Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Following Denali Summit, Bikini Anyone? – Team has the Mountain to Themselves

AAI guide Chantel Astorga called from 14,000 feet on Denali this evening at 6pm Alaska time, 10pm Eastern time with the following dispatch.  Her team summited Denali on July 5th (along with only one other team of four climbers).  It's the end of the season, and the mountain is now largely deserted.  In addition to the AAI guides Justin Wood, Mike Pond, and Chantel, this successful team was composed of 4 Americans, 2 British, and one member each from Canada, Germany, and Norway.  Andries Botha (Edmonton) deserves special mention for now having succeeded on all of the Seven Summits!

“Hello everyone.  We’re glad to tell you that we are back at 14,000 feet.  Getting here we felt like we were walking into summer.  It really is summer here, and we’ve been basking in it!   It’s 50 degrees in the shade and a lot warmer than that in the sun.  If I had a bikini, I’d be wearing one, but didn’t think to bring one.  Never thought I would need one on Denali.

We stayed at our 17,200’ high camp yesterday because it was so windy.  It was cold, and there were super high winds last night.  They were consistently running at 35-40mph with 60 gusts frequently.  There was also a lot of new snow, so it was continuously spindrifty, and it would have been extremely unpleasant climbing.  Staying put was definitely the right thing to do.  It’s important to be patient on the way down as well as on the way up!

The wind dropped to 15mph at 6am and then went down to 5 to 10 by 8am. So we were happy to pack up and come down this morning.  We made it in about four hours.  Most of the time was spent between the top of the buttress and the camp at 14,000.  Coming down from 17,000 along the top of the buttress was nice – most of the snow had been blown off by the wind, but coming down the fixed ropes the snow was thick and wet.  It really balled up on the crampons and was a pain.

So here are a few messages from this very happy group of climbers:

Kevin will call Jean on Thursday afternoon.

Andreas wants his daughter to change his flight to Edmonton to Friday afternoon.

Phil says "Hi" to his dad!

So the current plan is a dinner of big, juicy cheese sandwiches and then early to bed.  We’ll get up in the night and pack up and descend to Camp 1.  We want the lowest possible temperatures to freeze up the snow pack.  We’ll spend Wednesday day there and then get up in the night again and descend to base camp, arriving there in the early hours Thursday.  We scheduled our ski plane pickup with K2 Aviation at 9:00am Thursday morning.  Hopefully the weather will co-operate!  We’re looking forward to being down and soon seeing friends and loved ones.

We’re still psyched about reaching the summit. We should tell you that just like summit day when we had the mountain to ourselves except four other people, Camp 3 at 14,000 is now deserted except for one other group.  This is normally such a busy place.  It’s funny how quiet and empty it is here now.  The rangers are packing up all their stuff and getting ready to leave for the season.  

It’s been a challenging year for weather, and we feel lucky we had the good conditions when we really needed them.  After all the other AAI teams did so well again this year, we were especially glad that our team could summit too, since it's the last of the season.  

It’s been a great trip and we’ve had some really good times together.  These guys are pretty funny.  We’ll call you again to let you know how we are doing as we make our way down.  Talk to you soon and see you all pretty soon!”


You can follow the progress of all AAI Denali expeditions on the dispatch page of AAI's website: www.aai.cc The URL for the specific page is:
http://aai.cc/currentnews/ Use the drop down to find the team you want to follow.

Dispatches are posted Monday through Friday on the dispatch page. Aside from special events (e.g., summits, major storms, etc), they are posted on this blog only on the weekends. On Mondays they are moved to the dispatch page.

Lack of a current dispatch indicates that the team is really busy, that they have had a problem establishing an adequate satellite transmission, or that they haven't been able to use their solar panel to recharge batteries and are preserving their batteries for safety needs.

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