Friday, June 4, 2010

ODS Members Interviewed on KTOO-FM

Here's a link to a short story with Shea, Kevin, Travis, and Sammy talking about their experiences on Denali and the ODS program at UAS.

Thursday, June 3, 2010
A Juneau Afternoon with Jeff Brown

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pritty Pitchers of Nature and Stuff

As a recent former president once said, "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."

Thank you to Shea for providing these fantastic pictures!

Let's say this is Yosuke until somebody proves me wrong.

Travis in the foreground, miles of nothing in the distance.

It's Sammy, the Sweetheart of Camp 11.

Yosuke and the soup of the day, miso.

Shea, Sammy, Acacia, and Jack Nickelson display the funny things mountaineering does to your hair.

The famous couch at 14,200 ft. camp, which I now see is more of a loveseat, really. Take your feet off the coffee table, boys.

Climbing towards the summit.

Yosuke on the summit!

Heading back down: Acacia, Sammy, Kevin, TAT Pilot (?), Shea, Forest, Yosuke, and Freddie.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Reverse Roadtrip

A few images from Kevin's iPhone...

I believe this is the fortress they built at 14,000 ft. camp.

Surely within these sturdy walls, their civilization is safe from the barbarians.

No one knows how these ancient structures were built, each block cut so precisely against its neighbor no mortar was necessary.

Kevin paused to take this mystical shot during his ski descent from 17,000 to 14,000 ft.

Smile and say "shower!"

The team flew out on Saturday, overnighting in Talkeetna. They came through Anchorage and drove through the night. They are currently on their way to the ferry; then Juneau. If they can make the 8 p.m. Monday ferry, they may even be back tonight or early tomorrow!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

On their way down...

17,000 to 14,000: Everyone hiked down with the exception of Kevin, who was happy to take a ski run down to 14,000 ft. camp. 14,000 ft. camp is a hopping place in the good weather we've been having; some people brought up guitars and were jamming, and Sammy and Acacia were treated to some nice cheeses from the neighboring Italian climbing team. Given good social skills, it sounds like one could live there the whole summer on food that descending climbing teams want to jettison. Not that I am advocating the mountaineer bum lifestyle. Okay, it sounds a little bit awesome.

The team departed 14,000 ft. camp last night for a night descent of the mountain. They should be down in Talkeetna sometime today; Travis will meet them there for the long drive back to Juneau.

Hopefully, I'll get some pics today. After they return, I'll post a selection of pics from the trip before wrapping up this blog; be sure to check back for those.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summit Successful

Forest, Shea, and Yosuke reached the summit of Denali today at around 6:00 pm! They are now on their way back down to the camp at 17,000 ft. I don't have many details yet; I do know it was a cold and difficult climb. At some point today, Freddie and Kevin turned back; I hope to get more details later tonight when Forest reaches camp -- he has the satellite phone! Sammy and Acacia decided to stay snug and happy at the ranger-attended town of 14,200 ft. camp and not to attempt the summit. The whole gang will reunite tomorrow, Friday, for the descent.

Congratulations to everyone! The planning, preparation, and performance required by mountaineering are truly an achievement. Now, get down safely, will ya?

Summit Attempt Day: Thurs. May 27

The team is attempting to reach the summit of Denali today. Their plan was to leave the 17,000 ft. camp at 6 a.m. this morning with minimal gear, returning to the same camp in the evening (or even possibly back to the 14,200 ft. camp.) It will be a long, strenuous day of climbing. Be sure to check out the Spot Locator to track their progress -- they are at about 17,400 ft. as of this posting. They may call in on the satellite phone during the day so stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday May 26 Update

On Tuesday, members of the team resumed their ascent and set up a new camp at 17,000 ft. Depending on the weather, they may take a rest day on Wednesday and attempt to summit on Thursday. The forecast has been good; a high pressure ridge in the area until Saturday, light winds between 15 and 20 miles per hour.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Mountain by Any Other Name

Denali ("The High One")
Koyukon Athabaskan

Doleika (Dghelay Ka'a) ("The Big Mountain")


Found on a Russian map

Densmore's Mountain
Densmore's Peak
After prospector Frank Densmore, who really liked the mountain and talked about it a lot.

Mt. McKinley
Dubbed so by McKinley-for-president supporter William Dickey, prospector and reporter-at-large for the New York Sun.

Today, "Denali" is favored by Alaska Natives, Alaskans, and mountaineers. The Alaska Board of Geographic Names has officially changed the name to Denali, however, despite many efforts by members of the Alaska Legislature including Jay Hammond and Don Young, the name change has not been adopted by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. Each attempt over the years has been successfully blocked by a variety of Ohio congressmen, who seem to have a furious attachment to McKinley, a former Ohio congressman prior to becoming the 25th U.S. president.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Wrap Up

Got a brief call from Kevin; everyone's had a good rest day; there is a screening of the cinema classic "Old School" tonight in the big tent. Tomorrow's forecast looks good for reaching the 17,000 ft. camp. If all goes well, Wednesday is summit day.

Know Yer History

Our blog header image includes the Muldrow Glacier/Karsten's Ridge route and is taken from the northeast in the vicinity of the Eielson Visitors Center on the Denali Park Road.

The first climbers high on Denali were the Sourdoughs in 1910 who thought they summited the highest point which was the lower North Summit (right in the photo). The Parker-Browne expedition got within 200' of the South Summit, 20,320' (left in the photo) in 1912.

Fittingly, the first person on the summit was Walter Harper, an Athabaskan Native on Hudson Stuck's* team in 1913. An interesting factoid for Juneauites, Walter Harper was on board the Princess Sophia, which tragically sunk in nearby Lynn Canal in 1918, and he was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

* the Episcopal Archdeacon of the Yukon

Thanks so much for your contribution, Mike!

A Mountaineer's History of Denali/Mt. McKinley

Mike Hekkers sent me this great information on the pioneering of the West Buttress route now being employed by our UAS ODS climbers.

Brad Washburn's famous photo of the upper West Buttress route that he pioneered in 1951. At the time it took his expedition 3 months to scout and map the route to the summit. His wife Barbara was the first woman to summit Denali in 1947 as detailed in The Accidental Adventurer: The First Woman to Climb Mt. McKinley.

Washburn's aerial photographs and color contour maps are still excellent references for mountain topography and routes. He and David Roberts produced a beautiful coffee table book about his numerous expeditions Mount McKinley: The Conquest of Denali.

Genet Basin at 14,200' is named after Ray Genet, aka "The Pirate", who was on the first successful winter climb of Denali in February of 1967 as featured in the chilling book Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mt. McKinley by Art Davidson. Amazingly Genet had no mountaineering experience prior to the trip but later became a famous guide!

The Route: The busy 14,200' camp includes a climbing rangers camp and is also an advanced base camp for climbers attempting other upper mountain routes including the West Rib. The headwall above 14,200' climbs to 16,000' on the ridge top of the West Buttress which leads to the High Camp at 17,200'. The route continues diagonally up to Denali Pass at 18,000' at which point the route joins the less popular "old standard" routes from the north side Muldrow Glacier/Karsten's Ridge. The slopes are low gradient past the "Archdeacon's Tower" and "The Football Field", the flat spot just below the summit at 19,200'. The last couple hours on the last headwall and summit ridge offer 360 degree views of greater Alaska.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, May 23 Update

The team has been busy today, both in and out of camp. They've been decorating. Some of them built a couch and ottoman out of snow this morning. They also built a sculpture in a sort of "tiki" style.

More gear was carried and cached at 16,000 ft. in preparation for Tuesday's move to a new camp at 17,000 ft. When the team returned, they found their couch had been taken over by Discovery Channel's self-described "biker bad boy" Tim Medvetz of "Everest: Beyond the Limit" and "Deadliest Climb: Everest" semi-fame. He was deep in conversation and wouldn't budge for some time.

Tomorrow, Monday, will be a rest day. Hashbrowns with sausage and cheese for breakfast, tortilla soup and burritos for dinner. When you're sitting around in the snow, you tend to plan your meals ahead a bit, I guess!

It's Camp Movie Nite tonight: They are all crammed into one tent; Shea has attached his iPod with string at one end of the tent, movie screen style. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is on first. Each of them has a chocolate bar. Kevin also has two audio books: John le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. Just in case you want to follow along with the ODS BookClub selections for May.

If they are able to make camp at the 17,000 ft. level on Tuesday, the team will attempt to summit on Wednesday. We're getting close here, folks!!!

Addendum: I also want to give a shout-out to Shea, who got all Apollo 13 on us and created a charger for the satellite phone on the fly. He spliced together two other chargers; one with the correct plug, the other with the correct power source. It's been great to be able to use the sat phone to get these regular updates and not have to save all the batteries for emergency purposes. You rock, Shea!

Congratulations to Jordan Romero!

As you probably already know, climber Jordan Romero has just completed his sixth of the "seven summits", Everest. An extraordinary feat for anyone; mindblowing for someone only 13 years old. While the ethics issues raised by young people engaged in extremely risk-filled endeavors are complex, I would like to take a moment to congratulate this extraordinary young man.

A month back, I read a very interesting article on Jorden; it provides a well-written portrait of him, his family, and the ethical issues involved. It's available online here: Outside Magazine, April 2010.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rest Day

Just a brief call today; the satellite phone connection wasn't very good tonight. Everyone's well. Kevin hiked up and went skiing. Tomorrow they are going to cache some supplies higher, then return to their current camp. G'night!

Friday, May 21, 2010

News of the Weird, Denali Edition

Came across this bizarre story published yesterday in the Anchorage Daily News about a climber on the same West Buttress route, at our team's current high altitude camp.

A healthy Croatian female climber refused to hike out and forced volunteers and NPS personnel to provide her shelter, food and, eventually, a high risk rescue helicopter flight out.

Everyone from the NPS to the volunteers who dealt with her sounds scarred for life. And these are people who work on Denali for a living!

14,200 Feet! (4,328 meters to the rest of the world)

Woohoo! The team was up at 5 a.m. Thursday morning and climbed throughout the day, reaching their new site at 14,200 feet. The weather was sunny, clear and hot. They have to take precautions against sunburn; Kevin described the sun as "brutal". They get a chance to cool off at night; usually temps are around 15 degrees. Fans of weather tracking can follow the conditions at various altitudes at the National Weather Service Mt. McKinley site.

Speaking of cool sites, PBS has a feature-filled site for their Nova documentary, the alarmingly titled "Deadly Ascent". Try not to let that dissuade you from checking it out. Or wait until they're back down and watch it together with popcorn and apples. (Which is how my mom and I like it.)

Back to the team: Today, they went back to bring stuff they had cached between camps up to the 14,200 ft. camp. They will be resting and acclimating at this camp over the next 3-4 days. They will be building a snow wall and generally making camp life comfortable.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Web Cam from Talkeetna Air Taxi

Avid blog follower Mike Hekkers (someone is reading this!) emailed me a link to TAT's web cam. It gives you a sense of the weather in the general area along with a picture of two woodland pixies on a clear day to use for the purposes of comparison. Link to Web Cam.

Mike writes that he is inputting the coordinates provided by the Spot Tracker into Google Earth. He thinks this is fun. He also writes that he climbed Denali from the other side, and that it is fun to virtually 'learn' this route. I am pressing him for more details!

Images from the Mountain! The Reckoning

The last two shots from Travis from the trip so far:

Mt. Foraker looms in the distance.

Traveling on the Kahiltna Glacier.

Just heard from Kevin this morning; everyone is well and they are currently at the 11,300 ft. camp. It has been snowing a lot, but the sun is peeking out now. If the weather clears enough, they will be trying to move up to about 14,000 ft. and set up a new camp today.

Images from the Mountain! The Sequel.

Kevin makes his famous cheezy bacon biscuits. 2,000 cal. and 50 grams of sodium each. Oh, be quiet, you know you want one.

National Park Service heli at the 11,300 ft. camp/snow fort.

Acacia & Sammy in Kiva

11,300 ft. camp: Yosuke and Forest shoveling the driveway for the tents.

7,600 ft. camp

Images from the Mountain!

There's very limited reception from the satellite phone right now ("Hi! It's Kevin, staticstaticstatic ***). This morning brought these wonderful images fresh off the mountain, courtesy of Travis. Thanks, Travis!

Don't you just love spring?

70 lb. pack, 70 lb. sled.

Downtown Hooverville

Kevin unloads his sweet new Revelstokes while the rest of the kids go sledding.

Otter flight in to Base Camp; Yosuke, Kevin, Shea, Freddie

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Group Divides (Temporarily)

It is not unusual to have difficulty adjusting to the lower oxygen content of high elevations. Climbers often camp several days at successive elevations before a "push". This hopefully allows for the body to acclimate. After close assessment, it was determined that Travis was having difficulties acclimating and should return to a lower elevation. I spoke with Travis today (he is feeling much better; he got a precautionary check-up in Wasilla). He plans to visit his sister in Anchorage and then stay at his home in Kenai until the group has descended Denali. He will then meet them in Talkeetna for the return journey to Juneau.

Monday, while the rest of the team stayed at the 11,300 ft. camp, Forest and Shea accompanied Travis to Base Camp (Forest turning back to rejoin the group just before reaching Base Camp). Travis, responding well to the lower elevation, flew out Tuesday morning. Shea is returning to the 11,300 ft. camp.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Kevin and the rest of the team hauled gear and food up to a cache at 13,500 ft.; a feat that began at 9 this morning and concluded at 7 this evening with their return to the 11,300 ft. camp. Everyone should be reunited by Wednesday morning.

When I spoke with Forest, he outlined a general plan: Wednesday is a rest day, followed by a move to 14,000 ft. on Thursday. There the group will rest and acclimate for the next four days or so. The next goal is to move to a "high camp" and then to summit, weather permitting.

Speaking of weather, the team has been enjoying perfect weather so far; even hot at times. This, of course, is a relative "hot". Forest reported some weather starting to move in now.

French Climber's Fall

I spoke with Kevin tonight and relayed what information I have found about Sunday's sad incident involving another climbing group. (link to story). Many teams, including the ODS team, are following the West Buttress route, generally considered the "easiest" route. The weather is good so far and the instructors skilled and cautious.

Tuesday's plan is to ferry supplies and equipment higher on the mountain, returning down to their current camp at the 11,200 foot level to overnight. Depending on the group's acclimatization to the altitude, they may take a rest day on Wednesday. Kevin reports that his cheese biscuits went over well tonight, and they are resting up for tomorrow's moving day.

For everyone who loves a climber, it's scary when you hear of accidents on the mountain. Condolences go out to Pascal Frison's family and friends for their loss.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hanging Out and Kicking Back a Few

The team called Sunday night; Yosuke has opened a small diner and served everyone a Japanese curry dish and miso soup. The team is going to take a few days at their current location to acclimatise.

As I have no current pics of the climbers at this time, and a blog with no pictures is boring, I offer teen dreams Tegomass in honor of Yosuke's miso soup:

Tegoshi and Masuda sing about a mother's love, shown through their care, subtle gestures, and homemade miso soup. link to awesome video

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sat. May 16 Update

Satellite service is spotty at best at this point; Kevin thinks that with greater altitude will come greater reception. I spoke to him at around 9:00 pm on Saturday. He said the group was doing well overall. They have reached 11,200 feet. They are taking the next few days going back a bit to ferry gear and supplies up to the camp, and perhaps do a little skinning and skiing. And, oh yeah, have a rest day. Or, as Princess Cruises might call it: a "chillax" day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy, Tired & Good

The ODS climbers made it to the base of Ski Hill at 7,600 ft. Each climber carried 140 lbs of gear, 70 lbs on their back while pulling 70 lbs. by sled. Today is Sammy's birthday. To celebrate Shea made a no-bake cake complete with candles!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lift Off

Shea, Forest, Freddy, Sammy, Kevin, Yosuke, Acacia

The weather is good enough to get a ride up to Mt. McKinley Base Camp. Communications will vary as they move in and out of cell range. We will receive satellite phone call updates, hopefully daily. Don't forget to check out the Spot Locator (link on top right sidebar).


According to the Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce, the town's name, loosely translated from area's Athabascan people, means "River of Plenty". More specifically, it means "He is Keeping Something Stored for Himself". Either way, the Chamber encourages you to visit.

The weather is good and the group plans to fly out from "River of Plenty & Self Storage" today to the Denali Base Camp. Talkeetna Air Taxi will be flying them to the Denali Glacier Base Camp on DeHavilland Otters or Beavers or similar varmint outfitted with ski landing gear.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Followed by Second Breakfast.

Sammy cleans her room.

Travis and Yosuke sort their Halloween candy.

Kevin took this picture for my benefit. He knows I love yurts. To my semi-expert eye, that looks like a Pacific Yurt model.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Northwest Passage Found

Near the Chugach (choo-gatch) Range.

Roadtripitus has obviously infected everyone at this point.

Day Two

Freddie, Yosuke, Shea, Travis, Sammy and Acacia

Order up.

Day Two Breakfast: The Caribou Cafe in Glennallen.

Wildlife! Some sort of skinny cow.

The Long and Winding Road

This road actually connects to other towns. Weird.

Breakfast in Haines at the awesome Mountain Market. Why doesn't Juneau have a Mountain Market? The Breeze Inn is not the same thing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Perfect Sailing Weather

Assistant Profs of Art Jeremy and Pedar are taking a group of ceramics students up to throw clay in Fairbanks.
Forest and Travis
Just Forest and his well deserved cup of coffee.
ODS students Yosuke and Freddie
Chelsea, a veteran of 2009's capstone trip to the Brooks Range, and Profs. Jeremy, Kevin, and Pedar