Saturday, May 1, 2021

I'm climbing Denali next week!

Ok, I suppose I could stand to blog a little more haha. In short, planning started last year, I'm the expedition leader, and there are five of us, who all live along the Colorado Front Range, and so that's our team name: Colorado Front Range. We're climbing the standard West Buttress route which is about 16 miles and 13,000 vertical feet from basecamp to the summit. 

First the basics, how can you follow along? First, you can follow along on my Garmin inReach by this link: Second, I also will be sending out tweets. There won't be any blog posts because unlike Nepal, I won't have my laptop and I don't expect any cell phone service.

If you want to know what the weather will be like here is a simple link: and here is a slightly more complex one, but gives the raw data and data used by the National Park Service:

Who else is going?

J: A climbing partner of mine since 2008. He had an opportunity to ski Denali in 2010 but only had 6 weeks notice and didn't have the money at the time. Skills: all things backcountry (skiing, camping, backpacking, stoves, etc.), by my estimate he's also maybe one of the 100 foremost experts in the USA on snow, the perfect guy to evaluate avalanche danger. Weakness: He's over 40, and has never been above 15,000 ft.

K: She's J's long time girlfriend and super strong in the mountains. She's the one that pulled me up Pervertical Sanctuary last August (and hopefully again in the future!) Skills: Just did the AMGA Advanced Rock Climbing Guide class and is very strong skiing and spending 16+ hour days in the mountains. Weakness: She's actually never been on a real glacier or above 15,000 ft.

S: We've been climbing together since 2012. I cried speaking at his wedding last summer (and no one got Coronavirus at it!) He performs well at many things, used to almost lap me in downhill ski racing, he races bicycles, and rock climbs harder than I do, and has led a Mt. Rainier climb. Skills: He's the only one other than me to have been above 15,000 ft. when he summitted Aconcagua a few years ago. Weakness: He hasn't actually done that much hiking and backpacking compared to the other four of us.

M: He's the 26 year old new kid, and the strongest of all of us. In the last two years he's been with me on a one day ascent of Mt. Rainier, the 39 mile Chicago Basin run, and the 42 mile Grand Canyon run, and the day I broke my ankle skiing. Skills: Young energy and fitness, if he wanted to pursue competitive running, he could probably surpass all of my personal records. Weakness: Rest days, he's definitely the type to want to get out and stretch. 

Last question, which comes up a lot, how dangerous is it? Honestly, I've read a lot of accident reports and I'm going to go out on a limb and say, not "that" dangerous.  What I mean by that is, yes, we're on glaciers nearly the whole time with crevasses that could swallow us, but there are five of us, and four of us lead grade 3 ice climbs. Which means the whole time we will be well under our technical limits. Crevasse falls, and falls while climbing unroped are the leading cause of accidents on Denali, so having five people roped together provides a lot of security if one person falls, the other four can work to catch the person. Additionally we're going in May before the crevasses have usually opened up. Three of us live at 5000 feet and the other two live at 8000 feet. So I doubt the altitude will be a factor. Just this winter we did a 13er and three 14ers together. On Mt. Yale in January we had temperatures around 0 Fahrenheit and didn't see a single other person on the mountain all day. So we've had good training. I do worry about the cold, we're prepared for -20F temperatures and -40F windchills but there is the chance we get hit by a storm that's worse. So those are the basic concerns: falls (specifically into a crevasse), temperature, and maybe altitude. As mitigation we'll rope up and take a rest day if the temperature is ever lower than -20F.

It's going to be a fun trip! I even have a few surprises in store on this glamping expedition that I'm excited to share pictures of after we finish.

Training on the "Lost Lake Glacier" April 17th, 2021

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