Sunday, June 6, 2010

The team is safely out of the mountains!

The team is all now safely out of the Alaska Range and appears to have made a strong effort toward replenishing their energy supplies last night. I'd have to say it appears they must have been a bit dehydrated, judging from the quantity of fluids on that table. Good on them!

They did really well and kept a great attitude throughout a long expedition. They had loads of different weather to deal with and they did a fantastic job up there.

We'll do our best to post some photos from the expedition and encourage team members to send any images they would like to add to

Until then, thanks so much for joining us on this adventure. Thanks for your support and comments and give your climbers some big hugs when you see them next.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Podcast from Kahiltna International Airport

Zach left the following message minutes ago. The weather at the airstrip has not permitted the team to fly out, so they are in a sort of "hurry up and wait" state...

There is a Base Camp manager who monitors the conditions in the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna, where the airstrip is located. She has a radio phone connection to the air taxi services in Talkeetna as well as VHF radio contact with the planes flying overhead. She is the de facto air traffic control in a manner of speaking, and has a keen sense of when it is safe to fly. Our guides have a habit of bringing her fresh fruit and flowers in an ongoing effort to keep us on her good side!

Here's Zach:

Last field post

Just wanted to keep everyone updated, the expedition is at basecamp eating cans of chili and cups of pudding, waiting for some bad weather to blow through. One more step to showers, phone calls and food...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Almost home

We just got a relay from another MT team at basecamp- Zach and company are about an hour from the airstrip and are looking to fly to Talkeetna today.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The rumors were true! Zach just called in 20 minutes ago to report that seven team members and two guides reached the summit of Denali yesterday. It sounds like everyone did well, and they are currently packing up their high camp and getting ready to head down to Base Camp!

They should arrive at BC tomorrow, and we'll keep you posted as we learn more about who summitted and how they are all doing on the descent.

Here's Zach, from 17,200':

rumors of a summit!

The unofficial word from the mountain is that the expedition summitted yesterday, but we haven't heard from him directly yet as to who made the top, if not everyone- when he calls with details I'll write an update. More soon......

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Waiting at 17, and the human factor

Zach called yesterday to report another day waiting out the weather at high camp, still dreaming of that window of acceptable weather. Zach spoke of the common scenario often seen on the West Buttress: several teams leave for the summit in marginal or deteriorating weather but Mountain Trip groups decide to wait in camp; we call it the human factor.

Many groups are waiting for the weather window at high camp and there are many days where the conditions aren't great but not so terrible that a decision to try for the summit would be an obviously bad idea, so inevitably a team of climbers will try for it. Seeing other climbers go for it can override caution and force the decision process in inexperienced groups- once one group goes for it the gates are opened and other teams invariably follow; this is the human factor.

It can be hard for MT team members to watch other parties move up Denali Pass while remaining in camp. MT guides have seen this process over and over again on the West Buttress and elsewhere in the mountains, and experience on the mountain makes for confidence in decisions so Zach will continue to be the good guide and patiently wait, and all the while making soup and hot drinks for the expedition and keeping one eye on conditions up high. All MT guides on the West Buttress have seen parties leave for the summit in bad conditions and come back with frostbite or worse, but injuring yourself for the summit is ugly style and not part of the Mountain Trip ethic. Most often the conservative decision is the right decision.