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Thread: Team Dom Denali Attempt Day by Day

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    Team Dom Denali Attempt Day by Day

    The 45 minutes of video and 600-700 pix will come a little later. Also planning on some kind of formal presentation where we can show both in the next couple of weeks.


    Thursday May 22

    After spending the previous day doing last minute purchases and fiddling with gear at the Long House, we were now ready at 7:30 with our heavy duffel bags by the lobby. A nice woman from Talkeetna Air taxi picked us up with a van and trailer. We headed north for 140 miles or so to Talkeetna. There are many beautiful mountains on the way up there to gaze at.....if you lived in Alaska you needed about 1,000 years to finish just an initial batch of projects in the mountains.....

    We stopped at a grocery store to get some more last-minute food including giant subs ets so we could live a couple of days on the glacier without freeze-dried stuff. The van and trailer turned in by the airstrip and we started to organize gear. max 125 lbs per person was the rule. My two bags came in at 122 lbs after I scattered around a few things like tent, snowshoes etc to other team members. Already had double plastic on feet and harness around waist. We left a set of clean clothes and other misc stuff in a storage shed.

    Paid out airfare and white gas bills at the Talkeetna Air Taxi office before headed downtown Talkeetna to the Ranger Station for climbing permits and a run-through by a ranger on how to use the portable green buckets and a detailed description of the West Butt route. A lot of dudes in Alaska have long gray hair and santa-like beard. Maybe because living close to the North Pole The rangers were super-friendly and enthused about what they were doing.

    Had a last meal and beer at The West Rib Bar. Also bought some pizza slizes for the evening......it was a possibility that we might not fly out for a few days due to weather. Eventually we got back to the airstrip and were told we should board the plane immediately! Threw the pizza slices in the flight cabin with our duffels and backpacks. We were psyched to be able to get on the mountain right away

    The first part of the flight went over pine trees and rivers and more and more snow became visible on the ground and soon we were heading over the mountains......unbelievable how jagged and steep these peaks are! Team Dom members got nervous when I asked the pikot if I could fly the plane. The pilot politely declined the request.

    A warning voice in the plane tells the pilot when he gets within 500 feet, 400 feet etc of the peaks.......400 feet was the closest warning we got.....ther altimeter said 11,000 feet at ther highest pass we squeezed through.....and after a right turn the marked airstrip at basecamp Kahiltna Glacier shows up and the skis on the plane goes under the wheels and we land safely....wow!

    It was now 6pm and we organized our sleds, melted snow for water, got our 10 gallons of whitegas from Lisa the base camp manager. A young Czech climber sunbathed in his thongs smoking a cigarett next to team Dom.....things are done differently in eastern Europe I guess
    Ate pizza and by 10pm we were roped up and headed down to 6,600 feet from 7,200 feet with our sleds. We were two rope teams. Rob, me, Arm and Jeff on one rope and Frodo, Stinkyfeet, Hamtero and Go on the other. No need for headlamps since so far north. We had 5.5 miles of glacier travel before reaching camp 1 at 7,800 feet. The route is well marked with bamboo wands and Team Dom cruised up to camp 1 in less than 4 hours.

    We were able to find some empty snow-wall shelters a bit apart from each other. Arm and Garett were in the middle next to two empty tents which belonged to two Japanese climbers attempting the Cassin Ridge. I noticed a lamp was on in their cooking tent when we came to camp a blittle before 2am. The next day a couple of rangers asked us if we had seen them - they had been expected back 5 days ago.....they had been last seen at 14,000 feet on Cassin Ridge. They must have been gone from camp at least 10 days. The search for the climbers were later called off. Kind of erie looking at their tents. A reminder that we all wanted to get back to camp alive each day. At least we seemed to have tons of provisions with us We were soon snoaring away in our sleeping bags.......

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mad Townie's Avatar
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    So far so . . . wow! Thanks Mats. It's great to have you all back. I suppose we should all thank that pilot for not letting you fly the plane!
    Mad Townie

    Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary. - H. D. Thoreau

    Easy trails, nice days and comfort are good, too. - M. Townie

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mats Roing
    We were able to find some empty snow-wall shelters a bit apart from each other. Arm and Garett were in the middle next to two empty tents which belonged to two Japanese climbers attempting the Cassin Ridge. I noticed a lamp was on in their cooking tent when we came to camp a blittle before 2am. The next day a couple of rangers asked us if we had seen them - they had been expected back 5 days ago.....they had been last seen at 14,000 feet on Cassin Ridge. They must have been gone from camp at least 10 days. The search for the climbers were later called off. Kind of erie looking at their tents. A reminder that we all wanted to get back to camp alive each day.
    Welcome back, Mats, and Team Dom!

    Here are the VFTT threads started by Solitary on the missing Japanese climbers.

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?t=22891

    http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?t=22699
    Last edited by Dr. Dasypodidae; 06-07-2008 at 10:24 PM. Reason: add a link

  4. #4
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    Sorry for the delay with posting......had to go up north and hike among trees yesterday.....JasonPatrikz and I did the Pemi-loop.....if you have the latest issue of Backpackers Magazine, there is a picture of Jason in it. I think he's heading down Monroe or something. Photo was taken by Tim Seaver.

    Anyway....

    Friday May 23

    It was a beautiful morning in Camp 1 (7,800'). Had the last piece of the now soggy sandwich I bought on the way to Talkeetna. The snowshelter built of snowblocks also had a dug-down kitchen area and a "bathroom" (next to the kitchen area with not high enough walls ). There were some interesting situations arising from this and which we do not publish photos from

    Our closest neighbors other than Arm, Garett and the absent Japanese climbers' tents, were three climbers from Hong Kong. We asked a couple of times how they were doing and they answered "I don't know!" and "No English". They had good attitude and were smiling but attempts to converse took a natural ending.

    A little grey/yellow bird seemed to take a liking of our camp. Rob, who is known for being succesful with ladies at high altitude even managed to get the bird inside our tent for a while.

    The biggest chore every day was to melt snow for water. We had no shortage of snow......just had to make sure we get enough far away from camp to avoid the lemonade colored snow. Issues with chocolate snow has basically been eliminated due to climbers are required to carry green buckets with biodegradable plastic bags inside......these are then tossed into designated deep crevasses......

    We took a rest day today since we didn't arrive to this camp until late at night. This camp as well as every camp had wicked awesome views and we were spoiled by a few avalanches and a rock fall roaming down the slopes around us. It was today that park rangers Todd and Kristen came to interview us about the Japanese climbers. Later on the way down, some of us got involved with Todd and Kristen plus some other rangers in the rescue of a Canadian Claude who tumbled 2,000 feet from about 16,500' by Washburn's Thumb. More of that later.

    My first encounter with park ranger Todd was when I saw he was heading towards the "poop crevasse". I didn't know he was a ranger so I rushed up and yelled that there is a deep crevasse where he was heading. That was the last time I gave advice to the park rangers

    Everyone was in good spirits today and Jeff measured 0 degrees F inside our tent before falling asleep. Needless to say....tough to avoid the frost layer inside the tent fabric even if plenty of ventilation. A constant "snowfall" from the frost in the ceiling was something we had to live with all nights......and the top of our sleeping bags always had a white layer in the morning.....waterproof outer fabric on downbagscertainly helps here. It's always good need to air out the bags during the sunny days regardless.

    Summer sausage and tortilla feast for dinner tonight......waiting as long as possible with the freeze-dried stuff.....tomorrow we move up to 9,800'.....

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    Saturday May 24

    Waking up to beautiful sunshine is always very pleasant in the mountains and so was the case this morning. Milk-powdered cereal and coffee for breakfast and breaking camp for a couple of hours before sledding up and roping up. Sleds really are necessary since all of us had 100 lbs + of stuff.

    Today we were going up the first steep hill called "Ski Hill". Same rope teams as day one with Frodo, Sue, Hamtero and Garett on one rope and Rob, me, Arm and Jeff on the other. We looked into the fork of the Kahiltna Glacier where the two missing Japanese had traveled to get to the base of The Cassin Ridge (first climbed in 1961 by the legendary Ricardo Cassin and members of an Italian climbing club known as the "Lecco Spiders"). That portion of the glacier was very broken up and it looked extremely difficult to get through. Amazingly they were able to cross the glacier in the first place.

    The steep Ski Hill required us to lean forward a lot in order to make the sled follow uphill. The skies turned grey and halfway up it started to snow......we were now eager to find camp soon and skipped further stops for glamour shots. After an eternity we finally saw some shelters in the whiteout. Since we only found one shelter Arm held it while Rob, me and Jeff kept searching for others. We soon found three next to each other. Frodo's team joined us and we started to set camp. We dug out a kitchen area but it wasn't used due to the snowy weather. Arm and Garett got a fairly shallow site and had to work a bit to deepen it. As it turned out it wasn't a bad idea to have a shallow shelter.....after a couple of hours Rob's, Jeff's and my tent which set deep had accumulated over a foot of snow and had to be shoveled out.....and again a couple of hours later.....and in the morning we woke up and 3/4 of the tent was buried......spindrifty snow found a natural home in our deep shelter. I think we got some good shots of this. I was able to get out and find a shovel. Hamtero, always helpful, came and joined me with Dr. D's orange excavator shovel

    Sunday May 25

    An Estonian team on the way down (did not summit) was our nextdoor neighbor. They seemed to enjoy smoking a lot. It was windy and very cold this morning although sun showed up. Going to the bathroom wasn't exactly thrilling....we packed up and wanted to get out of this camp and move up to 11,200 camp. (Camp 3). Only 1,400' up to next camp...piece of cake we thought.....yeah right.....it started relatively well and we passed a few teams.....soon we were overtaken again by some of our sleds turned over. And the last hill up to camp 3 is really steep and at 11,000 feet it takes everything you have to pull you and your gear up that thing. Found a big shelter for two tents and one smaller for my Bombshelter. pretty close to each other. We got the crazy Spaniards as neighbors this time - got them on video as well . They were singing and dancing a lot. Garett felt a little under the weather.

    Todd, Kristen and the other three rangers were camped next to us also. They had a roomy NF Himalayan 47 tent.....would be nice.....

    We figured out a good way to recharge the sat phone by placing the solar cell panel on top of the tent and keeping the phone with batteries inside a warm sleeping bag. Sunny weather and the snow-melting pots were revving close to the red-line......my 18-inch summer sausage got finished today....freeze-dried from now on...sigh......brought olive oil and tabasco to spice up life a little though

    This camp at 11,200' is where a lot of people start to double-carry from and sleds and snowshoes are buried here. And so did we. This camp is highly populated with probably close to 100 climbers in it. Many languges can be heard and different flags seen. We enjoyed watching the flow of climbers going up and down "Motorcycle Hill" above camp. Motorcycle Hill is the start of the march up to the 14,200' camp. Link to "Motorcycle Hill: http://aai.cc/motorcyclehill.asp

    AAI has a pretty good virtual tour where you can also see apix of one of them birds at 7,800' camp: http://aai.cc/ProgramDetail/denali/
    Click on "Virtual Tour"

    Next episode......placing a cache at other side of Windy Pass at 13,700'......stay tuned.....
    Last edited by Mats Roing; 06-09-2008 at 05:06 PM.

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    Senior Member Gris's Avatar
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    hey!

    matts, any idea what the temps were at diff points/days along the way?
    Buy my new book 'Zen and the Art of Pessimisim,' or not. I guess it doesn't really matter if you read it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gris
    matts, any idea what the temps were at diff points/days along the way?
    I didn't have a thermometer myself but the forecasts for 14K camp and 17K camp were generally 0 to minus 15 F for the highs (w/o windchill factor). However if the sun decided to show up it became much more pleasant and when it was windy you just wanted to go inside the tent. Seemed to be a 10 degree difference between 14K and 17K camp. The downbooties needed overboots to stay warm for more than 10 minutes when hanging around camp. Regular air-activated hand and footwarmers don't seem to activate at higher altitude. Never tried any myself but encountered people who were frustrated about it.

    Next time I'll bring one of these along: http://www.kestrelmeters.com/Kestrel...sNav=0#pp-tabs
    Last edited by Mats Roing; 06-10-2008 at 01:32 PM.

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    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mats Roing
    Regular air-activated hand and footwarmers don't seem to activate at higher altitude. Never tried any myself but encountered people who were frustrated about it.
    They contain powdered iron. In the presence of oxygen they rust, which produces heat. So if there is a lower oxygen concentration they cannot rust... I found that they worked well enough at 11K on Rainier.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
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    Senior Member DreamFarmer's Avatar
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    This is really interesting stuff.
    I had no idea there were so many people trying to climb Denali....or that it was such an accomplishment....even with todays gear...How the heck did Hilary do Everest when he did it ?

    When I see the pics of the clear sunny days I think, "that would be cool to do".....But then I see the clips of the camps hunkered down in the howling wind and .....think how cold it is .....and I say.."No Way".
    --Rookie

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DreamFarmer
    This is really interesting stuff.
    I had no idea there were so many people trying to climb Denali....or that it was such an accomplishment....even with todays gear...How the heck did Hilary do Everest when he did it ?
    Denali is not an easy peak...
    * The Himalayas are in the tropics, Denali is in the Arctic...
    * The air pressure at a given altitude is higher (denser) in the Himalayas than on Denali. Denali (20Kft) has been reported by climbers such as Doug Scott and Dugal Haston** to feel more like 23Kft would in the Himalayas.
    * Denali is close enough to the coast for storms to come in from the Gulf of Alaska.

    ** Two of the top high altitude climbers in the world, in their day.


    Congrats to the team, thanks Mats for the reports. Eagerly awaiting the remainder...

    Doug

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mats Roing
    I Seemed to be a 10 degree difference between 14K and 17K camp.
    This difference is spot on for a normal temperature lapse rate, 3.3 degrees F per 1000 ft. (or, 0.6 degree C per 100 m), other conditions being equal.

    The little Kestrel and similar anemometers are fun to carry in the Whites as they inevitably show that we commonly over-estimate wind speed.

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    Senior Member ADKdremn's Avatar
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    This has been a really great read so far, I'm looking forward to the rest...especially the pics!
    Thanks DougPaul for those interesting facts you shared.
    I can't even begin to comprehend the preparations, planning, training, etc that go into trips like this. It really is amazing and my hat is off to all the team members.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    OK, looks like I just blew this whole day's report. I clicked on "Edit" instead of "Quote".

    Let me try to redo it. Maybe there is a Metsky trick here to apply?

    OK, here we go again:

    Monday May 26

    Another morning waking up in the frost covered sleeping bags and people usually wait to wake up until the sun appears above the giant mountain walls surrounding most places in the Alaska Range. So today we packed food and clothing mostly for caching at 13.7K just around Windy Corner which is considered the crux on the lower portion of Denali. Probably 50-60 lbs in the pack and roped up we meandered through the camp towards 700 vertical feet of Motorcycle Hill. Sun was gazing pretty good so we dressed lightly with plenty of zink oxide and sun screen.

    Enormous seracs waiting to be taken downhill by gravity......didn't see any break lose although plenty of evidence it happens. Altimeter showed 11,890 feet at the top of the hill where there is a flat rest area:
    http://www.mcsa.org.za/cpg/displayimage.php?pos=-775

    The path turns 90 degrees to the right up a somewhat steeper and icier section towards Squirrel Point. A red squirrel was seen here a few years ago. Hitchhiked in someone's pack or duffelbag:
    http://www.barriekelly.com/Beasts/im...%20Feeding.jpg

    FrodoS rope team took a break on the flat area above Squirrel Point and we passed each other again. From here it gets a little steeper again to Windy Pass at 13,500 feet. We added a layer right before turning left around it since it got a bit colder in the late afternoon. Windy corner was nice to us today:


    The cache area had hundreds of bamboo flags stuck in the crevasse infested glacier. We had to take frequent breaks trying to brek through the icy crust to dig our hole ofr the cache. The reason that we need to dig down a few feet is the obvious sun and weather exposure but also hungry ravens known for feasting on on cached bags. The whole crew was here above 4,000 meters together......we could start to smell the smoke of battle

    What a pleasure to hike with basically empty backpacks Moved swiftly downhill......we passed Squirrel Point and shortly before the top of Motorcycle Hill Rob took off from the trail for a flat spot to take a break........for some reason one of his crampons parted by the extender bar and he started to make it back towards the trail.....at the same time my right leg started to sink down through the snow......a crevasse...a small one fortunately.....my other leg had firm foothold and I was able to pull myself out......sigh.....heartrate took a bump there....took a break at the rest area before heading down the last portion towards 11.2 camp........another day of higher calorie burn rate than intake.....good that we brought lots of food

    The next breakthrough in mountaineering would be freeze-dried beer

    Next episode........the death-march to 14.2 camp........dam-da-da-dam.....
    Last edited by Mats Roing; 06-10-2008 at 11:14 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mats Roing's Avatar
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    Just wanted to add that the particular section where the climbers traverse on the visible photo of Windy Corner is very icy......if you fall you're going going for a fast ride with your ropemates unless they know how to do an excellent self arrest and have sharp front points and axe.

    In camp 11.2 I met a group coming down Windy Corner the day we came up to 11.2 camp and they said they barely made it down through there since it blew 70-80 mph. They ran out of food higher up and had to abandon their attempt.

    This is a link to a 1989 French expedition and their Windy Corner Experience. Rob and I met Brigitte (from the French expedition) on Aconcagua in 2006. Brigitte was the first French woman to climb Shishapagma among other things:
    http://www.trekearth.com/viewphotos.php?l=7&p=96598

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    Senior Member Rejean's Avatar
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    Thanks Matts for the all the picture and congratulation for that
    great expedition. It's amazing to see all the snow and thats my kind
    of mtn. Maybe one day I will try to go with my good friend Oncoman,Pin
    Pin and Jeremy....

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