itself with spectacular-and still largely clear- views and the cleanest pink and white granite to clamber around and over. One more short section of fixed line took us up the steep flanks of Washburn’s Thumb at 16,800 ft and then it was relatively easy -but exciting- ridge walking with the Peters Glacier far below on the left and Genet Basin 3000 ft down on the right. By this point there were starting to be a few clouds and some wind gusts, but with the mild temperatures the wind wasn’t much of a concern. We cruised into 17,200 Camp at 12:15 and had a brief reunion with Mike Haugen’s team encamped there and waiting for the weather up top to be workable (it wasn’t today... too windy). With the idea of getting lower down before the storm moved in, we cached our supplies and skedaddled down the ridge. We were almost back in camp at 3PM when the clouds formed fantastic waves and tendrils all around the upper mountain. It began to snow heavily just after our six o’clock dinner of tortellini and soup... fulfilling the 90% prophecy. But we got our carry in. Rest is in order for tomorrow. Best Regards, RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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