Thursday, May 31, 2012

Evening Update

Hunter/Hameister are at 14K with all of their supplies. It is snowing lightly and has been for the past few hours. As I write this Wagner's 5/21 are doing a carry from 14K to the 16K Ridge. They will then return to their "Home Sweet Home" at 14K to camp.

This is an image of the 16K ridge. The headwall down to 14 camp is the notch to the left below the first person.

14K camp with Mount Hunter peaking through the clouds.

A Quieter Day in Town

We have a one-day lull between expeditions or courses starting. Greg Runyan and Sean Fallon are packing for the Kahiltna Dome/Denali Prep Course which starts tomorrow. Next we have two custom climbs leaving on the 6/3 and Denali Expeditions starting on 6/4 and 6/5.

Greg has guided courses and climbs for us since 2005. Sean is one of our three interns this year. He is a student at Alaska Pacific University where he was honored with the "Most Outstanding Outdoor Studies Student" award in 2011.

Sean loves packing food and choosing his candy bars for the course.

Greg likes chamomile tea; he's a sensitive guy!


Hi all, I hope you have all been enjoying the blog!  We're now in the middle of our Denali climbing season.  We currently have 7 Denali expeditions on the mountain.  Our Kahiltna Dome Expedition/Denali prep course is launching tomorrow.

I just wanted to shed some light, as well as respond to a few comments and clarify for those of you trying to track friends and family climbing in the mountains with us.

Climbing Denali is a difficult undertaking!  To do so, it requires 3 plus weeks on the mountain and months if not, years, of planning and training it takes to prepare.  Once on the mountain, climbers need decent weather, good health, mental fortitude, snow camping and climbing skills and bit of luck. 

If anyone gets sick, strains a muscle, changes their mind about being on the mountain, realizes that they may have undertrained etc, they have the option of going down with other AMS expeditions that are already on their way back down the mountain.  Some climbers may make it all the way to high camp, even make a summit attempt, but not make it to the top for any number of reasons.  If that happens they are able to turn around and head back to high camp with one of the AMS guides.  If/when an AMS team-member decides to go back early or turn around on summit day they are always accompanied by a guide.

We frequently are in contact with guides on summit days, but we don't necessarily hear from them who did or did not summit.  Due to the personal nature of this climb, we allow individual team-members to directly contact their friends and family to share their story of their Denali climb upon their return from the Alaska Range.

Hope that helps.

Cheers, and enjoy the blog.


Corn's Custom West Buttress is Back in Town

Guides Dan Corn and Dana Larkin flew in this morning with climbers, Tiska and Soames. They were psyched to see that the all the snow melted and the leaves popped while they were away. We always put out fruit and orange juice for returning climbers but they seem to go straight for the coffee. There's always a pot on at AMS.

Tiska with Dan holding Rosie, Dana and Soames

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


AMS guide, Nate Opp called in from 11K a bit ago.  He and his team are having a good time.  They are taking a rest day today and will think about moving up to 14K tomorrow if the weather is good.  Rest days on Denali are very helpful!  Not only does it allow your body time to rest and acclimate, but it allows you to dial in your "kit" so you're ready for future moves and carries.

Teams always leave a cache at 11K of items that they either no longer need (dirty socks, garbage, crampon bags, the remainder of week 1 lunch food etc).  This cache won't get retrieved until the team is on their way out at the end of the expedition.  Snow shoes and some of the sleds get cached here as well.  11K is a bottle neck camp on the way up as most groups do a back carry, a front carry and a rest day here.  On the way down all groups also stop here to retrieve their caches that they left on the way up.  Many groups will stop and rest here for several hours on the way down.

Pat Ormond's Team is Back in the Green

Ormond's 5/13 Expedition returned this afternoon to watermelon, blue skies and water that they didn't have to melt from snow!
A smiling Chris...




Guide Larry Holmgren headed straight to the coffee pot.

Smiling  Guide Pat Ormond

And this is Liam (post shower) from McBrayer's 5/11 Expedition who came in with Pat's team.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

West Buttress: One Out an One In

Guides Todd Passey and Lisa VanSciver flew to basecamp today with their uber-prepared team. The one-day weather delay allowed them to review skills that they would normally spend doing the first day on the glacier.  The group was anxious to start the adventure!

Randy, Guides Todd and Lisa, Mark, Clay, Charlie and Tom resting up in front.

Some of McBrayer's 5/11 team returned today...
Seth and Angela...Happy Summiters

Guide Joey McBrayer still in fighting form!

Time to unload and sort the gear before heading to the showers.

12 Day Mountaineering Return

Our May 12 day Mountaineering Course with instructors Nick D'Alessio and Beth Cleary returned from the Ruth Gorge yesterday!  They had great time.  They learned lots and plan to climb lots in the future.  The group is enjoyed the great weather in Talkeetna as they unpacked gear and ate watermelon. This was a very strong group full of exciting future climbing plans, happy climbing!!!

Return 5/28/2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

5/13 [P]Ormond, SUMMIT

An AMS caught on camera, seconds away from stepping foot on the summit.
 AMS guide Pat Ormond called in from the SUMMIT.  They made it up in 9 hours from high camp.  He said it was a nice night.  If they made it up to the top in 9 hours, I'd say they are looking at a 4 hour trip back to high camp, a long and worthy journey.  They will rest up at high camp until noon or so.  The sun hits the tents at high camp around 7:15 AM.  They will use the heat of the sun as their alarm clock I'm sure.  After their success and rest the strong team will be ready for their long descent.  I'm sure they will move steadily as they are probably looking forward to showers and hambergers.  Weather permitting, they should be back at 14K tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.  Then they'll rest up there for several hours, most likely, and then start the 11+ hour walk out to base camp.

On another note, Joey Mcbrayer called in from 14K.  They were going to start down toward base camp tonight and could be at base camp as soon as tomorrow morning. 


AMS guide Mike Soucy and his team (Heather Coombs) moved up to 11K today.

Nate Opp and his team (team Skerritt) also moved up to 11K.

They will have established camp, most likely, by now and are probably sitting back in the sun or in the tent reading a book and drying out all of their boots, gloves and sleeping bags.

Even though it is still quite cold on the mountain, the tents warm up to be really warm when the sun is hitting them.  Sometimes it gets so warm inside the tents on a sunny day that you have to drape a sleeping bag over the top of the tent to provide some shade.  (Don't forget to clip the bag into something so it can't blow away though!).

Josh Hoeschen (5/26) called in.  His team is doing well.  They are at the bottom of Ski Hill right now.  They are planning on doing a carry tomorrow to the 10,000 foot area.

5/21, Forest Wagner

Forest Wagner called in from 14K.  They rolled in last night.  The move from 11 to 14 took the group between 7 and 8 hours.  Forest said they took several long breaks, since the weather was perfect they were not in any hurry.  I talked to him around 11AM and they were about to do their back carry to 13.5.  He said that the entire group was doing really well.  They are strong, having a ton of fun, eating well and "everything is going perfectly".  They are moving along right on schedule.
here's a photo of Windy Corner.  The 13.5K cache site is about 3/4 of the way between Windy corner and 14K camp.
 The team will only take about 25 minutes to get to the cache site.  They'll probably hang out there for an hour or so, then head back up to camp.  It's about an hour to an hour and a half back up to 14, depending on where they cached exactly.  This day is pretty close to a rest day (at least compared to all of the strenuous days they have had so far).

Pat Ormond, 5/13

Pat Ormond called in this morning from high camp.  Skies are clear, there was a little bit of a breeze blowing.  They were going to go take a look.  It is common for teams to go for the summit and not know for sure if the weather is going to cooperate or not.  Sometimes we start out but have to turn around because of winds or bad weather, sometimes we start up with a little bit of wind on the horizon in hopes that it will die down.

So, that is what Pat and his team are doing...checking it out.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Another Summit

Joey's team (5/11) called in from the summit this evening at 7:00 PM.  The weather was perfect!  They were up there with great views and no wind!

Pat's (5/13) team is resting at high camp today and will be looking for a summit window as early as tomorrow (Monday).
Here's a short 360 degree video taken on the summit a few years ago by Colby.

Hoeschen 5/26 Denali, makes 10 AMS expeditions.

AMS Guides Josh Hoeschen, Adam Fabrikant and Jeremiah Phelps flew with their team to base camp yesterday.  The team had a couple of full days, Friday they participated in the Denali Skills Workshop and Saturday (yesterday) was a busy day of packing gear, food and briefing with NPS.

They were all excited and happy as posed for their picture and departed for the airport.

This is our 10th team on the Mountain.  As you can see from our blog they are all doing well and enjoying themselves.

Ken, Jake, Guy, Mark, Guide Adam Fabrikant, Vitidnan, front Sri, Guide Josh Hoeschen and Jeremaih Phelps


Josh Hoeschen and his team are installed at the bottom of Ski Hill.  They are in a "sweet camp" according to Josh.  They already have their tents and kitchen tent set up behind nice walls.

Josh said Nate Opp, Matt Montavon, Dominic and all of his buddies just walked camp after they did a carry up to the 10,000 foot elevation area.  Josh said nate and his team were looking WAY strong and were most likely going to move up tomorrow.

Below are a few photos of what the kitchen scene is like.
The kitchen tents get set up at all of the camps except base camp and high camp.  We generally don't spend enough time at base camp to warrant setting one up and high camp not only gets too windy for this type of a tent, byt the snow is often too hard to dig deep enough.

Craig Henneman

Craig on the 16 ridge on Denali in 2004
Long time friend and client Craig Hanneman called me from Everest Basecamp last night.  letting us know that he summitted Everest a couple days ago.  Congrats Craig!  Craig used to be a professional football player, now he is "just a farmer from Oregon".

Saturday, May 26, 2012

quick update

Joey and his team went about 1/4 of the way up the Autobahn, not a 1/4 of the way to the summit.  That means that they will still have a ton of energy for another attempt tomorrow if the weather permits.  The Autobahn is the traversing trail that essentially leads from high camp to Denali Pass.  Denali pass is approx. 18,200 feet.

Greg Collins and his team built walls and made platforms for their tents at high camp on the Upper West Rib this afternoon.  They are all well and back in 14K camp.

High Camps, carries lots of other happenings

view of the Autobahn and Denali Pass on a day that may be similar to what it ended up looking like today.  All of that white stuff that looks like clouds is actually snow being blown by the wind.
Joey Mcbrayer called in this evening.  All is well with their team.  They gave the summit a try today.  The weather started to turn on them so they headed back to high camp.  They made it about a 1/4 of the way up before they decided it would be best to turn around.

Joey's team is sitting on a lot of food and fuel up there he said, so they are planning on waiting it out and going for it again tomorrow, if the weather allows.  If they don't get to go for it tomorrow they are going to wait  and try it when the weather does get better. 
a Frosted view of the 16 ridge as seen from high camp.  I can't see anyone on the ridge in this photo, but climbers would be visible in much of this picture.  Washburn's Thumb is visible in the lower left portion of the picture.
Pat Ormond and his crew (5/13) were just about to roll in to HC according to Joey.  It's pretty cool, from high camp you get an awesome view of the 16 ridge.  The climbers travelling on the ridge are in profile and it is really easy to tell who is who.  Also, I'm sure that Joey was in communication with Pat and Larry all day via the hand held radios.

Guides use satellite phones (some more or less than others) to communicate with the outside world, but all of the guides and the National Park Service are monitoring certain frequencies and are talking to one another frequently.  Guides check in multiple times daily with other guides.  While friends and family may not know the every move of their loved ones on the mountain... the climbers, guides and rangers who are on the mountain are all well aware of where everyone is and what they are doing.  The communication on Denali is actually really really good. 

Greg Collins and the West rib team made a carry to their high camp today on the Upper Rib.  They have decided to climb the Upper Rib and forgo the lower section of the route.  The upper portion of this route has become more popular than the complete West Rib in recent years.

AMS guide Dan Corn called in.  That's who told me that Greg's team had carried to the Upper Rib high camp.  Dan Corn and his team have decided that they are going to climb the West Buttress Route instead of the West Rib.  Dan's team did an acclimatization hike to the fixed lines at 15,600 feet today on the West Buttress.  All is well with them.

I'm sure all of our other teams are busy moving, carrying, eating, sleeping, learning, digging, packing, unpacking, repacking, unpacking repacking, drying, reading, powdering their feet, cleaning their cups bowls and spoons and thinking about all of their loved ones out there in the real world (and about 100 other things that they do each and every day).

Russell, Paul and Dusty

Just heard from this crew (Russell, Dusty and Paul) this morning.  They were about to walk out of camp around 6:00 AM en route to the 10,000 foot elevation area to make a cache.  Early/low down on the mountain there is no shortage of items the team gets to cache.  As they move up in elevation the temperature obviously drops and they are unable to do without some of their really warm items.

Early on in the expedition the carry days are equally as heavy as the move days.  Later on in the expedition the move days are much heavier than the carry days.  As the teams advance up the mountain the overall weight is lessened as they eat more food, burn more fuel and wear more clothes.

Too bad for AMS guide Dusty Eroh, his Kindle broke already.  Hopefully Paul and Russell have paperbacks that they can all share.  I know that's old school, but believe it or not, people used to climb Denali with out Kindles, satellite phones and solar panels.

Weather permitting, they will move up to 11K tomorrow.  Dusty said the weather was pretty dood today.  He couldn't really tell from the bottom of ski hill what the winds were doing up high on the mountain.
Photo of ski hill.  7800 foot camp is just out of view at the bottom of of the sunlit hill.

Friday, May 25, 2012

And They're Off...

Two more custom West Buttress teams headed into base camp this afternoon...
Juan, Andrew, Dom, Guides Nate Opp and Matt Montovan and Alex ready to go.
Guides Mike Soucy and Noah Ronczkowski with Heather and apprentice Travis McAlpine.
Base camp is at 7,200 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier. Their day started at 8:00 AM and now they get to build a camp, set up their tents, melt snow for water, eat dinner and eventually get some sleep and head up glacier tomorrow.

Wagner Update

Forest Wagner's 5/21 Expedition is at 11,000 feet. All are doing well. Dan built a really nice latrine for the group. They did a carry of their gear up to 13,200 feet. Forest said it snowed 8 inches up there last night.
Building Camp at 11,000 feet.

Denali Skills Workshop Today

Members of Josh Hoeschen's 5/26 West Buttress expedition took a refresher course today at Headquarters. Tomorrow they will gear up and fly in, weather dependent.

Vitidnan gives a thumbs up to his crevasse rescue training.

Marc practices with his ascender

Instructor Erin gives Ken some pointers.

Sri getting ready.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

West Rib

Greg Collins called in from 14,200 foot camp.  Both Greg's team and Dan Corn's team are going to go for an acclimatization hike on the Upper West Rib tomorrow toward, or all of the way to, the upper (high) camp.  They'll do that with out supplies for a cache.  The following day, Friday, they are planning on making a carry of supplies to what will be their high camp on the Upper West Rib.
here a group climbs toward high camp on the rib.  Notice the nice walls in the foreground.

Other Happenings at AMS Today

We got a team starting their West Buttress climb today, we've got others attending a Denali Skills Workshop, guides are packing for West Buttress expeditions leaving Friday, Saturday and Monday.

Paul with Dusty and Russell chowing down on their greens before flying out.

Russell, Paul and Dusty, they got onto the Kahiltna Glacier about 2:00 PM today.
Josh (left) teaches Dom, Alex, Andrew and Juan some knots.

Heather is a kid in the candy store packing her lunches for her Denali Expedition flying out tomorrow.

Dom and friends practice crevasse rescue on the almost green lawn at AMS HQ

12 Day Mountaineering Course Checks In...

Instructor Nick D'Alessio just called in from the Ruth Gorge. They climbed Explorers Peak (8,235 feet) named for the Explorers Club of New York. They had a blast!
Explorers Peak was named in 1910 by Herschel Parker and Belmore Browne. If you are a climbing history buff you'll know that Parker and Browne did three expeditions in their attempt to climb Mount McKinley. They named several peaks in the Ruth Gorge area on their 1910 expedition as they looked for a feasible route to the summit of McKinley. This year marks the 100th anniversary of their 1912 summit attempt on McKinley. It remains an incredible story of adventure, survival and almost success...turning back just 200 yards below McKinley's summit due to bad weather. (1913 saw the first successful summit on McKinley.)

They have three more days of classes and climbing. It just starting raining lightly here in Talkeetna so maybe they will get a little experience with snow shoveling...
Explorers Peak is on the far right, second peak back with a snowy top. This picture is taken from the Don Sheldon Amphitheater.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5/11, Joey Mcbrayer

AMS guide Joey Mcbrayer called in from their fortress at high camp.  They had already built big burley snow block walls to protect them from the wind should it start to blow.  They were about to start dinner around 7:45PM or so.  The 5/11 team made it up to high camp (with heavy back packs and all) in 7 hours.  That is a very good time.  The move from 14K to 17K is one of the hardest days of the expedition.  Some say it is just as hard as summit day.  More than likely they will take a rest day tomorrow and dry everything out and prepare for a summit attempt the following day (friday), weather permitting.
View from high camp, photo AMS guide: Mike Janes

West Rib's

Greg Collins called in tonight from 14K on the West Buttress Route.  He was just checking in and letting us know that all is good with his and Todd's team as well as with Dan Corn's crew.  Greg left a message so I didn't get to here his plans, but all is good with them and they are moving right along.

5/21, Forest Wagner

AMS guide, Forest Wagner called in a bit ago.  He and his crew were at 7800 foot camp.  They carried to 9600 feet today.  They are doing really well and having fun.  He said that the whole team is SOLID.  The weather is perfect in the Range today.  Forest's plan is to move all the way to 11k tomorrow, then back carry the following day to retrieve their supplies at 9600 feet.

The move to 11k will take the group about 7 hours, more or less.  They are not in any hurry whatsoever so they can go at a nice slow pace allowing everyone to arrive at camp with spare energy to build and fortify camp.  The back carry day becomes somewhat of a rest day, as they do not have to wake up early and they do not have all that far to travel.  On any rest day it is nice to get out of the tent and stretch the legs a little as well as get the heart rate up to aid in acclimatization.

DAV Summit Club Head Home

Here's part of the team relaxing after arriving yesterday afternoon. Guides Tom and Elliot got out about 10:00 AM this morning.

Tom and Elliot (both in shorts!) with members of the team.
We got a food order from Costco....

Good thing we get a deliver every week as these guides and interns can really eat!

Wagner's 5/21 Checks In

We had a call last evening from Forest Wagner where the team was camped at the base of Ski Hill (7,800 feet) listening to Willie Nelson music. All are well. Today they will do a front carry to 9,800 feet, sleep back at 7,800 feet and tomorrow move up higher. They may move to 9,800 or continue onto 11,000 depending on weather and how the group is feeling. Back and forth, back and forth all the way up the mountain. It is a beautiful day in the Alaska Range.

9,800 Camp near Kahiltna Pass
Tom Torkelson's DAV Summit Club flew out yesterday afternoon...but the weather prevented the whole team from flying out. Alas, Guides Tom and Elliot did not make it back last night but they should be here within the hour. We'll post pictures of the successful summit team later today.