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Entries By grayson swingle

Denal Expedition: Summit Day!

Thursday, July 30, 2022 10:20 am PDT

I’m going to start with the spoiler-100% of our team made it to the summit! This was very special because of the excellent chemistry we developed on this trip. To get to the summit, we had to travel across the Autobahn-clipping in and out of over 50 pickets, climb past Zebra rocks, take in the views at Denali pass, do the 100 yard dash across the football field, tackle pig hill before finally arriving on the summit ridge all while changing layers of clothing throughout the day. The summit brought tears to many of our eyes.  It took us just under 7 hours to reach the summit from 17,000 camp. At the summit, everyone exchanged hugs and laughter. Some commemorated with flags and special notes for loved ones. We took lots of pictures and celebrated our hard effort before we descended back to camp in 3 hours and were completely exhausted. Our celebration included watching Steve, who carried a hula hoop he found in Talkeetna to the summit, break the world record for completing over 30 seconds of hula hooping at the highest elevation recorded for the activity. We all videoed the event for the record book. 

We were blessed with incredible weather; 1st rate guides-Andy, Grayson and Ben; interesting, accomplished, funny and caring team mates.

I want to also share my own personal story which motivated me to climb Denali- The highest mountain in North America. After hiking the Appalachian trail in 2018, I decided I needed a new challenge which was tackling the highest point in every state. I quickly realized this goal included Denali and Mt Rainier and that i better get working on those two mountains since I wasn’t getting any younger. Having no mountaineering experience, I did some research and decided to climb with RMI since they guided on both mountains and came with high reviews. To get some experience, I decided to take the kahiltna seminar followed by a climb of Rainier. Covid initially delayed my plans by a year but in May 2021, I completed the Kahiltna seminar only to find out a month later that I had stage 1C ovarian cancer. I had surgery in July and started 6 rounds of chemotherapy which ended in December. I wanted to have a goal to focus on during chemo, so I signed up for the June 15th climb of Denali. Knowing this was a daunting task, I went hiking everyday during the four months of chemo no matter how sick I felt. Amazingly, I continued to get stronger and fitter and climbed a 13,000 foot mountain in Colorado in November. I think I had this overwhelming desire to push myself because I didn’t want to let cancer interrupt my goals. Another part of me wanted to do something that was as close to mentally and physically demanding as combating cancer as I could find. I certainly believe climbing Denali fulfilled that objective!  Standing on the summit was thrilling but at the same time I realized the yearlong journey was the meaningful part not the single destination.

Mary-Beth and Team

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Late to the party but my congratulations are just as strong.  You all rock!  Steve and his hula hooping self and Mary Beth.  MB for you I am just without words.  I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer in 2018 and just getting through it all about broke me.  Reading what you accomplished during your treatments and since is just so motivational.  I’m so glad you were part of this team whose blog I followed because of Steve.  The Universe sure is magical.

Posted by: Melanee Strootman on 7/5/2022 at 10:12 am

Congratulations to the whole team!!  What an accomplishment for you all.  Mary Beth you’re just amazing and I can’t wait to hear what your next adventure might be.

Posted by: Jan Sgroi on 7/2/2022 at 9:44 am

Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Reach Summit with 100%

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - 5:40 pm PT

RMI Guide Andy Bond and the entire Denali Expedition June 15th team reached the summit of Denali, North America's highest peak around 5:40 pm PT.  Andy reported a beautiful day, light winds and a climbing time of 6 hours from High Camp to the summit.  We are happy to report that along with all of the team members on the summit was the hula hoop complete with video proof.

As of 10 pm PT, the team had safely returned to High Camp for the evening. 

Congratulations to the June 15th Denali Expedition!

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Bravo à tous !!! Vous vous êtes surpassés!!!

Posted by: Delphine on 7/2/2022 at 12:30 pm

Hello and congratulations to the team and now a few french words for Yann : bravo à toi et à toute l’équipe, c’est super. A bientôt.
Hugues et Amaury

Posted by: Hugues PECQUEUX on 6/30/2022 at 10:54 am

Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Move to 17,000ft High Camp

Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 11:42 pm PT

Let me tell you about the pain cave. It’s made of self doubt stalactites and poorly spaced foot buckets where you think you have found purchase with your crampons and yet they slide again and again. It’s got stalagmites forged from the tears of mountaineers who came before you. It’s a fearsome place indeed. But we are a powerful team and WE CARRY ON.

That is right readers, this intrepid group scaled the hairy fixed lines once again to move our camp to 17,000' today. What stroke of luck to have such incredible weather for our move day. To be traversing the airy Washburns’s Thumb in nothing but a sun hoody is the stuff of dreams. Our RMI guides continue to provide important services such as lying to us about the steepness of the grade on the trail we cannot yet see, and assurances that today will likely be considered a harder day than our planned summit day tomorrow. Andy, keep up the bluffing, it’s working like a charm.

Todays highlights included Steve’s reunion with his hula hoop, the view from 17 Camp when we finally arrived, the fact that most of us are higher than we’ve ever been, and the team spirit embodied by Yann who selflessly swung into action helping his teammates set up tents when they arrived exhausted. There was also the traffic on the running belays which was reminiscent of Seattle’s I-5, but really, who can complain when it’s a fraction of the normal peak season crowd.

With a bit of rest this evening, some much needed calories (an entire mountain house plus snacks), and a continuous deep well of motivation to draw from, we sit eager with anticipation for tomorrow - the big day!!!

RMI Climber Holly

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Love that you guys are embracing the suck! Go team, Go!

Posted by: Steve Polovick on 6/30/2022 at 7:01 am

Team Bond you’re crushing it! Keep pushing through the pain and moving forward. Looking forward to hearing about you conquering summit day.

Posted by: Cortney on 6/29/2022 at 5:53 pm

Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Learning and Living at 14,000ft Camp

Monday, June 27, 2022 - 10:55 pm PT

Today was our third full rest day of the trip and it was glorious! We began by sleeping in and trying very hard to harmonize the incredible snoring coming from our tents.

When the sun drenched our tents and we finally came out for the day, three of us surprised the rest of the team with neon wigs that I brought from the costume closet back in Baltimore. I wore the Orange ‘bob’, Matt rocked the highlighter yellow shoulder length look, and Mr. Hyde Carby stole the show with the flowing pink curls. The wigs brought lots of laughter and Andy was sure to sport the pink curls as the last RMI expedition of the season rolled into 14,000' Camp early this afternoon.

We continue taking each day as a learning opportunity and today we learned that the synch cords at the bottom of your jacket are incredibly handy when trying to use a clean mountain can in 0 degree weather.

We had a delicious rest day feast of more bagels and cream cheese, smoked salmon, and breakfast burritos. We learned our lesson from the last rest day and only ate 2 bagels and one breakfast burrito per person.

To stretch our legs and work out some anxiety about the high mountain above us, we took a stroll across 14,000' Camp to the ‘Edge of the World’, a 6,000’ sheer cliff that drops from 14,000' to the valley below. Grayson belayed us one by one to the edge and we got epic photos courtesy of our personal photographer and guide Ben. 

Back at camp, Andy convened a team meeting. After checking in to see how everyone was feeling, and double checking to make sure we were honestly feeling good, he gave us the good news. The weather on the high mountain for Tuesday and Wednesday is looking terrific and we are going to begin our summit push tomorrow!

We spent much of the afternoon preparing what we will carry up, and what we will cache here at 14 Camp. I’m also personally excited to be reunited with the hula hoop tomorrow when we pick up our cache at the top of the fixed lines. In case you are wondering, I do look like a turtle when the hoop is attached to my pack and I am very slowly moving up the mountain.

Now our job is to rest and prepare for the next 72 hours of intensity and focus as a team - we are feeling strong and are excited to support each other to accomplish our shared goal of summiting The Great One with 100% of our team!

RMI Climber Steve

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

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Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Enjoy Rest and Acclimatization Day at 14,000’

Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 11:14 pm PT

Today was the epitome of doing nothing, which are team excelled at.  It was a 10:30AM wake up, breakfast and a whole lot of lounging around as we adjust to the thin air at 14,000’.  The team is doing great and we are set to do a carry up the fixed lines tomorrow to 16,400’. As we go to bed we’re enjoying the views of Mt. Hunter and Foraker off in the distance.

Don’t worry the crew will be back tomorrow writing a more exciting dispatch.  We truly did excel at doing nothing today which is a great thing when it comes to climbing a big mountain!

RMI Guide Andy Bond

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Denali Expedition: Bond and Team Move to 14,000’ Camp

Saturday, June 25, 2022 12:27 pm PDT

Today, we waked up at 6:30 am with a blue sky and still a beautiful view over the mountains. We ´ve had a nice warm drink and breakfast with Bagel cheese and bacon. We took off our tents, made ready our backpack.

We have filled up our 11000 cache with duffels bags, snow shoes and some foods. We started moving from 11,000' camp at 9:30am and come to 14,000’ camp at 2 pm. We went through motorcycle hill, polo field, squirrel point, windy corner. We didn’t see horses at Polo Field, but we heard noises of horses couple of time from the group :-) Getting higher, we saw the valley with the rivers getting water from the glaciers. We have been lucky with a Moon walked above our head.

We saw the beautiful Mount Hunter and the difficulty to climb this mountain.

When we arrived, we set our camp and are ready for the rest day tomorrow.



Thanks to Yann and Sebastian for writing the last two dispatches in their 2nd and 3rd languages and giving our group a diverse and international feel.

Everyone is doing great, and we climb incredible strong.  Rest days have been filled with dance parties, great conversations and lots of food.

As we sit at 14,000 camp we’re enjoying another much deserved rest day. Are hope is to carry up the fixed lines tomorrow than wait for a weather window.

RMI Guide Andy Bond & Team

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Denali Expediton: Rest Day for Bond and Team

Today was our first real rest day. The task was to do nothing, and we excelled at it.

After sleeping for about 12 hours, we got our aching bodies into the breakfast tent and were served several delicious courses to replenish as many calories as possible: bagels with bacon and salmon, cereals and breakfast burritos.

Happy and with full bellies, we dug comfortable resting places into the snow and spent most of the day out in the sun, listening to music, eating some more, chatting and just enjoying the amazing view over glaciers and clouds below us.

The day finishes with shredded beef burritos and the feeling that we are ready for another big day tomorrow, moving our camp to 14,000’ feet.

Sebastian and Team

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Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Carry to 14k

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - 10:18 pm PT

Greetings from airy 11,000' Camp where the mountaineers flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Would you indulge us in settling this morning’s debate: is there a more superior cereal than Cinnamon Toast Crunch (CTC to those in the know). This writer thinks not and attributes todays stellar team performance to this fortifying breakfast enjoyed over laughter and the spirit of camaraderie that only six days of shared tents, suffering and toilet buckets can conjure.

Today’s adventure began with the famed Motorcycle Hill. We cruised harder than Harry and Floyd en route to Aspen. Squirrel Hill elevated us to new and exciting views as we caught our breath before crossing the polo field. No polo was played. And then of course the much anticipated windy corner, which was hot and windless. Overall a gain of over 3000 feet.

On the descent the heavens darkened and in recognition of the fervor and prowess of this team, released thunder that rolled and echoed off the surrounding ice. We have declared our team name: the thundercats. And like Thor wielding his hammer, the thundercats will brandish their ice axes on the upper mountain if the weather allows.

We have handed off the hula hoop to Hannah’s team at 14,000'. Kiira claims she cannot be beaten in a hula hoop contest. We beg to differ, and look forward to proving it in a couple short days when we return to 14k to claim our camp and our cache and our hula hoop title.

We are enjoying resting at camp tonight and have planned a spa day for tomorrow. The hot springs here are just divine.

RMI Climber Holly

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

I prefer Bawsman Toast Crunch…BTC in da Berry Please

Posted by: Donnie Rouse on 6/23/2022 at 1:45 pm

As far as cereal is concerned, there used to be a Cinnamon Toast Crunch / Golden Graham cereal that basically was Golden Grahams covered in the CTC dust(?) - sugar coating stuff. I can’t find it in stores any more but now you half to mix about 1/3 CTC to 2/3 Golden Grahams to get close to it. Cheers! Hope all of the feets are doing well!!

Posted by: Beth Heinonen on 6/23/2022 at 10:50 am

Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Retrieve Gear from Kahiltna Pass

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - 8:49 pm PT

The weather couldn’t make up its mind today-  it was cold, it was hot, it was sunny, it was cloudy, it was clear, it was snowy, it was windy, and it was still. It literally couldn’t make up its mind from minute to minute. This of course necessitated putting on and taking off layers, putting on sunscreen, and opening and closing the vestibules. Our heads are still spinning.

Today was what we called a reverse carry day which means we headed down hill to retrieve our cache from 10,000' and hoofed it back up the hill to camp. Andy called this a rest day. His idea of a rest day is a little demented in my opinion. On the Appalachian trail, we would have called this a Nero day (translation- nearly a zero day). 

We also prepped for tomorrow by deciding what we are going to carry up to 14,000' Camp for caching. The strategy is to split our load so no one day is heavier than the other.

Camp life today involved consuming large volumes of food while we still have an appetite which also means we don’t have to carry it. Many of us are finding out that we packed way too much food and are excited when anybody is willing to eat some of it. We also tossed around some deep questions like -if you could go back in any period of history when would it be? My answer was the future, specifically the day we summit this massive mountain. You may have also heard that one member of our team is carrying a hula hoop up the mountain. After a little research project from our followers, we learned that if our team member is successful in hula hooping for 30 seconds on the summit, they will break the record for the highest hula hooping. The current record is on Kilimanjaro at 19,300'.  Stayed tuned.

RMI Climber Mary-Beth

Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

David & Mary Marker you two continue to become some of my favorite humans after that research (no surprise since you are the reason why one of my absolute favorite human’s exists). 

Steve - of course YOU would take something that could lead to you breaking a world record (which I’m certain you’ll succeed at doing).  So go get that summit then celebrate with your hula hoop and then continue onto goal #1. :)

Posted by: Melanee Strootman on 6/23/2022 at 8:26 am

Keep it rolling Hydeco!

Posted by: Clyde on 6/22/2022 at 9:54 am

Denali Expedition: Bond & Team Move to 11,200’ Camp

Monday, June 20, 2022 - 10:17 pm PT

Today we moved camp from 7,800' to 11,200'. The weather has been in our favor, and we are right on schedule. This move was a big effort. We gained 3,400 vertical feet over about 3.5 miles with backpacks and sleds in 5.5 hours. Steve’s hula-hoop proved to be a challenge in the 6 inches of fresh snow we got overnight as it acted like a West Virginia earth mover until he put it were it belonged - around his waist. Over the last 1,000', we encountered the rare Type 2.9 fun but RMI Guides Andy, Grayson and Ben kept us moving and motivated. Andy only threatened to turn the car around once. One of the benefits of later season trips is moving into tent platforms and toilet facilities that were already built by teams ahead of us on the mountain. So, like stinky cuckoos, we rolled into 11,200' Camp and got set up quickly. Huge amounts of carbs and electrolytes were consumed. Then we napped. And napped some more.

Tonight we dine in a proper posh. Bacon Mac & Cheese is the main course followed by sleeves of Oreos and mini Snickers bars. Everybody is happy and healthy and the weather is lining up. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

For the comments, what do you call a huge pile of cats?


Leave a Comment For the Team (2)

Nail it Ryan!

Posted by: Justin Garrity on 6/24/2022 at 6:37 pm

A meow-tain

Posted by: Ryan W Hagemann on 6/21/2022 at 9:27 am

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