Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wounded Warriors Fly

The AMS Wounded Warriors Denali Prep Team landed at the Pika Glacier this afternoon. They spend the day "on hold", which means: spending most of the day in their "action suits" and boots, tying knots, practicing fixed line ascension, eating lunch (in sneakers), and playing the occasional match of ping pong.

Talkeetna local icon and grade school friend of one team member, Arthur Mannix came by to swap stories. I have photos to post if I can overcome a small technical hurdle.

This group of wounded veterans is getting out there to learn and practice the skills they need for attempting Denaliin 2011. Some of these vets are amputees, but you'd never know it around here. Part of this team includes surgeons and a prosthetics engineer who are learning more about the needs of the amputees in order to help facilitate their activities for resuming their lives after becoming wounded, which includes their goal of climbing Denali next year. It is a fantastic project for all involved. This is our second Wounded Warriors group. One of them has got us saying "Go Navy".

No word from AMS Guide Melis Coady yet today. She may call late tonight; they may be on night schedule. Hopefully they got their window to make their attempt!

Tom Bol - National Geographic photographer and instructor for our August 16-21 Photography Workshop - was here today, doing advance prep for the course. I wish I could go along with them; it will be awesome! He's great! Super fun, laid back... any photographers out there, or wannabes?
Here is the description: Denali Photo Workshop
~Blogger Julia

Gowler Report

AMS Guide Rob Gowler called in from 14,200' after his team had a semi-rest day back carrying from 14,200'. His plan was to carry to 16,200' today. Everyone on his team is doing great. AMS Guide Melis Coady and her team is at 17,200' positioned for a summit day.
Standing by, Colby

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's Beerthirty at AMS

While the weather on the Mountain is still lovely it has become rainy and cloudy here. This prevented the Wounded Warrior Denali Challenge/Prep Course from flying in today. As a consolation prize they'll be dining on a 28 pound freshly caught king salmon this evening.

What Guides Do on Their Days Off...

AMS Guide Tim Hewette (pointing) is thinking about caribou hunting. AMS Guide Joe McBrayer practices hunting skills on AMS guide Alex Stroud. Tim and Joe are headed to the Brooks Range for an extended hunting trip for caribou. They have their trusty subaru and are ready to's about a 500 mile drive to the happy hunting ground, then they hike and pack raft.

Phil Ershler and team at 14K camp

AMS/IMG Guide Phil Ershler phoned in about his team " We are at 14,000’ – all’s well – weather is good.

The plan is to carry to high camp tomorrow. We are right on schedule.

I will check back in a couple of days."

Denali Prep Course - Military Style

"Denali Challenge" is a group of military men taking a Denali Prep Course for the next 12 days. They are going to an area called, Little Switzerland on the Pika Glacier where they'll learn the skills necessary to travel safely in glaciated areas as well as have a lot of fun!And this photo was taken before they went to the Mountain Shop...
Precision packing skills shown by David Olson with approval from Butterball...apparently there was some beef jerky in the mix.
The group enjoys an easy lunch, including some really yummy watermelon, before they fly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Pretty Damn Hot Up Here"

The 14,200 foot base camp on Denali becomes an international city during climbing season. That's Mount Hunter (14,500ft) in the background.

The Gowler Report:

Rob Gowler just called in from the 14,000 foot camp where the team just arrived. It is a blue bird day up there but hot. Everybody is "super good." They will rest tomorrow and maybe move gear up higher.

Vernovage/D'Alesio's Team Czech along with Phil Ershler's team should be pulling into 14K camp today or tomorrow....perhaps they will phone in for a direct report.

Melis' team left 14K at 8:00 am this morning and should be pulling into high camp right about now.

Down here at 370 foot AMS base camp: the sun is shining and things are drying out. Butterball is lazing in the warm grass and I'm thinking about a cold beer.

Blogger Laura

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No News is Good News

Butterball waits on the dock while her best friend and AMS office worker, Laura, completes her swim. Butterball did do the run and bike.
Vern (canoe safety) Chris (TAT employee), Laura (AMS), Tim (bartender at the Fairview and owner of TKA Taxi), Leighan (AMS guide), and Ian (AMS owner's nephew) pose for a soggy, cold photo.

It's been a quiet, rainy day in Talkeetna. We haven't heard from anybody on the mountain but that is not unusual. In the meantime some of the AMS staff participated in a mini-triathlon today. Air temperature was about 50 degrees and the water temperature wasn't much higher; turn out was less than originally expected. That did not deter five hardy people from doing a three mile run, short swim and three mile bike. Leighan took first in the run but bowed out of the rest due to fighting a cold. Tim took first place overall. There were three doggie competitors: Kayla, Butterball and Rosie. Butterball won the canine division.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gowler Update

Rob's team carried to the corner in a white out, traveled by braille. Text message: "Crew did awesome! They are stoked."
Washburn's Thumb on the West Buttress photographed by Guide Alex Stroud

Melis Coady's
team is at 14,000 feet today. Yesterday they made a carry to Washburn's Thumb (16,800.) They are hoping to move to high camp tomorrow (17,200.) The weather has been windy in the morning but clearing in the afternoon.

PJs Have Landed

Forest and the PJs are back in the Green Zone. Showers, laundry, meat, more meat and libation are on the day's schedule.

Gowler Report

Rob called in. He's at 11,000' and his team back carried yesterday and are carrying to Windy Corner today. Greg Vernovage and Phil Ershler's teams are also at 11,000' so there's a family atmosphere going on. He reported plenty of fuel reserves at 11,000' for Leighan's expedition flying in on July 4th. AMS expeditions help each other out by caching extra food and fuel for the next team. It saves weight and provides a cushion if the weather prevents forward progress.
Standing by, Colby

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quiet Day in T-Town

Guides are here unpacking and wrapping up from expeditions, enjoying some fine weather after a little rain this morning. A huge salmon appeared for dinner last night (thanks to the King Slayer, Mike Hamill) and was too large to fit on the grill.

Melis & Eben's team is camped at 14,200 feet, they made a back-carry yesterday and were thinking about doing a carry up to 16,200 feet today. They were debating on taking a rest day. If not today, then they'll rest tomorrow before making the move up to 17,200 feet the following day. Sounds like good weather up high!

Rob, Mike & Beth are having a good time up at 11,000 feet. The team is strong and moving well.

Meanwhile, KTNA Talkeetna Community Radio (our next door neighbors) is hosting a party next door, with live music - it's the One Day Fundraiser! See you there!
Check out KTNA online!
~Blogger Julia

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PJs like it on top!

Forrest just called from 17,200'. He and the PJ's reached the summit at 4 pm today. Everyone is doing well. They are planning to be at Base Camp Saturday. I love the PJ's.

Forest At 17

Forest & the PJs texted us from High Camp "Safe at 17". They plan to make a summit attempt today if the weather permits. We'll post any updates!

Advanced Course Launched & Base Camp update

Greg Runyan and the June Advanced Mountaineering Course launched for the Pika Glacier yesterday. They have a cool game plan to explore some remote corners and climb up into some rarely-explored territory. They said they plan to be busy and we're not likely to hear much from them. Game on! (photo coming later today)

Two of our teams are at Base Camp waiting for their ride out, Tim Hewette, Alex Stroud & their West Buttress team, and Todd Passey, Joey McBrayer and their West Buttress team. It is raining and foggy there this morning, but there is a swath of blue sky out there. We'll remain hopeful; the watermelon will be ready whenever they get here.

THEY'RE HERE!! Both teams are back, taking showers, naps, and thinking about what to have for dinner. We have partly cloudy skies and lots of sun here in T-town!

Cheers from Talkeetna,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Second News Flash from the Summit!!

5:45 pm: Tim Hewette called in from the summit. He along with Gary, Patrick and Geoff were contemplating the view from 20,320 feet.

6:20 pm: Alex Stroud with Olga and Vadims have just joined Tim and the rest of the team. They are now standing on the summit and having lunch! The clouds cleared and they can see bogs and kettle ponds in the distance.

They will descend to the 17,200 foot camp this evening.

Group to the Airport

Guide Greg Vernovage, Peter, Milos, Martin, Guide Nick D'Alessio and Petr. Doggie Butterball is not going with them.


Adam Doti from Todd Passey/Joey McBrayer's team just called from the summit. He said, "The view is beautiful...I have to hang up now, my fingers are cold." Lillian made it, too!

Tim Hewette's/Alex Stroud's team is 25 minutes below them and on their way up.

The Czechs Have Arrived

Our next West Buttress expedition is scheduled to fly out this afternoon. Here's some pics of them at the Denali Skills Workshop yesterday. Their guides are Greg Vernovage and Nick D'Alessio.

Leighan's 12 Day Mountaineering Course Returns

Gear Sorting Time
Gordon shows off his new hairdo!
Gordon and Carlton do their last bit of paperwork...course evaluations
Leighan's checks her clipboard for rental returns
Some of stinky gang just back from the airport.

Phil Erschler's Team Gets Ready

Lead Guide Phil Erschler on far right (making a funny face) and Assistant Guide Max Bunce (red shirt) with the team. They had their National Park Service briefing today and they fly tomorrow, weather permitting.
A little practice before they take off...hope they are insulated jeans!

Afternoon Update

Forest and the PJ's carried to 16,200 yesterday. Today they are resting at 14,200 and tomorrow they are moving to 17,200. It was windy yesterday but today it is a nice day; partly cloudy. They did want to let the world know that they are out of bourbon.

Forest thinks that Todd Passey and Joe McBrayer's team is on their way to the summit today!

Gowler/Janes/Cleary team are at Ski Hill (7,900 feet)

Hal and John are back where the air is thick and the beer is cold...they spent a few extra days at 17,000 feet for their summit attempt but the winds did not cooperate. They had a great time.

Mid Morning Update

Melis called in from 13,000 feet where they just finished a carry. They'll head back down to 11,000 feet, sleep there and then hope to move up to 14,000 feet tomorrow. A quote from a team member: I'm totally fired up! (maybe strip cribbage before expeditions is a good idea.) Kriss and David are celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary and loving every minute of it.

Melis said the weather up high looks really nice and it is a possible summit day. That would be Hewette/Stroud and Passey/McBrayer teams who are at high camp (17,000)

Forest and the PJ team are at 14,000 foot camp, potentially moving up higher on the mountain today. They say, "It's Cold."

Morning Update

Russell Hunter is at the 7,200 foot Kahiltna base camp with John and Hal. They should be first on the list to fly out this morning. They've been up there awhile and I'm sure they looking to be back in the green zone!

Rob Gowler's team flew in to base camp yesterday evening and the report from Rob is, "conditions are splitter, glacier freezing and in good shape." Splitter means perfect.

Monday, June 21, 2010

They're Off!

A parting shot of Rich, Rod, Steve, Beth (Intern), Andy, Ryoko and Caleb before they head to the airport. Guides Rob and Mike decided not to go....just kidding! They were attending to some last minute packing. The weather is fantastic. It will be a beautiful flight into the Range.

Rob, Mike and Beth's Team Gets Ready

Our Intern Beth Cleary goes over gear with Andy.
Lead guide, Rob Gowler and Rich...those are some big boots to fill!
Steve and guide Mike Janes go over the finer points of stuff sacks.
Ryoko and Rod packing lunches.

Happy Solstice

The sun not yet setting behind the Alaska Range - 11:30 pm, June 20

It is the longest day of the year....or the shortest night. And, it is gorgeous. After not seeing the mountains for over a week it sure was nice to see the Great One last night. Here at the AMS headquarters we've got gear checking for a West Buttress trip that departs this afternoon, a Denali Skills Workshop for a group of Czechs and guides prepping for an Advanced Mountaineering Course starting on Wednesday. It's busy!
Blogger Laura

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Evening Update

Tim Hewette/Alex Stroud's team just got into the 17,000-foot camp. All are well.

This Just In....

As of 2:00 pm: Melis' team are at the 9,600 foot camp. They we're all sleeping...resting up for a 11:00 PM move up the mountain. All are strong and doing well. It is sunny and clear!!!
Hamill's team were at 9,600 feet and on their way down. They should be at base camp later tonight.

12 Day Mountaineering Course Update

Leighan's 12-Day course folks called in this morning. They wish all their Dads a collective, Happy Father's Day...(especially Monte)

They have been having slushy snow and "moving camp to dramatic places." Since they were reunited with two of their food bags (not sure where they went,) they have been eating well. They are scheduled to fly out on June 22nd, weather permitting.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Fathers' Day!

Greetings to all dads!!
Play in the mud! Have fun!
Thanks Dad!

Late night flights

The weather improved enough last night that the air taxis were able to work like mad to get all sorts of people out of Base Camp and Melis & Eben's group made it in!
Greg Collins, Dan Corn + Team, and Josh Hoeshen Aaron Mainer + Team - back safe & sound!
Over 100 people were at Base Camp waiting to fly out. Kirby got back on the last flight out, with Tim & Dave. Russell stayed up high with Hal & John who decided to extend their climb. We'll keep you posted when we hear from them. This morning they called to tell us they are moving to High Camp and hope to make a summit bid the next day. We'll see if the weather cooperates.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mountain Time + update

Mike Hamill, Larry Holmgren, Justin Dickens and their team moved to 14-camp last night, late. Everyone is doing well!

Todd Passey & Joey McBrayer's team are doing a back-carry today from 14,200 down to get a cache; everyone is doing great! Melis got to talk to Joey (her husband). They are hoping to see each other up there on the route.

Tim Hewette & Alex Stroud called in this afternoon to say that they had gone up the fixed lines to cache at 16,200 feet today. They will rest tomorrow, then, if the weather is good and they are feeling well they will move to High Camp the next day. They said they are doing really well.

The upper part of the mountain was visible from town for a while late last night (rumor has it), and climbing was good up there, but still no flying here. There is optimism in the air.
~Blogger Julia

Hang Day 4

Well it's day 4 for some. Melis & Eben's team have been very creative at using their Talkeetna Time. Yesterday they worked on rope skills, did a stove clinic (which was very in-depth and lasted much longer than I expected!), enjoyed lunch at a local eatery, went for a walk, tossed the football, watched movies at the AMS Mountain Shop and enjoyed juicy hamburgers and freshly baked french fries on the deck (during a spell of no rain). Later that evening, though, we can't take responsibility for their actions. Rumor has it some team members were sighted at the Fairview Inn (famous watering hole, it was "Hip Hop Night"). There are rumors of a cribbage game and a "tent simulation" in the AMS kitchen. Not sure who won this game of strip poker...
Correction: it was cribbage.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More June 17th

Sounds like folks on the Mountain have good conditions, they are moving and on schedule.

Mike Hamill's team with Larry Holmgren & Justin Dickens will be moving to 14-camp tomorrow. Todd Passey & Joey McBrayer's team is moving up to 14 today.
The word is that the conditions are "never bad" but they have had some gusts of wind up to 20-30 miles per hour. Generally, they say it is wet, a bit on the warm side, but the Kahiltna Glacier is in great shape.

Forest just called in with the PJs, they are awesome and cruising along! They are at 11,000 feet, and still thinking about single carries. Sounds like they can handle it.

Melis Coady & Eben Reckord are out for a nature walk with their team. They had a stove clinic today and Melis taught cooking lessons yesterday. So far, no flights back and forth to Base Camp for a couple of days. Sounds like there are about 60-70 people on either end waiting to fly - the famous "Talkeetna Hang". From what we've heard, everyone at Base Camp is doing well, staying entertained and eating plenty. Down here, we eat, stay active (alternating with naps) and ready for action if the air taxi calls. They still have the climbing wall to play on.

As soon as the weather clears, it's going to be mighty busy around here. Meanwhile, we've been getting projects done. Caitlin & Lisa planted some strawberry and raspberry plants in the garden yesterday along with nasturtiums. Birdwatchers have been enjoying listening to the fledglings hidden in the leafy forest, squawking, peeping and otherwise making a rucus while they demand food from their parents.
~Blogger Julia

June 17th

Forest Wagner and the PJ's rolled in to 11K last night. They are all doing well. This is a small strong crew made up of military pararescue personel. They have been able to move faster and lighter than most Denali expeditions. So far they have been able to single carry all the way to 11K.

Tim Hewette and team arrived at 14K yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Denali 2010 ping pong tournament

Lieghan, Matt and Dusty checked in from the Pika this evening. Recent activities have included "rock scrambling, lowering into a crevasse, and rappelling down exit pass in snowy whiteout to check it out."

Kirby Senden and crew are at fourteen camp with snowy windy weather. They are waiting for good weather so they can move up and in the mean time are constructing an igloo.

Josh Hoeschen is heading down sometime later today or tomorrow. He says "the weather in the entire range is like the inside of a ping pong ball right now."

Greg and Dan's team are sitting in base camp hoping to fly out soon.

Melis and Eban are hanging out in town with their group still hoping to fly in. They spent the day hiking then doing some yard work at Melis's house. When asked exactly what kind of yard work they were doing the response was "everything!"

Pat and Lisa were all packed and ready to go home but are now all packed and ready to head back up onto Denali. A last minute trip came up and they are very excited to take it on.
~Blogger Beth

Kentucky PJ's

Forest and the Para-rescue team are at the bottom of Ski Hill. They are planning on moving to 11K tomorrow. It is on the verge of raining in there now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hoeschen's team summits

Josh just called in from the top of Denali Pass. His crew summitted this afternoon. They'll be back at highcamp in another hour and a half. Everyone was doing really well and is in great spirits! They will begin their descent tomorrow. Weather depending they could be out as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.

Another Team Packing Lunches

Variety is the spice of life especially on the upper mountain. M&Ms and pepperoni strike Doug's fancy.
The more you eat, the more you have to carry....Joe weighs his food
Kriss and Dave like the selections. They have matching stuff sacks so I hope they don't argue over whose candy bars are whose.
Bartering is a way a life above 14,000 feet. Choose wisely.

Kirby Senden Update

Kirby's team just called in. They're good and hanging at 14,000 feet. Yesterday they walked to Washburn's Thumb at 16,800 feet for a little leg stretching....and gear hauling.

PJ Team About to Launch!

Guide Forest Wagner and the PJ team just before they head to the airport to fly on for their expedition. Have fun, guys.

Team PJs Packing for their Expedition

Packing for any trip is difficult but for Denali it raises the bar. Going over each clothing layering system, gloves, hats, socks, etc. can take all day. Then, getting into your pack so that it fits and you can still you can find things quickly is another trick. Team PJ's contemplates their gear. All of that stuff is going into four backpacks and sleds.

Blogger Laura

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Super Quick Summit update.

Greg Collins's crew summitted yesterday and Josh Hoeschen's team moved up to high camp today. Josh said the weather is perfect right now. Greg is on his way to 14K and is planning on spending the night there tonight. Josh and Greg's teams were able to pull off a tent swap, cutting down on the pack weight of both teams.

Office Staff Takes a Break at 370 feet Elevation

This blogging is exhausting! I had to go outside and take a break with my dog Butterball. The sun came out for about 15 minutes so I took advantage of it.

Blogger Laura

Kids In A Candy Store!

We've got a group of military guys heading out to climb the West Buttress. Operation Snowcone as they're calling themselves, are packing their lunches today then heading over to the National Park Service Ranger Station for their briefing. Weather permitting, they fly tomorrow.

News Flash From the Summit

Greg Collins just called in telling me they were going to turn around....since they had no where higher to go!!! They were on the summit at 3:44 pm, Alaska Time. Greg said they were enjoying the view from the highest peak in North America and all are doing really well. Their message from the summit: "Happy Father's Day" and "Be Home Soon." They're headed down to the 14,000 foot camp. Ooh, the air will feel thick and full of oxygen down there.

Blogger Laura

Two Denali Skills Workshops

It's a busy day at AMS with a group coming back and two groups headed out. We've got two groups here today taking the review course for their upcoming Denali Expedition. Guide Nick D'Alesio is teaching one group and Guide Lisa VanSciver and Intern Beth Cleary are teaching the other.

They're Back!

Despite the clouds between Talkeetna and the Range, it is flyable and clear at base camp. The Denali Prep course made it out and they are busy sorting gear before heading to lunch. It seems food is taking precedence over showers with this group!

Morning Report

Tim Hewette/Alex Stroud phoned in yesterday. They carried from the base of ski hill (7,900 ft) to 11,000 feet while breaking trail...through two feet of snow. This is where the training that folks did will pay off. It is dreary and rainy in Talkeetna but reports of a bluebird day in the mountains have just come in this morning. Planes have started to fly in so perhaps our Kahiltna Dome/Denali Prep course team will get to fly out soon.

Blogger Laura

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Evening Report

The overcast weather is preventing flights from coming or going into the Range. The Kahiltna Dome/Denali Prep Course is waiting at base camp to fly out but looks like it will be tomorrow. The forecast calls for clearing Sunday afternoon.

Pat Ormond's Group: Photos of Camp Life

The weather is posted each day by National Park Rangers at the 14,000 foot camp.
Poor weather or rest days means tent time: Hans is being used as a card table for James.
The 14,000 foot camp boasts an outhouse an a little bit of privacy.
The kitchen is in the foreground and sleeping tents in rear at the 14,000 foot camp.
James built up quite a healthy appetite upon returning to Talkeetna. He ordered Seward's Folly from a local eatery. Despite his best efforts he required a little help from his teammates.

Blogger Laura