Friday, May 30, 2014

Denali, West Buttress 5/26: Holmgren & Denali Traverse 5/25: English

We just received a late night text from 11,000' camp.   AMS teams lead by Larry Homgren and Dustin English have arrived at 11,000' camp on Denali.

They traveled to camp today in whiteout conditions, following GPS coordinates to get to camp.  They reported that the post-holed (punching though the snow, even with snowshoes) along much of the route up today. Punchy snow means either warm temperatures or deep fresh snow up there, I'm sure they are looking forward to some clearing so the temps will drop and snow will stop for a while.  That sounds like a long day and lots of work.

Congrats to these hardworking teams.

AMS guide crew at 14,200' - last week

It was sunny on the mountain last week and here's the photo to prove it!

AMS guides Postle, Nadav and Passey (in this photo), and their Denali teams from 5/11 and 5/12 continue to wait for better weather in basecamp and are awaiting to return to Talkeetna.

Billy Haas, Mark Postle, Lisa Vansciver, Adam Fabrikant, Jeremiah Phelps, Pat Ormond,  Jenna Malone (NPS), Nadav Oakes, Todd Passey

AMS HQ Happenings

 Here's a sampling of activities on a sunny day at AMS HQ last week.

Sayre swooping in and planting flowers pots. Sayre is: family, AMS graphic designer, amazing chef and a total all around superstar, thanks for coming to help at AMS!

Gear checking!

A well organized equipment pile for gear check!

Guides repairing to the drying lines

Foraker: Sultana Ridge, Coady

The AMS Sultana Team led by guides Melis Coady and Josh Hoeschen texed in this afternoon:

" Sultana team doing well, last night we took shift digging out tent every two hours in teams of two.  Today we improved camp for less snow drifting.  All is well...we are ready to climb again."

Great photo taken from mt. hunter of the complete Sultana ridge climb.  They are established on the the " horizontal ridge" portion of the route.

Denali, West Buttress: 5.26 Wagner

The 5/26 custom West Buttress Team lead by Forest Wagner texted in to us today via satellite phone.  They both report that all is well, it's a "little breezy" and they are cozy in their tents. 

Below are some photos of weather that is snowy and at least somewhat what our climbers are experiencing out there!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Denali, West Buttress: Passey and Postle

AMS teams lead by Todd Passey and Mark Postle are in base camp.   They are awaiting the weather to fly back to Talkeetna.  The weather needs to be better and without icing conditions to safely fly in and out of the Alaska Range.

This weather system has a persistent presence, luckily it's not particularly tough on the climbers and the temperatures are mild.  So the teams are just in waiting mode at base camp, I'm sure there is quite a bit of socializing going on and teams are making the best of it.  If there is one thing we can not change it is the weather, the only thing we can change is our attitude toward it.  The AMS teams have extra food and fuel at base camp so they have plenty of supplies and they are all fine.

...Rumor has it that over 100 climbers are waiting to fly into Kahiltna base camp and I bet about 50 are waiting to fly out of base camp.  Luckily there are some excellent base camp mangers and air services that can get everyone in and out of the mountains efficiently, once the weather clears.

Kahiltna base camp on a very busy and partly cloudy day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mt. Foraker, Sultana Ridge: Coady

The Foraker team is hanging tough! they texted in tonight.

" Day 2 of storm,... we believe we are in for several more days of stormy conditions.  High winds but we are cozy in our tent and spirits are high. We still have lots of time to climb the Sultana Ridge.  Eight inch rime ice is building on equipment outside. "

There are some super cool photos and explanations of rime ice from Mt. Washinton here:

It is especially interesting to note that rime ice builds INTO the direction of the wind, not in the same direction as the wind is blowing, as one may think at first.  The Sultana Ridge is notorious for it's exposure to the weather, and this team is prepared for it.  The temps are not super cold, so they have that in thier favor, as well as plenty of supplies on hand.

Lenticular Clouds over Mt. Foraker, indicating very high winds. Photo taken from 14,200' on the Wet Buttress. Copyright: Brian Okonek

Denali, West Buttress: 5/11- Passey and 5/12 - Postle

AMS teams lead by Mark Postle and Todd Passey are heading back to base camp.  After many days awaiting the weather to clear up in order to reasonably climb to high camp, storms on Denali continue to be uncooperative.

What a crazy season it has been so far.  The spring in Alaska was unusually warm and sunny yet with persistent strong winds, causing stout icy climbing conditions in early and mid May.  Currently, snowstorms are adding to the mix.  From what we hear,  there are very few climbers at high camp and no climbers moving higher from 14,200' currently.

Hopefully the high pressure over the Bering Sea will make it's way to to Alaska soon.

Here's a link to the Noaa Weather site:

AMS building camp in a storm

And the storm is still coming in, this shows you how fast the weather can move in, and how visibility is effected by it.

I'll bet the teams on their way down have experienced a day or two like this. They sure have earned their chops!

Denali Traverse, 5/25: English, and West Buttress Teams: 5/25 AG/AMS Japanese Team: Stroud, 5/26:Wagner, 5/26 Holmgren

AMS Guide Alex Stroud leading the AG / AMS Japanese team phoned in today.  They are at the  first camp at 7,800' on the Kahiltna Glacier.   It is snowing and warm there and all is well.  He reports there is no wind at the 7,800' camp.  Today the carried some of their extra food, fuel and equipment higher on the glacier to 9,800'.  They might make a move upward tomorrow or may rest in camp and move on Friday depending on how everyone feels after the trip to higher elevations today.

AMS guide Forest Wagner's custom team also carried higher today and is well.

The May 26 team lead by Holmgren and the May 25 Traverse team lead by Engish are also at the 7,800' camp. Alex believes that they rested in camp today and will make their carries higher tomorrow. He reoports atha ll are doing well!

All AMS teams at 7,800' are well and enjoying a rest after the big move out of base camp and out onto the glacier.
This is the terrain they are travel ling though on the Kahiltna Glacier, this is a previous AMS team is traveling in pretty good weather, but you can see the visibility isn't great.  The teams up there now have less visibility then in this photo.

An AMS team taking a rest break at about 8,000'.  If it were clear today, this would be their view down the Kahiltna Glacier.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Denali Traverse, 5/25, Dustin English

AMS Guide Dustin English let us know that his team and 3 other AMS teams (West Buttress, Alex Stroud, West buttress Larry Holmgren and Private West buttress Forest Wagner) all arrived into camp at the bottom of ski hill this morning.

An AMS train so to speak.  He said that everyone is psyched.  It is currently snowing and low visibility.

They'll be carrying tomorrow somewhere in the vicinity of Kahiltna Pass.

Here's a picture of ski hill.  The groups in camp right now probably won't be able to see ski hill because of the snow, but if they could, this is what they'd see.  From the bottom of ski hill you can pretty much just follow a due North bearing all the way to Kahiltna Pass.  It's possible to make carries and moves in low visibility weather like they are currently experiencing  on the lower mountain.

Denali West Buttress, 5/23, Opp

AMS Guide Nate Opp texted last night from 11K saying that everyone is having fun and doing great with all of the carrying and moving.  They should be doing a back carry today.  Brian said that he is having a blast and is thinking of Stephanie, Hannah and Riley all of the time.

Here is a picture of 11K from the air.  If you were to divide this picture into 4 quadrants, 11K camp would be  in the bottom left of the upper right quadrant.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Peak 11,300' - Tumolo

The 11,300' team with Todd Tumolo, and Brent Roaten have returned from the Ruth Glacier today.  They had an amazing climb.  These guys are an awesome powerhouse team, flew in 5/23/14 and flew back out today after summiting peak 11,300. Looks like they traveled in style with espresso for hot drinks. Enjoy these photos from their climb. Nice work guys!

Custom DWB, 5/26, Wagner and DWB 5/26 Holmgren- LAUNCH!

AMS guides Forest Wagner, Wiley, and Angelo, depart today with climber Priya. They were all psyched to get out into the Range. Flew in ahead of schedule, excited to see Priya back on the mountain, wish them the best!

AMS Food room, offering a great variety of nutritious mountain meals.

AMS guides Larry Holmgren and Dusty Eroh, depart today with a great crew for the Kahiltna Basecamp. Several AMS alumni returning, excited to see familiar faces! Wishing everyone the best, stay tuned for updates. 

AMS crew Larry, Uwe, David, Parker, Dusty, Kyle, Frank, and Kali.

Denali, West Buttress - 5/9, Torkelson and 5/11 Bradley Return!

AMS team lead by Tom Torkelson and Jeremiah Phelps, and team lead by Tyson Bradley, Adam Fabrikant and Billy Hass have returned to the AMS HQ.  They are all happy to be back and are enjoying the green leaves, warm breeze and sunny skies back in Talkeetna.  Also water from the tap and hot showers are always high on the list of things much appreciated on the return day!

Welcome back teams and congratulations all all of your hard work. 

Mt. Foraker, Sultana Ridge, Coady

The AMS Foraker Team lead by Melis Coady and Josh Hoeschen just texed in from their satellite
phone.  Today they made a successful carry of food gear and fuel to their next camp at the "pinch camp" on the ridge. It's windy up there, but still a good enough to get some climbing in.

They are eating soup and watching the weather roll into the range from their camp with a view.

Denali West Buttresses, Postle and Passey

AMS guide Mark Postle just called in a few minutes from 14.

Mark Postle's as well as Todd Passey's Denali West Buttress teams are both at 14 waiting on better weather to move up to high camp.

Mark said that the weather wasn't horrible but that it wasn't great either.  They are both hoping for some better move to high camp weather tomorrow.  The move from 14 to 17 is a tough day.  The higher on the mountain that we are the better the weather we like to have for moving and carrying.

They are all doing great and are looking forward to moving up to high camp when the conditions allow them to.

AG/AMS Denali West Buttress, 5/25/14, Stroud

AMS guides Alex Stroud and Noah Ronczowski, flew into Kahiltna Basecamp with AG Japanese team Tanaka this morning to get started on their Denali expedition. Everyone was happy and ready to climb. We are honored to climb with this concise, kind and well-prepared team.

AMS team excited to be flying into the Alaska Range.

Denali Traverse, 5/26/14, English

AMS Guides Dustin English and Michael Gardner, flew out this morning around 9 am with team members Kevin and Dave to the Kahiltna Basecamp, but unlike most West Buttress climbers they will go up and over descending down to cross rivers and encounter the state bird: "the mosquito".  Luckily mosquito head nets are lightweight. The team is in for a truly amazing, all around Alaska trip. AMS Guide, English accompanied the 2013 Centennial Climb celebrating the 1913 first ascent of Denali.We wish these guys endurance for the almost 25 day climb.

AMS Traverse team: Mike, Dustin, Dave, and Kevin.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Foraker, 5/17/14, Coady

AMS guides Melis Coady and Josh Hoeschen, with team Loren and Mary, checked in today at 11:20 am after arriving to Sultana Ridge. They have made carries up and over Mt. Crosson and are in  camp for the night. They are on the Horizontal Ridge with all their supplies at the camp, just above the "Knife Edge". (See photo below) It is lightly snowing and they are all "sitting pretty" which indicates they are resting, drinking hot drinks, and gearing up for their next move higher on the Sultana Ridge.

AMS guides Hoeschen and Coady route photos from 2013, this is what the '14 team has traveled thus far. 
AMS guides Hoeschen and Coady route photos from 2013, the 2014 team's next travel section. 

Denali West Buttress, 5/11, Tyson Bradley

AMS Guide Tyson Bradley and his team summitted last night at 7:30PM.  They left camp at noon.  They are all doing well and are resting in camp right now.  They said that it took them just as long to travel back to cap from the top as it took them to get to the top from camp.  They are planning on resting for awhile longer and then will start their trip back down to base camp.  Congrats!!

A small team arriving on the summit.

Custom Climb Peak 11,300' - Tumolo

AMS guide Todd Tumolo and climber Brent Roaten are cranking.  As of 8:40PM tonight they were on the summit of Peak 11,300' in the Ruth Glacier of the Alaska Range.  They stopped to brew up some hot drinks and food and to enjoy the view from the top before beginning their descent.  They left their base camp to start the climb at 3:30 AM and cruised it!!

This is what you get when you train, train and train some more and all the stars line up for you too.

AMS climbers on Peak 11,300'

Denali, West Buttress - 5/23, Opp

AMS guide Nate Opp phoned in tonight from the first camp at 7,800' aka the base of Ski Hill, they are doing well and and are moving along right on schedule.  Everyone is doing great!  They are a fun and cohesive team.

This is the area where they are camped on the Kahiltna Glacier, tomorrow they will move up the hill to the left of these climbers.  They will travel on the main flow (smooth part) of the snow covered glacier.  This photo shows a team just beginning to probe out a campsite on the glacier, the climber in the mid ground uses the long pole to feel for crevasses, if s/he finds any, they will move the campsite to a place where the glacier is solid.  We then mark the areas where we have probed so everyone remembers to stay inside the known "safe" zone.

Denali, Upper West Buttress AMS Teams update: 5/11-Torkelson, 5/9 -Bradley

We received a call from AMS guide Tom Torkelson at 17,200' tonight:

The AMS team lead by Tom Torkelson made a bid for the top but turned back high on the mountain at about 19,400'.  They were back at high camp after a strong day of safely ascending over 2,000' and then descending back to to camp.  Good Job!  They plan to descend to 14,200' tomorrow and then reach base camp and hope to fly back to Talkeetna on Monday or Tuseday.  We look forward to hearing more about their adventure. We wish them all the best and good weather for their travels ahead.

The custom team lead by Tyson Bradley also made a go for the summit and as of a few hours ago they were still enroute back to high camp.  We look forward to hearing more news from them.

AMS 17,200' high camp and Denali pass in background on Denali's West Buttress

Another photo of high camp and windblown snow walls, with a windy Denali Pass 18,200' in the background, clouds like this indicate to most climbers that the winds are too strong to travel in at such high altitudes.

Aprox. 19,400' on Denali's West Buttress route, where Torkelson's team reached today.
AMS team nearing the top of Denali Pass 18,200', Mt. Foraker in the background, high camp is visible below if you hunt for it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Denali West Buttress: 5/11 Passey, 5/12 Postle

AMS Guide Mark Postle just phoned in from 14,200' camp.   Today the AMS teams at 14,200' are having a wall building party as they are expecting a foot of snow and up to 45 mph winds there tonight and tomorrow morning.  His team and Todd Passey's May 11 small team are all just fine and are awaiting their opportunity to climb higher. 14,200' is a pleasant place to rest, acclimatize, socialize, eat, hydrate and fine tune your technical skills for higher on the mountain.

Older photo of 14,200' basin camp, trail on left is route to the base of the fixed lines, skyline ridge is area of 17,200 high camp.

AMS team building proper snow walls.  A lost art! Photo: Brian Okonek

This gives you an idea of what it looks like to build camp and snow walls in a wind and snow storm. Can you see the next campsite? Photo: Brian Okonek

Denali, West Butress - 5/5, Ormond Returns!

AMS Guides Pat Ormond and Lisa Van Sciver with their team; Kyle, Nico, Donald and Anton have returned from Denali.  They are an awesome team who worked hard and had a great time together. They spent 18 days in the Alaska Range building snow walls, climbing on snow and ice, hauling heavy loads, waiting and watching the weather and eating as many calories as they could.  

The winds prevented them from reaching the top this time, but they put their dues in at high camp whilst waiting and offering support to other AMS teams arriving into 17,200' high camp.  

Great work team!

Guide Lisa Van Sciver, Anton, Kyle, Donald, Nico & Guide  Pat Ormond

Mt. Foraker, Sultana Ridge - 5/17, Coady

AMS guide Melis Coady phoned in this morning.  The team did well on their carry.  She said they were all doing great.  It's been windy but reasonable for travel for them. They have been building giant snow walls so they can sleep with less wind on their tents at night.  Melis said that expert Alaska mountain guide and master snow wall / camp builder "Brian Okonek would be proud of these walls."
...We are without a doubt!

AMS team at the start of the snow wall building. AMS guide, Greg Collins is showing how big the next set of blocks need to be...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mt. Foraker, Sultana Ridge - 5/17, Coady

The AMS Foraker Team lead by Melis Coady texted in to us tonight.  Today they carried over Mt. Crossen, tomorrow they plan to move their camp. The team is doing well.

That's about what you get in a text from a satellite phone.

All sounds like it is going according to plan for them, we are sure they are just loving the incredible views.

Denali, West Buttress - 5/23, Nate Opp

Guides Nate OppKeith Sidle with Brian, Nick, Wally and David flew to 7,200' on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier (aka: Basecamp) to begin their expedition on Denali's West Buttress.

The team is well prepared for the expedition.   Two of the members have previously participated in AMS Mountaineering Courses to learn and fine tune their mountain skills, so we are happy to have them back.  The team was all smiles as they headed toward the airport, just a 5 minute drive away from the AMS HQ.

They are in for a great adventure and a we can tell already that they are a wonderful team.

Brian,Nick, Guide Keith Sidle, Guide Nate Opp, front row Wally and David

Custom Technical Climb - 5/23, Tumolo

Guide Todd Tumolo and Brent flew to the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier today.  Todd and Brent have recently been climbing on a custom Denali Upper West Rib/ Buttress Expedition.  They are both Brent is happy to be going back to the mountains after a quick turn around.

They plan to climb Peak 11,300'. It is one of the last high points of the Southeast spur of Denali. This climb is considered to be one of the best in the Alaska Range.  It offers a challenge for experienced Alpinist.

We are sure they will have a great time!

Guide Todd Tumolo and Brent

Denali West Buttress - 5/5 Ormond, 5/11 Passey

AMS Guide Pat Ormond just called in from 14K camp.  They are shooting to arrive at Base Camp tomorrow morning.  He said that it is looking like a nice night for traveling back to base.

He said all is well on the mountain with AMS's teams.

Pat said that Todd Passey and his team turned around at the bottom of the fixed lines and returned to 14,200' basin camp.  They will try the move to high camp on another day.  They have plenty of time, no worries there.

AMS team moving on the ridging between 16,000' and 17,200', a favorite part of the route.

AMS teams moving around Windy Cormer

AMS teams desending from the fixed lines on the West Buttress route. 14,200' camp is below and to the left of the climbers on the snowy plateau, Mt. Foraker is the peak on the right.

Some more Denali high mountain updates.

Here are some updates from the mountain.  AMS Guide Tom Torkelson called in the updates.

Denali West Buttress, 5/9, Torkelson.  Tom and his team are standing by at high camp.  He and his crew decided to take a another rest day today.  They are hanging out fortifying their camp and getting some mild exercise.  Tom said the winds at high camp were about 70 MPH last night.  All of our crews weathered the storm no problem.

Denali West Buttress, 5/5, Pat Ormond and his team went for the summit today but were turned around by very cold temperatures.  Tom said the winds weren't too bad, but that it was pretty darn cold today.  Pat's crew are on their way down from high camp right now.  Their expedition is scheduled to fly out the day after tomorrow.

Tyson Bradley and his small custom expedition team also went for the summit today according to Tom.  Tom said that his team is exceptionally strong and fast and were able to stay warm traveling at a pace that was quite a bit faster than most expeditions.  This crew continued on toward the summit and are doing fine up there.  *** Late night update: this team worked hard, but turned back at Denali Pass due to strong winds before reaching the summit.  We look forward to hearing all of stories these teams bring back!***

Denali West Buttress, 5/11, Todd Passey and his expedition are on their way to high camp as we speak.

Tom Torkelson's expedition will be acting as a welcoming committee for Todd Passey's team as they arrive into camp as well as for Tyson's team returning from a summit bid.

Everyone is doing fine on the mountain.  These are the only updates we have at the moment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Denali High camp update

AMS Guide Pat Ormond called in to let us know that they were doing fine, but that it was still windy up there.

Pat's team welcomed Tom Torkelson's team into camp last night.  The move to high camp is always challenging!  It's a long day on moderately technical terrain.  Back packs aren't too heavy though for the first 2,000 feet of vertical gain, but from the cache site to high camp, where everyone has to pick up some additional weight, the packs are usually over 50 pounds.

Having another AMS team in camp to help[ set up tents and build walls and melt snow for water is very helpful.

They are all just sitting tight waiting for better weather to go for the summit.  Let's keep fingers crossed that tomorrow is that day.

Mt. Foraker, Sultana Ridge - 5/17, Coady & Denali High Camp photos

AMS Guide Melis Coady has phone in.  The team is doing well and are camped on Mt. Crossen.  Today they planned to make a carry over the top of Mt. Crossen with their extra food, fuel and gear for higher up on the route.  They are in good spirits and are climbing well!

Past AMS Mt. Foraker Climb, this is the view from their camp, looking down the Kahiltna Glacier.

The photos below are past images of up and around the 17,200' camp on Denali's West Buttress Route, Where AMS teams lead by AMS guides Ormond, Bradley, Torkelson are currently camped and awaiting their chance to make their bids for the top of North America.