Entries By dave hahn

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Ready to Fly

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Steve Gately, JM Gorum | June 25, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley

Thursday June 25th 10:00 a.m. PT

RMI Guide Dave Hahn sent us a couple photos as they were embarking on their flight to Kahiltna Base. Once the team is situated on the glacier and moved into their first mountain camp, Dave will check in with us again.

Dave Hahn and team pose for a photo at the K2 Aviation Hangar. Photo: Dave Hahn The June 23rd McKinley Expedition ready to board the plane. Photo: Dave Hahn

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Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team a Shaky Start in Alaska

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Steve Gately, JM Gorum | June 24, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley

Wednesday June 24th 11:15 pm PT

This was a typically full and busy prep day for Denali in many ways… And a little atypical as well.  We had plenty to do, a big and delicious breakfast meeting at the Roadhouse, our informative orientation slideshow with the National Park Service at the Talkeetna Ranger Station and an afternoon of checking and sorting climbing equipment and supplies out at the K2 Aviation hangar.  It was during the gear sorting that the atypical event transpired.  We were working outside, enjoying the summer sunshine.  Airplanes were taxiing and revving their props, trains were going back and forth with blaring horns and mild rumbling… When real rumbling began.  An earthquake struck a little before 2:30 in the afternoon.  It was unmistakable, but also fairly mild where we were standing… even if it was surreal.  We heard reports that it was a magnitude 5.8 quake centered about sixty miles west of Talkeetna, which must mean that our climber-friends and co-workers probably felt it more than we did.  We sure hope that none were in delicate circumstances for the event and that all were ok.  Our team went back to packing and prepping for flying onto the Kahiltna Glacier tomorrow morning.  The afternoon finished with a weigh-in of food and fuel, clothing, tents, ropes, stoves, sleds, shovels, people and a small mountain of miscellaneous ballast for the climb.
We sat outside for dinner, talking over the details of tomorrow and the start of a big adventure, but also simply relaxing and enjoying a memorable summer day before we commit to snow and ice.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Talkeetna Ranger Station mountain stats. Photo: Dave Hahn Dave Hahn's team pre-trip meeting with the National Park Service. Photo: Dave Hahn Weighing and sorting gear at the K2 Aviation Hangar. Photo: Dave Hahn

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2

Mt. McKinley: Dave Hahn & Team Arrive in Talkeetna

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Steve Gately, JM Gorum | June 24, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 348'

June 24, 2015 12:35 am PST

The final RMI Denali team of 2015 came together today.  Six climbers and three guides met up in Anchorage this afternoon, some having come in one or two days previously and some just arriving today after exceedingly long airline extravaganzas.  Luckily, the all-important mountain of baggage that will allow us to safely challenge the real mountain made it onto the Anchorage carousels intact.  We didn’t waste much time at all before boarding our Denali Overland shuttle for Talkeetna.  It was a warm and dry day, as has apparently been the pattern in these parts this season.  Haze obscured the views we might otherwise have enjoyed of the Alaska Range.  Our journey to Talkeetna was broken up by a stop at the big supermarkets of Wasilla to put finishing touches on group and personal food supplies for the trip.  We made good time up through the fresh forest fire scars of Willow, AK that have been making national news in recent weeks and rolled into Talkeetna around 8 PM.  It didn’t take long before we were settled into our comfortable hotel and venturing out together for a relaxing beverage while basking in the strong evening sunshine. 

Tomorrow we’ll get down to the business of climbing North America’s highest mountain.

Best Regards,

RMI Guide Dave Hahn & Team

Dave Hahn & Team en route to Talkeetna. Photo: Dave Hahn

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2

Mt. Everest: RMI Guide Dave Hahn Reflects on the Tragedy in Nepal

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 19, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest

RMI Guide Dave Hahn reflects on the events surrounding Mt. Everest and the Nepal Earthquake tragedy.

Mount Everest was simply too big for climbing in the Spring of 2015.  The RMI Expeditions team was on the mountain and giving it our very best effort when the Nepal Earthquake struck and changed all priorities.
Six climbers -guided by myself, Jeff Justman and our Sherpa Sirdar Chhering Dorje- made the trek in from Lukla over ten days.  We were one of the very first Everest teams to reach the 17,500 ft Basecamp this season, pulling in healthy and strong on April 4th.  RMI Veteran Guide Mark Tucker, our capable Basecamp Manager, was already on scene along with our Sherpa climbing team and camp support staff.  Frequent snowstorms didn’t keep our team from making a series of acclimatization hikes to local “summits” such as Kalapathar and Pumori Camp One. With great interest, we followed the progress of the Icefall Doctors as they forged a “new” route up the Khumbu Glacier to the Western Cwm.  Our own training and reconnaissance runs through the Icefall were pushed back by repeated snowstorms but we persevered and moved into Camp One at 19,900 ft on April 23.  On the morning of April 25th, the team had climbed to Camp Two (Advanced Basecamp at 21,300 ft) and returned to Camp One ahead of a threatening snowstorm when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck.  Luckily, due to the poor weather, our Sherpa climbing team had cut short their own climbing mission that morning and had exited the Khumbu Icefall well before the quake hit.  Giant ice avalanches thundered down from seemingly every steep mountainside. 

Fortunately, within just a few minutes via radio, we were able to establish the whereabouts and safety of our entire team. Nonetheless, the reports from basecamp were disturbing in the extreme.  The airblast caused by an avalanche off Pumori had decimated a number of camps while largely flattening our own.  Mark Tucker estimated they’d been hit by a cloud of ice debris moving at perhaps 150 miles per hour.  Even so, Tucker and our Sherpa team engaged in a heroic, prolonged and strenuous effort to attend to the numerous casualties of the disaster.  Those of us at Camp One could do nothing but sit out the snowstorm and hold on for the inevitable aftershocks.  This pronounced and continued shaking made it abundantly clear that a hazardous and time-consuming effort to rebuild the Icefall route was out of the question.  On April 27th, we came back down to basecamp by helicopter.  We were considerably relieved to be safe and united once again, but the scope of the disaster was becoming increasingly clear.  As reports of widespread destruction and disruption across Nepal now came flooding in, climbing mountains quickly receded in importance.  Our Sherpa team was justifiably anxious to be getting back to check on homes and loved ones.  We formally ended our climbing expedition and made plans for heading home.

The three-day walk down toward Lukla allowed ample opportunity for contemplation.  Our emotions were conflicted by the bizarre circumstances we found ourselves in.  In the days immediately following the quake, foreign climbers and trekkers had quickly fled the Khumbu Valley, leaving it blissfully quiet.  As much as we enjoyed the solitude, we each were aware that we were seeing the beginning of the financial disaster that would inevitably follow the natural disaster.  Tourism is virtually the only source of revenue in rural Nepal.  We tried to reconcile the absolute beauty of the setting, still majestic with snow-topped peaks and magical with blooming rhododendrons, with the tragedy on display in the villages.  We walked through funeral ceremonies and past ruined stone homes and lodges.  Locals still greeted us with a warm “Namaste” even as we learned from our Sherpa staff that homes and businesses in these still-picturesque villages were destroyed and that insurance for such losses did not exist.  Then we were down to Namche and Lukla and naturally our focus shifted to getting ourselves out to Kathmandu.  We were simply thankful that facilities like the airports seemed to be getting back to business as usual.  Convinced that getting ourselves out of Nepal as quickly as possible would be our best service to the Nepalese, we each left the country within one or two days of reaching Kathmandu.  I’m certain we were all relieved to get back to the safety and comfort of our homes… but none of us could truly leave behind what we’d seen and experienced.  The aftershocks continued and we were all acutely aware that the 7.2 quake on May 12th had scored a direct hit on the villages of our own Sherpa/Nepali expedition staff.  Previously weakened structures had come down completely and entire villages were ruined.  We are each now struggling from afar to find ways to help those who’ve helped us so much.  It is quite a different mountain than the one we set out to climb back in March… but it is a worthy struggle nonetheless.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Prayer flags fly at Everest Base Camp with Pumori summit behind.  Photo: Jeff Martin
17

Mt. Everest: Kathmandu & Beyond

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman, Mark Tucker | May 03, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 4,383'

Rain, thunder and lightning continued late into the Lukla night, but we all felt pretty confident that the dawn would bring perfect flying weather… Which it did.  We were up at 5 AM and over to the craziness of Lukla International Airport by 6 AM.  At around 7 or so, a twin engine prop plane came in with the right letters and numbers on its tail and we pushed our way through the crowd to catch our flight.  That flight was blissfully uneventful and by 7:30 we were just another batch of tourists in Kathmandu... Rubbernecking from our van to catch whatever signs of quake damage we could see on the way to our comfortable hotel.  A casual observer could easily go unaware of the tragedy unfolding in the country around us… things are quickly returning to “normal” for those with means in the capital.  The hotel was jam-packed with correspondents, camera crews, diplomats and a few grubby climbers.  We met a number of our guide friends -some of whom had ambitious and worthy plans to go out to remote villages to do what they could to save lives, and some of whom, just like ourselves, intended to get out of the country as soon as possible so as not to require care and feeding from an already over-stressed society.  Our team passed the afternoon resting, cleaning up, exploring and reconnecting.  I was lucky enough to connect with the legendary Miss Elizabeth Hawley for the team’s all important post-climb interview.  As expected, there wasn’t much to relate in terms of climbing goals achieved… none-the-less, we chatted for a delightful -and perhaps a bit melancholy- hour over the continuing challenges of these contemporary Everest seasons.
Back at the hotel, our team assembled for one final evening together, with a couple of toasts and a fine rooftop dinner.  We were not even remotely cold or uncomfortable, we weren’t in danger and we had a rising and beautiful full moon to entertain us.
Tomorrow we’ll scatter to ride a number of bigger and faster aircraft toward our own homes.  Thank you for following along in this challenging season.  We each feel extremely fortunate to have come unscathed through extraordinary circumstances.  To this point, we’ve had the convenience and satisfaction of placing cash directly into the hands of those who’ve suffered… from this point onward, we’ll try to match the generosity of those at home… Making considered contributions to responsible aid organizations benefiting all Nepalis.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

The Everest team back in Kathmandu. Photo courtesy of Chhering Dorjee Sherpa

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12

Mt. Everest: Hahn & Team Arrive in Lukla

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman, Mark Tucker | May 02, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 4,383'

Another surreal day of spectacular hiking and beautiful mountain vistas… mixed with up-close and sad recognition for the cost of lost homes and disrupted lives in the Khumbu Valley.  I suppose it is surreal because we would never have chosen to be “tourists” in a disaster area… But here we are.  We left Namche at around 8 this morning under perfectly blue skies… And fervently hoping that this meant that the fixed wing planes were coming and going freely from Lukla… Dispersing the crowd we’d heard so much about.  The first part of the day was spent in the forests… Where there was little sign of the earthquake.  But the bigger portion of the day was spent in the succession of farms and small villages in the valley bottom outside the National Park boundaries.  Of course, many houses and buildings were untouched… but a significant number were cracked and damaged beyond reasonable repair.  Very few had collapsed… And we were told that there had been few injuries and few deaths in these areas… Probably because Sherpas would have been outside and working hard at midday when the quake struck.  And sure enough, the phenomenally strong work ethic in the area had men out moving rocks, plastering and repairing damage wherever possible when we strolled by.  People without any form of insurance stood in front of ruined structures, in this fabulously beautiful setting, and smiled and bid us “Namaste” as we passed.  Those that we knew, asked us first if we were all ok before acknowledging that they themselves would need to start over completely.  We walked until about 2:30 PM to reach Lukla just as the raindrops began to fall.  The town and the airstrip appear largely intact… And thankfully, the crowds (mobs…as we’d heard them described a few days ago) seem absent.  So far, so good with our plan for coming down the valley slowly so as to allow things to normalize in front of us.
One of our Sherpa team startled me today as we took tea in his sister’s place in Monjo… He thanked me for saving his life.  I was baffled and embarrassed until he explained that my decision (which had actually been made in consultation with Jeff Justman and Chhering Dorjee) to have the Sherpas drop the loads they were carrying for Camp II at Camp I on the day of the big shake had meant they weren’t in the Icefall later in the day at the exact wrong time.  As I say… I was startled… Hadn’t done the math myself.  We’d asked them not to carry on to CII because of the threat of snow and avalanches off Nuptse… Not because of imminent earthquakes.  But I’m now so incredibly glad that they were well down the icefall and safe for whatever reason.  I deserve no credit whatsoever for getting lucky… But our team can take generic credit for having put safety first, once again, and having reaped unexpected benefits.
We are “scheduled” for the first wave of flights to Kathmandu tomorrow.  Perhaps luck will still be with us.

Best Regards,
Dave Hahn

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4

Mt. Everest: Hahn & Team in Namche Bazaar

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman, Mark Tucker | May 01, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 11,300'

Thankfully, it was another sparkling sun and blue sky day.  We got out of Pheriche by 8:15 AM and got walking out of the alpine zone and down into the land of the living.  Helicopters continued to buzz back and forth overhead, traveling to Everest Base or to Gorak Shep, most likely.  We encountered a few more trekkers and porters still heading up valley today, but drastically fewer than normal, which made for another quiet and easy day on the trails.  We took our time, stopping in Pangboche to check on acquaintances and to pay respects to victims, but then we moved on across the river to Deboche and up to Thyangboche, which was abnormally calm and quiet.  The classic and grand monastery was visibly damaged and seemed abandoned for the moment.  We sat and rested in the quiet for a time before heading down the big hill and into waves of blooming rhododendrons.  Then it was up the next big hill and along the dramatic traverse trail to Namche.  We saw plenty of eagles and lammergeiers, Himalayan Tahr… And lots of evidence of massive rocks having crossed the trail in the quake.  We’ve found our way back to our favorite place in Namche… Camp De Base.  Damage in Namche seems slight, but we have been reminded that the earth isn’t through moving yet.  There have been aftershocks that we apparently haven’t noticed in our tent environments.  But here in town, everybody seems much more aware of them in a place where buildings shake.

We’ll keep our guard up, but we’ll also avail ourselves of some quality 11,000 ft sleep… The kind we haven’t experienced in a month.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Everest team greeted by Nepalese child as they trek back to Namche. Photo: JJ Justman Group of children begin their day in Namche Bazaar. Photo: JJ Justman Hahn & team trekking out. Ama Dablam looming in the background. Photo: JJ Justman

On The Map

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1

Mt. Everest Expedition: Team Descends to Pheriche

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | April 30, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 13,950'

Our last night at Mt. Everest Base Camp was made more pleasant by a visit from Meagan and Rachel, the two doctors from the Himalayan Rescue Association.  We’d lured them to our dining tent with high praise for Kumar’s farewell pizza dinner.  The two were homeless, as the HRA clinic tent was wiped out by the Avalanche air blast.  We are in absolute awe of the performance of these two in managing the medical response to the Base Camp tragedy.  They were hurt themselves in the blast and lost virtually all of their personal property, but went on to care for at least 80 patients over the following day -many with critical injuries.  We all enjoyed the pizza, but felt terrible that the two docs were still prone to violent coughing from having taken in the super cooled, ice laden air of the powder cloud that accompanied the air blast. 
Kumar kept his final night tradition by baking cakes (with and without gluten) for the team.  Alas, these didn’t say “congratulations Everest summiteers” but nobody complained. 
This morning, we enjoyed a little sunshine for a change, which made it a little easier to put final touches on our packing. We were on the trail by 10 AM.  A very different trail than we’d become accustomed to… No Trekkers, no porters, no traffic.  Of course, the reason for the empty trails is sobering, but the effect is wonderful.  Nobody has put the dire national situation out of their minds, but the value of a day spent walking peaceful trails through beautiful mountains can’t be overestimated.  We stopped in both Gorak Shep and Lobuche without seeing too much damage from the quake, but things in Pheriche are obviously worse.  Many of what had seemed to be the more substantial structures in town are badly damaged.  None-the-less, we’ve found comfortable and safe lodging. 

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

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4

Mt. Everest Expedition: Team Readies to Depart Everest Base Camp

Posted by: JJ Justman, Dave Hahn | April 29, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

Our expedition is rapidly winding down. Everest Base Camp is becoming empty of foreign climbers (that’d be people like us).  Three of our team…HP, Hao, and Hans were able to catch a heli down toward Lukla this morning.  The rest of us have spent the day packing, sheltering from snow showers and reflecting on the surreal situation and surroundings.  We’ve each taken walks out to icy cyber, where the cell service almost works, and been stunned by the amount of heavy camp gear… Tents, barrels, tables, boots, helmets etc that are strewn hundreds of meters from base camp.  These sad items testify to the force of the blast that hit Base, fully obliterating the camps in about the middle third of the mile-long cluster of tents along the medial moraine.  Mark Tucker estimated that the blast was perhaps a hundred and fifty miles per hour (up from zero in a second or two).  We are all still a bit jumpy, although there hasn’t been a recognizable aftershock in a day or two.  It sure seems like the biggest hanging glaciers have had ample chance to relieve themselves already, but we start out the tent to see every crack and boom these days.  We’ll walk out of this place and down toward an easier and safer world tomorrow.  But plenty of uncertainty still lies ahead in this altered world.  Mostly we just expect it all to take patience, and we have that.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Team to Organize Safe Retreat From the Mountain

Posted by: Dave Hahn, JJ Justman | April 28, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

We’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that Everest summit for 2015 is out of reach for our team.  Besides the rather obvious and glaring philosophical difficulties of pursuing a recreational venture in the midst of a national -and local- disaster, there are the on-the-ground mountaineering realities that will not permit us to look upward again.  We have no viable route through the Khumbu Icefall and the Earth is still shaking.  We couldn’t think of asking anyone to put themselves at the risk required for re establishing that route under such circumstances.  The effort at this advanced stage of the season would normally be focused on building a route to Camp 4 rather than to Camp 1,  nobody will be able to say when the aftershocks will end, but it will -without a doubt- be too late for fixing the upper mountain and stocking camps before the normal advance of the monsoon.
We’ll put our efforts into an organized and safe retreat from the mountain.  Nobody harbors illusions that travel in this stricken and damaged country will be simple, but we’ll head for home now in any case.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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24

Dave,  thanks for sharing and grounding us all in the true priorities in life.  I’ve enjoyed following and wish you all safe travels home.  My family will help and contribute… read more

Posted by: Randy Hancock on 4/28/2015 at 6:56 am

I wish you all strength in the journey down. I’ve been providing these beautifully written, thoughtful, personal and informative reports on Facebook with my friends and they all share their… read more

Posted by: Diana Olney on 4/28/2015 at 6:48 am


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