Denali 2010 Wrap up email

Sent from Anchorage on May 11th 2010


After enjoying a wonderful breakfast cooked by Berndt in Anchorage, I thought I wrap up this expedition with a few thoughts.

Firstly we wish to thank Jeff Sharp, his expedition knowledge and planning we garnered from last year was invaluable putting this expedition together. Also without Jeff, Rodger and I would never have met Berndt who has become a very close friend and climbing partner. Last year's Denali trip gave us the experience and confidence to attempt the summit of Denali in 2010. Thanks Jeff.

Yes our expedition was a success; Berndt and I stood atop the summit of Denali at 20,320' at exactly 5pm on May 8th. More than just a successful summit we all came away closer friends than when we started out. Bonds are created on the mountains that aren't possible in our safe "normal" lives. These are the bonds of friendship, mutual suffering, trust and dependency on one another that are jointly earned on such an endeavor with a mutual goal.

Our entire expedition couldn't have gone smoother. To start we had luck on the front end getting to Talkeetna just in time to fly onto the mountain before the weather hit and shutdown flights to the glacier, then again on the tail end when we were on the last plane out before an expected weather font, that would roll in from the South and last several days surly pining us down on the Kahiltna glacier for several additional days on the mountain.

Climbing Denali isn't like climbing some of the other well known high peaks in the world. There are no porters or Sherpa to help ferry your loads up the mountain, no one to cook for you or melt ice for water, it's all dependant on you and your team mates, looking out for one another. When its -34⁰F at 14.2k camp someone has to get out of their cozy sleeping bag to get the stoves going, on summit day when it's -20⁰F at 11am and your fingers are turning to wood just tying your boot laces it's your teammate who offers warm armpits to revive numb fingers or when you feel destroyed after an especially hard load carry and someone tosses you a full warm Nalgene bottle of water while you're lying in your sleeping bag, there's only your team mates to offer assistance.

In essence we climbed the mountain probably twice its vertical rise, ferrying loads of food and fuel up the mountain in order to position higher camps and allow our bodies to acclimatize to the increase in altitude. We flew onto the mountain with 456lb's of gear in total, this included our skis and other items we'd be wearing as well as a few luxury items to be cached at base camp such as scotch, steaks and Jagermeister.

The first few days we carried the entire load up the glacier in a single carry, we had a combined carrying load ~130lb's each split between our packs and sleds. From then on most carries were double carries. The first load up was food and fuel followed a day or two later with us moving camp. Pretty much every day we worked for between 6 – 10 hours moving steadily up the mountain. It was only o summit day that our packs were "light", they contained 3 liters of water (2 Nalgene's and 1 thermos), our down jackets and pants, spare mittens, wands, navigation eqt, frs radio, lunch (candy bars and GORP), hats etc. and weighed probably 25 or 30 pounds.

Our accommodations during the trip were a 3 man, Mountain Hardware, Trango 3.1 tent, which has the living area roughly the size of a full bed. This is where 3 men and their gear spent the nights safe and warm from the hostile environment outside. Everything that you didn't want frozen went into your sleeping bag, this included socks, clothing, camera and other electronic items. 3 people in such a small tent with temps below zero every night does have implications, the moisture from our breath built up inside the tent then froze to the walls, cords or anything that wasn't inside your bag, no matter how much we tried to vent the tent. That meant each morning we'd wake up to a tent filled with breath snow, one move and the whole lot rained down on you.

We also had a kitchen tent, this is a black diamond mega-lite. We would dig a hole in the snow with benches to sit on then cover the whole thing with the mega-mid. This was a great place to cook without steaming up our sleeping tent and also a fun place to socialize. We only had the kitchen until 14.2k camp, above that we had to cook in the vestibule or outside.

Food and especially dinner is something you look forward to every day. This year we had a variety of dinner selections, we cooked each meal as a group dinner. Berndt brought 6 pre-prepared diners, mainly rice based but with a good variety such as spicy reindeer sausage and pesto sauce. Sachiko and I (mainly Sachiko) made 12 dinners plus a couple of extra "cache in case for emergency" meals. Sachiko used the food dehydrator to prepare huge amounts of veggies including bok-choy, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes etc. Along with Mountain House dehydrated chicken and beef we came up with 6 of each Pho, Rice and Potato dishes. All meals were hungrily devoured each night. Pho was an especially big hit with everyone. During the day we snacked on candy bars, cheese, dried meats and good ol' GORP. There was never a shortage of food, it was just hard trying to keep up with our caloric needs when climbing for hours each day and also having your body provide warmth when every day is below zero. Before I left for Denali I weighed 201lb's naked on the gym scale, yesterday I weighed 190 fully clothed with shoes on.

I'd be remiss if I neglected to thank Kurt and Claudia Bittlingmaier for their hospitality. They again opened their home to us and also drove us to and from Talkeetna. A special treat was the lasagna purchased at the Road House in Talkeetna that we ate our first night on the mountain.

All in all this was a wonderful trip, we achieved our goal of a standing atop North America and more importantly strengthened our friendships. We met some fun and entertaining folks on the way, including Anderson the solo climber and the Giri Giri boys who are a group of world class climbers.

What's next? Who knows but somewhere a little warmer for a while I think. Hum….maybe Foraker in 3 years or so?