#SkiTheBig3 — Up Kahiltna Glacier to Denali


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Aaron Diamond

Editor’s note: Today, May 27, the guys have progressed up the Washburn Route on Denali to the point where they’re moving gear up the hill from the 11,000 foot camp, goal being to move their camp to 14,000 feet. That’s the usual staging area for ski descents. We have more blog posts coming, but to get things in sequence we’re moving this to the top above the Foraker posts. Be sure to check map at bottom of post; we keep adding to it.

View of Mount Hunter during the night we returned from Foraker to Kahiltna Base.

View of Mount Hunter during the night we returned from Foraker to Kahiltna Base.

It’s May 24th and the team is well rested as we get a late 6 pm start from Kahiltna Base for Camp 1 (7,800 feet on Kahiltna Glacier, see map at bottom of this post). After a quick unroped ski down Heartbreak Hill with our sleds, I rope up to Jordan and begin 5 miles of rolling glacier travel to the 7,800 foot camp where the glacier steepens and the trip will again feel more like a climb than a ski tour. Jordan leads the way sauntering along the well packed trail. My mind wanders.

Today is probably the most regretful day of the trip for me. Today is one of my best friend’s wedding and instead of being there to celebrate with him I’m slogging Kahiltna. At this point in the day he has probably already said his vows and is well into the party that’s to follow. Anyways, here’s a Wildsnow shoutout to Anthony and Becca. Congratulations, party it up, drink one for me, and enjoy spending the rest of your lives together. I can’t wait to hear about it when I get out.

Our last steps to the summit of Mount Hunter, not long ago; what a journey so far.

Our last steps to the summit of Mount Hunter, not long ago; what a journey so far.

The light is flat on the glacier. Cloud ceiling is only a couple thousand feet off the deck and obscuring views of Denali, Crosson, and the other peaks that surround us as gigantic walls. As I look around, and try to spot our tracks on Crosson, I realize that these sights that were new and interesting have become commonplace after 20 days here. It’s a disappointing thought and pushes me on in hopes of new vistas.

We reach the 7,800 foot camp in a few hours. After a short discussion about moving on to 11k we decide that the incoming storm is probably moving too fast to allow us to reach 11k before it sets in. The prospect of getting stuck at Kahiltna Pass (an inhospitable area below the 11,000 foot camp) is not appealing. So after a few renovations we move into a campsite and unpack. The big tent goes up in a couple minutes. Inside we go.

I unpack my journal. A quick glance reveals that I’m moving in on spending two months of this winter covered in goose feathers and sleeping in the snow. Depending on who you ask that’s either dumb, cool, fun, or masochistic. I tend to think it fits into the first three but occasionally I wonder if becoming a surfer might have been a better idea. Ahhh bikinis… won’t be long now.

Denali routes during expedition to ski Mount Foraker, Hunter and McKinley.

Denali routes used by expedition to ski Mount Foraker, Hunter and McKinley. Click map to enlarge.

(‘Ski The Big 3 is an Alaskan ski mountaineering expedition cooked up by four deprived (or perhaps depraved?) guys who never get enough ski and snowboard mountaineering. Aaron Diamond, Evan Pletcher, Anton Sponar, Jordan White. The idea is to ski Denali, Mount Foraker, and Mount Hunter all during one expedition. They’ve got six weeks worth of food and enough camera gear to outfit a small army. Should be interesting. We wish them safe travels, we’re enjoying being their blog channel.)

Comments

11 Responses to “#SkiTheBig3 — Up Kahiltna Glacier to Denali”

  1. Ken Pletcher May 25th, 2014 11:13 am

    Great photos of Hunter–it looks so deceptively serene. Bonnie and I are glad that the guys are on their way to Denali. Lou, thanks for the terrific jb on this blog. Look forward to the Foraker reports!

  2. Lou Dawson May 25th, 2014 11:20 am

    Foraker reports are being edited as we speak! It’s quite a bit work producing them, as the content coming from AK gets messed up by the Iridium system that Jordan decided to go with. For those who are curious, he’s using an Iridium Axcess Point paired with the WildSnow satphone. The Axcess Point email software names all the images with the same names, per email message, so if you’re not careful they thus write over each other when you grab them out of the emails! Along with that, it doesn’t handle lengthy text very well. Kind of a disappointment as it does save a bit of weight (not really much) over our other satphone blogging system, but at least it’s getting the stuff to us one way or another.

  3. Anthony Orig May 25th, 2014 3:29 pm

    Aaron, it was so good to hear from you yesterday and that you guys are doing well. You were actually mentioned during the sermon in our wedding. We met with the pastor before hand and he told us about the sermon he was going to give. Basically, the pastor was comparing married life to climbing Denali. I’ll give you the details later, but pretty cool that ended up being the sermon. Thanks for the shoutout, no hard feelings about missing the wedding, this was the one acceptable reason to miss it. Stay safe out there and we’ll celebrate when you get back!

  4. Lou Dawson May 25th, 2014 3:34 pm

    Lisa, marriage like climbing Denali (grin)? Lou

  5. Gerlinde May 25th, 2014 5:29 pm

    Good luck guys. I am watching your blog at Moab biking and matt is at 11k on Denali. You will see him soon. Say hi to him from me please. They are bringing stuff to 14k camp . Will see with the weather.gerlinde.

  6. Lisa Dawson May 26th, 2014 4:40 am

    Lou, you have to take me up Denali before I can answer.

  7. Caleb Wray May 27th, 2014 8:32 am

    Wildsnow Denali 2015?

  8. Lisa Dawson May 27th, 2014 11:55 am

    Perhaps a couples trip?

  9. Lou Dawson May 27th, 2014 2:30 pm

    Marriage enhancement expedition available from Alpine Skills International, includes a therapist and exceptional selection of fine bourbon! Contract and waiver is confidential, and an NDA will be signed.

  10. Scott Nelson May 27th, 2014 5:52 pm

    Wildsnow Denali 2015, absolutely !

  11. Lou Dawson May 27th, 2014 5:58 pm

    Um, all this talk of marriage seems to be triggering our website Google advertising space filler to “Asian Women” banners. Anyone else or is it just me!? In any case, I’ll turn it off, a bit obnoxious though funny. Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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