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Denali: The Start of a Great Adventure

Tomorrow is the start of another milestone in my goal of conquering the 7 summits. Denali, located just south of the arctic circle, in Alaska is the highest mountain in North America at 6194m (20,320 ft) and truly a tough climb. Everything will be loaded onto my back and sled and I’m expecting to carry at least 130 lbs of gear and food. There are no porters, mules or oxygen to speak of, just pure drive, determination and guts. If everything goes as planned this will be summit #3 for me.

Our team, Synergy, is composed of myself and two other guys that found each other on the internet. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find people that are willing to kill their entire summer vacation and put forward the resources to undertake what is essentially over 3 weeks of anguish. Mountaineering is hard. There is no doubt about it. And not everyone can do it.

Altitude is one thing that is extremely hard to train for. A top notch athlete at sea level might struggle at high altitude due to the lack of oxygen. As for myself, I know that past 4500m I start to get very tired, very quickly. The air just get so thin that many start feeling it’s effect such as headaches and Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) or even worse High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which can easily lead to death. One way we will trying to combat this ill effect is through a good climbing plan and watching each other for signs and symptoms that one of us might be having trouble.

We’re planning to spend 23 days on the mountain and ascending using the Western Buttress route. With perfect weather and if our bodies are able to hold up, we’d be able to summit in 15 days. However, Denali is known to have some very bad weather, including high winds and very very cold temperatures. Many suffer from some really bad frost bite, lost toe nails, toes or worse. Even those with the best gear aren’t immune to the mountain’s wrath. Having the extra days on the mountain will hopefully give us a weather window so we can summit successfully. If not, well, the mountain will always be there, so we’re going to be smart and not take any huge risks and put our lives in serious danger. When you’re up in the middle of nowhere in a harsh environment, mother nature is pretty unforgiving.

So hopefully, if all goes well the next post you’ll see has a pic of me on the summit. Wish me luck!

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