Saturday, July 25, 2009

They Made it!

Melis, Leighan, and Larry's mountaineering course are eating burgers at the West Rib Pub. They all had smiles on their faces. It's not everyday that you have an excuse to do nothing but hang out in a vast mountain range and no one can do anything about it. All's well that ends well.

Paul Launched

There's another window and Paul Roderick, owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi just launched. If the window stays open, they should be back at 6pm. Fingers crossed.


There was a window, planes almost launched, but it closed up. Standing by for another window.

Snow Cave

Nothing beats a cave for bomb proof improvised shelter.
Just got off the phone with Melis. They have a great runway built and Larry was teaching a snow cave class. They have plenty of fuel and food and spirits were high. There are a lot worse places to be stuck than the beautiful Eldridge Glacier, like Newark, NJ airport! As of now the weather is improving, but it is still socked in the mountains. I talked to someone in Palmer and they said it was clear down there which is where most of our weather comes from. Hopefully the good weather is pushing the bad out and they will get picked up soon. We have orange juice, watermelon and cookies waiting for them.
Melis, Leighan, Larry, and their Mountaineering Course studentsv are still waiting for weather to improve for their pick up on the Eldridge Glacier. Melis called a couple times yesterday saying it was bluebird in the Eldridge. Unfortunately, it was snowing in between Talkeetna and the Eldridge and they couldn't get picked up. We were able to get AMS' intern Dusty into the Ruth Gorge yesterday where he is busy for the next few days painting the Don Sheldon Mountain House. The day is still young and the weather will likely change so we are hoping Melis' crew will get out. For the most up to date flying conditions I call Talkeetna Air Taxi at 907-733-2218. I hear planes flying already!
Colby Coombs

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Snowball Fights

called in with a report from the 12-day Mountaineering Course on the Eldridge Glacier. The are having snowball fights! They are getting fresh snow after having rain. They've been having a great time, learning how to build snow shelters, doing some rock climbing. Today they hope to do some ice climbing. She said to let the folks in Florida know that their girl rocks and is having a great time!

The forecast says it's going to keep raining or snowing on them for a while, they are keeping warm and dry and enjoying the beautiful place they are in. There is a chance they will get weathered in beyond their planned fly-out date, we'll keep you posted in case travel plans need to be adjusted. They have tons of food and fuel and could stay out there for a long time if need be. The instructors, Melis, Larry and Leighan, are all experienced Denali guides, in addition to being experienced instructors, and are used to waiting out the weather; they've had lots of practice! They'll keep the group climbing and learning as long as they are out there. The Alaska Range is such a beautiful, magical place, so they'll use any extra time to their advantage.

Here is a link to the weather forecast: They are "west of the Parks Highway".

They plan to move camp tomorrow, which is part of their curriculum. They learn to pack efficiently, how to balance out the weight for comfort and safety, how much gear to put in their sled, etc. They'll be roped up to each other and learn how to set up the rope for their packs and sleds to be linked into the safety system. They learned these basics early on in the course and have been practicing them since before they left AMS Headquarters in Talkeetna. Practice makes perfect!
Cheers from rainy Talkeetna,

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

12 Day Mountaineering Course

Melis called this morning. Mountaineering courses don't generally call in that often since they are super busy, but she had cell reception INSIDE her tent. She just said that the weather was really nice and they were all about to rope up and head out.

Here are several pictures from from some past mountaineering courses as well as Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue seminars. Enjoy the pictures.


Monday, July 13, 2009

July Mountaineering Course

Melis, Larry & Leighan and their students Torin, Staci, Eric, Tom, Julia S., Julia B., Broc, and Mike are headed for the Eldridge Glacier in the Alaska Range for 12 days of much cooler weather! They packed today as the thermometer hit nearly 80 F in the shade.

They had a productive day and had time for some fixed line ascension with their climbing harnesses and glacier-rigged "racks", ready for classes in the field. They'll be setting up camp tonight and enjoying a hot meal. Here are some photos as they were getting ready to board the Otter. They're already having a good time! Click on the photos if you'd like a larger view.

Melis said they'll try to call in fairly often. Courses don't usually check in much, they are focused and busy. But Melis is famous for her long messages from her climbers on expedtions, so we figure we'll get more updates than normal. We'll post any news here! Watch for "Melis".
Cheers from sunny Talkeetna!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back in Talkeetna

Rob, Forest, Jeremiah, Dean, Marcio, Rex, Yury and Ed are back safely in hot and sunny Talkeetna. They are AMS' final Denali team for this year. We are so happy to have them back safe and sound. They are back in time to enjoy Talkeetna's Moose Dropping Festival, and will be participating in the festival's 5 K running race - thanks to Ed for motivating everyone...!



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Expedition Update

Rob called from 11,000 feet this morning. They are resting there until midnight tonight in order to travel over the Kahiltna Glacier. They should be in Base Camp by tomorrow morning, and will return to Talkeetna shortly after that, if flights are available. There is a weather front with low clouds on the North side of the Alaska Range, so keep your fingers crossed for good flying weather. The forecast looks promising!

Wilderness First Aid Class & update

The Wilderness First Aid class being taught by Deb Ajango of SafetyEd is in full swing today. This youth group is from Overland Summers, enjoying an amazing, varied program in Alaska. After several days of backpacking, they have two days of Wilderness First Aid here at AMS in Talkeetna, then we'll see them again in a week or so for ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier. Here are some pictures of them learning to properly clean a wound, using pig to study the layers of skin, fascia, muscle and bone. They are also learning splinting techniques today. One of our interns from APU, Dusty Eroh, is assisting Deb with instruction.

We are still waiting to find out when Rob, Forest, Dean, Rex, Jeremiah, Yury, Ed and Marcio will be back to Base Camp. We are guessing it will be tomorrow morning. The team will come back to AMS and enjoy some watermelon and other snacks while they unpack their gear. Usually the teams will get together for a farewell dinner the evening of their return. After a good night (or two) of rest here in Talkeetna, they'll head back to Anchorage for flights home. We'll keep you posted here as soon as we have any clues. We'll be helping them with lodging in Talkeetna and shuttles to Anchorage. If you are helping a climber with flight arrangements, wait to make any changes until you've talked with them, as some climbers prefer to enjoy their extra time in Alaska as a bonus, and it really helps their transition home.

Cheers from sunny Talkeetna,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smoke & Haze

We've had some questions about the smoke and haze around here. There are usually wildfires in Alaska in the summer, especially if it has been warm and dry.

Here's an excerpt from a press release from National Park Service:

"Denali National Park and Preserve Fire Update

Fire activity on fires burning in or near Denali National Park and Preserve has increased due to the recent warm, dry weather. Wind direction shifts have moved smoke into the park, creating hazy conditions. The Bear Creek Fire, located approximately 25 miles north of Kantishna along Bear Creek is the fire one burning in the park. It was mapped at 23,591 acres on July 3, and it is moving moderately to the south due to the north winds...

One of the other large fires burning in the area is the Zitziana Fire, located north of Wein Lake, approximately 25 miles north of the park boundary. It grew rapidly over the weekend, doubling in size. It is currently mapped at 8,800 acres...

Additional information, including maps, for these and other Alaska fires can be found on the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center website at ...

These two fires were started by lightning in mid-June... There is no immediate threat to any other park structures, or to park developed areas..." (one historic cabin is being protected)

The wind has spread the smoke as far south as Anchorage, and there are other fires around the state. The view of the mountains was hampered by the smoke yesterday, but the sunset last night was amazing, with the sun setting as a huge orange ball right behind Mt. Hunter. I got a photo, I'll try to post it later.
Webcam looking to the north from Talkeetna:
Webcam looking to the south from Wonder Lake:


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reached the Summit!

Rob called from the summit at 8 pm - clear and no wind, he was wearing a baseball cap and R1 Hoody. Everyone is doing well and they are psyched. A job well done by all. Their descent will be long, but familiar terrain and the alpen glow will be beautiful coming down Denali Pass. This Brian Okonek photo captures the feeling of the moment.

Making Progress

Rob & Forest called from 18,800 feet to say they have good weather and the team is making progress toward the summit. They are seeing the beautiful rocks that jut out along the way.
The Mountain is mostly a pluton of granite, lava that built up under the surface of the earth. After it solidified, it got pushed up as the Pacific Plate goes crunching under the North American Plate. Voila', the Alaska Range and the highest point in North America! As it got pushed up, it took layers of rock with it, including ocean sediment that now sits way up there overlooking the rest of the continent.
This pic is from Tom Torkelson's expedition earlier this season. Rob's team is above here, also called the Weather Station. They are about 600 feet above Denali Pass and moving up. There is another team up there enjoying this awesome day with them.
Rob says it is "splitter" up there! That's climber-speak for "awesome", a bluebird day! They are not affected by the haze and the wind has calmed. It's about 85 degrees F here in town!
He said they'll likely call Colby late tonight with an update.
I passed everyone's greetings along!


Morning Update - July 7

Rob called in this morning around 9:30. His team is gearing up for a summit attempt. There is still "weather" in the air with signs of moderate winds up high. He is going to "stick his nose in it" and decide whether conditions are good enough to go all the way. Yesterday it was "nuclear" up there, so they will test it out and see if things are better today. It sounds like the smoke and haze that we're seeing down low is not bothering them up high at all.
It's a hot, sunny day in Talkeetna.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Resting at 17,200'

Rob called in this morning. The team is "sitting in a little storm" at high camp. The wind is blowing slightly and they are in a cloud, so the visibility is low. Not to worry, that is rather standard procedure for high camp and they are warm and relaxed in their tents.

I was once at high camp with wind gusts of 65 mph, we had great walls which helped to make it very warm in our tents, it felt like we need to have a nap. We would get all bundled up in our huge expedition parkas and over pants to go outside and walk around for fresh air, wall building, views, and to measure the wind speed. It was a fun time and I was never cold. They are all well and I am sure they are appreciating the rest today.

They have plenty of food and fuel and gear up there. Rob expects they will be able to "go for it" tomorrow.

Here's hoping for fabulous weather!
NPS Photo showing the camps on the West Buttress.

The 17,200' High Camp is on the left level glaciated area on the photo.

Have a great day!

Publish Post

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Team at 17,200'

Rob, Forest, Jeremiah, Dean, Marcio, Rex, Yury and Ed moved to high camp today and are settled into their camp and having dinner now. They had a long day and are happy to be there. They will most likely rest at the 17,200' camp tomorrow. If the weather holds I think they will try for the top on July 7th.

If they do indeed sleep in and rest up tomorrow July 6th., activities at high camp include eating as much as one can, reading, playing cards, and walking around to various 'secret' spots and overlooks. Once when I was up there, I walked around to a big ice sheet north of camp. I found some old canvas tents patially incased in the snow, it seemed like it could have been from the early 1950's. There is lots to see and do if one can get out and about.

Good Night,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mountain Update

Rob, Forest, Jeremiah, Dean, Marcio, Rex, Yury and Ed are resting at the 14,200' camp today, July 4th. They will be eating and drinking as much as they can in anticipation for their move to 17,200', high camp, possilbly tomorrow. I am sure they are celebrating the 4th of July with style today.
AMS guide, Christian March setting up stoves a snow kitchen on Denali. The team has a kitchen very similar to this one and is spending a fair bit of time in there today!

This is an AMS camp at the 14,200' camp, Rob's team has the same tents and in the right foreground one can see the corner of the kitchen tent. Mt. Foraker at 17,400' dominats the view, fabulous.

Photo: Tom Torkelson

Yesterday, July 3rd,
the team make a carry of their extra food, fuel, and gear up the fixed lines on the head wall between 14,200 and 16,200 feet. This is a hard working, big, fun day!

Climbers nearing the base of the fixed lines you can just see the 14,200'-camp below them. Photo taken on AMS' May 2009 Denali Expedition.

AMS team, at the base of the fixed lines, 15,500'.

AMS climber at the top of the fixed lines, 16,200'. Look at Mt. Foraker in the background compared to the view of it from the 14,200' camp. They are getting up pretty high now, very exciting indeed.

AMS team, organizing items and readying the shovels for their cache at 16,200' before heading back down the fixed lines.

All above Photos: Tom Torkelson, AMS Guide

All the best,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Return to Talkeetna

Mr. Nubo Huang and AMS guides, Colby Coombs, Josh Hoeschen, and Nick D'Alessio are safely back in Talkeetna. They are showering, having a snack, and soon will be sleeping after their journey on Denali. It is a beautiful summer day in Talkeetna and all is very well.

- Caitlin

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Word from 14 camp

Rob Gowler called with messages from the West Buttress team!

From Rex - "To Family & Friends, doing well, missing you all."
From Jeremiah - "To Family & Friends, doing well, missing you all."
From Dean - "Mom & Dad, thanks for the birthday card, all is well, loving life. Sherry & Tina, I miss you, looking forward to seeing you on the 31st. 7 mile bridge is required. Marcos, 'Weather is here, Wish you were beautiful.'" (I've heard eyewitnesses say Dean's been kicked back, enjoying a puff of cigar at each camp.)
From Marcio - "Hi everybody in Brazil! Hope all is well. Feeling well. Special kiss to Alexandra, I love you, Marcio."
From Forest - "Hello to all Family & Friends, all good here!"
From Ed, Yury & everyone - "Enjoying the -20F in July!"

The phone cut out before we could finish, so I'll send all your messages and blog comments if he calls back later. I think I was able to get a quick hello in to Dean from Andrea, and I was just about to give Rob the message for Marcio about the Brazil Cup results!

Early this morning the team finished their back carry to retrive their cached items at Windy Corner. They're resting and eating at the 14,200 foot camp now. Today they are going to review some the procedures of traveling with fixed line protection, which they will use in the next several days as they travel up the "headwall" to the 16,200' ridge.

~J and Caitlin

Summit Report

Colby Coombs called from 17,200 feet just a few minutes ago. He, Josh Hoeshen and Nubo Huang were on the summit last night at 8 pm, 20,320 feet above sea level on a beautiful, clear night.

It was a very long summit day and they have been resting all morning, which is normal for all teams. They will move down to 14,200 feet later today, then repack and wait for conditions to descend. Once they have had some rest they will determine how fast they want to move down. The earliest they would be back to Talkeetna would be sometime on Friday or Saturday morning. They are enjoying perfect weather, it is "splitter" up there, as Rob would say.

Rob, Forest, Jeremiah, Dean, Marcio, Rex, Yury and Ed back carried today to pick up their items at the Windy Corner area. Please excues our previous (now deleted) post that they were carrying to 16,200' today, they should be doing that in the next few days!

I just spoke with one of the NPS Mountaineering Rangers who said it is very quiet in the mountains, with not many people up there right now. Those few that are up there are enjoying the beautiful day!

We're getting projects done here at Headquarters, getting ready for the Mountaineering Courses coming up July 13, August 3, August 10, September 7 and September 14.
The sun is out, it will be a good day for a swim!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Update from 14,000 feet

Rob just called to say that he just rolled in to 14-camp with Forest, Jeremiah, Dean, Marcio, Rex, Yury and Ed. He said every one is doing well and they plan to back-carry tomorrow, then make a carry up the following day. He said it was a very warm day. Nick had snow melted and ready for them, I'll bet they were ready for Tang or lemonade.
Rex sends a shout out to his people - he saw the jet overhead as they were rounding Windy Corner, and figured it was inbound to Fairbanks...
Rob will pass greetings to Jeremiah from his girls...

Nick is keeping the home fires burning at the 14,200' camp. The weather is beautiful, almost too warm, and "not a breath of wind" up high. Rob says it "looks perfect up there".

We're expecting a little rain here, thunder is rolling in closer and the eastern sky is dark. Rob could see the thunderheads below them. We've been getting afternoon thundershowers on these hot days. The Mountain Forecast is looking good.

Caitlin will likely make a post later tonight after Colby checks in.

July 1st

Mike Hamill, Greg Vernovage, Porter Draper, Leslie Herje, Fergal O'Donnell, Manev Luthra and Keith Bronstein are all back in Talkeetna. They are enjoying the slow pace of Talkeetna and eating watermelon in the shade. A great way to transition back to the "real" world and urban life. It's hot and sunny in Talkeetna!

We are hoping to get updates from Rob and Colby's teams later today. The weather looks good from here, so if the wind is cooperating they'll both be having good days to make a move.

More when we get updates...