Category Archives: Expedition Journal
Due to the nature of climbing Denali, there may be delays/accelerations due to weather and guide decision-making. It is important to keep schedules slightly flexible, as we will take extra days or combine days if necessary to give everyone the best possible chance of success. A detailed logistics package will be forwarded to each team member upon receipt of application. Our staff will work closely with all Denali climbers.
June 3: 8:30am Meet in Talkeetna. Meet at the Alpine Ascents Office (Climbers arrive in Talkeetna one day prior. All transport information will be forwarded upon receipt of application.) After introductions, orientation and final gear check we board a ski-equipped aircraft and fly to Base Camp on the S.E. Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier (7,300’). 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 prepare our Base Camp. (Glacier Travel review may be done on this day.
June 3: Glacier Travel review.
June 4: Carry loads to Camp I (7,900’). Snowshoes may be necessary between camps on the lower part of the mountain. Double carries are sometimes made between most camps to allow for proper acclimatization and lighter load carries. (Conditions may warrant us to single carry to Camp I).
June 5: Move to Camp I. (This may be a single carry)
June 6: Carry loads to Camp II (10,000’), at Kahiltna Pass. This route follows the Kahiltna glacier.
June 7: Move to Camp II.
June 8: Carry gear to Camp III (11,500’). We turn west and ascend steep terrain. Camp III offers exquisite views and vistas of the 3,000’ rock and ice face on the edge of the West Buttress.
June 9: Move to Camp III.
June 10: Carry gear to Camp IV( 14,200’). We will pass around Windy Corner, which exposes stunning panoramic views of surrounding peaks and the northeast fork of Kahiltna Glacier, 4,000’ below.
June 11: Move to Camp IV. Depending upon climbing conditions, we may spend an extra day moving gear to Camp IV. This will aid acclimatization and break up the long carry.
June 12: Rest and acclimatize Camp IV. The upcoming ascent is the most demanding part of the climb.
June 13: Carry loads to 16,800’. From Camp IV we ascend 1,100’ of moderate snow slopes to reach the beginning of the fixed lines. Using ascenders on the lines to self-belay, we ascend the Headwall, which consists of 900’ of 45°- 50° snow and ice. Upon reaching the crest of the West Buttress, we enter the world of the mountaintops. The climb takes on an entirely different nature as the feeling of being amongst the clouds and peaks permeates the senses.
June 14: Rest Day at Camp IV.
June 15: Carry and move to Camp V (17,200’). We follow an exposed ridge around Washburn’s Tower, which merges into the main massif of Denali. Camp V is established on a saddle just above Rescue Gully and overlooks 3,000’ to Camp IV.
June 16: Rest day. Rest and prepare for the summit attempt.
June 17: Summit day. We traverse across a steep snow face to Denali pass. From here we follow gentle slopes to reach Archdeacons Tower and a large plateau at 19,400’, known as the “football field.” From the plateau we ascend on moderate terrain to the crest of the summit ridge. From this vantage point, we look upon the immense 8,000’ South Face, with Cassin Ridge and the South Buttress in full view. As we follow an exposed ridge up the last 300’, excitement grows as we approach the top of North America.
From the summit we have a 360° view of the Alaska Range, with Mt. Hunter and Mt. Huntington to the south and Mt. Foraker to the west. These peaks, along with scores of others, mark this mountain view as one of the most impressive in the world. At the end of the day we return from the summit to spend the night at high camp.
June 18 – 19: Return to Base Camp. From high camp we spend two days returning to Base Camp where we will board our plane and return to Talkeetna and then on to Anchorage.
June 20 – 21: Extra Days. Extra days for inclement weather and acclimatization may be utilized at any point on the expedition.
June 22: Return to Talkeetna.
From Dan Hopkins & Simone to everyone
I really wanted to send out a quick hello to everyone to let you know how our post climb journey unfolded.
Simone and I are back in Ottawa. We arrived on Monday, July 7th, and have been on a hectic pace since. I am sure everyone can relate. To add to it all we have brought home our new puppy, a nine week old Akita, and we are getting her used to our lifestyle. During our travels through Alaska we agreed on naming her Denali. It was said on our journey that the mountain represented a very powerful and enthusiastic female energy spirit. A perfect fit for a big female mountain dog.
After leaving Brenton and Geri in Anchorage I picked up Simone and headed back to Talkeetna for the night. We stayed at the Fireweed then packed up all our camping gear and headed out on what we were calling ‘a mission from god!’, our journey to uncover more about Hudson Stuck and the first expedition to the top. Little did Simone know that I had a side task in trying to get her into Denali National Park to show her the mountain and pop the question. Stuck wrote that the nicest view was from the north-west and that meant a few backpacks, a camping permit, and prayers for nice weather. I asked the universe for two things before I left Ottawa. The first was for a clear day high on the mountain so we would have a shot at the top. The second was to have a clear day in the park so I could show her the mountain and ask her to marry me. Well we got both. We trucked into the park and found a nice hill to climb (1000’ single carry) and sat there for a good part of the day with the most fantastic view of Denali that we had ever witnessed. We talked about life and our love for one another. Everything around us was so green and alive. We could see the mountain in such good detail that I took her through Stuck’s journey to where the north route meets the south at Denali Pass. I showed her the Archdeacons Tower and how we cut across the summit ridge to the top. It was incredible. I popped the question and we both teared up in joy for 10 minutes, then for some reason we fell asleep for an hour in the grass. We woke up looking at each other like we had dreamt it all. On our way back to camp we watched two grizzlies wrestling for a good 15-20min’s. We saw caribou, wolves, and moose. It was like being in the jungle book.
We then proceeded north in an attempt to get as far up as Fort Yukon, where we believed Stuck was buried. I had a photo from the family and questions for everyone we met. When you get north on the dirt roads people are few and far between and they really want to know what you are up too. Very friendly and always up for a beverage or two. We finally got a guy from Quebec named ‘Frenchie’ (go figure) in Circle Hot Springs to fly us in. The Fort is not like it once was, but woth the trip out there. Upon our arrival families caught wind that I was a distant nephew and that I had just been on the mountain. We visited a few homes and heard wonderful stories of his passion to help. One family had and original copy of ‘Ascent of Denali’ and they got me to sign it. Apparently upon arriving he immediately set up a home for orphaned kids then went to work with a nurse on eliminating influenza in the village. We were taken to his gravesite by an elder and I buried a necklace that I had brought to the summit. I was going to leave my ice axe but it would not have lasted long. The elder spoke of a film crew that had been to the village recently in search of some information. They were from the BBC and were filming a documentary about mountaineering. Before we left we talked about Walter Harper and how the kids could benefit from knowing that he was of native descent, and the first to step on top of such a prized mountain. Not many people know this and we all felt the story needs to be told. If there is ever a time the kids are in need of someone to look up to it is now. We flew out that evening only because we had negotiated a round trip price. We said our goodbyes and promised we’d keep in touch.
On our way back south we visited people that were connected to Stuck and/or the heritage of the park lands. We visited the archives at the University of Alaska; we actually had gloves on reading the original hand written pages of his books. We met park rangers, guides, doctors, all sorts and each had their views. Each would say you have to meet this guy…and we would, even if we had to drive miles in the opposite direction.
The last person that we were told to visit used to guide for Todd at Alpine Ascents, Brian Mccullough. He’s worked with Discovery Channel and NGS on Denali projects. We met him back in Talkeetna over dinner with Tom and Hobb’s at the Fireweed. They just happened to be great friends, funny that. The King salmon were running when we were there so we borrowed some rods, got a 24hr permit, and hit the hot spot with a liter of wine. It was a good old fashioned shit show, great fun. We did not catch anything but everyone around us did so we got some nice pics. The wine was great.
We both flew out of there with big smiles and changed lives. I want to thank all of you for being such a big part of making our dreams come true. When life reaches out and grabs you like that it leaves an imprint in your soul forever. While cutting the grass yesterday I could not believe how wonderful it smelt.
From Dan Hopkins
I am safe and sound down off the mountain with all my fingers and toes!
The whole experience has been earth moving. As you know we reached the summit a few days ago. The last two miles of the ascent were exhausting and at times we almost had to turn around.
There were a few things that kept us going. One was the view of the ‘Archdeacon’s Tower’ named after Stuck. As we passed it the weather settled enough for a final push to the top. It was incredible as we all thought we were done. Another was the flush of emotion that grounds you when faced with such a beautiful and challenging part of nature. All the love and positive energy that i have experienced in my life seemed to hit me in a wave. During the hardest part of the climb i honestly felt like i was out for a seaside walk on a sunny day. At one point i could not see a thing because my eyes were frozen with tears. Not good when you are balancing yourself on a summit ridge only a foot wide. I am so in love with life…thank you all for being a part of this…yah mon!
Simone and i will meet up tomorrow for a week of down time in Alaska. We will make a push up north to visit Fort Yukon and Stuck’s gravesite. Then down south for a short glacial cruise off the coast.
Thank you to everyone who has reached inside themselves to join us in this journey to support life. When we truly give into ourselves and each other to help other people, amazing things can happen.
Many people have tried to make it to the top of Denali this year and have not made it for so many different reasons. Our team was one of the fortunate ones and i truly feel that it was not just because of the eight climbers on the mountain, but rather the hearts of many that sent us positive energy from a far.
I can’t wait to see you all soon,
Just want to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone that has supported me (and Dan) on this jorney… it was indeed a challenge for both of us but to know that we are loved, cared and admired by so many people has made an incredible differece to us. We are very touched by everyone’s positive energy! The Alpine Ascents guides were saying that this was a dream trip considering the energy of the people, the weather, the conditions, the life experiences and the team work they all had… and we believe from the bottom of our hearts that a lot of that strength came from everyone here in Ottawa and all over the world that were cheering for Dan to be able to get to the top of Denali and stand on the same spot where his great uncle once stood nearly 100 years ago!
From the bottom of our hearts… thanks everyone!!
Love, peace, be safe and laugh lots!!
From Simone to everyone!!
Great news everyone… Dan called last night at around 12:15am and is back at the Fireweed Station hotel in Talkeetna. They were going out to dinner and a beer last night and going Salmon fishing today!! I (Simone) am flying out to Alaska on Tuesday to meet Dan and we will be back together on July 8th.
From Alpine Ascents guide
Hi this is Brian Sheedy calling in from Alp 7, Team Jell-O and this is the last cybercast because we are all off the mountain now. We summitted and then took two days to get out and we are lucky to fly out just before the weather closed in this morning. We had a great big breakfast at the Road House Café and then dropped everyone off at the Fireweed Inn after cleaning up our gear. It was a great expedition and that is the conclusion of the 2008 Alpine Ascents Team 7 Denali Expedition. Thanks for checking in and following our forecast. Bye.
From Alpine Ascents guide
Hi this is Jonathan Spitzer with Alp 7. Yesterday we descended from 17,200 ft camp down to 14,200 ft and had are relaxing day here, recovered from our big summit day, ate a lot of healthy food we had some pizza, this morning we ate some big breakfast burritos with bacon. We are going to move all the way down to 7,800 ft picking up our caches at 11,000 ft and 7,800 ft. Tomorrow (Saturday), early morning we plan on crossing the lower Kahiltna and then heading to the air strip, base camp at 7,200 ft to fly back to Talkeetna. This will probably be our last dispatch for awhile, we can’t wait to have all our climbers contact their loved ones and families and friends. Jonathan signing out.
From Alpine Ascents guide
Hello this is Jonathan Spitzer with Team Jell-O, Alp 7. I am proud to say that 100% of our climbers reached the summit of Denali today. We left at around 9:00 am and hit the summit just before 5:00 this evening under very clear skies and light wind. We strolled on back down to camp and got back around 9:00pm here so 12 hours round trip. We had some hot soup, a good meal and a lot of water and hydration, we have got some tired climbers. Tomorrow we are going to head on down back towards 14 (…transmission break…) and make our way back down to the airstrip. A lot of the climbers would like to thank their loved ones, family and friends for their support and are very excited to show them pictures of them standing on the summit. This is Jonathan signing out.
From Alpine Ascents guide
Hi this is Brian Sheedy calling in for Alp 7, Team Jell-O and we are at the 17,200 ft camp. This will be our third night here we haven’t had good enough weather here to try for the summit. The weather forecast looks a little unsettled for the next couple of days but hopefully we will get a more favorable weather forecast here in a little bit. As soon as we get a good weather window we will try for the summit but for right now we are in holding mode. Everyone seems to be doing fairly well for the most part, a little sickness but hopefully that will clear up soon here. It is not as windy now as it is was in the morning. That’s it for now, people are playing a lot of cards and making the best of our down time as soon as the weather is good we are going to hopefully go for it.