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Climbing Denali Part 1

After a little bit of a blog hiatus and much needed body recovery time, I’m back and ready to start talking a little bit about the trip up Denali, the highest mountain in North America. Overall, it was long, tiring and cold but I’m definitely happy to have had the chance to climb such a challenging mountain with an experienced group of guys. Because jamming the entire expedition into 1 post would be way too much, I’ve decided to break it up over the next couple blog posts. I hope you’ll find the time check it all out.

The original plan called for an up and down time from base camp to summit to base camp in 15 days. This is almost never the case as Denali is notorious for horrendous blizzards, whiteouts and wind. As such, we planned for a maximum stay of 22 days on the mountain with 25 days of food. We were off the mountain in 14 days through a combination of good luck, no sleep and hard work. We weren’t completely successful on a number of fronts but things were bound to go wrong when you put 3 guys together in a harsh environment with little oxygen.

03 Jun 12:

I arrived in Anchorage and met up with my teammates Bob and Scott. Both were quite a bit older than me and very experienced climbers. I was lucky to have found them to form our small 3 man team. This first day was pretty much gear preparation and last minute shopping. I picked up what were turn out to be the most amazing thermos I ever had (Primus thermos) and an really nice Black Diamond alpine harness which replaced the bulky climbing harness I had brought from Vancouver.

04 Jun 12:

Today we traveled from Anchorage to Talkeetna. We were supposed to fly from Talkeetna to the mountain that day but bad weather set in and we were forced to spend the night here. We found a nice comfortable hostel and ate dinner like it was going to be our last dinner in civilization, which meant EAT EAT EAT!

05 Jun 12 (Day 1):

After a massive breakfast that the Roadhouse restaurant called “the standard” (yeah right!), we were able to fly out to Kahiltna Glacier to start our trek. At 7,200 ft, it serves as the starting point for all climbers attempting to summit Denali and Mt Foraker. The original plan called for spending a night at base camp to help acclimatize and practice crevasse but because we already lost a day due to weather we decided to push immediately ahead to our first camp named “ski hill”. Loaded with a total of 150 lbs each on our backs and sleds, we skied for 5 hrs 15 min for a total of 9 km. While we didn’t gain very much elevation (ski hill is at 7,800 ft), we had to work hard as route descended sharply immediately for the first kilometer or so then it was all uphill from there. Upon arrival around 8 PM, we set up camp, made dinner and slept for a good long while. This would turn out to be the start of our “arrive into camp late, wake up late, leave late schedule” that worked out pretty well for us the entire trip.

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