Monday, June 30, 2008

high camp

"Black sedimentary sea bed that has fossils of fish. Archdeacons and the summit of Denali in the back ground." Brian McCullough Photo and description.

Sure enough, every time I check the "Spot" webpage, Pat calls in. I swear, I had just said to Caitlin that They rolled into camp 22 minutes ago when my cell phone rang. They made it up to camp in 8 hours. It's nice and warm up there right now. They're going to wait till morning to see how everyone is feeling before making any decisions. Pat said that if everyone was super keen and the weather was splitter, they might go poke around up high.

They were able to do a partial camp swap with Melis today. Pat's crew and Melis's crew crossed paths just below Washburn's Thumb today. Melis was up until 4:30 AM melting snow for drinks and food after a 2:30 AM return to HC. Pat thought that they would probably chill in 14 tonight and start heading down tomorrow sometime. I may or may not hear from her again before she shows up to Talkeetna. I'll let everyone know though what I hear.



Another Summit

Brian Okonek photo of some climbers on the "Audubon", above 17K, where Melis as near as I can tell will be heading downward on day 12 at HC.

Forrest just came out this morning. He said he talked to Melis on the radio last night at the base of Pig Hill, on her way up to the Summit. If Pig Hill was at sea level a fit person could run to the summit in about 2 minutes. At over 20,300 feet it takes over 30 minutes. Melis just called in and they DID SUMMIT! They summitted last night around 10:00 PM. Good job everyone, way to hang in there. All that hard work paid off. They are on their way down from High camp now. At the earliest, we could see them tomorrow morning.

Here, a Denali climber trains for carrying heavy loads and dragging a sled by pulling his old car tires around the block. This is a pretty good method really. Some folks think we're joking when we suggest doing this. But as you can see some people actually do it, and it works well, believe it or not.

Pat Ormond, at the bottom of the fixed lines. According to Forrest, today looked pretty good up high and he thought that there was little or no wind up high. Those guys should be moving up to 17 today. The timing might work out well for a camp swap between Melis's group and Pat's.

Video footage of Pat's crew putting in their cache several days ago at Windy Corner. Caches either need to be burried 1 meter beneath the surface of the snow or in the case of caching at Windy Corner where there often isn't enough snow to dig the cache deep enough, we pile rocks on top as well to keep the ravens out.

That's all for now.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

"3 Climbers"

Roger Binkerd sent us a quick note and photo. Roger was with AMS on the May 20th  Denali, West Buttress expedition this year his guides were Mark Postle and Pat Ormond. Here's what Roger has to say:

"I enjoy the BLOG. A little connection to a great time. Melis is unbelievable!

I attached what I think is my best picture from my trip. I took it from the summit on June 7. I call it "three-climbers."

The size I sent is 1920x1200 in jpg format. It fills every pixel on a good computer screen...

Just thought I would share it with you, you were such a huge help, along with everyone else I met at AMS." 

 - Thanks Roger! We really appreciate the photo and your kind words. We are glad you had a good experience here at the AMS HQ and on Denali with us. Mark and Pat are great and we are happy to have them as part of the AMS family. What a great photo you took from the top! Congratulations again for all of your hard work getting up there.


P.S. Julia is out today :-)


Pat said it's clearing up a bit at 14K. Forrest left at about 9:00 AM today to start down to base camp. That will put them in B.C. tomorrow morning. Pat's expedition is going to go get some exercise today and get ready to move up to high camp tomorrow if the weather holds. It's still a little windy up above 14 right now, but it sounds like it has been dissipating this morning. Pat hadn't talked to Melis yet today nor have we here in town, but it didn't sound like a summit day yet. That could change though in the next little bit.

The frostbite patient that Melis helped treat, from the private (non AMS) expedition, a couple of days ago had to get lowered 3,000 feet to the 14K medical camp. He or she, I suspect, will be waiting for the Denali Rescue Helicopter to grab them from 14 and fly them out to Talkeetna for further treatment.

Your friendly neighborhood Park Service employee. (sort of)

The National Park Service (NPS) has a lot of highly trained personnel up on the mountain to run all these little rescues as well as organize and carry out some of the most complex and amazing rescues in the history Alaskan climbing. They have a 3,000 foot rope up at 17K these days to make it easier for rescuers to do a continuous lower from High Camp to 14. This sounds easier than it is. It is a very rescuer intensive project. I'm sure many of the guides were involved as well.

No word from anyone else yet today. Melis is on day 11 at high camp. She's probably thinking about conserving battery power up there. Soon enough, her good friend Joey will be rolling into 14K and they will be able to talk on the FRS.

Oh Look what I found. Who is this??

That's all for now


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Melis, Rob, and John at 17,200' Camp

High Camp,  looking up at a windy Denali Pass.

Melis just called in from high camp at 17,200'. She said that there is a break in the weather below, so Forest, Nevin, and Line are heading down the mountain, to stay on schedule.

Rob and John plan to stay with Melis at high camp "until they summit". They are on the "lose a few more pounds program", they will most likely go beyond their scheduled fly out date of June 30.

She said sprits are high with everyone and they are sad to see Nevin, Line and Forest go, but Line and Nevin decided to go down, the mountain isn't going anywhere. They made a bigger effort than most!

They have been keeping busy up there! They all have been working hard shoveling the snow away from their camp, they built an igloo for cooking in and have been maintaining it. Melis has been providing medical attention to other climbers as well. Someone from a private expedition, who had kept going toward the summit on they day Melis's group turned back, returned to high camp with frost bite on their face, hands, and feet! YIKES! It was lucky for them that Melis was there - she is an EMT and teaches Wilderness First Responder courses world wide. Melis also teaches AMS' Medical Protocols Review/Wilderness First Responder course for all of our staff here at AMS together with Dr. Peter Hacket and Lance Taysom WEMT-B, RN. During the review, we spend a lot of extra time on the treatment and prevention of cold injuries and altitude illnesses. See AMS/MPR/WFR for this years course description.

They have broken the "longest amount of time at high camp record" here at AMS. The old AMS record was 9 days (Caitlin and Colby), today is day 10 for them and tomorrow will be day 11. Sorry Colby and Caitlin, There's a new sheriff in town and her name rhymes with melis.

Pat Ormond said that as soon as the weather looks good they are going to move up to high camp and hopefully not contend for beating Melis's high camp stay record.

Let's hope the weather gets calm and clear for them soon, so they can have one of those polypro summit days!


Friday, June 27, 2008

Back in High camp.

Melis in Patagonia. She may not look
hardcore here, but looks can be deceiving.

Melis and the crew made it to just above 19,000 feet yesterday. They were turned around by high winds. The upper mountain is definitely not a place you want to be stuck out in high winds. Melis and Forrest made a good decision to turn around yesterday for sure. That's just one of the many things that the guides are there to do. These are the storms that, quite often, private less experienced groups do not turn around and they end up in trouble and the guide services end up aiding in a rescue of sorts. Happens all the time.

All of our guides are solid! And we feel fortunate that we don't even have to worry about them up there, because they consistently make good decisions.

She left a message last night saying that, they were safe in camp and "snug as a bug". I don't think it is super good wx today. so they may be waiting it out for a bit longer.

Melis is determined, to say the least! As it stands right now, their trip is scheduled to fly out from base camp in a couple of days. It sounds like Melis is going to stay up at high camp with Rob and John and just wait it out. Forrest is going to come down with the rest of the crew and start making their way back to base camp. They have been up at high camp for a long time now, certainly over a week. Not every guide is able to extend their schedule and stay up on the mountain longer, and to tell you the truth not many guides are willing to spend all the extra days at high camp.

A guide from another company passed Nate and Joey's crew 2 nights ago when they were half way to the base of ski hill. That means that they have probably carried to the top of Ski Hill somewhere by now.

More later.


Thursday, June 26, 2008


Pat, Tim and their crew have carried all of their groceries, so to speak, to the top of the fixed lines. They are back in 14 and ready to hang for a day or 2. Today is day 9 or 10, so they are in no rush at this point. He said today was a really nice day. It started getting a little windy late afternoon, but not too bad.

I keep looking at that spot think that Mike has up there with him and it appears to be pretty accurate. It never fails, as soon as I check their progress on the spot webpage, Pat calls in.

That's all for now.



She called from the top of Denali pass just a bit ago. They had to break trail the whole way. Denali pass is at 18,200'. I think Melis was out front the whole time, but Forrest could have been breaking some trail too. The traverse to the top of Denali pass is difficult and exposed in sections. Their are fixed pickets the entire way. Groups clip their ropes into these pickets (snow anchors) to safe gaurd themselves in the event of a slip or a fall.

While it is more difficult breaking trail at 18,000 feet, it makes for a nicer trail for everyone who follows in the front runner's footsteps. She said it looked more windblown up above, so she was hoping to make some better time up above. They made it to Denali Pass in just over 3 hours I think she said. That's not bad at all as it is. You can check the webcam link to the right. It looks like the weather is holding steady for them. I may or may not hear from them later.

good luck dawgs

Mike Hammil and Greg V. made it in this morning for the last AMS/IMG Denali trip of the year this morning.

more later


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some updates

Nate and Joey's expedition in fron of the Otter preflight, round 1.

Nate and Joey's crew tried to get into the Range last night. They made it all the way into base camp but couldn't land due to poor visibility. All of the planes flying in and out of the Range can only do so via VFR (visual flight regulations). They made it all the way in there but there was a cloud or a bank of fog lingering on the runway. They circled in the area for quite some time hoping that they runway would clear up. It didn't, so they had to come back to Talkeetna. This is fairly normal stuff we deal with in climbing in the Alaska Range. On one of my Denali trips, years ago, my expedition was stuck in Talkeetna for 6 days waiting to get into base camp. I think we had 7 false launches.

They all got into base camp this morning. I'm not sure what the temps are in there right now, or the current weather. Usually, this time of year we end up needing to travel on the lower mountain during the night to take advantage of the colder temperatures. Sometimes though, if it is cold enough and it is cloud covered, a group may be able to get away with a daytime move this time of year. So they are either on their way to 7,800 ' camp at the bas e of Ski Hill or they are hanging out in base camp getting some necessary classes out of the way before they travel to ski hill. Regardless, weather permitting, they will be getting to the base of Ski Hill soon enough.

This photo was taken of Pat's crew up at 14 camp within the last day or two looking South West at the Sultana Ridge of Mt. Foraker. You can see their "Posh House" (kitchen tent) in the background. These kitchen tents are used up to and a 14. They are a cool place to get out of the sun during the day and to convene for breakfast and dinners. We teach a lot of classes under the kitchen tents, such as: cold injury prevention, altitude illness awareness and discuss the next day's activities etc.

I haven't heard from anyone up on the mountain today. I'm guessing that it is another wx day, but you never know. It's cloudy in town, so I can't see what going on in there and I don't put ANY faith in the wx forecasts. Scratch that! At least the part about not hearing from anyone. I still mean what I said about the wx forecasts. But I just heard from Melis. They have received about 18" of new snow with a fair bit of winds as well. Some of the crew went for a little hike 1/4 of the way out Denali pass for a little exercise and to check out current snow conditions. Today was another weather day where no one was able to head toward the summit. Many of the other groups have abandoned high camp due to wx forecasts. Her crew is psyched to wait it out. To base decisions on a weather report, that is wrong about 80% of the time, is crazy to me. Way to go!!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Pat Ormond, where what looks to me, about 100 vertical feet above Washburn's Thumb on the 16 Ridge.
As far as the 16 ridge goes, this is about half way to 17K in linear distance but the majority of the elevation has been gained.

Pat and Tim are up at 14K. Today is day 8 I believe for Pat and Tim. Day 8 is the perfect day to roll into 14 camp. It's a good # of days on the lower mountain and now they get to really start their acclimatization.

They rolled in to 14 last night around midnight. Made some food and hit the sack. They had perfect traveling temps. It was snowing lightly, zero wind, decent vis., it took about 8 hours or so to make the move. Eight hours is a fine time for that stretch. As we speak, it sounds like it is "puking out" (snowing heavily and zero vis.) Kind of feels like you are living inside of a ping pong ball. No one is going anywhere today, up or down. Pat and Tim's group timed it perfectly it sounds like, not they get to take a rest day. MAybe the first rest day of the expedition so far.

The arrival into 14 camp marks, what I consider to be the second phase of the expedition. The lower mountain being the first phase, where everyone is learning all the little nuances of climbing in Alaska. Like staying warm, cramponing, clipping through running protection, altitude illness awareness, sleeping warm, and etc. etc. etc. During these next several days everyone will be perfecting their systems, going through their kit for the upper mountain and double checking that they are bringing enough but not too much. From this point on it's all about efficiency.

later, rfg

Monday, June 23, 2008


Melis just called in from high camp and says here team is doing really well. They are having a fine time and are being extremely patient waiting for suitable weather to make a bid for the summit. The weather isn't horrible, just not good enough for a summit attempt. 

She says some other groups around them are losing motivation to wait out the weather (17,200' is an easy place to loose motivation) but her team says "they are happy to stay up there another week if they have to!" 

They must be eating well and having fun. High camp can be a pretty cool place to explore when you have time to explore around in slow motion - I'd say they are taking 1-2 breaths for every step they take. I was up there a few years back and found some very old cans of bacon in the rocks and canvas tents partially frozen in the ice. 

They have time, food and fuel to wait it out until the winds stop and the skies clear. Let's hope it happens soon for them.

- Caitlin

polo field

Here is a view looking toward Windy Corner. This photo is taken from the beginning of the Polo Field, an elevation of just over 12,000 feet more or less.

Pat and Tim are scheduled to be heading through the Polo Field this evening I believe. Hopefully they'll have weather like the group in this picture.

I haven't heard any updates yet today. Nate and Joey are just finishing up their last minute packing for their Denali trip that meets up and launches tomorrow. 4 of the 6 climbers are participating in the Denali Skills Review workshop today to get some last minute review before they fly tomorrow.

chow for now

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Due to the warmer temps today Pat and Tim decided to cache AT the corner instead of carrying around the Corner another 20-30 minutes.
They will burry their cache around the closest rocks behind these climbers in this photo.

Pat and Tim's group called in from Windy Corner a few minutes ago. I had just checked the "spot" website out a couple minutes before Pat called. The "spot" is a little hand held device that updates a google map program and anyone can track the whereabouts of the handheld device. Anyway, they are all doing really well. They are going to try to move to 14K tomorrow. He said it was baker up there today. Pat mentioned possibly adjusting their travel schedule so that they are moving with the colder temps again. Usually, the closer a team gets toward 14 during the latter part of the season they are able to get on more and more of a day time schedule. Sounds like they won't get off of the night schedule after all until after they have arrived at 14K.

High camp, with Denali Pass in the back ground. The North Summit of Denali is just out of view (above the black rocks with the sweet looking ski lines) up and to the left of Denali Pass. To get to the South Summit (the true summit) you go up to Denali pass and take a right. To get to the N. summit you go to Denali pass and take a left. It's as simple as that.

Melis is still at 17K. She said it is a sunny and clear day but it is quite windy up there. There are quite a few guided groups sitting it out at high camp right now. They are doing well and are just going to hang out until they get the right window. They have plenty of food and fuel and bad sci fi books to keep them healthy and occupied.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Weather Day

Melis called in from 17, 200' just now. She said their team was doing well, but today was a weather day for them. It is "warm" but a bit snowy and blowy with visibility coming in and out. The snow conditions are stable for climbing however, so when it clears all should be well. 

Pat and Tim's June 17 Denali climb is at 11K today and although we have not heard from them directly, all word of mouth reports say they are looking and feeling strong. They may be waiting for the winds to settle before moving around Windy Corner and up to the 14,200' camp, they have plenty of time! 

More later, I am sure.

- Caitlin

Friday, June 20, 2008


A high school picture of Melis. I think she said I could put this up here. Or maybe she said: "Don't you dare!" I can't remember.

Melis is up at high camp right now. It was windy today. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring for their crew as far as going for it or not, bit I'll keep you posted.

New School Melis

Mike and Leighan are leaving 14 this evening. They took a very civil approach to descending the mountain. Many people opt for the fabled "Death March" (high camp straight down to base camp in a single push). Mike's crew rolled into 14 yesterday evening, set up camp and slept and rested last night and the majority of today. 14 camp is a very cool place to hang out, especially if you are not on any sort of agenda. The medical research camp, founded and set up by Dr. Peter Hacket, is there. The medical camp is now staffed by climbing rangers and their volunteers. Generally, each patrol has a doctor or another medical professional experienced in high altitude related illness. That is a great place for guides to learn more about high altitude medicine and the treatment of cold injuries.

Heart Break Hill video. The final push into base camp. Don't forget to raise your sled brake! Due to crevasses in the runway, they have moved the airstrip up glacier about 1/4 mile. This happens almost every season. So, heartbreak hill just got a little longer. They should be out tomorrow, as long as it's flyable. They have about 15 lbs. of good beef and several bottles of good Argentinian wine waiting for them for their end of trip last meal.

I just looked at this website that tracks progress of people traveling with one of those new "Spot" devices. Mike Collins, on Pat's trip, has one and it appears that they are at 11K. The map program on the website is kind of junk, but it's good enough to see which camp they are at.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Messages from Melis & Baby Ravens, Updated

Melis called in from 14 camp Wednesday evening, they were on a rest day - sounding very chipper! They are moving up to High camp today, Thursday, wx permitting. They are planning on taking advantage of Mike and Leighan's supply of tents etc. up there. Melis figured they would be saving 40+ lbs by making the camp swap. This certainly has been the year of the tent swap. I have only been able top make it work once or twice myself, I used to call it the illusive, often talked about but rarely performed tent swap.

She left us a long phone message on behalf of her group. Here goes:
  • From Nevin: "Missing you guys lots. Tom look after the girls and Tilly & Tomcat. Love, Dad"
  • "Happy Birthday John, this one's for you, love you Bro. In my thoughts - Randi, JP, Joe, Elle, Mae Mae and Mom & Dad" - Rob
  • "To Marion, Thank you for your support & sharing my dream, you make my climb easier. I love you." - John
  • "Hi loved ones, Mountain so beautiful, doing fine, missing you, kisses from me." - Line
That was all I could understand on the message - please pardon if the names are wrong! (Was it John or Don?) I didn't hear messages from Tim & Chip - but I bet they say hello! I may not have received the whole message.

Still no calls from Phil - but they were on the same schedule as Mike & Leighan, so we're hoping they'll call in today. He's done a "zillion" expeditions on Denali, I guess you can't teach an old dog about a new blog.

Mike called me last night from back in 17 camp. They had a good trip back to camp last night and still had plenty of sunshine in camp, which is pretty awesome to be able to stay warm at 17,200 feet via the sun after a long hard day.

Phil's crew summitted as well yesterday. Mike saw them coming back down the "Audubon" from Denali pass when I was talking with him on the phone last night.

It's cloudy in Talkeetna, no planes flying yet. But the baby ravens are learning to fly! It is quiet in town except for the persistent cries of the hungry raven fledglings chasing their parents around, demanding food. The ravens closer to the Alaska Range will start raiding climbers caches on the glaciers. The parents teach the obnoxious, huge babies how to dig in the snow, rip into bags and even pull zippers open. They are incredibly intelligent, clever birds with over 36 different vocalizations. If you've ever heard fledgling ravens, you know how desperate the bedraggled parents are to feed them and shut them up! They squawk and scream constantly for food. Parents of teenagers will understand... Park Service tells climbers to dig their caches at least a meter deep, and deeper on the lower glacier area because of the melting that happens as the days go by. If you don't dig deeply enough, climbers may return to find their food and gear scattered all over the place where their cache used to be concealed by snow.

All for now ~ Julia and rob

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The acme, the zenith, el cumbre, the pinnacle. peak, crest, crown, apex, tippy top, SUMMIT

Mike and Leighan called in from the tippy top. All 8 of them made it to the summit. They were getting ready to head back down to 17 a few minutes ago. Everything is going well. I didn't talk to him for long. I'm not sure how long it took to get up to the top, but it usually takes about 1/3-1/2 of the time it took to get up to get back down to high camp. They roll back into camp and start heating up water for hot drinks or soup and Dinner if folks have the energy to eat. Quite often after a summit day, people just go to bed as they are super tired. I can here it now... "you can go to bed, but just try to at least have a little soup and another liter of water". "Don't forget to bring your boot liners into your tent and put them in between the sleeping bags or inside your bag so they won't be frozen in the morning."

Congratulations gang!! They will be heading down to 14 tomorrow in the early afternoon most likely. They'll rest up and wait for the temperatures to drop so the traveling will be in good condition on the lower glacier.

A view of Mt. Huntington from the summit ridge.

Pat Ormond and Tim Brown's crew in front of one of TAT's Dehavland Beavers getting ready to fly into base camp yesterday afternoon. They had a really nice group. They will have a good time up there. The lower glacier is still in amazing condition. Night time temps are still dropping well below freezing at and above 7,000'. I probably won't be hearing from these guys more until they get higher up on the mountain and start getting a cell signal.

The really old school analog cell phones are still the best mode of communication up on Denali. We have a lot of satellite phones as well, but they aren't nearly as reliable and they drop more calls and the reception is still fuzzy at best.

That's all for now.



Photo of an almost forgotten camping place on the West Buttress of Denali. Top of the fixed lines. Photo, Okonek. Nowadays most groups bypass this camp and head straight up to high camp from 14. There are still a couple of ice caves just below this camp that have been there for over 20 years i'd guess.

Melis just called in from 14. She said it was HOT! She slept in this morning, her and Mike Janes were going to talk on the FRS this morning. She said it looked like a good summit day to her. It was splitter last night and if it stayed that way then I bet Mike and Leighan, as well as Phil 's crew are heading up as we speak. It's hard to say from here though. There are clouds between here and there so I can't see what the upper mountain looks like.

Photo of some climbers returning from the summit, along the summit ridge. BO photo. Hopefully Mike and Leighan and Phil's group will be up there soon.

As soon as I hear any updates from the mountain, I'll let everyone know.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17

Melis and Forest called in from 14. There group is doing awesome. They went out to the edge of the world today. They didn't take a total rest day today. It's good on rest days to get ut and cruise around so the heart rate and respirations gets elevated a bit and the body is able to pump some of that oxygenated blood around to the O2 deprived muscles. Many climbers climbing at altitude report feeling the worst first thing in the morning after awaking from sleep. A simple explanation of this is because, both the heart and the lungs slow down at night. With a slower breathing pattern less O2 is coming in and getting absorbed into the blood. And with a slower heart rate less blood is getting pumped around the body.

They are going to drop down a few hundred feet in elevation tonight and retrieve their 13.5 cache. They are going to wake up tomorrow morning and see how everyone feels. They might end up taking the entire day off minus some classes in and around camp. Everyone is having a fun time up there.

Pat and Tim's crew made it into base camp this afternoon.

It was not a summit day as far as we could tell from town, so I think Mike and Leighan are still in a holding pattern up there at 17.

Something is going on with the blogger website so I haven't been able to post photos for a couple of days.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday, June 16th

Mike Janes called in from High Camp. They are hanging out. The weather has been in and out all day. The winds have subsided and the visibility has improved a fair bit since earlier today. Everyone is doing good. Mike and Leighan were helping National Park Service (NPS) with some rescues until about 5:00 in the morning this morning. All is good up there as we speak and they are looking forward to heading up higher as soon as possible.

Melis called in from 14. She was in the process setting up tents when I spoke to her. Everyone in the group is pretty tired. They received over a foot of new snow recently and their team had to break trail the entire way to 14K. The move to 14 is hard enough as it is, but to add a bunch of deep snow on top of an already tough move day ups the anty. I always kind of liked the extra challenge. It puts a fresh blanket of pure white clean snow over top of everything and makes you work a little harder. Melis needs the extra work. The snow could have been twice as deep and it wouldn't have slowed her down. She's a machine. Melis said she was going to "rest'em hard". I bet they don't roll out of their tents tomorrow morning until they get forced ouot by the heat of the sun, or by Melis cheerfully screaming that pancakes are ready.

Kirby and Nate are in 14 and are just getting ready to head down to base camp. They will time their descent so that they are traveling on the lower glacier during the coldest part of the night.

Phil Erschler's group rolled in to 17K as well today. I haven't heard directly from them. They'll either rest tomorrow or head up if the weather is good.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 15th plus a summit to report.

Climbers heading around Windy Corner on a day much like the one Melis had when she carried around the corner. Note the sleds down hill of the climbers. It is paramount that the climbers do not have much weight in their sleds when traversing on terrain like this and what weight they do have in the sleds is packed low down in the sled so it won't flip or roll. A well packed sled shouldn't be too much of a hindrance. Ask anyone who has been up on Denali, and they will have lots of sled stories to share.

Scott Woolums rolled in to base camp early this morning. He said the weather in there is crystal clear. They're doing good and are just waiting for a flight out. It's overcast in Talkeetna, as soon as it lifts we'll be seeing them back at AMS.

Melis's group carried to 13.5k today, and will move to 14 tomorrow. The weather in there right now is really good she said. Her team is doing AWESOME! Joey is heading for the summit today. For those of you who don't know who Joey is, he is an AMS guide and Melis Coady's sweetie pie. Joey, I believe, is round tripping from 14K via the Upper Rib. He's skipping high camp all together. He has a 6,000 + foot summit day today.

Father's day greeting from Chip.

Dear Becky, Melissa, Charles, Jon and Jess, Thanks for making me the luckiest father in the world. I love you.

Love to Jonah, Marlene and Maria, and of course Li'l Jorie. Chip Dad and Grandpa.

I'm sure everyone up there is wishing they could give their best to all the father figures out there. Melis just happened to be the only one who's called it in so far.

Kirby called while I was on the other line with Mike Janes. Kirby and crew summitted and were on their way down right now. Mike wanted to give a big shout out from their team wishing everyone a happy Father's Day. Sounds like Kirby's gang was on the summit around or a little before 2:00 PM. Congrats and way to hang in there! A little bit of patience can go a long way.

That's all i've heard.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday the 14th, updated

A windy day at Denali Pass and above.

It is a hard decision for guides to turn around on any given day in the mountains. Every guide likes to have a certain margin for safety when traveling in potentially hazardous terrain. Some groups/guides have different levels of comfort. All of our guides have lots of experience in the mountains of Alaska. Every one of our guides is a wealth of knowledge and experience. They all want to go to the top when safety margins allow. Not all groups are the same, so while one group might make it to the top it is common that another doesn't.

Scott, Brian and Johnny
made the summit last night at 9:30 PM. 11 1/2 hours round trip. Scott said it was a tough decision to go up yesterday. The weather was fairly questionable. They were going to head down this morning. Mike Janes and Leighan were going to make the move to high camp today. They were able to arrange a tent swap with Scott Woolums.

Kirby and Nate turned around at Denali Pass yesterday and are planning on going for it again as soon as they get a window that Kirby and Nate feel good about.

The weather and the summit day worked out well for Scott and his crew. When a group gets quite high on a summit attempt and they have to turn around, they are usually too tired to give it another go. Kirby and his crew still have time for another go.

Mike and Leighan are at 17! They rolled in just a bit ago. They had camp just about finished up when I talked to him. Scott left them a tent and stoves and a couple full pots of water. That's how it should be. Nice job Scott. They didn't leave 14 until late, as the winds were honking on the ridge this morning. They are planning on taking a rest day tomorrow and then start looking for a summit window.

Melis is at 11. They are going to carry to 13.5 (around Windy Corner) tomorrow and then probably try to make the move up to 14 the following day.

Joey is still at 14. He tried to make it up to the Rib today, but was turned around due to wind and is back in camp now.

Brian Okonek photo of someone looking up at the North Buttress of Hunter. The folks that climbed Control Tower this morning got an even better and more up close view of the N. Buttress.

The Kahiltna Dome crew is back. They climbed Control Tower this morning. It was an excellent culmination to their trip. They left base camp at 12:15 AM this morning and were on the summit 5 1/2 hours later. Tim said "it was a stellar morning, alpenglow on Hunter and Foraker." From Control Tower peak, one gets an AWESOME view of the North Buttress of Mount Hunter.

Colby Coombs leading the Crux pitch of the Cassin, Photo, Mike Wood

AMS guide Jeff Witt just topped out on the Cassin Ridge this morning. The Cassin is one of the more difficult routes on Denali that gets done semi regularly. Some seasons it doesn't see any successful ascents, lots of attempts though.

That's all I've heard lately.


Friday, June 13, 2008


Leighan Falley, as seen in Rock and Ice.

Mike and Leighan called in from 14 again tonight. They are doing great and are really excited about the team that they have. They took another rest day and are planning on moving to high camp tomorrow. McCullough left them a few things in a cache up on the 16 ridge and they were calling in to get the specifics of the cache as well as to have some messages relayed. Any expedition is psyched to have things cached from other teams higher up on the mountain, so they can move that much lighter. As long as the caches are accurately inventoried they work out super well.

Here are the messages:

: Enjoying an incredible adventure, love and miss you, peace.

Tom: Feeling good, thinking of you often, Lulu. P.S. Need the key to the house, give the girls a kiss.

Dear Tom, Brooke, Andrew and Dad, Think of you and miss you all terribly, all my love, John/Dad.

Hey my Trisha, I'm feeling strong, though it's a tough and very cold mountain to climb. I miss you and your warm bed everyday, can't wait to see my baby again, yours, Carsten.

And, Happy Father's Day, from them and everyone else on the mountain.

Scott, on the Summit of Everest.

Kirby Senden's and Scott Woolums' crew, are heading for the summit today. I was at base camp last night and today, and it looked gnarley up high this morning. As I was getting on the Otter to head back to town, I thought for sure that they would all be sitting it out again today at High Camp. Leighan said it was super hot though right now. The winds started to die down late morning/early afternoon. Good job and good luck Kirby, Nate, Scott and everyone on their teams.

The Kahiltna Dome crew arrived back at base camp this morning at about 6:00 or 7:00 AM. They ran into avalanche danger trying to access the N. Ridge of Kahiltna Dome. They tried to get onto it a couple different ways. They were hanging in camp chillin when I left. They are planning on heading up Control Tower Peak tonight. Control Tower is a really fun climb with some steep snow climbing and some interesting ridge climbing. They are planning on flying out tomorrow if the weather lets them.

Mike Janes & Leighan Falley called in from 14K, around 10:00 last night.  They were spending the day resting and doing practice for the fixed line ascension that lies ahead of them. They will rest there again Friday (today), keeping an eye on the weather.  If the weather is good for them they will ascend the fixed lines and head to High Camp.  All are getting along well, they are fit, hard workers. Mike says they all deserve a summit!

As I was writing this, Melis called in from the base of Kahiltna Pass, at 10,200 feet. She said, "it is a beautiful day in the Range!"  This is a non-traditional camp, but she was able to make use of the one that the Kahiltna Dome group had built.  Clever!  Melis said they arrived there this morning, being on night schedule.  She said "it's so hot you have to travel between 2 am and 6 am" but they have to dress warmly as usual at night. She said they've been practically naked in the tents during the day!  Sleep is the big plan for them today, and will move to 11,000 feet tomorrow (er, tonight). 

Melis passed along some gossip about some of the AMS staff out on climbs of their own, Joey is poised to summit tomorrow, and Jeff Witt is moving up the Cassin, from 14k to 17k today.  And, rumor has it that Rob is eating sorbet at Base Camp. 


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brian McCullough & his group flew out of Base Camp late last night, after departing the 14-thousand foot camp around 11am!  What a team!  They were able to get some sleep last night then met for a big breakfast at the Roadhouse this morning.  They are able to work at a leisurely pace now, unpacking, sharing photos and getting used to being surrounded by leaves again!  It is GREEN and 60 deg F. in Talkeetna today.  

Scott Woolums called in at noon, they are resting at High Camp today (17,200 feet) after arriving there yesterday afternoon.  He said the weather was "good" when they arrived, with light snow. Today the weather is "more serious" with snow, wind 20-30 knots and temps around 0 deg. F. 
He said Kirby is also there with his group, looking good.  They will all rest today, there are "rumors of good weather tomorrow"...we'll see if any of them decide to attempt the summit in the next day or two.

Tim and the Kahiltna Dome group have returned to their 10,000 foot camp. They called in just a while after I talked to Scott. They made a two-fold attempt on the Kahiltna Dome summit, but were turned back by severe avalanche conditions on both the Okonek and Mt. Tapps routes.  They are on a night schedule; they will hit the sack and get up around midnight to pack up camp and descend to Base Camp. They plan to cache their gear and make a side trip to attempt Radio Tower, about a 1,400 foot fun climb right next to Base Camp, before getting in line for a flight out of "Kahiltna International Airport" first thing in the morning if the weather cooperates.  Yesterday flights to/from Base Camp were on hold until early afternoon due to snow up there.

It is light through the night, with Summer Solstice just a week away; many climbers take advantage of the cool and bright nights for travel across the Kahiltna glacier.  At this latitude we'll start loosing 45 minutes of daylight per week pretty soon; at Equinox (in September) we'll have 12 hours of day and 12 of night before that rapid transition the short days of winter.  

Rob is going on a field trip to Base Camp, we'll keep you in the loop while he's gone. - Julia

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kahiltna Dome

Photo of Kahiltna Dome from 11K on Denali.  If you look close you can see my tracks in the right side of the photo getting up onto the N. Ridge.  The team is camped out in the flats in the right side lower third of this photo.
Tim Hewitte called in last night from Kahiltna Pass. They are camped at about the 10,20o+ foot elevation. They are panning on doing more skills classes today and trying to go for the summit tomorrow. The weather seemed a bit unsettled when I spoke with him. That's good training though. The 10,000 foot basin is notorious for getting socked in with weather. Right now the whole lower mountain is socked in as well. I haven't heard any reports from the upper mountain.

This photo shows a good example of a lenticular cloud.  These clouds mean that there are high winds aloft and it means that Kirby, Nate, Jon and Moises are playing cards at high camp.

Brian McCullough is just now leaving 14. We told him that base camp is still shut down and no planes are getting in or out, so they are still taking their time. He saw Woolums getting on the fixed lines moving up to high camp. He was certain that Kirby would be hanging out in camp as their is a big lenticular cloud capping the summit.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Evening

I just heard from Mike Janes and Leighan and the are at 14K. They got up there in about 7 hours. He said they have been getting super lucky with the weather. They haven't had to take a weather day yet. There was a bit of a bottle neck this afternoon heading around Windy Corner so they got held up before the Corner for a bit so they wouldn't get stuck passing or getting passed while actually heading around the Corner. They ahd a good move though and everyone is strong. Mike also said that he wanted to start planning for another Asado down on the Susitna River like he did after his last trip. Everyone is getting along so well he said it was amazing. They're planning on back carrying tomorrow and then either carrying to the ridge or resting. They have yet to take a rest day and even if they took an extra rest day at 14 they will still be right on schedule.

Here's some video footage of some good views that these guys see from in, around and above 14 camp.

is down at 14K. He was getting ready to make up a bunch of food for the crew. It is really nice at 14 right now but he said it was not a summit day today. Kirby, Jon and Moises are in a holding pattern as they say up at High Camp. Hopefully they brought some good books. This is only their second night at High Camp, so they are sitting pretty. It's not a summit day but it's not a major storm either. I bet they are doing a bunch of socializing up there, so don't feel too sorry for them yet.

Brian said the highlight of their day was the Raven that was circling over their heads as they descended the 16 Ridge. They are on their way down but I didn't get the exact details of the descent. They will most likely be timing their travels so that they arrive on the lower glacier after the coldest part of the night has set in. So they'll either leave tonight from 14 and go through the night to base camp. This is called the "death march". It's actually not that bad, but as they are not in a hurry and the weather doesn't look as good below so I bet they break the descent up into a couple of days and give Dan and Chris C. some more time behind the stoves cooking and melting snow. An expedition of this size (9 climbers) burns between 9-10 gallons of white gas. That's about 950 liters worth of drinking water alone that gets melted and about that much for soups, meals and hot drinks. I bet the stoves are on for well over 150 hours over the course of a Denali expedition. That's a lot of work and a lot of waiting around and prior planning just to get a drink of water or a bowl of soup.

Scott Woolums is at 14 and planning on moving up to High Camp in the morning. If they get a good window they are planning on getting to H.C. and going for the summit the following day sans rest.

Phil Erschler and his gang have also rolled into 14. Mike just gave me that beta. That's all I know about Phil's crew right now. This is Phil's 31st trip up on Denali I thgnk he said and if he summits it'll be his 25th summit. So I bet they have things under control.


Another day in the life of a Denali Climber

Mark and Pat's Denali team setting camp on a little wind.
They are all back in town and cleaned up. Mark gets ready to go climbing in the range with his wife, Schneeberdeech, then he's off to guide for the premier Teton Guide service, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. And Pat has a few days off and he goes back up on Denali for a second trip, then he's off to Exum Mountain Guides for the season.


Monday, June 9, 2008


Nate Opp "skiing" the Grand Teton just before he came up to AK for the season. Nate has been working a ton for AMS this season. HAnds down he will have the most guiding days in the field for the '08 season. Nice job " The Optimator". Hopefully he and Kirby get the weather they are looking for to go for the top in the morning.

Photo: Kirby

Kirby Senden
and Nate Opp called in from high camp. They are doing good. They made it up to camp in about 6 1/2 hours. For those of you who don't know, that's good time. Everyone says hi. Kirby was just taking a break from the stoves to call in. He said there are some high clouds right now. High clouds can mean weather, but I'm not sure what the clouds look like for sure. There is still zero wind. They are strong and stoked! They are going to go for it if the weather is good tomorrow.

While I was typing this up McCullough called in from the summit! He was doing good. Good job to Brian's crew. The summit ridge is pretty darn cool. Awesome views from up there as you can see from that video footage I posted earlier. Brian is psyched to have other AMS'ers in camp when he gets down to help with all the stove work.

Congrats to everyone who made it up there!

Everyone up there works their butts off. Every expedition member has lots of responsibilities. Guides end up doing most of the cooking and melting though. Here's a little example below of what a Denali kitchen looks like.

Hanging out over those little camp stoves is tough work. Usually at high camp all the cooking happens inside the vestibule of the tent, unless it is splitter out. Groups do not bring their kitchen tents up there with them.



Brian is going for the summit this morning. He said it is a perfect day up there. That'll mean then that Kirby will be able to make the move to high camp and Scott will do a carry up to the ridge. I didn't talk to Brian too much. HE sounded very excited though. Check out the 360 deg. footage below from the Summit a couple days ago. Colby shot the Video with Henrik's camera. The cute face at the end of the video is Mr. Coombs.

Mark Postle and crew are back in base camp. They will be flying back to Talkeetna as soon as base camp opens up.

Greg Collins and crew are out of the mountains as well. They had a great trip.

cutting the cake with Josh and Colby in the background.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Scott, doing some last minute food preparations.

Scott Woolums
checked in from 14K. He, Brian and Johnny are all very strong. They have just been chillin and "catching some rays" up there. The weather has been super good the last few days. No wind at 14 for the last couple days. I heard reports of some wind up higher but that's pretty normal.

Scott sounded like he was having a good time. Tonight is their 2nd night at 14K. He said he was going to be there for a minimum of 4 nights. 4 nights at 14 is a good number of nights to be there. It gives people the best possible chance to get their oxygen saturations up and ready for high camp. They are going to make their cache tomorrow up on the ridge, then they will take a rest day and start looking for the right weather window to move up.

Last year Scott Woolums was up on the mountain guiding a trip. Towards the end of the trip while he and several other groups were up at high camp they received a whole bunch of snow and winds. It made the avalanche danger go way up on the route to Denali Pass. So Scott busted a route straight up out of camp through some rock bands to avoid the avalanche hazard. The route has been done on some other occasions but not often, and he was able to still make the summit while most groups had to turn around. The route topped out at well over 19,000 feet and was more difficult that the standard West Buttress route. Scott is a dedicated and motivated guide to say the least.

McCullough moved up to high camp. He was able to do a tent swap with Postle's crew. That alone saved over 26 lbs. that they didn't have to carry up. Usually if they are able to tent wswap they can also get away with swapping some other equipment too.

Kirby is moving up to high camp tomorrow. I didn't talk to Kirby. Scott just passed that message along.

Colby and Greg's crews are out and we're just now eating Henrik's cake. More soon.


Mike Janes

Photo: Mike Janes hanging out in Base Camp.

Mike called in this morning from 10K. They were doing their back carry from 11K. Everyone is doing great on his team. Greg and Colby passed through his camp at 11 late last night.

They moved to 11 yesterday. They are sitting in good weather right now, but it is cloudy below them and windy above them. They are planning on doing a carry up to Windy Corner tomorrow. They need a pretty decent day to make the move to 14K. They may be able to pull that off the day after tomorrow. A carry can be done in not perfect weather because teams are returning to a camp and kitchen already set up. The move to 14 is a tough one and guides like to roll in to camp with some warmish temps and little or no wind so camp can be set up with little worries. This is not always possible as weather conditions can turn on a dime.

Greg and Colby are in base camp waiting to get out. Base camp is shut down right now due to limited visibility. Caitlin baked Henrick a surprise congratulatory cake for setting the new speed record for climbing the seven summits.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Postle, Woolums, McCullough, Collins, Senden UPDATE

Mark Postle's team is back at high camp and they had an awesome day. They reported that they didn't have to wear their parkas or mittens the entire day - definitely a weather rarity up there!!! What excellent timing they had - and way to hang in there and give it another shot!!! They will be heading back down to the 14,200' camp tomorrow.

Scott Woolums, Brian and Johnny are at the 14,200' camp they are looking great. I haven't heard from Scott directly but Colby let us know that they are there. They have been chatting over hot drinks at camp. 

Brian McCullough's team will be moving to high camp (17,200') tomorrow, they are psyched!

Greg Collins' team has descended from their high camp on the Upper West Rib and is back at the 14, 200' camp, they are resting up for their descent to base camp.  All is well with them. 

As far as I know, Kirby Senden, Nate Opp, Jon and Moises remain at the 14, 200' camp. They are acclimatizing and will be making their move up the mountain within the next few days.


Mark Postle Group Summit!

Postle called in at 5:30 p.m. from the top, 20,320' - Congratulations!!!!  

The connection on the phone wasn't great, so we will have more details on the team and conditions when they next call in. From my estimation, they should be at or very near to their high camp by now. Usually folks are pretty happy to be back at camp at the end of summit day, it's a long hard day for anyone. Hot drinks, a warm meal, and the comfort of ones' sleeping bag are something everyone looks forward to at the end of summit day.

Colby Coombs' team is leaving the 14,200' camp now, they are heading down to base camp at 7,200'. They should arrive there sometime between 3-6 am. If the weather is good, they should fly out first thing in the morning.

Although...They may want to stay in a little longer to celebrate Daryl Miller's final base camp mountain patrol.  Daryl, the South District Ranger for Denali National Park, is retiring after many years of dedicated service to Denali National Park and the climbers here.  We are very happy for him to be moving on, but he will be dearly missed.

It may be a coincidence but rumor has it that there is going to be a short rock concert at base camp tomorrow!

More later, I am sure.


Coombs & Postle UPDATE

Colby called me late last night.  He , Josh and Henrik are all back at the 14,200' camp and are well. They will rest at 14,200' today and will start down the mountain tonight, they should be back in Talkeetna tomorrow. He reports that they had a good summit day; it was very clear, very cold, and thus they were wearing all of their clothing the entire way. It took them 12 hours round trip. Colby said it was beautiful, they reached the top at about 10:45 pm. They had the summit to themselves with only one other person reaching the top on the same day. 

Mark Postle just phoned in and they went for a summit bid yesterday, but turned back due to the high winds and cold temperatures.  Mark said it's a PERFECT day up there TODAY, so THEY ARE GOING FOR IT AGAIN THIS MORNING. They should be leaving high camp in about 1 hour. 

Colby is going to call and check in before they descend, so we should have more news about the other teams later today.

Here is the address for the Talkeetna Air Taxi webcam, showing you the view of the mountain from Talkeetna:

You can see for yourself that it's looking like a glorious day up there! 


Friday, June 6, 2008


Greg Collins, NIck and the rest of the team, minus BJ just summitted via the upper rib. He said it was a tough day but they're doing well and they're headed back to Notch Camp. They have a ton of wands and fixed line waiting for their decent.


Photo of a couple "camp sites" at high camp with Denali Pass in the back ground. It usually takes a group 2-3 hours to get from camp to the top of the pass.

Colby called in from the summit last night. I guess this means that Henrik has the new record. And I guess it also means that Colby and Josh are mutants. Henrik showed up acclimatized and Colby and Josh were off the couch acclimated to 349 feet. I've heard people ask Colby before, "how do you do it, or I never see you train." He says it's muscle memory. Another 6 day guided Denali trip under Colby and Josh's belt. They summitted last night around 11:00 PM. Colby said it was a beautiful night and they were looking forward to a nice casual descent.

Postle also called in from high camp last night. So much for the idea that Colby would be there waiting for Mark's crew with hot drinks. He would have been if he wasn't going for the top. Mark said he'd be waiting for Colby so he could brew up for him, or he'd at least keep an eye out for him at Denali Pass.

Mark wasn't sure what they'd be doing today. Basically, he'll check in with everyone this morning and see how everyone is feeling. If the weather is absolutely perfect they might try to rally. That move from 14 to 17 is a hard day and folks often like a rest day the next day. I've gone down to the wire a bunch of times before. Meaning that you go up to the last day of the scheduled expedition. They still have a couple days left to summit and still be right on schedule.

McCullough is making a carry up to the top of the fixed lines today. He said everyone is doing great. They are laughing a lot he said. BasJan from Greg Collin's Upper Rib trip had been feeling sick. He had an upper resp. thing going on. Sounds like there has been something going around the mountain. We gave him a course of antibiotics several days ago. BJ said he is doing way better today. However, he was unable to stay on schedule with the Upper Rib expedition so he has joined Brian, Dan, and Chris's trip. Brian said he's in good spirits today and that everyone is excited to see the 16 Ridge.

This is footage of a group heading down the 16 ridge. Most people say that this section of the West Buttress is the most spectacular. It is also the most exposed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


The Kahiltna Dome/Denali training course just flew in this afternoon led by Tim, Lindsay and Larry. This is a pretty cool trip. It is an Expedition as well as a course. Our Denali Expeditions are courses as well to some degree but not as much so as the Kahiltna Dome trip. Many aspiring Denali climbers do this trip to see just how ready they are for climbing the big one. Many of the guides/instructors on the Kahiltna Dome trip are also Denali guides so students geet full value out of this course and can pick their guide's brain about the specifics of climbing Denali. Kahiltna Dome offers some of the sickest views of Denali possible. An aspiring photographer can get shots of the mountain similar to those that Bradford Washburn took from the bush planes.

Kirby just rolled in to 14K. He was wondering where everybody was though. They made it to 14 in 5 1/2 hours! That's super fast. His team is doing really good, they're all having a good time. He said he'd get in touch when he was about to make a move up to 17K. He was just getting ready to go "crank out some soup". They're psyched.

He said that Collins made the move to high camp on the Rib. Postle was no where to be found, so that means he is successfully moving up the 16 ridge to high camp. Kirby said that it was a bit cloudy there but there is zero wind. Pretty nice day actually, despite no vis.

It's hard to say what is shaking up there at high camp. He couldn't see up there but figured it might be calm.

Some of the AMS guides and instructors testing out different breaking strengths of carabiners, webbing, cordage and a variety of hitches and knots. More than anything I just wanted to try out posting a video.


Brian Fry's training program

Brian Fry refines his fixed line ascension technique in his back yard. He looks pretty comfortable up there.
Brian, you should be wearing a helmet though!

I wonder if Brian also drug an old rim and tire around the neighborhood to train for pulling as sled. I hear a lot of our climbers saying they have done that. It's a good idea and I highly recommend it, but I'd love to see a photo of someone actually doing it.

Brian, this photo came from an anonymous source. :-)

The center of the universe.

photo, Greg Collins out for a ski.

Lots of climbers from around the world have always called Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley, CA the center of the climbing universe. I've also heard people refer to the Moab Information Center parking lots as the center as well. Same with Chalten in Argentina's Patagonia. One could also argue that 14K on Denali is the center of the universe.

Collins just called called in from 14K.

Colby is hanging tight at 17K. The weather is not good enough for going to the summit today. Colby reports winds and light snow. I bet Colby is doing his routine high camp clean up A.K.A. fishing for high altitude brown trout.

Greg may or may not move to high camp today he said. If he doesn't move to high camp he said he was going to drop off some more supplies including a tent, so it'll be an easier move day up to camp. Greg has a ton of time, he isn't too worried about much of anything right now.

Post holeo is launching as we speak to make the move to high camp. I haven't heard how many people are up at high camp these days or how many people are moving up right now. He's psyched that he has Coombs and Josh up there to help out upon arrival into 17. The move to 17 is a tough day. Some people liken it to summit day. With another AMS team up there, Mark will have hot water and regular drinking water ready for him and his crew when they roll into camp. Colby may even be able to help them with securing a "camp site".

Brian Okonek photo of some climbers looking down towards 14. From this vantage point Colby will be able to see Postle heading up the fixed lines as well as the 16 ridge. He will also be able to keep an eye on Collins up on the Rib and he can actually see right over to Balcony camp on the upper rib, where greg will be moving to or stocking today.

Usually, one of the guides sole jobs when arriving at a new camp is to run stoves and melt snow and heat water for hot drinks to rehydrate everyone after a long hard day. But, if another guide is up there and taking a rest day it is common law that they will help out as much as humanly possible. Colby, I'm sure knows that Mark is heading up to H.C. From 17 you can see all the climbers inching their way up the 16 ridge toward camp. Plus they will most likely be in contact via FRS radios.

Greg called in at 9:00 AM today. When I asked him how McCullough was doing he said he was stil sleeping, or at least he had yet to emerge from his tent. Sounds like Brian's team is taking a rest day today. These days are sweet up there. You finally get to sleep in and not get up and out of the tent until the sun warms your tent up to the point you need to get out and get some fresh air. Brian was planning to take a trip out to the edge of the world with his folks. This is a little rocky prominence out past the ranger's camp where they get a killer view into the N. E. Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.

Kirby and Nate will most likely be rolling in to 14 this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Colby called from High camp. It's not too windy up there, but it's a little murky. They are doing well. They made it up to 17K in about 5 1/2 hours. They'll send it tomorrow if it's good enough. Judging at the pace they've been setting between camps they're looking at about 6 hours from 17 to the summit when they do get to go.

Scott Woolums called in from the top of Ski Hill. They were enjoying the nice night. He, Brian and Johnny are all doing really well he said. That's all I got from him before the phone cut out. He did say that they would be moving to 11K tomorrow. If they get there early enough they may see Kirby's crew moving out, but I bet they will just miss each other.

June 4th update

Brian Okonek photo of some climbers returning to 11K. You can tell by the size of their sleds that they are coming down from the upper reaches of the mountain. If Kirby, Nate, Jon and Moises even used sleds today they would be returning with empty sleds, most likely stuffed inside of their backpacks. This particular photo was taken at night and the Western edge of the Polo field just nearing the top of Squirrel Hill, about 10-15 minutes from the top of Motorcycle Hill, FYI.

Kirby Senden called in from the 14K side of Denali Pass. They were putting in their cache. He said all was good. It's been pretty cold still up there he said. It was 0 deg. F. this morning at 11K. There was just a little bit of wind when he called some high clouds but not bad in the weather department. To me it looks like it may be cloudy for a couple days but I don't see anything major moving in. I'm not one to try to predict the weather. Guides, up on the mountain, can do the best job of determining what the weather might do. Kirby is planning on moving to 14K tomorrow if the weather allows.

Greg Collins has carried a load up to high camp on the Upper Rib. He said they are in no hurry. They have been making great time, but if the weather is nice enough tomorrow they will establish themselves at approximately 16,400 feet on the Rib. Snow conditions are still very favorable, they have received about 10 cm of light snow on a nice bootable surface.

Colby Coombs, Josh and Henrik are on there way up to 17K as we speak. at about 1:00 PM they were just about getting on to the fixed lines at 15,600 feet. My guess is thaty it'll only take them 5 hours or so to make it up to high camp. Weather permitting they will summit tomorrow. I haven't talked to Colby directly, he calls his wife Caitlin instead of me. Smart man. He told her that they are all doing great. More news from them soon, I'm sure. Colby was able to pull off a move to high camp today when other groups may not be quite as flexible. Keep in mind that Colby's team is on a 5-6 day summit track. They are all fit and Henrick is well acclimatized.

Brian McCullough and his team were heading off to do their back carry this afternoon. That probably means that they ate a bunch of pancakes while having a leisurely rest this morning. They are all strong he said. Brian is having a fun time and said everyone is working really hard.
14K can be a really social place with climbers from all over the world cruising around.

Brian, Johnny and Scott just before heading over to TAT.

Scott Woolums and crew should be carrying up to 11K today by my estimation. It sounds like the weather has been good enough to be moving about on the lower mountain. Scott has spent as much or more time on Denali than just about anyone, so if anyone can find his way around the lower mountain to cache or move it's Scott.

Mark Postle is at 14. One of his team members, Franz, re-injured an old back injury while at 14K. It was an old lifting and twisting injury that he re-hurt by lifting and twisting, I believe while building snow walls in camp. Franz is going to head down as soon as the weather gets good enough. Mark's gang is going to head up to high camp as soon as they get a break in the weather. Mark said there has been several guided groups up at 17 these past few days and no one has been going for the summit, so they are actually doing really well by still being at 14K. They are only getting stronger, instead of getting weaker by hanging out at 17K.

Mike Janes and Leighan Falley's team.

Mike just flew off of Denali a week or so ago from his first trip. He flew back to Juneau, AK to visit with his wife and son for a few short days and he just flew out this after noon. They have a real nice team.

They were supposed to have flown out yesterday afternoon, but the weather did not allow it. One of their expedition members, Carsten from Denmark, didn't arrive until really late last night. He got lucky that the rest of the crew was unable to launch on time. Mike was waiting up for him when he arrived at AMS in Talkeetna last night to check his gear and get all of the rental items that he needed for the trip. We were at it first thing this morning with Carsten, getting everything finalized for an early morning plane flight into the glacier. Now they will spend the rest of the day and into the evening going through several classes in and around basecamp before the single carry to 7.8K. So, even though they flew out a day later they still have not lost any time. They will most likely leave base camp real early tomorrow morning right on schedule.

that's all folks.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Update from Coombs at 14,200' camp

A quick late night update from Colby who just called in. Colby, Josh and Henrik moved to the 14,200' camp today and are feeling well. They will rest there tomorrow, June 3rd. Colby said the weather was really nice at 14,200' and below, but still cold at night with winds at the higher elevations. 

Greg Collins' team will be carrying some of their food, fuel, and gear to their first camp on the upper West Rib tomorrow (June 3).

Kirby Senden's team moved to the 11K camp today and they are looking good. Depending on the weather and how they are feeling, they may make a carry a load of food, fuel, and gear to the Windy Corner area tomorrow.

Brian McCullough's team is well! They made a carry of food, fuel, and gear to the windy corner area today and may make the move to the 14, 200' camp tomorrow, again depending on the weather and how the team feels.
Colby gave Brian the news about his Uncle George. Brian is looking out at George's Dutch Hills gold mine, thinking of his family gathered there, as I am sure they are all looking up at the mountain at him! I am sure he'll call home when he gets within range.

Mark Postle's team is at 14,200' camp and are rested and are planning on moving up to the 17,200' camp soon, they are waiting for a solid weather window.

There is a great team of AMS climbers gathered at the 14, 200' camp right now, I am sure they are all having a good time enjoying life in the mountains with those amazing views!

- Caitlin

Kirby Senden update and Greg Collins.

This picture is taken of the camp Kirby's crew just left, 7,800K. If you know where to look you can see Windy Corner, 14K, High Camp, the lower and Upper West Rib, the top of the fixed lines above 14K and a whole bunch of other features.

Melis's team made it out last night. They ran into Kirby, Nate, Jon and Moises at about 9:00 in the morning yesterday as their team was making a carry to the top of Ski Hill. Melis said they looked good. That means that Kirby's team is either moving to the top of Ski Hill and setting camp in the 10,000 foot basin somewhere, or they are moving to 11K today. Generally, if a group sets up camp at the top of Ski Hill then they are able to single to 11K since it is not too much of an elevation gain and the distance is not very far. If they move straight to 11K from 7,800K then they will end up doing a back carry from 11K to pick up their cache wherever they left it above Ski Hill.

Greg Collins called in from 14K. They have scouted to 15,400 feet on the Upper Rib and they've already back carried. He reported hard packed snow that is excellent for climbing on. I did not talk to him personally so I didn't get a weather report from up there.

Colby should be up at 11K and Brian's group should be carrying to the Corner if the wx. is decent.


Sunday, June 1, 2008


Here's a photo taken from Kahiltna Dome looking at 11K camp. The big rocky buttress in the middle in the Direst West Buttress and the shaded face of the Direct West Buttress is called the Washburn Face, named by AMS guide and first ascensionist, Greg Collins, Phil Powers and Tom Walters in the early '90's. South District Ranger and Alaskan Pioneer Daryl Miller fed them all cheese burgers at 14K campo while he was on a NPS patrol. The top of this buttress, if followed will bring you out at the top of the fixed lines above 14K. If you look close enough you can see quite a few climbers traveling on the glacier toward the 11K camp. 11K camp min visible below Motorcycle Hill.

After Greg's first ascent of this wall he called Bradford Washburn on the phone and asked him if he minded if they named the wall in his honor. He said yes and now it is called the "Washburn Face".

Brian called in today from the satellite phone at 11K. His crew is doing well. They are taking a rest day today. Tomorrow will be a carry day to or around the corner and the following day will most likely be their move to 14K day.

Postle's crew has cached at the top of the fixed lines and will be looking for the next good day to move up to high camp.

Greg rolled in to 14K yesterday. I haven't talked to him yet, but Mark said they were there. They are doing their back carry from Windy Corner today.

AMS owner and guide, Colby Coombs

Colby flew in yesterday with assistant, Josh Hoeschen and Henrik for their Denali Trip. Henrik is from Denmark and he is trying to set the new 7 Summit speed record. For those of you who may not have heard about "7 summiters", they climb the highest peak on every continent. I'm not sure what the current record is but it's less than 6 months. As long as Colby and Henrik summit before June 21st, Henrik will have the new speed record. Henrik summitted Everest on May 25th in the morning and came directly to Alaska so he would be acclimatized and could do a speedier ascent of Denali than normal.

Colby, Josh and Henrik left base camp at 4:00 Am this morning and camped at the top of Ski Hill. They will move to 11K tonight and then on up to 14K the following day wx. dependent. They got 12 hours of sleep today and are feeling great. They are on a night schedule. They will slowly get back on to a day schedule as they get up into the colder climes of the mountain.