Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sunset Memories

The golden light of the late afternoon shown on the Sunset Slabs at Mt. Erie, changing them from dark gray to red.  My five-year-old daughter stood near the edge of the cliff, a rope threaded through her ATC and a belay line attached to her harness. It was to be her first rappel.

“Daddy,” she pleaded. “I’m scared. I don’t want to do it.”

“It’s no different than getting lowered,” I said. “Besides, someone’s watching you.”

“Who’s watching me?”

“Just someone…”

She quickly scanned the trails, both above and below, that lead to the crag. “I don’t see anybody.”

“You have to look further,” I pointed at a distant figure. “Look way down the hill and check out that house.”

She peered down into the trees for a long moment. And then there was a sudden intake of breath as she saw him. “Is that…?”

“Yes. It is,” I said. “And he’s watching you.”

She stepped to the edge of the cliff and smiled. “Daddy, I think I’m ready to rappel.”

And as my daughter made her first rappel ever, a smiling Ronald McDonald statue stared up at us from the driveway of the house far below.

Holly climbing at Sunset Slabs.

The fact that a house on the drive below the Sunset Slabs has a Ronald McDonald statue is a quirky element of the area, but it doesn’t define it. No, the Sunset Slabs are defined by something else, and it’s not the grand views of the lakes below or the San Juans in the distance. Instead, the area is defined by memories and experiences.

Generations of climbers touched rock for the first time at the Sunset Slabs. Guide services, climbing clubs, friends and families have all used this gentle climbing area as a place to introduce the sport to beginners. Those who had their first climbing experiences at the Slabs will never forget them. And as such, the ghosts of those experiences populate the place; both the reminiscences of those terrified first moves of a route, as well as the memories of the triumphant finishes.

At the end of her rappel, my daughter’s feet touched the ground.  “Off rappel!” she called.

“Good job,” I yelled back down, glowing with pride. I knew that now we were part of the experiences that defined the crag. My daughter and I each had a moment there that we would not forget.


She looked up, smiled and asked, “can we go to McDonald’s now?”

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 28, 2014

Anchors "In Series"

Many climbers find the transition from top-roped climbing into leading to be daunting. This is especially daunting when the move is tinged with the possibility that you will have to build your own traditional anchor. It's scary because at first it's quite difficult to trust an anchor that you've built. It's scary because maybe there aren't that many pieces in the anchor or maybe the rock is bad.

One way to eliminate some of the fear and to build a more secure anchor is to build anchors "In Series."

In the past we've discussed SRENE and ERNEST anchors. The standard is that these anchors are built off of three or four pieces with a cordellete as in the following picture.

A Standard Pre-Equalized SRENE Anchor
The angles on this particular anchor are a bit wide between each of the outside pieces.

In an ideal three piece anchor all of the pieces are completely solid. In an ideal anchor each of the pieces can hold a tremendous amount of weight by themselves. In an ideal anchor, the powerpoint can easily hold ten times the weight of the two climbers on the route.

But what if it can't?

When the pieces aren't solid, you have to add more. To keep it simple, the best way to add more pieces is to add them in series. This is a method wherein one SRENE anchor is stacked on top of another SRENE Anchor. This system allows a climber to do a couple of things. First it allows one to add more pieces to the anchor. Second, it allows those pieces to be added in a simplistic way that makes sense with a cordellette or an extra sling. And third, it spreads out the weight at the powerpoint into more equalized pieces.

An Anchor In Series with a Magic X on the Left-Hand Leg

While the preceding picture may seem to tell the whole story, there is one thing to consider when building an anchor in series. One element that is terribly important to be aware of is that if a magic x (self-equalizing twist) is used in the system, it may not be as effective as a pre-equalized knot in the system.

In the picture above, the left hand leg of the cordellette terminates in a sling clipped to two pieces and equalized with a magic x. The problem with a magic x in this kind of system is that if one of those left hand pieces blows out, the sling will become limp and the weight will not automatically transfer to the other piece in the magic x. If this happens, then all of the weight will be placed on the two pieces on the right.

It's better to build two pre-equalized anchors on top of each other when working in series. However, occasionally this isn't possible and you're forced to work with a magic x. When that happens, make sure that the pieces that are not a part of the x are extremely strong.


An Anchor In Series with a Pre-Equalized Knot on the Right-Hand Leg
This anchor is essentially a three piece anchor that was linked together in series
because the climber only had two double-shoulder length runners to build an anchor.


It is quite possible to build a vast anchor with codellettes and slings in series. And sometimes -- when the rock is very bad -- that is exactly what you have to do.

There are many other ways to add additional pieces to an anchor and to keep it SRENE, but for many who are just dipping their toes into the world of leading, anchors in series make a lot of sense. Most guides recommend that beginning level leaders work with anchors in series for a significant period of time before experimenting with other systems. This will help lay a solid intellectual framework of what an anchor is supposed to look like and what it is supposed to do.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

In Mammut's latest video series "Climbing the Classics" they pair first ascencionists and classic climbers with up and coming phenoms to repeat some of the great climbs throughout the world. On this episode, Mirko Caballero joins Tony Yaniro to repeat Tony's 1979 send of "Grand Illusion," the 5.13b (8a) roof crack near Lake Tahoe.



It's getting closer to that special time of the year - Film Season! We're already starting to see film trailers rolling out for this fall. Teton Gravity Research has a great one for their latest, "Almost Ablaze." Check it out!



14 of the best climbers in the world converged on the Romanesque bridge of Puente la Reina. The bridge is historically a meeting point for pilgrams traveling along the "Camino de Santiago." The climbers, instead of passing over the bridge, held an awesome psicobloc (deepwater soloing) competition along the arches supporting the bridge.



Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, July 25, 2014

Singles, Halves and Twins

To start with, all of those who found today's blog by typing in the word "single" while looking for a dating site are going to be disappointed. And those of you who found this blog after typing in the word "twins" are going to be doubly disappointed...

Instead, this article will describe the different types of dynamic climbing ropes available to climbers and their uses. As the title indicates there are three types of ropes that are regularly used for rock, ice and alpine climbing. Following is a brief description of each type of rope and their uses:

Single Ropes: The single rope system is the most commonly used system in all of climbing. Most climbers will start with a single rope which is adequate for pretty much everything. As a result these are used on ice, rock and in mountaineering settings.

Single ropes are designed to be used alone. A leader doesn't need a second rope to ensure security. When leading, he will only clip the single strand that he is tied to into the protection.


Single rope diameters range from 9.2 mm to 11 mms and vary in length. Most climbers currently use 60-meter ropes. The greater the diameter of the rope, the more wear and tear the rope can handle. However, though alpine ropes tend to wear out the fastest, it's probably not a good idea to get the heaviest rope that you can find for glacier travel.

Most climbers will try to buy a light single rope that can be used in a variety of functions. Heavy 11 mm ropes really only exist for two reasons, search and rescue teams and big wall climbers. Most people  purchase ropes that range from 9.5-10.3.

Single ropes will have this insignia on the end.

Single ropes are the least expensive alternative. Each of the other systems described here require two ropes to be functional.

Half Ropes:

Half ropes -- often called Double Ropes -- have a smaller diameter (8-9 mm) and are designed to be used in pairs. As a climber leads, he is supposed to clip each rope independently, swapping ropes as he passes each piece of protection.

Half ropes will have this insignia on the end of the rope.

The concept behind half ropes is excellent. They provide a number of advantages. First, if the route wanders up the crag, clipping the opposite rope each time you move up will reduce drag. Second, you will always have two ropes for double rope rappels. Third, you can share the weight of the ropes on the  approach with your partner. Fourth, in the event of an emergency you have double the length to get down quickly. And fifth, in the event of a bad leader fall if one rope is severed, the other rope will still catch the falling climber.
While the concept is excellent, in practice half ropes can be difficult to manage. It will take most climbers a fair bit of time to completely wire all the idiosyncrasies of working with two ropes simultaneously.

Some climbers do elect to use half-ropes for glacier travel. However, one should be very careful when doing this. Stepping on a half-rope with crampons will do a lot more damage than in a single rope. It should go without saying that ropes that see damage from crampons, regardless of diameter, should be retired.

Twin Ropes:

The twin rope system employs two small diameter ropes (usually 7-8 mm) together as if they are one rope. In other words, both ropes go through every piece of protection.

Twin ropes will have this insignia on the end of the rope.

The advantages to the twin rope system are quite similar to the advantages of the single rope system. The exception is that because of the fact that the twin ropes are being used the same way as a single rope, the same type of drag you encounter with single ropes will be apparent.

It is not possible to use twin ropes like half ropes, clipping one rope to one piece and the other rope to the next. The stretch in twin ropes is significantly greater than in half ropes and using them like this could lead to a significant leader fall.

Another problem that some climbers encounter with twin ropes revolves around belay devices. Not all autoblocking belay devices will work with twin ropes. If you elect to use this system, make sure that the ropes will not slip while belaying.

The question has come up in the past as to whether a twin rope should be used on a glacier. The answer is no. There is too much stretch in these ropes for this application and the likelihood of hitting something at the bottom of the crevasse or getting "corked" is too high.

It's good for climbers to be aware of a number of different rope systems. Ideally, you become familiar enough and experienced enough with each of these that you will be able to use the system that works the best for each and every climb that you plan.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/24/14

Northwest:

--A backcountry skier who survived a 100-foot fall on Oregon's Mount Jefferson Friday night is crediting his personal locator beacon for helping him get out safely. To read more, click here.

--Kelly Bush, a district ranger at North Cascades National Park, recently received the Wes Henry National Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Award, the National Park Service announced. The award is given in honor of contributions to wilderness preservation and stewardship in the NPS. To read more, click here.

Mt. Baker

--Seventy-five years ago this week, tragedy struck on Mt. Baker. Six students from Western Washington University were killed by an avalanche on their ascent. To read their story, click here.

--Here's a cool story about an individual who suffers from the after effects of polio on a climb of the Chief in Squamish.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/07/16/3752835/north-cascades-ranger-wins-nps.html?sp=/99/110/#storylink=cpy

Sierra:

--On July 13, famed speed climber Hans Florine made a record speed ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite via the Triple Direct Route. To read more, click here.

--There were three SAR operations in the Eastern Sierra this last week. To read about them, click here.

--The series of storms that passed over the Eastern Sierra last week have caused damage to the several roads in the White Mountains. Summer thunderstorms brought heavy rains to some areas of the White and Inyo Mountains, where road washouts have occurred. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--David Smith has been selected as the new superintendent for Joshua Tree National Park. Smith is the superintendent of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. He will begin his new position in mid-September, replacing former superintendent Mark Butler, who retired earlier this year. To read more, click here.

--A two-week government shutdown took a bite out of southwestern Utah's tourism economy last year, but visitors to Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Pipe Spring National Monument still brought $175.5 million to the area in 2013. Those tourism dollars supported 2,155 jobs, according to the annual visitor spending report released last week by the National Park Service. To read more, click here.

 Notes from All Over:


--Tuesday was a busy day for Grand Teton National Park rescue teams, with three searches. One ended with the discovery of an overdue hikers body, but the others assisted injured parties off of the mountains. To read more, click here.

--Researchers at Aalto University in Finland want to take climbing walls a step further through the use of Kinect sensors and projectors that turn climbing walls into interactive games. Imagine a virtual chainsaw blocking holds and you'll get the idea of what their trying to do. Read more here, or check out the video below:



--Spencer West was born with a genetic disorder that led to both his legs being amputated. West was recently interviewed on NPR. He told the host about how he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro using just his hands and arms. To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service has temporarily banned drones. To read more, click here.

Bear Grylls and Zac Effron rappelling down a waterfall.

--Actor Zac Effron's days are numbered if he keeps hanging out with Bear Grylls. In this video, we see Bear doing a tandem rappel off a figure-eight ring with no autoblock backup and no helmet. Due to the nature of an eight device, you can see him straining to hold the weight. Bear should really invest in a guide training course if he's going to keep doing this stuff with other people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Route Profile: Denali - West Rib

Denali - 20,320 ft (6194 m)

Route: Complete West Rib

Our approach is to climb this line "alpine style." In other words, we climb the normal West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet to acclimatize. Leaving a cache of food and fuel at Camp III, we descend back down to Camp I at 7,800 feet with light packs. This approach will allow us to efficiently climb the West Rib in a single push without the use of fixed ropes.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib. AAI Collection
The following day we will travel up the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna and establish a Camp at 9,400 feet. From the base of our route at 11,100 feet, we face a rather spectacular beginning: a 2000-foot couloir of 45 to 55-degree snow and ice. Pitching out this steep section is important because it is very strenuous and there are no options for shelter before reaching West Rib Camp III at 12,800 feet.
Once comfortably established on the crest of the Rib, we are confronted with another ice dome that requires additional pitching and climbing on hard alpine ice up to 60 degrees. Above the ice dome the climbing eases some, with a mixture of 45-degree snow and rock climbing as we work our way to Camp IV at 14,700 feet and Camp V at 16,400 feet. On summit day we climb snow and ice couloirs and then easy mixed rock, which leads us to the summit plateau at 19,400 feet. From that point we turn east and climb gradually to the final summit ridge.
Besides offering high quality climbing, this entire line of ascent is aesthetically attractive and provides great views of surrounding peaks and routes. As soon as we reach the rib crest we have the impressive outline of the Cassin Ridge off to our east; as we climb higher we see the West Buttress route and then look down onto its 14,000-foot plateau camp; and finally as we ascend the high snow and ice couloirs, we are able to look out to all the major peaks of the Alaska Range. With a descent via the lower half of the West Buttress route, we enjoy varied and remarkably beautiful terrain from beginning to end of this expedition.
Advantages to Climbing the Complete West Rib
1. This is a highly aesthetic line on one of America's most beautiful mountains. Were it not for the extreme popularity of the West Buttress to the left of the route, and of the notoriety of the world-class Cassin Ridge to the right of the route, this line would be one of the most recognized and sought after on the mountain.
2. An ascent of the Upper West Rib misses nearly 5000 feet of interesting and engaging climbing on the crest of the Rib proper adjacent to the beautiful Cassin Ridge.
3. An ascent of the entire West Rib is significantly more committing than an ascent of the Upper West Rib. Many see mountain commitment as an attractive element and seek out trips with such an aesthetic.
4. Many find the exposed and complex terrain of the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to be both exhilarating and frightening. An ascent of the complete West Rib requires late night/early morning travel through this well-known zone. 

Route: West Rib Cutoff

Many individuals are interested in climbing Denali via a route other than the West Buttress, but don't want to commit to something as serious as the complete West Rib.
The Upper West Rib provides for a fantastic adventure on a classic line while still providing you with many of the aesthetics found on the West Buttress. On this climb, out team will ascent the standard West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet. From there, we will climb up the West Rib Cut-Off to join the upper Rib.
High camp on the West Rib
High camp on the West Rib.
Joe Stock
After arriving at Camp III, most teams will make an acclimatization climb up to the 17,200-foot West Buttress camp. There they will leave a cache set-up for their descent a few days later.
After waiting for an appropriate weather window at Camp III, the team will work its way up the Cut-Off to join the ridge crest at 15,700 feet. Once the crest is reached, the climbing is absolutely fantastic. The team will climb a steep and sustained couloir to a protected camp at 16,400 feet.
On summit day, we will climb a six-hundred foot steep and windy couloir with sections of sixty-degree terrain to a flat spot at the base of the last crux. From here the team has two options, a traverse across the top of the infamous Orient Express couloir or an ascent up another steep couloir to the east. Both options top out on the "Football Field," a flatish spot below the final summit ridge. From here, the route once again joins the West Buttress to the mountain's summit at 20,320 feet.
Our descent will take us back down the West Buttress route to the camp that we prepped on our acclimatization ascent at 17,200 feet. From there, we will make our way down the West Buttress and back to Base Camp.
Advantages of Climbing the Upper West Rib
1. Climbing the Upper West Rib allows for a lighter ascent. If you climb the complete route, you must carry multiple days worth of food and fuel on your back. If you only climb the Upper Rib, the ascent to 14,200 feet will be sled assisted.
2. After climbing all the way up to Camp III at 14,200 feet, it can be demoralizing to descend all the way back down to the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to start your "real" ascent.
3. Though this is an incredibly physical climb, it is ultimately an easier ascent than the Complete West Rib.
4. An ascent of the Upper West Rib avoids the complexity and the objective danger that complete Rib climbers face in the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.
Climbers approaching the summit after a successful climb of the West Rib.
Climbers descending after a successful climb of the West Rib.
AAI Collection
Feel free to call or email for more information about the West Rib route!

--
Dylan Cembalski
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Learning the Ropes on Denali

Denali has a reputation for being a horrible place to guide. For the last two years, I had been hearing epic stories from fellow guides about Denali. Most stories revolved around backbreaking heavy packs and sleds, frostbitten nobs, chucking pounds of poo in massive crevasses, freezing your butt off while waiting out storms, guide and ranger drama, high mountain hook-ups, crevasse rescues and heli-evacs. 

It always sounded pretty exciting.

On a morning in March in Chamonix—between sipping espresso and getting my pack ready for a mission—I glanced at an email from my boss at the American Alpine Institute. The subject line read “Denali Scheduling.” And the body of the email got even better: “You’re slated for Team 4 on Denali, I’m booking flights now let me know if these days will work.” I immediately wrote him back, confirming the dates with mixed emotions of excitement, anticipation, and intimidation.

It took me two years working at the Institute to get this gig. I had intended to come home to the States and work in the Cascades like usual. But Denali was bigger. In Athabaskan, “Denali” means “The High One.” And with a massive elevation of 20,322 feet, the peak definitely lives up to its name. It’s the third largest of the seven summits, trailing only behind Everest and Aconcagua

It’s said that people climb Denali as a warm-up for Everest, as it’s closer to the North Pole so the air is even thinner. On Denali, an elevation of 20,000 feet allegedly replicates the feeling of 22,000 feet in elevation on most other peaks. Measured from base to summit, Denali has a vertical gain of 19,000 feet making it the largest of any mountain entirely above sea level. Then there’s the modest Mt. Everest, rising from the Tibetan Plateau with a base to summit distance on the south side of 13,000 feet and 17,000 feet on the north side. Not only is Denali the largest peak in North America but it’s known to have harshest environment of any of the seven summits—horrendous weather, high winds, and temperatures that down to negative forty. Don’t forget to factor in the windchill and altitude. Its reputation only fueled my excitement.



Nonetheless, I couldn’t help being a little intimidated. After all, I would be starting off my guiding season with a twenty-one day expedition to a massive objective. I had never even been to Alaska and I’d never been higher than Mont Blanc’s summit of 15,781 feet. Also, I had never felt the frostbite inflicting rawness of a negative forty-degree day. Alas, I wouldn’t be alone. I had two trusty lead guides, Ben and Quino to show me the way.

I spent two weeks before the trip stuffing my face and working out super hard. A fellow Denali guide said I needed to be “fit and fat” for Denali guiding. I think I took him a little too seriously because I ended up putting on almost 10 lbs. After spending a week in Talkeetna, food packing, trip prepping, drinking gallons of IPA, stuffing my head with burgers, and watching out for grizzlies around town, Day Zero had arrived—it was time to meet the climbers.

We had a diverse group from all over the world. A few hilarious Britts, a classy Russian, a hopeless romantic Italian, a couple woman-eating Aussie’s, and a Hong Kong-born American. I knew it was going to be a great group right off the bat. I was ready to fly out onto the glacier and get these people up this behemoth of a mountain.

As a female guide, I’ve grown accustomed to encountering people and cultures with diverse ideas about the role of women. I know what I look like—I bleach my hair and my teeth, I wear mascara off—and sometimes on—the mountain, I get pedicures, I wear lots of pink, and do my best to look and smell nice in most situations. In a lot of ways I’m a girly girl. This doesn’t always go over well with some of those who get me as their guide after they’ve been expecting some macho mountain man with big muscles and a beard. It seems as though women have to dress and act like men to get respect in many male-dominated occupations—but I want to prove that you don’t have to.



I’m constantly dealing with pervy, chauvanistic comments, skepticism, and superiority complexes. Being the lighthearted person that I am, I blow douchey comments off my back left and right and throw it back in people’s faces in a joking manner. They seem to like that and it seems to be working. I let my actions, work ethic, and skill speak for themselves and I’ve never had a trip end the same way it started with this kind of behavior. It’s actually a pretty awesome, empowering feeling.

When we flew onto the Kahiltna Glacier, the summit success rate hovered around twelve percent, which was extremely low for this time of year. The weather had been horrible and we were hoping for it to clear up for our trip, but there was a massive low pressure cell hanging out over the Aleutians and waiting to pound down on us. On Day One we flew on and trudged our way from Base camp up the Kahiltna to Camp 1—we trekked five and a half miles with our heaviest loads and gained a thousand feet in elevation. There’s nothing like carrying a fifty pound pack and pulling a sixty pound sled in the stifling heat of the day.

A massive storm rolled in on our fourth day. We were stuck there for three days in hurricane winds and frigid temperatures. Snow drifts covered the tents every hour and three feet of new snow had rapidly fallen. Ben, Quino and I took turns getting up through the night to dig out tents so clients wouldn’t die a cold, asphyxiation-induced death. On top of this, we had really disappointed clients who wanted to move up as we saw desperate Russian groups passing our camps in a heinous, white-out storm. We only had a contract for twenty-one days to summit, with cache days, acclimatization days, training days, and rest days. We were losing days sitting in this storm, days that would have to be made up for if we wanted to make a summit bid.



We decided to move regardless of weather on Day Six. Turns out it was a sunny and beautiful—but freezing—morning. The clouds broke, a blanket of new snow covered the glacier and the surrounding peaks, and temperatures were in the single digits. We broke trail, carrying our massive loads to Camp 2 at 11,200 feet.

Denali’s big storms are usually the worst between Camp 1 and just above Camp 2. I was antsy to get to Camp 3 at 14,200 feet. It’s above the cloud layer and it’s south facing. I had heard it was the “party camp” where everyone waits to get on the higher mountain. It sounded like the promised land. And a good spot for our team to be waiting to make the final push up to the highest camp at 17,200 feet.

After arriving at Camp 2 we got four beautiful days that were probably the most productive of the trip. We cached around the infamous, Windy Corner, moved camp to the party camp at 14,200 feet, retrieved our cache, did fixed line training, and cached atop the fixed lines at 16,200 feet. We had made up for all but one of our lost days—but we missed our summit window. The day we cached above the fixed lines a couple hundred people summitted then the weather shut us down.



We waited at Camp 3, partying with the locals for eight days while waiting for a window to move. The first couple days were fun. We made a pull-up pit where we’d run from the tent do as many pull ups and upside down sit ups as we could, run back to the tent then, test our blood oxygen levels and pulses. This became a natural place for guides to hang out, talk weather, tell jokes, talk smack, and pull tough. I saw my buddy Lucas De Bari up there with his mom getting rad. I didn’t know the little guy could grow a beard. We also witnessed the superhuman Killian Jornet pulling off the newest speed record of base to summit and back in 11 hours and 48 minutes in a white-out. Beating the previous record by five hours! 

Seeing all these people crushing super hard on their shred sticks of course made me crave powder and steep lines—after all, the Messner, Orient Express, and the Rescue Gully were right above Camp 3. These lines screamed at me for eight days while I watched friends and rangers shred the crap out of the new fallen snow. Although it was painful to watch, I was happy to come here guiding first—it could serve a little recconassaince mission for when I come back with my board next year. After all, a girl’s gotta eat. And I was working hard for my money.

We ended up at the camp for eight days with an insta-frostbite forecast of negative twenty-degree temps, fifty mph winds, and possible new snow at 17,000 feet—so we called it. We descended in a storm, breaking trail through eighteen inches of new snow and high winds. It took two days to get out and we managed to catch a flight back to Talkeetna upon our arrival at base. We went directly to the local bar, the Fairview, and shut it down. It was a blurry night.



The summit rate this year is currently thirty-percent as opposed to last year’s sixty-eight percent. Our team was really dissappointed but they understood our predicament. I was disappointed as well but I know I’ll be back next year.

Although guiding Denali was extremely demanding physically, it only really felt like work when I was changing the CMC (Clean Mountain Container or poop bucket), hauling poop on my sled, or melting water and cooking dinner for seven hours until 1:30 a.m., and then waking up just a few hours later to get breakfast ready. There was a lot of hauling, set-up and break-down, breaking trail, wiggling fingers and toes to prevent frostbite, and digging and more digging through layers of snow and ice. But my days primarily revolved around keeping everyone happy while moving along safely and efficiently up the hill. When you’re in charge of a group of people, you tend to forget about your own discomforts thankfully. For all the anticipation I’d built up around this trip, it was pretty mellow and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get back to Denali next year to guide and shred.

--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide