We finally received all the group photos from everyone earlier this week and I have been spending the rest of the time organizing them all. How many? Close to 1,200 photos and videos. I have probably deleted close to 200 photos due to focus issues or other technical faults. We’ll probably reduce that 1,200 number even more over the next month as we delete the duplicates. So that is why this recap has been taking so long to get to.
I really have no idea how long it will take to recap this adventure. We spent 18 days on the mountain, 3 days in Talkeetna and a couple of weeks mentally and physically recovering from the trip. It may take a few posts to recount such an adventure. I hope you all have the patience to follow along. I know a lot of people want pictures too. So I will try to share as many photos and videos that I can.
I’m not going to bother recapping the landmarks on the mountain. If you’re not familiar with them please refer to our pre-trip post for those details. I don’t really have any idea how long each post will be. I’ll try to keep them reasonable so you can read one in a short amount of time. I’d rather keep them short and do a lot of them then do really long posts that people lose patience with.
Since there are four other people contributing photos and videos to our group, I want to make sure they get credit for the photos and videos I post in this blog. So all the pictures and video will be mine unless I specifically indicate they belong to someone else. This isn’t a copyright issue, I just want everyone to to get credit for some of the amazing photos we have.
As most of you know, we were delayed for three days in Talkeetna just waiting to get to the mountain. Weather at basecamp was pretty bad for a number of days. No one could fly out and no one could fly in. When we arrived on June 11, we had no idea what the weather was like. In Talkeetna the weather was beautiful.
When we arrived in Anchorage we met our shuttle to Talkeetna at the airport and all of our climbing team. The team consisted of Scott, Roger, Ryan, Paul and us. Vern Tejas and Lauren Ditolla were our guides. We would meet our guides in Talkeetna. Also at the airport waiting for the shuttle was another guide we had climbed Rainier with, or attempted to as we were turned back by weather. This was Lhapka Gelu Sherpa. It was pretty neat running into him again. I showed him the picture we took with him in the cook tent on Rainier and he got a kick out of that. Lhapka was on Team 11 with another friend of ours, Ben Jones. We’ve climbed with Ben twice now. The climbing world really is a small one and Shelley and I aren’t even full-time climbers.
Upon arriving in Talkeetna, we all stayed together at the Fireweed Station Bed and Breakfast. Little did we know just how good we would come to know Tom and Hobbs. Two really great people. Great cooks too. They would even leave out freshly baked cookies for us when we would come back each night. That first night, June 11, they made us dinner and Vern and Lauren came by to join us. We all had dinner together and got to know each other better. These first two pictures were taken before dinner while we were just hanging out in the living room. Vern is in the black hat and Lauren is sitting on the fireplace hearth. In the picture with Lauren are (L to R) Ryan, Paul and Scott.
This dinner photo was taken by Tom with Roger’s camera. Starting with me in the lower left and going clockwise, Scott, Lauren, Ryan, Vern, Roger, Paul and Shelley. Here’s our bedroom. Yes, that is a mosquito net over the bed. The mosquitoes were horrible in Talkeetna.
June 12, day two our trip, was a busy day. We were scheduled to fly onto the glacier that afternoon. Before we could do that, we had some training to go through, gear check, food and group gear collection. After breakfast, we loaded up into an Alpine Ascents International (AAI) van and headed over to AAI’s property. They have an aircraft hanger at a small airfield nearby where we dumped all our gear out to inventory our stuff. This was also the location we stored our clothes and gear that we were going to leave behind while on the mountain.
We also picked up any rental gear that we ordered. For Shelley and I this was just a -40F sleeping bag. We have managed to collect everything else we would need over the previous four years. Ryan took this first photo of gear check. Please note how everyone just dumped their stuff all over the place with no rhyme or reason.
Everyone just tossed everything anywhere except Scott. He was totally organized.
Once gear check was finished we picked up our lunch food for the next few weeks. Payment for the trip included breakfast and dinner, which we didn’t deal with during these first few days. Vern and Lauren set the breakfast and dinner menus in the days before we arrived. We helped carry breakfast and dinner, but we didn’t have to pick it out or separate it out. This was done before we arrived. The breakfast bags weighed between 35 – 40 lbs each and the dinner bags weighed between 52 – 58 lbs each. There were three of each. Lunches on the other hand were picked out by us after gear check. Vern and Lauren set the lunch items up in a side shed and we just went through the buffet line picking out what we wanted. The suggestion was 1 lb of food per person, per day. I came away with 16 lbs and Shelley came out a little light. One of the other guides at the hanger helping out was Willi Prittie and his wife. After weighing Shelley’s bag, he recommended she go back and get some more food. She really didn’t want to, but did as she was told. She ended up caching most of this extra food at Camp 3. She just isn’t much of chow hound.
Once the food was packed it was time to work on group gear. We collected our sleds, tents, group food, ropes, etc. We also got ourselves rigged up and practiced doing some prussiking. This was something we had to work on before flying onto the glacier. Once we were on the glacier there was the chance of falling into a crevice and we needed to make sure we knew what to do to get out.
Now that we were trained up and our gear and food was loaded into the trailer it was time to go eat lunch. Paul had another customer take our photo while we had pizza at a little outdoor pizza place on the main drag in Talkeetna.
Speaking of the main drag through town, here it is.
Once we finished lunch it was time to move over to the ranger station and get signed in. We also had to sit through a safety presentation put on by a park ranger. It was soooooo boring. It is really geared to independent climbers, not guided groups. It was nice to have Vern with us because he knows everyone in Talkeetna (including cashiers and waiters at the restaurants) and they allowed Vern to give us a quick speech on safety instead of listening to the rangers. We also got a lesson on the Clean Mountain Can (CMC) that we would carry with us while we were on the mountain. For some reason they had to give us four of these cans. We never used more then one but we had to carry the other three. Vern cached two at basecamp and another at camp 3. What a waste of space giving us four of these things were. While we were there we also had to pay our park fee to climb the mountain. If I remember right it was $250.00 per climber. On the back wall of the station was a board indicating how many climbers were on the mountain and the success rate. My photo of his board didn’t turn out, so I’m using Ryan’s here. Foraker is another mountain near Denali. I thought it was interesting that even at the ranger station, a government building, they call the mountain Denali not the official name of Mt McKinley.
After signing in and paying our fee we were ready to fly. So we headed over to our flight service, Talkeetna Air Taxi (TAT). Unfortunately we were grounded. We hung out at TAT for a little while, but ultimately there was no reason to hang around. Vern knew some places to go hang out so we went over to a rock climbing business and killed a couple of hours over there. Since Vern knew them, they didn’t charge us for using their wall. This was when we really found out what Lauren’s specialty was. She is a helluva rock climber. She jumped on that wall and looked like spider woman. It was crazy how she just climbed all around that wall. Shelley tried it out too.
TAT flies to the glacier between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. They are limited to their hours by the FAA due to crew rest. Once 7:30 pm rolled around we knew we were done for the day. So we went over to The West Rib to have dinner. While we were there we ran into Tom and Hobbs having dinner too. Since Team 11 wasn’t due to come in till June 13, we were able to stay the night back at Fireweed Station. By the time we got there Tom and Hobbs had fresh-baked cookies set out for us. Unfortunately (again) this wouldn’t be the last plate of cookies we would have waiting for us at Fireweed.