Fjällräven Polar Adventure – I need your votes!

fjallraven-polar

Hi everyone!

I recently applied for the awesome opportunity to join the Fjällräven Polar adventure in Norway next April, however I need your help to get selected!

Half the participants will be chosen by popular vote, with the other half chosen by a panel.  I’d really appreciate it if you could click HERE and vote for me by December 12th.  You’ll need a Facebook account, but it only takes a quick second.

Many thanks!  Paul.

Competition site: http://www.fjallravenpolar.com/
My entry: http://www.fjallravenpolar.com/show-all-contributions/?fbid=821665071

From my entry…

About Me: Wow, sign me up! That was my reaction when I first heard about this arctic adventure. I’ve been living, studying and working around the globe for the past 15 years, and I’ve always looked for new challenges and life-changing experiences. That spirit of adventure and exploration has taken me to 80+ countries so far, and I’m not planning to slow down anytime soon. I’m passionate about getting outdoors and escape into the mountains any chance I get – trekking, alpine climbing, you name it I love it!

Motivation: My last trip to Norway was to run the Polar Night Half Marathon in Tromsø, and I was in awe at the raw and rugged winter beauty of the endless fjords and mountains – I’d love to return and experience more of what this incredible country has to offer! I’ll be attempting an ascent of Denali in Alaska next year, and the Polar adventure provides the ideal physical challenge to prepare for that as well as an opportunity to test the Fjällräven gear I’m planning to take up the mountain.

Denali Expedition Itinerary: West Buttress Route

I’ve been reading up more on the West Buttress route up Denali.  I was looking for the full expedition experience and this route definitely seems to fit the bill – hauling gear to camps higher and higher up the mountain before attempting a summit push will be quite a challenge!

Here’s a day-to-day sample itinerary from the Alpine Ascents site:

Day 1: Morning meeting in Talkeetna. Meet at the Alpine Ascents office. After introductions, orientation and final gear check, we’ll board a ski-equipped aircraft and fly to Base Camp on the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier (7,300 ft.). The flight to Base Camp is marvelous, presenting outstanding views of a variety of peaks, including Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter and Moose’s Tooth. Upon arrival, we’ll prepare our Base Camp. (Glacier travel review may be done on this day.)

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Base camp on the Lower Kahiltna Glacier (Photo courtesy of SBNation.com)

Day 2: Glacier travel review. We’ll carry to our intermediary camp (approximately halfway to the traditional Camp I). This gives us a chance to get an easy start and let you sort out any adjustments in gear and sled-pulling setup.  This is important, as we will be pulling sleds for the next eight days.

Day 3: Carry loads to Camp I (7,800 ft.). Snowshoes may be necessary between camps on the lower part of the mountain.

Camp1
Camp I views of Denali (Photo courtesy of Voketab.com)

Day 4: Carry loads to cache between 9,800 and 10,000 ft. (Camp II) and return to Camp I. The route this day ascents a slope called “Ski Hill,” which flattens out as we approach Camp II.

Day 5: Our carry today depends on snow/weather conditions and how the group is feeling. We’ll either ascend back to our cache and camp for the night or continue on to 11,200 ft. (Camp III.) Camp III is located in a small cirque at the base of Motorcycle Hill.

Day 6: We’ll carry all our gear to Camp III.

Day 7: We’ll carry half our gear up Motorcycle and Squire Hill and then traverse a long gradually rising plateau to Windy Corner. We’ll continue on around this narrow corner for a few hundred yards to make a cache (at approximately 13,500 ft.) and return to Camp III. This day provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and the northeast fork of Kahiltna Glacier, 4,000 feet below.

Motorcycle Hill 11 Camp
On Motorcycle Hill above 11K Camp (Photo courtesy of RMI Guides)

Day 8: Move to Camp IV (14,200 ft.).

Day 9:  Descend to our cache at 13,500 ft. and carry to Camp IV. This is an easy day as we’ll descend 700 ft., pick up our gear, and return to Camp IV.

Day 10: We’ll carry loads to 16,500 ft. and return to Camp IV. From Camp III, we’ll ascend 1,100 ft. of moderate snow slopes to reach the beginning of the fixed lines. Using ascenders on the lines to self-belay, we’ll climb the Headwall, which consists of 900 feet of 45° to 50° snow and ice up to the crest of the West Buttress. From there, the climb takes on an entirely different nature with views that fall off in both directions several thousand feet below us.

Day 11: Rest Day at Camp IV.

View down to 14 Camp from 17 Camp
View down to 14K camp from the 17K camp (Photo courtesy of RMI Guides)

Day 12: Carry and move to High Camp (Camp V, 17,200 ft.). We’ll again ascend the fixed lines and follow the exposed ridge 600 feet up around Washburn’s Tower, and on to Camp V, which we establish on a saddle just above the Rescue Gully. It overlooks Camp IV 3,000 feet below.

Day 13: Rest day. Rest and prepare for the summit attempt.

Day 14: Summit day. We traverse across a steep snow face to Denali Pass. From here, we’ll follow gentler slopes to reach Archdeacons Tower and a large plateau at 19,400 ft., known as the “football field.” From the plateau, we’ll ascend moderate terrain to the crest of the summit ridge, where we’ll look down upon the immense 8,000 ft. South Face, with Cassin Ridge and the South Buttress in full view. Once on the summit ridge, excitement grows as we’ll climb the last 300 feet to the top of North America. From the summit, we’ll have a 360° view of the entire Alaska Range, with Mt. Hunter and Mt. Huntington to the south and Mt. Foraker to the west. These peaks, along with scores of others, make this mountain view one of the most impressive in the world. After taking photos, we’ll descend to our High Camp.

Denali Summit Ridge
Climbers on the summit ridge (Photo courtesy of RMI Guides)

Days 15-16: Return to Base Camp. From High Camp, we spend two days returning to Base Camp, where we will board a plane and return to Talkeetna.

Days 17-21: Extra days, for inclement weather, rest and acclimatization as needed.

Denali in 2015!

Last week I finally bit the bullet and committed to one of my big challenges for next year – climbing Denali!  After weighing up all the options (and costs…) I eventually decided on this mountain over the other adventures I was considering.  It checked a lot of the boxes – expedition-style mountaineering, moderate technical difficulty, low objective risk, etc. – and it should be an incredible challenge and overall experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the mountain, Denali (also called McKinley) is in Alaska and is the highest peak in North America at 6,195m/20,320ft.  It’s usually climbed along the standard West Buttress route, which makes a massive 4km total height gain and four camps from the base camp start point on Kahiltna Glacier at 2,200m.  Give its near-polar latitude at 63ºN, the mountain is notorious for its cold weather (sometimes down to -40ºC) and vicious arctic storms.  Mainly for that reason, the historical success rate for making the summit is only around 50%.

There are only a handful of commercial operators that are allowed to offer expeditions to Denali, and I’m going to be going with one of the most reputable and respected names in the industry: Alpine Ascents International (AAI).  They have a lot of information about the expedition on their website.

I’m currently down for the May 17th departure date, but I’m trying to see if I can get one of the later June dates which are more squarely in the Denali high season.  That gives me around six months to get into the best shape of my life.  I’ve already started to pull together an equipment list, as while I have a lot of general (summer) mountaineering gear I’ll need a lot of specialty clothing for the cold temperatures.

Really excited for the experience and the challenges to come!

Mt._McKinley,_Denali_National_Park Source: WikipediaDenali West Buttress Route
Source: Alaska Mountaineering School

Day 6: Nagyr Valley & Hoper Glacier

While “Hunza” is used to refer to the local region, in reality it is divided into two: Hunza on the north side of the river, and Nagyr on the south. Our plan for today was to head up the namesake Nagyr Valley to the village of Hoper next to the massive but accessible Hoper Glacier.

Given mild concerns about the security situation in Nagyr we drove in a convoy of five vehicles, with a couple of policeman armed with AK-47s riding in the lead vehicle. Nagyr is predominantly Shia (unlike Hunza which is Ismaili, and the rest of Pakistan which is mainly Sunni), and some young troublemakers have recently been trying to stir things up. It didn’t feel that unsafe on the drive up, all the locals were just as friendly as we’ve come across elsewhere in Pakistan. The only sign of any unrest were a few of the ubiquitous “Down with USA” signs graffitied onto the sides of buildings, as well as many signs imploring the locals to “Join ISO (Islamiat Student Organization)”. My particular favorite was some graffiti that said “America Dog, Israil Pappi” – if you’re going to incite some hate, at least spell it right!

Our drive took us from Karimabad, back down to the KKH and over the river, and then onto some rough dirt and partially sealed roads into the Nagyr Valley. The road quickly gained altitude as we got out of the valley floor and up onto the greener terraces where the villages are. It took about an hour of driving through some pretty spectacular scenery to get to Hoper, where we pulled in to the entertainingly named “Hoper Hilton”.

It was a brief two minute walk from there to the edge of the cliffs which looked down onto the glacier 150m below. After rattling off some photos of the glacier pouring down from the shoulder of Diran, I was keen to be a bit more active so I took the opportunity to hike down to the edge of the glacier. A steep trail led down underneath the cliffs and terminated at the lateral moraine. I soaked up the views and the silence (no wind, just the clatter of small rockfalls every now and then) before turning around and hiking back up. After a gut-busting 20 minutes I was back with the group for lunch at the “Hilton”.

I took another quick stroll along the cliff top before we left, and came across some children picking apricots off their trees and drying them on flat baskets in the sun. I gave a boy one of the clip-on koalas I carry around for small gifts and I made an instant friend: in return he gave me a quartz crystal he had in his pocket, scooped up a handful of dried apricots off one of the baskets, and also offered to pick me some fresh fruit off the tree.

We were back in Karimabad by mid-afternoon, and I was keen to use the time until dinner to do some hiking. One of the locals suggested the Queen Victoria Monument on the hillside above the village so off I went. It took me an hour and a half to get up there, walking past the Baltit fort, through the old mud brick village and along narrow alleys, through the terraced fields and orchards following one of the water channels uphill, and eventually onto the steep hill slope to the top.

I had a lovely interaction with an elderly man on my way up. I had to ask a few locals for directions as the path was difficult to follow, and when I asked a farmer he offered to walk with me to show me the way. His English was quite good and he was curious to know where I was from, my family, my job, etc. He didn’t seem overly pleased with my answer to his “what religion are you” question (answer: “I have no religion”). We eventually parted ways after around 15 minutes in which he easily outpaced me up the path, and I offered him some money as thanks for going out of his way. At first he declined my offer, but then changed his mind. The smallest denomination bill I had in my wallet was US$5 and when I gave it to him he didn’t quite know what to make of it. When I explained that it was worth around 500 rupees (more than a day’s wages) his eyes opened wide and he was effusive with his thanks! He said goodbye telling me that he will “pray for me a long life”. Nice…

The Queen Victoria Monument was nothing special (nothing more than a pile of stones) but the views over the Hunza Valley and up the glacier towards Ultar made the hike worth it.

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Mountaineering Seasons

I’ve spent some time recently thinking about taking on a couple of “big” outdoor pursuits in 2015, and have started researching some commercial expeditions.  I structured all of the information I gathered in a table which highlights the seasonality of various trips and destinations by location and month.

Mountaineering Seasons

Leading contenders at this early stage are climbing Denali (Alaska), climbing Ama Dablam (Nepal), crossing the Greenland Icecap or skiing to the South Pole.  I’d love to do an 8,000er once in my life – Broad Peak in the Pakistan Karakoram is my pick of the bunch – but I’d want to build up to that by getting some expedition experience through doing a technical peak in the 6,000-7,000m altitude range first.

Hopefully the Last of These Sorts of Posts!

The blog has suffered from even more neglect over the past year or two, but I’m determined to start being more diligent!  For the time being I’ll capture the travels I’ve done from the last post until now, so at least I have it documented:

  • Australia: Business trip to the Gold Coast and Melbourne to see the fam
  • Cuba: Havana, Pinar del Rio, Cayo Levisa
  • Iceland: Reykjavik, Snaefells, Jökulsarlon, Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon
  • Ireland: Dublin, County Wicklow, Glendalough, Eoin & Sally’s wedding in Tinahely/Aughrim
  • Netherlands: A couple more business trips to Amsterdam
  • Norway: Winter visit to Oslo to see my sister, Christmas 2013 with the family in Oslo, skiing and ice climbing in Beitostølen, Tromsø for Aurora Borealis and a half-marathon
  • Peru: Cusco, Ausangate trek & climbs with Sky High Expeditions, Machu Picchu
  • UK: London over several visits for work, Skipton (Yorkshire), Edinburgh
  • US: SF Bay Area, couple of weekend trips to Yosemite NP, SXSW @ Austin TX, Hawaiian island of Kauai for Thanksgiving 2013, Houston TX to see my sister, Big Sur/Monterey

Now I just need to work out what service to use to get my photos in the cloud – Flickr, Picasa, iPhoto…?

Yet More Updates to Come

Yet more travels, and not a blog update in sight.  Sigh…

  • France: Bordeaux, Medoc, Cognac, Provence, Avignon, Arles, Corsica, Dordogne (Rocamadour, Domme, Monpazier), St Emilion, Chamonix, mountaineering week around Mont Blanc massif
  • Spain: Barcelona, Andy & Laura’s wedding, Montserrat
  • Germany: Munich
  • Netherlands: Amsterdam x 2
  • Switzerland: Zurich, Baden, Lausanne, Berner Oberland, Grindelwald, Muerren, Oberwallis, Zermatt, various klettersteigs, Matterhorn preparation and ascent, Geneva
  • Costa Rica: Guanacaste
  • Bahamas: Sailing trip from Miami to the Bahamas, Bimini Islands, New Providence, Nassau, Eleuthera Island, Spanish Wells
  • USA: San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley MBA 5-year reunion, Yosemite National Park, Miami, Houston
  • Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An
  • South Korea: Seoul
  • Australia: Melbourne, Sydney, New Years Eve 2011, Mum & Dad’s 40th Wedding Anniversary
  • New Zealand: Rugby World Cup 2011, New Plymouth, Mt Taranaki, Lake Taupo, Wellington
  • Peru: Huaraz, trekking & alpine climbing in the Cordillera Blanca (including ascents of Ishinca and Pisco mountains), Lima
  • Turks & Caicos: Sailing trip around the islands
  • Dominican Republic: Punta Cana beach R&R
  • United Kingdom: London business trips, Yorkshire countryside, Edinburgh
  • Norway: Oslo to visit family

Happy to provide information on any of those places if someone is looking to travel there sometime!  Drop me a line or write a comment to this blog post and I’ll answer back.

At the helm of the “Tariro” on the crossing from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas, October 2011.