MT. DENALI – WEEK 1: 9 – 15 May 2014

Mt. Denali West Buttress Route above
May 9th:  Flew into Anchorage and got to the hotel around 8:30pm.  Had a small dinner at the hotel, chowder and chocolate mud pie…cheap at $12.50 total.
May 10th:  Around 6:15am I was awake and laying in bed when an earthquake hit.  There were 2-3 bumps and then it lasted for around 6-10 seconds.  The front desk said it was a 5.7 magnitude.  Walked to McDonalds for breakfast.  Met Mikkel from Norway for his breakfast mid-morning.  Selina from the UK and Amy from San Diego joined us.  We talked a lot about the expedition and climbing in general.  Selina had just come from Everest.  A bunch of sherpas were killed in a avalanche and they canceled all Everest trips this year.  She went home and came right back over to do Denali.
At 2:00pm, we met our guides Andy and Geoff.  They went over the expedition basics and then they reviewed all our gear for a couple hours.  They also handed out our personal 5 day bags of food for the summit attempt.  We also met Adam from Australia.  We then took a trip to REI and another climbing store to get some final items of gear that we each needed.  These two picture show you what the gear check looks like.  The first picture is all my gear exploded out.
May 11:  At 6:45am we loaded the van for a 2.5 – 3 hour ride north to Talkeetna, Alaska.  We arrived around 9:30am and had an in-brief from the State Park Ranger around 11:00am.  For the next few hours we hung out in the hanger packing and weighing all gear and personnel for the flights.  Eventually, mid-afternoon we loaded everything into 2 planes and flew into the glacier.  The flight was around 35 minutes and the views were fantastic.  We landed on the glacier at 7,200 feet, unloaded the plane and spent the next 2-3 hours setting up base camp.  Spaghetti dinner and then off to bed!
This picture was our first view of Denali from the van ride.
This picture shows most of our gear laid out in the hanger before loading on the planes.  The second picture shows all the gear including backpacks and duffel bags.  All the white bags on the right are food bags for each day.  Each bag has breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day.  Seven of us have to carry all this gear.
Hanging out in Talkeetna, elevation 358 feet:
Boarding one of the planes.  I was the lucky one and got to sit in the co-pilot seat which had great views of the flight into the glacier.
 Just landed and before unloading:
A good view of the runway:
Out 4 tents at base camp:

May 13:  Had a great night of sleep.  The 8:00pm weather report said snow and cold was in the forecast for mid-day today so the guides decided we would stay put at Camp 1.  We were up around 8:30am with breakfast at 9:00am.  Temps were nice in the 20’s with slight breezes most of the day – some clouds, some sun.  French toast for breakfast and PB&J sandwiches for lunch.  Tomorrow with be a long day as we will carry a lot of gear to cache at around 10,000+ feet and return to Camp 1 for another night.  Climbing up and then descending the same day helps with acclimatization to the altitude.  We built some small snow walls for the tents in the afternoon.  Took a nap and relaxed most of the day.  Had Cous-Cous for dinner.

This picture is Camp 1 looking up Ski hill in the distance heading towards Camp 2.
This picture is Camp 1 looking back the other direction.  Guys tent to the left, ladies tent on the right.  The small snow walls behind the tent are for the restroom.
Mikkel and I admiring our first snow wall.  As you will see in later pictures, this is pretty pitiful but we had fun doing it!  Picture taken by Selina.
May 14:  7:00am breakfast.  8:35am started hiking.  It was a cold breezy morning.  Maybe in the 20’s.  Higher up as we hiked the sun came out and it was calmer.  The goal today was to bring a lot of gear to 10,000 feet and cache it for retrieval later.  We made good time and the weather was nice so the guides decide to push a little higher to around 10,600 feet where we cached food and gear.  This is just below Camp 2 which is at 11,200 feet. It took about 5 hours to get up and a 2 hour hike back down to Camp 1 at 7,800 feet.  It was very, very warm coming down and a fantastic afternoon to be out.  We relaxed until dinner around 6:30pm.  Thai Peanut Noodles – excellent.  We also planned out the next day.  Approximately 7.5 miles round-trip and 2,800 feet of elevation gained and lost.
These are two photos of typical breaks we took on the way up.  The scenery was pretty impressive.  Pictures taken by guide Andrew.
Another break.  Photo by Selina.
Our guide Geoff is standing in the cache hole he just dug.  Guide Andrew is in front applying sunscreen.
The cache hole after filling it with food and gear and marking it for retrieval later.  Guide Andrew standing guard.
May 15:  6:30am breakfast of oatmeal and pop tarts.  Broke camp and packed for a 8:35am start.  Sunny for a couple hours and then clouds came in.  Hot at times and then cool.  Not much wind.  Reached Camp 2 at 11,200 feet around 2:15pm and spent the next 2.5 – 3 hours setting up camp.  I felt better this day and than I did yesterday.  Lots of people at this camp compared to Camp 1.  Roughly 4 miles and 3,400 feet of elevation gain.
These are our tents at Camp 2 with a substantially beefier snow wall.
The view looking over our tents towards the rest of Camp 2 and Motorcycle Hill in the distance.  Motorcycle Hill is the snowy part and not the rock peak.  You can just make out the trail which reaches the saddle where you then take a right hand turn and go up Squirrel Hill and end up on the Polo Fields before heading up to Windy Corner.
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