Not long now!!  Final prep is underway and I’m headed to Alaska in just a few days.  I’m excited, admittedly also a little nervous, but feel ready for the adventure and challenge to come.

Follow the Expedition

My updates

I’m planning to post to social media as we go using the DeLorme inReach Explorer satellite communicator and GPS device.  These updates will be posted to Facebook and Twitter, and my GPS location will be tracked and viewable on my MapShare page along with the messages I post.

Send me a message

I’ll also be able to send and receive messages through the inReach device, so drop me a line and say hi!  I should have a lot of downtime in the evenings to write back.

To send me a message, follow these easy steps:

  • Go to my MapShare page
  • Click on “Message”
  • Add your email address or mobile phone number
  • Type a short message (up to 160 characters)
  • Click “Send”
Updates from Alpine Ascents

My expedition company will be providing updates for all of their teams on the mountain through the Denali Cybercast blog at their website and on WordPress.com.  Look for references to the team I’m on: Alp Team 4, departing May 18th with Vern Tejas as lead guide.

I believe these posts will also be made available on AAI’s Facebook page.

Mountain conditions from NPS

Denali National Park & Preserve has set up a mountaineers blog with daily dispatches covering current conditions and status on the numbers of climbers on the mountain and how the season is progressing.

Denali West Buttress Route

While I’ve previously shared some information on the West Buttress route in an earlier post, I found the American Alpine Institute – another commercial expedition outfitter, not to be confused with Alpine Denali West Buttress RouteAscents International who I’ll be climbing with – has a great virtual tour of the route with descriptions, photos and even some video.  You can click on the links below to learn more about the West Buttress route as we climb the mountain:

They also have a great short video that really gives you a taste of what the Denali West Buttress expedition experience is like – looks like a big challenge and a lot of fun!

Well that’s all for now.  Back in a couple of weeks with – if Denali will let me – a summit of North America’s highest point to show for it!  While there is only a 50% probability of summit success (and it was even less last season), it’s sure to be a grand adventure nonetheless…

Denali National Park & Preserve have now started their mountaineers blog for the season ahead, with daily dispatches covering current weather and conditions as well as some figures on the numbers of climbers on the mountain.

Amazingly, a whopping 800+ climbers have registered for 2015, so while there’s just 5 climbers on the mountain as of today it will certainly get quite busy around the peak season (when I’ll be there)!  And weather-wise, it was a tropical 15F/-9C at 7,200ft base camp this morning…

With a bit over a month to go until I depart for Anchorage and make my way to Talkeetna to meet the team and start the expedition, I feel like I’m rounding the final straight and making a last sprint to the line – the start line in this case.

Gear

Well I can FINALLY say that I’ve gathered all the kit I think I’ll need, with a few small exceptions for some minor stuff.  As a lover of all things outdoor equipment and apparel I’ve enjoyed researching and acquiring various products, but I have to say I’m glad I’m done ordering and sizing and returning items!  Online shopping has been both a blessing and a curse.

Being a member of some outdoor company’s pro deal programs has also been a huge benefit, and has certainly eased the impact on my bank account.  I appreciate the support these companies have given me: Scarpa, Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Marmot and Edelrid.

I’ve shared some more information on the expedition gear for Denali in this earlier post.

Fitness

My conditioning and physical prep hasn’t been as straightforward as I’d hoped, as I’ve had to deal with a few old injuries – including what was my fourth surgery in the past couple of years!  I think I’m all fixed/patched up now, but the operations and subsequent recoveries have definitely been an unwelcome interruption.

I’m a little nervous about the fitness that’s needed to ascend Denali, as the expedition plan makes it clear what’s required: 8+ hour days hauling 60lb packs and pulling sleds of the same weight up the glaciers.  Alpine Ascents provided me with some guidance on what a training regimen might look like, and I’ve used this as the basis for my exercise routine:

  • Aerobic fitness: I usually head to the gravel trails and hills of the nearby San Francisco Presidio to go for a 1-1.5 hour run once or twice a week, through the forests and along the sea cliffs with views over the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Hill/stair climbing: This has been central to my training, to prepare for hauling heavy loads up the mountain.  As I live near the top of 84m/275ft Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, I’ve been doing multiple laps up the Filbert St and Greenwich St steps from the base of the hill to the top, and try to do this 1-2 times a week.  My nemesis for this is an old 60L Macpac Pursuit alpine backpack that I’ve had for around 15 years.  Over the past couple of months I’ve been filling it with full water bottles, my climbing rack and dumb-bell weights, gradually increasing the load from around 20kg/40lb now up to 30kg/70lb.  With 30kg I can manage around 3-4 ascents of the hill in 1 hour; it’s slow going, but great practice for the climber’s trusty “rest step”!
  • Stress/interval training: For interval training I’m once-more blessed with a great place to train right outside my doorstep on Telegraph Hill.  There is a two-block loop on Montgomery St which probably includes a steep ~20m section.  I sprint these two blocks, recovering 2-3 minutes as I jog back down, and repeat this 6 times.
  • Strength training: I’ve been getting to the gym twice a week and combine strength work with some aerobic/interval training on the rowing machine and elliptical.  As my legs are getting a good workout through the other exercises, I’ve been focusing on my core, chest, back and shoulders.
  • Recreation: I’ve been trying to get outdoors once a week (or an overnighter if I can manage it) to put all of that fitness and conditioning into practice through some hiking or climbing.
    • Yosemite trad climbing: I managed a day at Yosemite last week in which we did some 5/6/5.7 multi-pitch rock climbing
    • Tahoe snowshoeing: My mate Nick and I snowshoed in towards Round Top near South Lake Tahoe, and I free soloed the 50-60 degree snow & ice Crescent Moon Couloir which was super fun.  On an earlier trip, I snowshoed two summits near Donner Pass on a long 17-miler with the Sierra Mountaineering Club.
    • Lassen wilderness hiking (planned): Daniella and I are off to Lassen National Park next weekend for an overnight wilderness hike/camp, depending on snow conditions and whether the roads are open.
    • Shasta summit (planned): I’m aiming to tackle 14,180ft/4,322m Mt Shasta a couple of weeks before the expedition as a final capstone on my preparations.

Team

I’m really curious to meet the team on May 17th/18th in Talkeetna.  As this is a group activity rather than an individual pursuit, it will take the whole team working together (with the guides) for us to get to the summit successfully.

Alpine Ascents shared the team roster with me this week, along with some other reminders and information.  In addition to myself, these are the clients on our expedition:

  • Oliver Ames
  • John Paul Bailey (withdrew before the trip for personal reasons)
  • Steve Camkin
  • Nicholas Lingler
  • Armando Ortiz

I don’t know anything about their backgrounds or experience, but I’m looking forward to getting to know them well over the course of the expedition.  In addition to us six clients, we will have two AAI guides including the Denali legend Vern Tejas.