Wednesday, December 3, 2008

AMS Annual Gear Sale this Saturday, December 6, 9 am-5 pm
25% off everything in the store. Great deals on used equipment. Free coffee!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dreams of Climbing

Happy December!

Are visions of carabiners dancing in your head? Climbers everywhere are working out their winter plans for climbs, training and anything they can do to get out there. Expedition members all over the world are working on getting ready for that marathon on Denali. Wherever you are, keep up the good work!

We've had lots of inquiries about courses & expeditions this coming season...we have lots to offer. There is still lots of space on our Wilderness First Responder Course and WFR Recertification workshops. Check your card to see if your certification expires in 2009 - it's just around the corner!

For anyone looking to get out in the mountains and see what the Alaska Range has to offer, we have something for everyone! From a 12-day Mountaineering Course that starts with the basics, to an Advanced Mountaineering Course, to more advanced mini-expeditions like climbing Mt. Hunter, we have an exciting schedule with some space still available on the early season climbs.
If you are curious about enrollment levels, just drop us a line at and we'll give you the latest.

If you try to contact us in Talkeetna and we don't answer right away, we are probably outside shoveling snow! We have loads of powder! If you're coming up to Talkeetna for WinterFest activitites (like the Bachelor Auction & Ball on Dec. 6) bring your skis! The local trails are being regularly groomed for skate and classic cross country skiing.

This weekend I was driving along the Turnagain Arm, south of Anchorage and saw a couple of guys ice climbing - Josh, was that your red truck? NASTY weather!! Hard core!

Enjoy your winter, we'll try to keep the blog going.
~ Julia

Monday, November 24, 2008

Planning Section Chief Training

The AMS Mountain Shop saw lots of action this weekend, while it snowed like crazy.

Daniel Hourihan, owner of Element Training Group, Eagle River, Alaska lead a course entitled: Planning Section Chief: Search and Rescue. The three day course was held at AMS' Mountain Shop in Talkeetna and included 21 participants from the National Park Service, Alaska National Guard PJ's, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage Police Department, and the Matanuska-Susitna Bureau.
It was impressive to see the sophistication in the mechanisms involved in conducting large scale rescues involving multiple government agencies. The degree of professionalism would give any victim confidence that everything possible is being done. Dan was involved in the search for Karen McNiell and Sue Nott on Mt. Foraker in 2006 and Yuto Inoue and Tatsuro Yamada on Denali's Cassin Ridge last year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Beauty of Winter

Time to wax those skis! A few more inches of snow, temps in the teens and clear skies...
The Denali Nordic Ski Club has been grooming the local trails already! If any of you plan to visit soon, bring your skis! And your headlamp, as the days are quickly getting shorter.

Here is the view from Talkeetna today...
Afternoon sunlight:
Quickly followed by sunset:Sunset on the Top of North America:

Talkeetna will celebrate WinterFest as usual, kicking things off with the Parade of Lights December 5th, and then on December 6th, look out! It's the annual, world famous Wilderness Woman Competition followed by the Bachelor Auction & Ball! It's one of the biggest parties of the year, and most of the proceeds go to charity! WinterFest continues until we ring in the New Year.

Enjoy Winter!
~ Julia

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Farewell Furry Friend

This August we said farewell to our four-legged constant companion, Luke.
He was in charge of entertainment, always encouraging us to play or smile at his antics. Here, he "helps" Blaine demonstrate fixed line ascension.

Luke was famous for his sharp barks that let you know who's in charge. I got to see his softer side. He would sit here under my desk peacefully, peering up at me. I think he was telepathic, telling me I needed to walk toward the treat jar.

Luke may have been the only Patterdale Terrier in Alaska, hard to say. He certainly had a one-of-a-kind personality. His passing was fairly sudden, leaving us all a bit speechless. He was a great friend to all and will be missed more than words can say.

AMS will not be long without canine companionship, it's just too quiet around here! We'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Off-season Sightings

Various spies have been keeping AMS headquarters in the loop on the latest goings-on of the AMS staff. Things are quieter in Talkeetna, after the Discovery Channel crews packed up and left. Even the Fairview is closed for a couple of weeks. But for the locals, there is still plenty happening! Bill Staines played music here this past weekend, Baka Beyond will be here this coming weekend. There is an international film fest with a flick each week or two, and there will be a Rocky Horror viewing (with dramatic flair), rumor has it. The local kids have been out running and everyone is getting ready for ski season!
The sun occasionally taunts us, and the clouds give us peeps of the glorious Alaska Range from time to time.

Congratulations to Melis & Joey! Newlyweds!

Here are some photos from the New Mexico event. You may recognize some Talkeetna locals providing music.

Jackson Hole Cowboy

An anonymous photographer sent this photo - Rob was spotted in Jackson Hole before disappearing to Moab, rumor has it he's in Hawaii making big waves.

Cheers from snowy Talkeetna!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Winter is Settling in

Looks like the snow is here to stay!

The office has been fairly busy here in Talkeetna. Enrollments are trickling in and I expect some West Buttress expeditions to start filling up soon. I'll be updating the Schedule page of our website when we get down to one or two spots. If you're curious about availability, just shoot me an email.

Meanwhile, if you try to call the office and we don't answer, we're probably outside shoveling! Just let us know a good time & number to call you back. We've had intermittent power outages, too. If we don't get to your email quickly, remember we're in a rural area, just about one step from getting our snail mail via dogsled. Not too long ago the power went out because of a tree that was felled by a beaver!

That's it for now, just wanted to let you know we're here!

~ Julia

Friday, September 5, 2008

Planning for 2009

This is the time of year to daydream, thinking about your next vacation and that next climb. The AMS team is here through the winter to help put it all together for you. In addition to the climbs posted on our 2009 Schedule, we will be guiding all over the Alaska Range. We also do a lot of custom climbs of Denali. We are working on expeditions on Mt. Russell and we have some folks interested in climbing Mt. Hunter and Foraker, those two noteable peaks that stand alongside Denali. This is the time to turn those daydreams into reality.

We are getting applications almost daily for the West Buttress, and we have people signing up for the Denali Traverse and the Upper West Rib routes. We are also working on custom, private climbs of the West Buttress.
One of the teams I am particularly excited about is Operation Denali. This group of wounded veterans has been training to climb Denali to raise awareness about the needs of veterans post-combat, as well as raising money for the cause and the climb. Their website explains the details and features an inspiring video of their training so far, with some footage of their 12-day Mountaineering Course with AMS in July 2008.

I received this quote from them today: "Regardless of your (political) position, vote this November, we’ve fought for your right to do so!"

~ Julia

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pika to Petersville 2

Zach teaching how to build a litter out of ski poles and rope. Improvised Rescue is part of AMS' core curriculum and taught on every course. This group wanted in-depth survival scenarios.

They enjoyed a tempting view of Mt. Russell on one of their climbs.

Descending Exit Pass on the hike out. They went over Wild Horse Pass, over the Peters Hills, then out to Petersville Road. 12 days of coursework and climbs. Success!

Pika to Petersville 1

Zach & Joe
have returned from the custom survival course with the Air Force men. They had an outstanding time, with some awesome views and some of the better weather of the summer. Here are some of the pictures they brought back.

They started with some forays in Little Switzerland, practicing crack climbing on a top rope before applying those skills to a peak objective.

They chose to climb the Middle Troll route which ascends the tallest central buttress of the Trolls.

Splitter granite!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Survival of the fittest

Zach Shlosar radioed in from the base of Granite Glacier earlier. He & Joe Butler are leading a small group of air force gentlemen on a survival course. They landed on the Pika Glacier and are negotiating all sorts of terrain to hike out. They crossed Exit Pass this morning, right on schedule. The weather is actually better than in this photo! The sun is shining!!!

New Staff & Fabulous Interns

Welcome Sam Newbury from Eagle River Alaska to AMS' list of new instructors. Sam lead a Wilderness Hike for us a couple of weeks ago.

AMS gets its interns from Alaska Pacific University. They must like us, because they send us great people! This summer we had Nick D'Alessio & Brian Skean. Nick has been getting rave reviews on his calm manner and great teaching techniques. He'll be assisting on the September 6-day Mountaineering Course. Brian had some great adventures this summer and has also been appreciated for a gentle manner and great teaching ability. They're both back to Anchorage & I'll miss them terribly this winter! They were a huge help to AMS!
Thank you Nick & Brian!!

~ Julia

Spiffing things up

Thanks to uber-carpenter Chip Farote and his team (and Rob, who just wanted to play in the dirt with the backhoe), we were able to upgrade our tarp-covered carport (er, fixed line ascention practice area and packing zone) to a permanent structure that will handle snow loads and let in some natural light. We've been putting it to the test. I see some potential for mid-winter ping pong tourneys.
Hmm, this photo must have been taken on one of those rare sunny days.


Summer Fun Update

Well, the Denali season may be over, but there is still fun to be had!
Since our last blog entry we've had all sorts of activity here at AMS! The weather in Talkeetna has been cooler and wetter than usual. They say that we normally have 12 days of summer, but so far I've only counted a few when the temps went above 65 F. We were lucky enough to have a couple of "bluebird" days.

~ 6 day & 12 day Mountaineering Courses - flew out to the Alaska Range, some crazy weather.

~ Youth Groups went ice climbing, hiking and such, some went to the Matanuska Glacier, some went to the Talkeetna Mountains.

~ A group of 8 teenagers came up from Seattle to go on a 7-day Wilderness Hike! They got to fly out to the Talkeetna Mountains by float plane for their hike through the tundra. They endured rain, rain, and more rain with smiles! They had a great time & managed to dry out before heading back to sunny Seattle.


~ More Youth Groups went to play on the Matanuska Glacier.

~ 12-day Mountaineering Course went to the Pika Glacier, in "Little Switzerland" (Alaska Range).

~ Several custom groups have been hiking in Denali National Park, glacier trekking in the Alaska Range, climbing, you name it!

Watch for more updates, I still have some photos to post.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Denali '08

Well, our 2008 Denali Guiding Season is officially over. Nate and Joey flew out of the Range last night with the last AMS Denali Expedition. We've had an awesome season. Our guides and participants have been incredible.

We still have more than 20 Mountaineering Courses, Workshops, WFR recerts, Glacier Treks, Wilderness Hikes and Custom courses yet to come this season. One of our 6 day Mountaineering Courses just flew into the mountains yesterday evening.

Our mountaineering courses generally do not have enough time to report in from the field.

I'll try to post updates for the upcoming 2009 climbing season. The 2008 season was busier than 2007 and I'm sure 2009 will be even busier than 2008.


Nearing the top of Ski Hill

Base camp, looking at the North Buttress of Mt. Hunter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wednesday Evening Update

Nate & Joey called from 14 camp, they've decided to stay there tonight.  The weather below them is foggy and there are plenty of people already sitting at base camp waiting for flights.  No reason to rush just to be in line. He said they would be seeing us Friday, at the earliest.  They'll be our last West Buttress team down the hill for the season, so they'll be doing a sweep, making sure that we've cleaned up all of our camps and caches.  

It's been cloudy in Talkeetna for a few days, with rumors that it has been clear above 6000 feet or so.  There have been enough clouds at that crucial point to preventing flights from landing on the glaciers.  The air taxi tried to fly into base camp about a half-hour ago and the planes had to turn around due to clouds that had moved in.  So Mike Hamill & his team will be spending the night at base camp.  The Ruth Glacier was totally socked in, so Colby's crew will also be enjoying another round of hot cocoa and another night in a cozy sleeping bag.  

I'm off to fight mosquitoes.  ~ Julia

Nate and Hammy

Hammy is in base camp waiting for the wx to clear so the planes can pick 'em up. Nate and Joey are heading down from 17 to 14 about now. They were talking about heading down to base camp tonight. They will try to time it so that they arrive into B.C. at about 6:00 AM or so tomorrow (Thursday). We could be seeing Hammy soon (as soon as the cloud ceiling lifts) and Nate's crew as soon as tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Picture of Nate on yet another summit (Moose's Tooth).

Our last Denali expedition of the season just summitted (Nate and Joey's) with every member of the team. That's not unbelievable in itself, it's just impressive that every single Denali expedition of ours, except one, reached the summit. We've had an incredibly successful season, and we owe it all to our guides who make solid decisions time and time again.

They summitted at about 6:00 PM, more or less. It was a super good day. "The best day I could have hoped for"- Nate Opp. He sounded great and said that every one was doing well. Everyone sends out their love. To all of the U.K., Canada, and everywhere else I heard in the background.



High camp and the summit.

Some climbers heading toward the summit.

The IMG/AMS trip summitted last night. They had an 11 hour round trip day. That's a really good time for a summit day. Everyone on that team is really strong. Mike called at about 9:00 this morning and said that they are getting ready to head down now. They'll head to 14 this morning and rest up there. We might see that crew as early as tomorrow morning.

Here's a picture of what it sounded like 17 must have been like last night. It was socked in and the winds were ripping through there all night. The wind died down at about 6:00 AM this morning and it is now looking like a good summit day. Hammy said Nate and Joey's crew is gearing up to go for it this morning. There is just a little wind up above Denali Pass right now. These winds quite often continue to die down as the day progresses. Good Luck!

The summit marker from the summit of Denali. This season the thing is sticking out of the snow anywhere from 18 inches to 2 feet. This is the first season that I can remember that it has even been visible. Too bad the summit elevation is not on it.

I'll let you know.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Updates from Nate

Nate called in last night from H.C. He said his crew was doing good. They had to build their own walls when they moved into camp. Personally, 17K is the only camp I prefer to move into old walls. The lower camps on the mountain I try to get "new real estate". On Denali, it's all about being READY for the upper mountain. The lower mountain is the place to get all your systems completely dialed. I'm sure Nate was hoping to "move in" last night. It's no big deal really to have to build your own walls, it's quite normal actually, but it is hard work and 17 is the camp that most guides look for old walls.

High Camp is the camp that can really dish it out, so you kind of have to have big burley walls. I spent 8 days at 11K one year where 50% of the tents in camp got destroyed in a big storm. (We didn't lose a single tent.) Denali can dish it out anywhere on the mountain. Ideally, at high camp the walls surrounding camp are higher than the tops of the tents. Sometimes we build our walls 2 blocks thick AND dig a giant moat on the windward side of of the windward walls to collect drifted snow before it blows up and over your walls into and on your walls and tents. Then you can go out and empty your moat, which is often easier than navigating in and around the tents inside the tight confines of the "bombproof" camp.

Nate was planning on resting today and then starting to look for a window tomorrow.

Here are a few messages that Nate's gang wanted relayed. Hopefully I get it all right here.

misses and sends his love to Lindsay, Jeremy and Nick.

Lane wants to say Happy Birthday to his daughter Caitlin.

"Our youngest girl wants to say happy birthday to Mummy and daddy, Alex says that."

Sandra says happy birthday to her Mom.

Paula says happy birthday to her pomeranian (registered and has the papers to prove it)!

I'm sure Nate and Joey send their best to their "better halves". I know they, Purcie and Melis, send their love to their boys up on the mountain.

That's all.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

High Camp

Nate and Joey's trip as well as Hammy's have arrived in High camp! Hammy said that everyone on his expedition was climbing strong. If the wx is good tomorrow they will go for it. The wx right now is perfect. Several groups went for the summit today. I haven't talked to Nate yet, but I know that he was already in camp and Joey was only about 20 minutes out with his rope team. The 16 ridge leading to 17K is considered by many people to be the most spectacular part of the West Buttress. Perhaps Nate will call in later with an update, but for now all is good and I bet by the time anyone sees this post they will be moved into camp and drinking a hot cup of something.

Check out the video of the 16 ridge. You get a brief glimpse of the exposure. The summit ridge is also narrow in spots like the 16 ridge.

I'll keep you all posted when I hear more.



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's official, Hacen la cumbre

As you can probably tell from the "Spot" page, if you've been looking, Pat's crew summitted! It's a little breezy but other than that good views and they are doing well. They'll be heading down with in the next half hour or so.

Here's that video footage that Colby took again from the summit. From the sounds of it, Pat's summit day was very similar to the one in Colby's video.

They're looking at about a 4 hour descent back to high camp. You can all probably follow the same link from the previous post to track them back to HC and down the mountain.

Later, rfg

Upward bound

Just checked the "Spot" website. 5 Minutes ago Pat's team was about 200 veritcal feet above Denali pass, heading toward the Japanese Weather Station and wx. permitting on to the summit. Check out the link for yourselves: Where's Waldo? When you get to the spot page>click Terrain> to see the map of where they are at. You can keep an eye on the elevation contours to gauge their progress. Unfortunately the satellites do not have good coverage of the area where they are now, so you have to use the terrain function. It looks like it's being updated every hour or so.

That's all for now.


Some photos from Melis's boys.

Melis just flew out from the glacier this morning. She said that it looked pretty good up high and that it didn't seem windy.
Melis and Forest's crew in their kitchen tent at 14.
John heading up the fixed lines
The boys building the igloo at 17K.
Chef Melis, serving up pancakes at high camp.

John on the tippy top.
Nearing the top of the fixed lines, heading down yesterday, in what looks to be perfect cramponing.
Frosty, after the descent back to high camp.Toasty, after the descent to 14 camp.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Updates from Hammy and some random photos from Pat's group.

Mike Hamill "Hammy"

Hammy called in from the "Corner" this afternoon. He said his crew is moving really well. They were putting the cache in before the corner, instead of heading all the way around the corner, thus adding another hour onto their day toady. They're probably back at 11K by now. It is a real nice day right now up there. They are planning on moving to 14 tomorrow. The move to 14 usually takes 7-9 hours or so. They will probably just walk right on by their cache at the corner tomorrow, unless they stop to grab a few surface items like saws, shovels, spades and things like that.
A group heading down toward 11K.

Nate and Joey headed up to 14 today. Haven't heard from Nate yet, but probably will soon, even though the guy really isn't much of a telephone talker. According to Mike they had a good move day. And if I know Melis, she's waiting up there for her Joey and she'll probably have water melted and hot drinks waiting for Nate and crew. The move to 14 from 11 is a tough move day. It's the toughest day they've had so far this trip.

This is what a typical denali traveler looks like.

Melis, Rob and John should be out tomorrow. That's all I have from her. That's okay though, Melis has been in the blog headlines for awhile now.

The inside of Pat and Tim's Kitchen tent at 14K.
Deep in thought. Looks like he's really toughin it, eh?
Who's socks stink?The throne at 14 camp.

that's it for now.