Saturday, May 30, 2009

Holding Pattern

It's cold and windy all over the mountain right now. The report from 14K is, hanging out and waiting. None of the AMS crew are moving from 14 to 17 as they had all hoped to do today. -14 degrees f. last night at 14K.

Brian McCulough and Todd Passey's group went down toward the Corner to retrieve their cache. Lots of folks from around the 14 camp are going up the fixed lines and to high camp on the West Rib to pull food and fuel so they will have stocks to wait out another storm.
Video footage of a little wind, snow event a couple weeks ago. Probably pretty similar to what everyone is experiencing right now.


Friday, May 29, 2009

mass exodus

Photo of a little back log at the fixed lines.

I think 14K is about to become a ghost town! Mike Janes just called in and his crew is planning on heading up to 17K as well tomorrow, wx permitting. Sounds like Mike, Greg, Leighan, Greg, and Lhawang will all be moving up along with all their new best friends that they have been hanging with at 14K for the last several days.

I doubt that there are too many people in high camp right now. There are going to be a bunch of groups hoping to be able to move into already built walls up there. The move from 14 to 17 takes up to 10 hours. It is a very hard day and the first part of the move can be very cold. The sun hits 17K camp way before it hits 14. So everyone ends up eating and packing up and climbing the first hill out of camp in the shade. From here on up most everyone will be wearing their overboots and crampons.

A crew heading up and around Washburn's thumb on the 16 ridge.

I'll tell you right now, that judging by the amount of walls that I saw in the photos of high camp, I'd say quite a few folks are going to have to start from scratch. That's another 3-4 hours of work to tag on at the end of a long hard day. Denali is a blue collar mountain. It is hard work and there is a lot of tough jobs that need to be taken care of by all of the team members.

Brian, Todd, Alex, Ken and Carlos rolled in to 14K a few hours ago. They said it is cold! I asked how cold and Brian said "you know, the usual". They are hanging out in the shade for sure right now. It can be quite pleasant one minute and as soon as the sun goes behind the 16 ridge it gets COLD fast.

11K with the top of the Kahiltna Dome in the background.

Tork will be singling (Denali speak for single carrying) to 11K tomorrow.

That's all folks. Other than we have 3 more Denali Expeditions packing here in town and another 2 starting tomorrow along with another Mt. Huntington climb. There is about 15 guides kicking around here tonight.

Here's a picture of one of Pat and Elliot's sweet camps from their send of the Cassin.


coming home

Talkeetna Air Taxi just picked up our gang who has been waiting for a pick up from base camp. Mark Postle is the only one we are missing at this point and he should be on his way back right now.

Tim Hewette called in from 9,600 feet a bit ago, he was actually hanging out with Torkelson. Tork is moving to 11K tomorrow.

Hewette was doing a carry and they are on their way back down Ski Hill now to camp. The camped about a mile prior to our normal camp. They travelled from Basecamp to camp in a total white out. Postle just said that the lower Kahiltna Glacier is very well wanded.

Lhawang from AMS Mountainlink called in a few minutes ago. Sounds like the weather is clearing up a bit. Lhawang's, Greg Collins's, Leighan's crews are planning on heading up tomorrow if the weather keeps improving.

Pat and Elliot are back in Base camp as well and in line to come out.

that's all i've heard today.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ping Pong Ball

This is a photo looking down the S.E. Fork of the Kahiltna toward the main kahiltna glacier. Cloud level is about 8,000 feet. This is probably pretty similar to the conditions Tim is traveling in now. White out above them, but not so bad where they are, but too much cloud for planes to fly in.

Ever wonder what it's like to be stuck inside of a ping pong ball? That is the best description I can give you so you can understand what is going on in the mountains right now.

It's still a white out all over the mountain as far as I know. I just talked to Leighan a few minutes ago,. She said she is glad they didn't head up to high camp! When ever you have nasty weather at 14K you can usually plan on it being much worse at high camp.

I believe this photo was sent out via a satellite phone connection from base camp from one of our climbers up on the mountain, it was from Mike Jane's group.

Mark Postle is still stuck at base camp and will be until the weather improves enough for the airtaxis. Keep your eye on the webcam link off to the right for a real time look at the weather.

I'm sure there are lots of climbers gathered up at Base Camp waiting to fly out as well as lots of climbers all over the mountain waiting for the weather to clear up a bit to travel down the mountain.

photo of some climbers taking a rest break on ski hill with 7,800 foot camp in the back ground.

Tim Hewette has left base camp headed toward the camp at the bottom of ski hill.

That's all for now.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who's at 14K?

Greg Collins said they have already received about 10 inches of new snow accumulation at 14K with wind guts up to 30 mph. It is still snowing at all elevations on the mountain right now.

Mike Janes's and Leighan's crews are doing well he said. They are all just hanging tight until the weather clears. Greg said that he, Dan and Rupert will try to head to 17K as soon as they get the chance and make a summit attempt from there as soon as they get decent weather.

Here's a photo of the Cassin. The route ascends the central ridge.

AMS guides Pat Ormond and Elliot Gaddy are already back at 14K after successfully climbing the Cassin Ridge on Denali. It seems like they just headed in there a couple days ago. Sounds like they spent just over 50 hours on route.

I'll try to get some photos from Pat and Elliot when they get back. in the mean time here's a few from Nate Opp's recent send of the Moonflower Buttress on Mt. Hunter.

The first photo is a distant shot of the Moonflower Buttress taken from Base Camp.

12 Day Mountaineering Course photos and Poem

Julia and Matt Just flew out yesterday and are just now finishing drying gear and debriefing about the trip. They all had a great time and the students are already talking about coming back to AMS for another adventure next year. Some for the Kahiltna Dome/Denali Prep course and others are excited to climb Denali with us next year.

The 12 day Mountaineering Course is for beginner to intermediate climbers. Some students join us with a fair bit of climbing experience and others join us with no prior climbing experience. These guys got a bunch of rock climbing and ice climbing in. They did not take much time to rest. They were on the go non-stop. They students got to try skiing on the glacier with mountaineering boots, avalanche beacon searches, they learn how to cook in the mountains and how to care for and fix equipment in the field. Here are some photos from their course as well as a poem from Julia Niles, the lead instructor that she wrote on and about day eleven of the course:
Day eleven
Sounds like heaven
Packing it all in
Not yet time for gin
Chetan’s psyched to climb
There might be enough time
After Ti’s espresso and pancakes
Not yet time for milkshakes
Bill’s shoulder’s almost done
But can handle at least one ski run
Then back to camp for more
Let’s hope we’re not too sore
At least nothings hurting Glenn
Maybe he’s got some zen
Crevasse rescue with a zig
Maybe we’ll get Matt to dig
Before getting on a plane
Beacon drills cause no pain
Cause soon after nine am
These clothes I will condemn

And thus concludes another successful 12 day Mountaineering Course.



It is snowing and graupeling in at Base Camp right now. What does that mean exactly? It means that the planes cannot go into get Postle and his wayward companions. The airtaxis can only fly if they have good visibility. In poor visibility it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the snow in the sky and the snow on the glacier/runway.

Here a group packs the runway. 44Quebec, TAT Beaver stuck at Base camp waiting for a weather window to get back to town. Pilots do not usually like to get stuck out on the glacier.

If they get too much snow in there, all of the climbers waiting to get a lift out will have to go out onto the runway and pack it out. The pilots like a runway at least 1,500 feet long and about 50 feet wide. With enough people at Base Camp that won't take too long. We have to also pack out runways in all of the other locations we go to. Many of the other locations have few or no other people at and it can take an awfully long time to make an adequate runway.

Keep an eye on the webcam link on the right side of the screen to see when the clouds start to break up. Until then Postle will be stuck in the mountains.

Check this photo out that Leighan's Dad took yesterday of High Camp on the West Buttress and the photo of Denali in the background with some of the smaller Kahiltna peaks in the foreground.

I have not heard what the weather is doing higher up on the mountain. It could be the same or totally different.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday In Talkeetna

Today was launch day for Tim Hewette & Chris Cannon's West Buttress Expedition team - Ross Bustos, Adam Helman, Andrew Hillery, Rick Hitch & Jim Perkins. They all enjoyed an unseasonably hot summer day as they packed, the temp in the shade got up to 80 F. (I'm hoping Rob got some pics of them at the airport to add here...)

A blast of wind came in just a few minutes ago and nearly blew away all the gear strung out on the lines from the 12-day Mountaineering Course that returned today. The students reported that they enjoyed awesome weather on the Pika and had an amazing time. Instructors Julia (Niles, aka Juice!), Hugh and Matt reported that the students were awesome and learned a ton. They all went to town for dinner together.

Tom Torkelson and the Traverse Team called in to test the Sat phone around 6 pm from Ski Hill. They cached at 10,000 feet (Kahiltna Pass) today and plan to move to 9,500 feet tomorrow. They are all doing very well and are already missing their loved ones! He said everyone sends their love - Tom sends his love to Ceci. I told him we were taking good care of her!

Brian McCullough and Todd Passey called in as well today from Kahiltna Pass. His crew was doing great. They were retrieving their cache from the basin below them at the 11K camp. They are hoping to do a front carry to 13.5K tomorrow.

Greg Collins and Dan Corn called in and said their team is strong and moving very well! They are already established at 14 camp. Rupert is super strong and dialed and he said they were going to be heading up ASAP. We wanted us to keep track of the NBA for him.

He said Postle left 14 around 8:30PM tonight. That will put them in BaseCamp by morning as long as they don't get caught in a white out or something. Depending on where on the list they are they could be out tomorrow morning, assuming it is flyable tomorrow.

Gotta go batten down the hatch - gusts of wind and a drop in temp - Prepare for Rain!
~Julia (Queen of Paperwork)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lots of updates and a couple shout outs from the field added tuesday.

This photo was taken from aboard a big green helicopter this morning. The winds were a bit squirly this morning as you can see from the picture. It may have gotten better as the day went on. If I hear news from Mark soon I'll let you know.

Picture of a group returning to 14 camp from just a few hundred feet above camp.

Leighan, Dusty, Steve and Gio got turned around while they were trying to move to 17K today. Like I have said before. The move from 14 to 17 is a hard one! One of the hardest days of the expedition. In some ways a summit attempt is like a carry in that you get to return to an already setup camp, hopefully with full pots of water waiting. That move day needs to be good. Because you have to have good enough weather and plenty of energy reserve to be able to build a camp from scratch. This is why guides like to have that extra little margin built into the day. If just barely getting to camp is all they have time, energy and weather for then they don't have any room for error... I just talked to Leighan a few minutes ago and she is going to hopefully make the move tomorrow. It looks like the weather might be good tomorrow.

Steve sends love to Eva. Helan, Welcome to AK and the Arctic circle.
Gio misses Wendy, Laura and Angela and is looking forward to seeing you soon.

Mike called a bit ago. His crew made it to 14 camp today. They are stoked!! When he called they were building camp and melting water. Last season I figured out how much water a Denali guide melts per expedition and posted it on the blog. I can't remember how much it is, but it's a lot.

Climbers heading up Squirrel Hill.

They got stuck behind another slower group today heading up Squirrel Hill, but were able to pass them somewhere in the Polo Field. *In some ways this blog is written like a story. I talk about certain sections of the route in detail from time to time so unfortunately if you want to find out more detail u might need to read back a ways.

Anyway, Mike said that his group is doing great! They have a good pace. He said they made it to their cache at 16.5K yesterday in 4 hours. That is great time.

He said he couldn't really tell how it was up high. They were getting orographic snow showers up there which doesn't mean anything as far as the weather goes. There is definitely a bit of a breeze I heard. We can often deal with a breeze, if that's all it is.

8:30 Mark Postle just called in while I was writing this entry. They made it to between the Japanese weather station and the football field. They encountered some wind up on the ridge above Denali Pass. They hunkered down for an hour to an hour and a half and then started up again. Today was one of those not ideal days to be pushing it on the upper mountain. We can push it a little bit on the lower mountain with regards to weather, but NOT on the upper mountain. It's better to turn around and come down safely than to take any unnecessary risks for the sake of the summit every time. NO mountain is worth dieing for or losing digits for.

Mark and the rest of his crew are heading down tomorrow. The earliest we would see them is Wednesday mid morning. They all did a great job up there. They have been up there for over 20 days and still have a long trip out. Every single person on this expedition has done amazingly well. The folks that came down from the mountain before the rest of their teammates also did a great job and had an incredible experience.

You must all keep in mind that if you stand on the summit, it is literally only for a few minutes. And you are on the mountain for a few weeks. You learn more in all the time it takes trying to get up to and down from any summit that you ever will on the top and the views and the tales are equally as good.



I talked to Mark late last night. He thought the weather was looking a little better. He wanted to go "stick his nose in it". It looked a little windy earlier, but it looks better now. He was hoping for a late launch regardless. I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

realtime pictures from Postle's expedition

Here's some pictures with no commentary from Postle's Expedition. One of Mark's climbers came out early so he could make his flight and get back to work. He gave me the few pics that he took.

Kahiltna Pass

This picture was taken last year by Mike Janes I believe. The low point in the skyline is Kahiltna Pass. This is the 9,800K camp zone. The West Buttress Route takes a left just before the pass and the rocky buttress in the photo. 11K camp is about an hour up hill from where you take that right hand turn.

Brian McCulough, Todd Passey, Alex Stroud, Ken Honig and Carlos called in from the Kahiltna Pass area during their carry today. He said all was well and that the weather is good. They were heading back to 7,800' camp, bottom of Ski Hill.

Photo: Colby leading a pitch on the Cassin. Picture taken by Mike Wood.

Brian saw AMS guides Pat Ormond and Elliot Gaddy cruising up the N.E Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier on their way to climb the Cassin Ridge on Denali on a personal trip.

Tork and the traversers made it in and Seth and the Summit For Someone crew made it out.

More photos soon.



Photo of 11K looking up toward the Washburn wall, Named by AMS guide Greg Collins, Tom Walters and Phil Powers. You can see the trail heading out of camp. This is Motorcycle Hill. At the top of the hill you go right and climb Squirrel Hill, that takes you to the Polo field, which leads to Windy Corner.

Photo of a cache hole at what looks to me to be 11K. We need to burry caches, especially ones that have food in them, fairly deep to keep the ravens out of them.

Mike Janes called in from 13.5K. They had just arrived at their cache site. They are probably most of the way back to 11 camp right now. He said his whole crew is doing really well. It is sunny and warm where they are/were but it looks like it is windier up high. Squirrel hill was like a sidewalk today. Weather permitting they will move up to 14K tomorrow.

Lhawang from AMS Mountain Link arrived at 14 yesterday. They retrieved their cache this morning and now have all of their supplies in camp. They will most likely be carrying to the 16 ridge tomorrow.

Arches like this get built during rest days after walls are already beefed up. It is good to keep the blood pumping during rest days.

Leighan is still in camp at 14K and is going to wait for the winds to die down a bit before she moves up to high camp.

Today is Postle's scheduled rest day at 17K.

That's all for now.
Tom Torkelson (and Ceci), pictured below, on a Denali Expedition with Mike Janes in 2008.

Tork plans on flying out in a bit to start the 2009 Denali Traverse Expedition.