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.......