Monday, May 28, 2012

First Denali Trip Photo Essay

I just got back from an early season trip on Denali.  The expedition was exceptionally cold and windy.  There were a few day on which I was able to shoot some reasonable photos however. 

Soon after arriving at camp 1 the weather changed.  I have had periods of bad weather low down on the mountain, but never bad enough weather that we were not able to carry loads to our cache.  This storm was a bit different however.  Below is a video of Aili working on getting dinner ready.

Birds often get blown off course and  into the range with storms.  This unlucky tree sparrow spent his last few hours with us at camp. 

 Sastrugi snow after the storm.

The next day we cached at about 9700ft and moved our camp to 11,000ft the day after that in mostly good weather.  A third day of good weather allowed us to retreive our cache at 9,700ft the following day. 

The following day was fairly good weather but a little windy.  We decided to cache around windy corner this day followed by a move to the 14,000ft camp the next day.

The move to 14,000ft is a difficult day, so we took a rest day in good weather the day after.

The following day of good weather allowed us to retrieve our cache 600ft below camp.



Returning from our cache.

Climbers returning to the 14,000ft camp.

After a rest day at 14,000ft we decided to carry food and fuel up to the top of the fixed lines at 16,200ft.   When we woke up that morning we could all see that the weather was changing fast.  I was very worried about getting separated from our food and fuel so I chose not to make the carry, and instead spend the morning fortifying our camp.  We also took this chance to send Lorenzo down with Chad due to altitude issues. 
A lenticular cloud over the summit of Denali.
Lorenzo heading down.
 Sergey and Vitali spent at least part of the day building an igloo. 
Sergey and Vitali building an igloo.

The master builder at work.

By the middle of the day the weather started to worsen and by night the winds became very strong.  We spent five days hunkered down at the 14,000ft camp due to very cold temperatures and high winds.  This amount of time in one place on the mountain is pretty trying, but we managed to entertain ourselves by listening to NPR, an making some videos of both the weather outside, and our attempts to cook appetizing meals for ten without the use of our cook tent. 

A short break in the storm allowed us to get outside and do a little digging and maintenance

Cooking for ten...

Mt Foraker after the storm.

After spending way too much time in our tents we made the decsion to decend rather than attempt a fast trip to the summit.  I was concerned about the possibility of getting stuck in bad weather at 17,000ft camp after the ascent as the weather window to summit looked to be very short.

--Alasdair Turner, Instructor and Guide

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Climbing Events June and July

5/27 - 5/31 -- Bellinham, WA -- Mountain Runners playing at the limelight theatre.

(AAI Staff members appeared in and assisted with the production of this film.

5/31 - 6/3 -- Vail, CO -- Teva Mountain Games -- Watch the trailer:

6/1 - 6/2 -- Vail, CO -- IFSC Climbing World Cup

6/3 -- Idyllwild, CA -- Idyllwild Climbers Festivial

6/6 -- Leavenworth, WA -- A Sol Wertkin Presentation of First ascents.

6/8 - 6/11 -- San Francisco/Mt. Shasta, CA -- Liver Life Challenge Fundraiser Mt. Shasta Climb

6/21 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- BLM Open House 4pm - 8pm at the Red Rock Visitor Center.

6/23-6/24 -- Mazama, WA -- Rockfest 2012 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mountaineer Dies in Ski Descent of Mt. McKinley

The American Alpine Institute just received the following message from Denali National Park:

TALKEETNA, Alaska:  A 36-year-old Finnish mountaineer died from injuries incurred in a fall while descending Mt. McKinley the afternoon of Wednesday, May 23.  Ilkka Uusitalo of Oulu, Finland was skiing down the 40- to 45-degree slope known as the ‘Orient Express’ with two teammates when he fell from an elevation of 17,800 feet and was unable to self-arrest. Uusitalo tumbled through snow, ice, and rocks, coming to a stop in a crevasse at 15,850 feet.

While one of his teammates continued down to the NPS ranger camp at 14,200 feet for rescue assistance, Uusitalo’s other teammate rappelled into the crevasse with the help of a nearby team.  They determined that Uusitalo was likely deceased.

An NPS response team arrived on scene approximately one hour later, and Ranger Tucker Chenoweth was lowered 60 feet into the crevasse by his team of 3 volunteer rangers.  After confirming that Uusitalo was deceased, the NPS patrol members hauled both Chenoweth and the victim out to the glacier surface.  Soon after, Uusitalo’s body was evacuated via a long line operation by the park’s A-Star B3 helicopter to the Kahiltna Basecamp, then on to Talkeetna.

This accident is the second fatal fall on Mt. McKinley this climbing season.  Since 1972, 16 fatalities have occurred during descents of the Orient Express.

The Class of 2012 - AAI Guide Training

The Class of 2012 just finished their guide training.  It was an exceptionally strong class.  The training included three guides that are completely new to the Institute and two guides that came to us internally.

Following is a photo and video essay from the training. It is possible to click on any of the pictures to make them larger.

Two of the new guides took an AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course before the actual guide training started.  Here Liz Daley is learning how to teach rock climbing by experimenting with what's stronger, her arms or her legs... Liz is a professional backcountry snowboarder with several first descents throughout the Northwest and she is a Patagonia sponsored athlete.

 James Pierson, our Northwest Programs Coordinator, practices snow techniques.

Liz practices snow climbing on a slope just outside the Mount Baker Ski Area.

 The new guides practice short-roping technique on a steep slope.

 Tad McCrea practices his snow belaying techniques. Tad was formerly the intern for one of the strongest alpinists in the world and a former AAI guide, Steve House. Tad learned a lot from Steve that he has brought to the American Alpine Institute.

Everett Chamberlain, working on snow anchors near the road. Everett came to AAI with a great deal of training from the American Mountain Guides Association and years of professional guide work in Colorado and Utah. 

 Everett placing a snow picket in a T-Slot.

 Everett, James and Tad, working on lowering systems at Mount Erie.

 Liz, working on pre-rigged rappels.

 James, leading a slab at Mount Erie.

 Tad, following a 5.7 route at Mount Erie.

 The team transitioned up to Mount Baker on the fourth day of training. One of the jobs that we require of new guides is that they dig out a creek near camp.  This was a record year, as we didn't hit water until the water hole was fifteen feet deep.

 Everett "took one for the team" while digging the water hole. A piece of ice hit him in the eye.

 AAI head guide trainer, Mike Powers and Liz on Mount Baker's Coleman Glacier.

 Liz, Tad, Mike, James, and Everett on the Coleman.

Mike, teaching roped skiing techniques on the Coleman. 

 Everett working on steep ice technique.

 The whole team lined up to practice steep ice lessons.

 There weren't many big steep cliffs on the glacier this year, so we had to settle with overhung short steep ice...

 Tad checking out a crevasse for possible crevasse rescue practice.

 Traveling up to a high bivy on Mount Baker.

 The Red Jacket Boys, at a high bivy on Mount Baker.

 Liz, short-roping on steep terrain at dawn.

Tad leads steep ice on Mount Baker's North Ridge. 

 Leading a 50 degree pitch high on the North Ridge.

 Tad, leading high on the mountain.

Me -- Jason Martin, high on the North Ridge.

 Liz, playing the role of a student during a multi-pitch rock practice session in Squamish, BC.

 Jeremy practicing simul-belay technique.

 James leading up the classic Squamish route, Diedre (5.8).
 Two AAI Guides working up the classic corner on Diedre.

Everett in Squamish. 

Tad, trying to do a handstand on a multi-pitch rock route. 

James, leading. 

 James and Liz at Washington Pass.

 Mike Powers belays Everett on the classic Beckey Route on Liberty Bell Mountain.

 Mike follows the Beckey Route.

James and Jeremy on the Beckey Route. 

Mike, making faces... 

 The Class of 2012 on top of Liberty Bell.

AAI guides skiing down from Liberty Bell. Please note that Mike and Liz (the best skiers of the group) had already passed when this video was taken. Tad was wearing mountaineering boots with his skis (which is really hard) and Everett was wearing mountaineering boots with his snowboard.

 Liz, guiding on the South Arete of South Early Winter Spire.

Mike, hanging out above the void.

The Class of 2012 on top of South Early Winter Spire.

 Practicing Rock Rescue Techniques on Sehome Hill in Bellingham.

All together, the guides completed 21-days of training. We require each of our guides continues their journey and that they each take AMGA courses or participate in internal guide trainings or both.  The result is that every guide is always getting better at teaching, becoming stronger at climbing, and developing better guide techniques... 

--Jason D. Martin