DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 1: TALKEETNA AND THE LOWER GLACIER


First of all, I would like to apologize to anyone that was trying to follow my latest adventure on my blog. The site was hacked and a complete mess for awhile, but now it's back up and running! Thankfully I have an amazing friend that understands this computer stuff and magically fixed it all (thanks Andy Hawks!!). So with that all cleared up I can start sharing this amazing adventure with you all. 

I'll start the story out in Talkeetna, Alaska where we met up with the guides and climbers. Talkeetna is an amazing town with a ton of character, we even got to meet the mayor (it's a cat ...). We had an international group with 2 Norwegians, 1 German, 1 Brit, and myself in addition to our guides. The first day together was spent doing a refresher training course where we practiced all of our rope skills. Our instructors were great and I could tell we were going to have an amazing team. We ate dinner together that night, headed to bed early and hoped that the weather would hold for our flight onto the glacier in the morning.

Flying to Basecamp

Flying to Basecamp

The next day was spent checking and packing gear, packing food, and being briefed at the ranger station. A weather system seemed to be rolling in and our 5:00P.M. flight was looking questionable. Luckily, our amazing guide recognized that we would be ready to roll early and got us on a earlier flight. The flight to the glacier was completely surreal. I felt as though I was watching a 3D movie, it couldn't be real. We flew so close to the massive mountains I felt like I could reach out and touch them. The mountains in Colorado are beautiful, but the mountains in Alaska are spectacular! I have seen photos before but they don't do justice. Our pilot skillfully and smoothly set the plane down on the glacier and we exited into a completely new world. As we unloaded the plane and setup camp I caught myself just staring in awe of our surroundings. The mountains made me feel so small and the challenge of climbing Denali became very, very real.

Arriving at Basecamp

Arriving at Basecamp

The last thing I had to take care of before our first night on the glacier was teaching our head guide how to infuse. It was still relatively warm out so we sat under the vestibule of our tent and went through all the steps. Melis was really excited not only to learn how to infuse, but also to learn about hemophilia in general. She nailed the infusion and felt really comfortable with the whole situation. 

Melis infusing at Basecamp

Melis infusing at Basecamp

We woke up at 2:00 A.M. the next day to move up to our first camp. It's important to travel in the middle of the night on the lower glacier because the snow bridges over the crevasses are the most solid during the cold of the night. The funny part about 2:00 A.M. in Alaska is that it's still light out. No need for headlamps here. We loaded up all of our gear on our backs, and into sleds, and headed out. The first few minutes of every climb I've done are always tenuous. I am nervous and unsure of myself but that quickly passes. I got comfortable at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill as we started to gain elevation again, and I got into a nice rhythm. The trail was very mild, but we had to cover several miles before reaching our next camp.

Resting on the way to Camp 1

Resting on the way to Camp 1

Camp 1 was set in the middle of the massive Kahiltna Glacier just short of Ski Hill. We set up camp here including our kitchen and bathroom and got to enjoy another amazing view. We made great time to Camp 1 so we had plenty of time to get rested before we carried a bunch of gear and food up the mountain. We had another early morning on our carry day but the weather was nice again and not too cold ... or so we thought. That quickly changed. As we headed up ski hill the wind started to pick up. The goal was to get our gear all the way to the base of the hill before 11,000ft camp but the weather turned bad quickly. The wind continued to blow but snow was added to the mix. Visibility dropped quickly so we decided to cache where we were. We felt like we had made it a good distance but it was hard to tell when you couldn't see anything besides our group. We quickly buried and marked our cache then headed down. The descent went quickly and we all jumped into our tents to get warm. It snowed lightly most of the day and we were still hopeful of a move to 11,000 camp the next day.

I woke up at 3:00 A.M. to get ready for our move to Camp 2. It was dead silent in the tent and outside. I listened for the guide for 30 minutes before getting ready and when I didn't hear anything I decided to lay back down, plans must've changed. Five minutes later a hear muffled voices. Then our tent shakes and the voices can be heard clearly. There was a nice solid layer of snow insulating us in our tent. It snowed most of the night and it was still dumping. I jumped out of the tent and into a snow globe. Obviously with the amount of snow and wind we wouldn't be able to move. The guides cleared our tent of the first time but then it was our responsibility to keep it cleared off for the remainder of the storm. My tent mate Vibs and I took turns shaking the snow off and shoveling it away. After several hours of snow and rounds of shoveling, the weather cleared and we could see the accumulation of snow that had fallen. Being cooped up in a small tent can be draining, but we made the best of the day by telling jokes and "dancing" in our snowshoes.

More to come in the next few days! Also, please remember to check out and share my donation page here(link is external). We are really close to our goal and anything helps! I also would like to thank ASD Healthcare for being the major sponsor of my climb and a huge supporter of Save One Life.

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