We have a couple of groups in the Range that were due out today but it is not flyable yet. We can hope for brighter skies tomorrow. That two day glacier trek will now be three days and the folks who went in for an overnight at the Mountain House will have to cuddle up for another evening around the stove.
The Alaska Range will teach you flexibility if nothing else.
The one nice day last week allowed all of the gear from the Glacier Ninja trip to come off the glacier. Which means that the ice axes, poles and snowshoes now need to be mailed back to people who are literally all over the world. Yikes! It is really hard to wrap and ice axe for international travel. Thanks to Dusty for his cardboard creations.
I thought the blog page could use a picture from a sunny day. This was taken of a youth group on a course in early July. The Matanuska Glacier is in the background. We run Glacier Treks and Travel and Crevasse Rescue classes here. It is one of the few glaciers you can drive to. We've got two more Youth courses coming up this week. Although it is only a couple hours from Talkeetna, because it is in a different valley it is often sunny there.
Guide Joe Butler takes Andy out for a 3 day Glacier Trek. They departed on schedule and were dropped off at the Ruth Glacier. Have fun out there on the ice and snow, only 10 miles (as the bird flies) from the top of North America!
Conor getting organized after unexpected five day delay.
Chris does the same (I tried to get a different picture of him but he never got off the phone)
Rachel went for the computer instead of the phone.
The sun came out, the clouds lifted and Joey and team got flown off the Pika Glacier this afternoon. What were they missing most: coffee! They learned how to play hearts, read every book they had, twice. Rachel discovered that she doesn't enjoy being tent bound. It is warm and sunny here and everybody has smiles on there face.
Getting to know each other at the 14,000 foot camp....for 10 days. Not quite the summit (darn that higher piece of rock behind and Mount Foraker to the right.) This is the Edge of the World at the 14,200 camp. As Belmore Browne says in his failed 1912 expedition: "Heading down was as heartless a piece of work as I have ever know." All smiles with sunshine, beer and less clothes back at 370 feet elevation.
Despite preparation, training and teamwork, the one thing you can not control is the weather. Well done Glacier Ninjas for returning safely, making new friends and learning new skills.
Meanwhile, Joey and his 12 Day Mountaineering Course awaits pick up on the Pika Glacier. It is most likely not going to happen today.
Yesterday the Glacier Ninjia's returned to Talkeetna safe and sound.
It sounds as if the team had quite the time under nearly constant snowstorms. From the 14,200' camp they played it smart, digging avalanche test pits daily and evaluated that the avalanche conditions were far too high for a safe ascent to the 16,200' ridge and above. AMS guides have a great deal of professional avalanche forecasting training, which obviously is a major asset in the mountains, especially during this expedition.
Welcome back and congrats to you all on a great expedition, you all came back to the land of green smiling and happy. Thanks for wrapping up the AMS 2010 Denali expeditions season in good style.
Leighan's West Buttress team has decided to move down the mountain. They had over 87 inches of snow at 14,200 feet from July 12 to July 21, and more in the forecast! Yeti wins this one. This has been an amazing stream of steady moisture, giving us lots of rain here in Talkeetna. The sun has come out and everyone in town is rejoicing to see it. We are happy that our Ninjas are returning safely; they worked hard! They will be back to Talkeetna as soon as the weather permits. Going up is slow, coming down is fast! They will have to break trail in all of that deep snow.
Joey McBrayer and the 12-day Mountaineering Course are still enjoying the Pika Glacier. They have had rain and snow. They will be glad to see the sun, too!
This is the view from an overlook in Talkeetna as of this morning. It is not actually raining at the moment but the fog is low. It continues to snow at 14K. Leighan taught the team an avalanche class yesterday. They remain in high spirits and with high hopes for a change in the weather...and we do as well. Meanwhile...between shoveling snow there is book reading, telling tall tales, and lots of eating.
Here's a view of the West Buttress route. The Kahiltna Glacier is in the middle, the bowl below the cloud covered summit and exposed rocks is the 14,200 foot camp. That is a lenticular cloud and means high winds. Bradford Washburn, who pioneered the West Buttress route in 1951, calls these clouds, sonofabitchacus clouds.
Leighan Falley called in from 14-camp around 12:30pm, with Todd, Chris, Dusty, Arnaud, Lance, Ulrica, Tapi, Vidar & Elin. They have been getting some more weather! They watched a lightning storm last night and had wind speeds up to 50 m.p.h. They are snug, with good walls around their tents and plenty of hot food to eat. They have been spending lots of time digging out from the multiple snowfalls; they have received several feet of new snow. The group is in good spirits, enjoying their position. They will wait to move up until the weather improves and the snow settles a bit. I passed along greetings from Nancy to Leighan!
Nick & Beth returned on schedule with the Glacier Trek family last night. The family had opted to add a scenic flight, so they all got awesome views of many parts of the Alaska Range. They saw a lenticular cloud over the North Peak of Denali, indicating that the teams below were experiencing or bracing for high wind.
There are not many people up on Denali right now and the teams look out for one another. The Glacier Ninjas have been in touch with another team who is at High Camp and reported they are planning to either go "up or down" today. Leighan thinks that team is opting for an "up" attempt. She thinks they probably got "beat up" by the wind, but it depends on how solid their camp reinforcement walls were.
Expedition teams on Denali must work together to build and maintain camps...Then they can enjoy the shelter! Nice walls keep you warmer, more relaxed and help you sleep better, too. Here is view of a camp shelter at High Camp...~Blogger Julia
Today the weather is showing improvement, Nick D'Alessio & Beth Cleary have a family with them for a Glacier Trek. They spent some time this morning getting ready for roped glacier travel, then jumped in a plane for some awesome views and a long day of checking out the mountainous scenery around the Pika Glacier up-close and personal! Mom & daughter got a kick out of learning fixed-line ascension with Beth: The wet weather has been good for local gardens. The flowers at AMS have been great. The peonies were huge! And they smell amazing. ~blogger Julia
Leighan Falley's West Buttress Team has been camped at 14,200 feet for a couple of nights. They just did their back carry (going down to Windy Corner to retrieve their cache) in a white-out. They plan to rest tomorrow, then will watch the weather to see if they can move up to High Camp the next day. We'll let you know how it goes! ~blogger Julia
Guide Joey McBrayer with students Conor, Chris and Rachel got in yesterday. They'll be spending the next 12 days on the Pika Glacier. This picture was taken at the Overlook above town; a great place to look at the Alaska Range.
AMS guides Rob Gowler, Mike Janes & awesome intern Beth Cleary just got back from Denali today and brought back great photos from their time on Denali (these photos are by Mike). I was only able to extract a couple. He's got awesome video, too. Hopefully we'll be able to get that ready for sampling soon.
A day or so ago Rob, Mike, Beth, Caleb, Ryoko and Steven rolled into 11-camp and decided to wait out the weather with Leighan's "Glacier Ninjas": Todd, Chris, Dusty, Arnaud, Lance, Ulrica, Tapi, Vidar & Elin...Leighan's team celebrated Lance's birthday on July 11th at 11,000 feet in the storm! Leighan and Dusty were cooking; Dusty was making his almost-famous "Man Scramble".A nice rime crust developed. You can just make out their tents in the white-out.Rob's team kept an eye on the weather; in the early morning hours this morning they were treated to clearing skies. They packed up to enjoy the beautiful sunrise, good trail conditions and views as they descended the upper Kahiltna, heading to Base Camp. Everyone is guessing that the Glacier Ninjas made an upward move today. With 1.5 meters of new snow, the guess is they'll be wearing their snowshoes and doing some serious trail breaking! ~Blogger Julia
Team Gowler is back to AMS HQ! Rob, Mike, Beth, Steven, Ryoko & Caleb are drinking orange juice and slurping watermelon slices while they unpack and enjoy the lovely day we're having. "Nice, and not too hot!" They went from one extreme to the other and are ready to rest.
Joey & his 12-day Mountaineering Course are packing up getting ready for a flight to the Pika Glacier. Hope to have some photos for you later. ~blogger Julia
Rob Gowler'steam and Leighan's Glacier Ninjas have met up at 11,000 feet and are hanging tight, eating well and waiting for better weather. Rob's team had hoped to descend to base camp today but strong winds and snow slowed their progress. They would not have been able to fly off the glacier even if they had made it down to the 7,200 feet base camp. It is currently raining there with occasional gusts up to 30 mph. Being at 11,000 feet is a bit nicer. When the weather clears they will go down and Leighan and team will go up.
It was an intense and rewarding experience for everyone at AMS to participate in the Walter Reed Wounded Warriors Program. I think everyone here has a better idea of the sacrifices they made. Unique individuals with real challenges just to get through the day let alone climb an Alaskan Mountain. They did a good job out there. We look forward to working with them through out the winter in preparation for Denali 2011.
Pete Anderson's 6-day Mountaineering Course got back today from the Upper Coffee Glacier. They had a great time along with some sunny weather. They just went out for a meal together and then will head off in their separate directions armed with new skills for future endeavors in the mountains and glaciers.
Joey McBrayer spent the day getting ready for our next 12 Day Mountaineering Course which starts on July 12.
As for the two teams on Denali: no news is good news.
Tom Falley, Leighan's dad, is a pilot who flew over 11 camp Friday afternoon and snapped a photo of the camp and folks. Leighan's Glacier Ninjas should be hiding down there, probably taking a nap. (thanks Tom)
Rob Gowler phoned in from 17K at 10:00 am. They are leaving their happy home of the last nine days for lower elevations and thicker air. They should arrive at base camp (7,200 ft) by Sunday morning for their flight out (weather permitting.) Currently it is snowing lightly at both 17 and 14K. Let's hope for flyable weather tomorrow. BTW, AMS guide Melis Coady and a team last year set the record for most days at high camp (ten) but that isn't really a record you want to beat.
Peter Anderson & Caitlin Hague called in, with the 6-day Mountaineering Course group. They are up on the Coffee Glacier, "roasting but loving it!" They had "an awesome peak ascent yesterday, with ice climbing, rock scrambling and snow travel, and got beautiful views of the Buckskin Glacier and both peaks of Denali came out for us." Today they were moving camp with plans to practice ice climbing and fixed line ascension along the way. They are moving up to the upper part of the glacier where they plan to catch their plane mid-day tomorrow. If the weather cooperates, they'll be back here, spend time unpacking and cleaning up their gear then probably walk into town for a tasty dinner out on the town. That's it for now! ~Blogger Julia
It is a "splitter" day! That is climber-speak for clear and perfect! It is the first clear day we've had for a very long time. You might call it "bluebird". Rob Gowler sent us a quick message to let us know they are on their way up from 17-camp to make their summit attempt! We'll keep you posted... ~Blogger Julia
Gowler's team remains at high camp. A determined group, they will try as soon as the winds allow. They've got big thick walls of snow, lots of food and hot drinks. It's book reading time. Rob just sent us a text message: " WAS NICE 4 A BIT. NUKING AGAIN. RANGER VOLUNTEERS RETREATED (from their try towards the summit). WE'RE DOING WELL." Glacier Ninjas are at the base of ski hill at 7,900 feet. They will move up later tonight when the glacier is firmer; this makes for easier traveling.
The Denali Challenge/Prep course is enjoying one of the first sunny days of the expedition. They are getting some good stormy weather training on the Pika Glacier.
The Alaska Range is out in all its glory. Greg Vernovage/Nick D'Alessio and team returned from base camp about and hour ago. Phil Ershler/Max Bunce's and team just got in as well. The program for them is: call home, take off mountaineering boots, sort gear, take shower, drink, eat, drink, eat. Repeat as necessary.
Glacier Ninjas were at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill as of 6:30 AM today. The hill is named so because when you are returning from your climb you have to ascend back up into base camp. So, the team started at 7,200 feet but descended a couple of hundred feet to the main Kahiltna Glacier before ascending again.
AMS Insturctor Greg Runyan and the Advanced Mountaineering Course members flew out of the Pika Glacier late this afternoon....only two days late. They are happy to be back in the green and working on changing airline tickets, getting the van shuttle, looking for beer to drink and finding a shower.
We have blue sky here in Talkeetna so let's hope the poor weather is behind us for a while.
Ams Guide Leighan Falley and her team of Glacier Ninjas were not able to attend the cultural event planned for them at the local museum. They received the phone call to get to the airport immediately as there was a weather window. They are currently at the 7,200 foot Kahiltna Base Camp. Their adventure begins.
This means that all of Melisand Eben's team just returned from the glacier! They are returning two days later than planned, and are now back safe and sound. They are sorting gear and walking around in flip flops, marveling over flush toilets and running water. They had to wait five days to start the expedition and two days to get back yet they still managed to summit Denali in only 16 days. That is very impressive. Congratulations and welcome back to the green grass!
AMS Guide Rob Gowler called in from high camp on Denali at 17,200' where his team is hanging out and doing well. It is still "super windy" so they will wait for a better day. AMS Guide, GregVernovage and his team, and the IMG/AMS team with guide Phil Ershler have moved 14K. They will be back in base camp tomorrow morning, and Talkeetna shortly thereafter weather permitting, of course.
AMS Instructor Josh Hoeshen called in from the Pika Glacier with a report from the Denali Challenge/prep course. They are having an awesome time despite the challenging weather. I asked him if it was snowing or raining there and his answer was, "yes." All are learning new things and eating well.
Last night, Leighan's team, which would like to be known as Glacier Ninjas (due to the fact that they all have black sleds,) got a cooking lesson from guides Leighan and Todd. On the menu was ravioli with homemade sauce. Today they have been reviewing anchor systems for crevasse rescue. Earlier they practiced belaying in and out of the safe zone with speed and efficiency. This afternoon a trip to the local museum is planned but things could change at a moment's notice. They are ready to jump on a plane if the weather dictates. The benefit of weather delays is that the practice they are doing now will mean they will work more efficiently together on the glacier. They will leave base camp immediately upon arrival not needing to review any skills.
Melis' impersonating Marilyn Monroe...Alaska style.
The pyrotechnics: Dave and Joe
Visually, due to snow fall and too much light, the fireworks weren't that spectacular but they were loud. Despite this, it is doubtful we will forget where we spent the Fourth of July. Other than avalanches it's pretty quiet in there since planes were not flying.
These are pictures that I took when I was there on Saturday July 3. I and two others were able to fly out on a flightseeing plane on Monday. We were the only three that made it back in the last four days. We are hoping for some clearing today. There are some bright spots in the Range.
Guides Caitlin Hague and Peter Anderson with students, Steve, Craig, Stephen, Kali, Russell and Ian. Earlier in the day they reviewed stove set up and use. At 8:00 PM last night, AMS Instructor's Pete Anderson and Caitlin Hague and the 6 day mountaineering course flew into the Upper Coffee glacier; a unique place and seldom visited. They have a view of backside of the Moose's Tooth, a 10,000 foot granite hunk of rock.
We update the AMS blog whenever we hear from guides and instructors reporting from the field. Some staff call in more frequently than others. No news is good news and indicates all is going according to plan. We will do our best to keep those who want to be up to date, up to date.
Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS) promotes excellence in responsible mountaineering and wilderness travel through education and guiding. Our core principles are safety, Leave No Trace, leadership, teamwork, skills, and enjoyment. AMS' course progression and hands-on approach teaches confidence based on knowledge. We support a strong foundation that results in a lifetime of enjoyment of the outdoors. Please contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org