WildSnow Success on Denali!

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 14, 2010      

Yesterday, we took advantage of a weather window that Joel of Colorado Powder Forecast assured us would work for a good 18 hours or more of terrific Denali weather. He was right. The seven of us took off from 14,200 feet at around 9:00 in the morning. Since Louie and I seem to travel with a bit different rhythm than the other guys, we left after them and went our own pace. The fast boys did the round trip in 12:45 with Joe leading the charge but the crew swapping leads on some of the early morning trail breaking up to the headwall (like I’ve said, these guys don’t even know how strong they are). Louie and I were around an hour and a half behind. We got in a solid summit ski descent all the way down past the 17,200 foot camp, where we booted the knife ridge for a short distance then continued skiing down the headwall back to camp at 14,200.

This might have been the most incredible day of mountaineering of my life. Why? Two things. Summiting Denali with my son, and dealing with a huge amount of self doubt due to my age, injuries, etc. Indeed, I’m finding it hard to believe I made the 6,000 vertical foot round trip push — but reality strikes when I pay attention to how weak I am today! Prayer, preparation and determination were the ingredients. Perhaps some experience as well, though this mountain has humbled me to the point where I’m shaking in my boots most of the time.

Yeah, I summited in 1973 after a 9 day snowcave bivy at 18,000 feet. Learned a few things then. The boys pointed out that it’s been 37 years since that climb. Crazy.

At any rate, we were safe and careful all day. Tough part was the big packs that being safe requires. Lots of water, skis, emergency stove, satphone, radios, all the clothing. If you do it that style you end up lugging 30 or so pounds at times. Just brutal.

We’ve got an interesting situation here at 14,200. An energetic storm is rolling in, so even though we’re tired we’re going to try to progress down the mountain so we’re lower when it hits. Hence I don’t have time to post photos from summit day but will do a ton of them at earliest opportunity.

We plan to be cautious heading down from here to the Kahiltna airstrip, and we do have fairly light loads so I believe it will go well.

Spot tracking map showing progress from 14 camp, to the summit, and back.

Spot tracking map showing progress from 14 camp, to the summit, and back.


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69 Responses to “WildSnow Success on Denali!”

  1. Brandon Chalk June 14th, 2010 5:16 pm

    A HUGE congratulations to you, Lou, Jordan, Caleb, and all the boys! Very well done! I can’t wait to see those pics. Be safe on the descent…Kristine and I had to scurry out of there fast as well after summitting in 2007 due to an approaching storm. Again, congrats and all my best!


  2. Fritz Sperry June 14th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Way to go boys. Looks like all the work has paid off. Glad to hear that things are safe and sound up to this point. Take care on the out. Looking forward to hearing all about at your wedding Joe.

  3. Mark W June 14th, 2010 5:24 pm

    Fantastic! Seems like you guys were pretty fast overall. Great job.

  4. kirk June 14th, 2010 5:31 pm

    congrats guys!!

  5. Annah June 14th, 2010 5:58 pm

    Way to go! Huge congratulations all around! Keep being safe and I can’t wait to see the pictures.

  6. Jesse Swann June 14th, 2010 6:34 pm

    Congrats to all of you and thanks again for keeping us posted on your trip. I have enjoyed the posts annd following your trip. Stay safe on the descent.

  7. Dan Thuente June 14th, 2010 6:41 pm

    I’m older than Louie, younger than Lou, with three boys of my own. I still get to ski with my Dad and my boys. You two doing such a great trip together is really special. I am very happy for you both! Good Job!

  8. Mike T June 14th, 2010 6:58 pm


    That is a good one….l

  9. Breckjack June 14th, 2010 7:00 pm

    Team – Congrats on a job well done. Can’t wait to hear and see more! Be safe on the descent.

  10. ray bem June 14th, 2010 7:02 pm

    i am very happy for you, and impressed beyond words. congratulations. i’ll send a prayer out for your safe return…ray

  11. Joel Gratz June 14th, 2010 7:14 pm

    ConGRATZ! I’m glad the weather window worked out as expected. Now stay warm and well during the next few snowy days!

  12. Jim, Melanie, Brendan and Colin June 14th, 2010 7:17 pm

    Congrats to ALL … what an accomplishment! How proud you must be. I know it’s probably a tad early to ask, but what summit is NEXT? Looking forward to seeing more photos … the scenery is breathtaking … can’t imagine what’s in your memory banks.

  13. Riley Tippet June 14th, 2010 7:59 pm

    That is so awesome – congrats everyone – it’s been awesome to follow along! Can’t wait to see some pics.

  14. James Dirksen June 14th, 2010 8:33 pm

    Nice, great effort. now focus on the retreat as a safe retreat is as big as the ascent. Yahoo, thanks for sharing, maybe someday.

  15. Anneliese June 14th, 2010 8:45 pm

    Jordan, Ty, Colb and the whole crew,
    Wahhhooooo! I couldn’t be prouder of you guys! Congrats to the whole team! Glad all the hard work and prep over all those months has paid off. Take it easy on the way down! Can’t wait to see pictures!

  16. Dave June 14th, 2010 8:57 pm

    Congratulations Lou, Louie, and the rest of the team. What a great journey for all of you! I look forward to the photos.

  17. Andrew June 14th, 2010 9:17 pm

    Very, very cool! Great job everyone. Have a safe return.

  18. Amanda Ramsay June 14th, 2010 10:23 pm

    Congratulations everyone!! What an amazing accomplishment. Wishing you a safe descent!

  19. Ryan J. June 14th, 2010 10:28 pm

    Awsome job guys! I’m sure that was such a special day to be on top with your son. Can’t wait till mine is old enough for the big adventures. Hope I stay as strong as you Lou. Congrats!

  20. Matt June 15th, 2010 12:17 am

    Awesome, good job guys!

  21. Anton June 15th, 2010 12:25 am

    Bravo! Your trip has put many of us that much closer to the summit, not only with beta, but also in spirit.

  22. Sam, Cheryl and Cullen June 15th, 2010 6:08 am

    Congratulations to all of you! Have a safe trip down! Ty and Colb, hope to talk to you soon.

  23. Flanders June 15th, 2010 6:41 am

    Fantastic. Thank you for all the posts. It was great to be able to follow progress on a day to day basis. Congrats to the entire team.

    One final thanks. Thanks for leading Ty and Colby to the top. Those 2 couldn’t find their way out of a parking garage in Courmeyer Italy 🙂

  24. Ken Reiche June 15th, 2010 6:43 am

    Congratulations Lou & Co!
    Have a safe trip home, God bless & be well.

  25. Vince June 15th, 2010 6:45 am

    Congratulations guys! It’s been fun following you

  26. Tom Brannan (Joes Dad) June 15th, 2010 7:08 am

    Success is sweet, is it not. Congrats to Lou, Joe, and the entire team. Have a safe trip down.

  27. Aaron Reed June 15th, 2010 7:49 am


    Way to go guys…great work and a big Hell Yeah to Lou for making the push. 37 years later or not you all had plenty of work to get to the top. Now you’ll have all of our support for getting the second half done…summit fever is gone but keep your heads on and travel safe all the way back to the Elks.

    Great Work…can’t wait to hear the stories.


    Papa Reed

  28. Jay St. Charles June 15th, 2010 7:52 am

    Congratulations to all! Wishing safe return, and thank you for the great reporting on this awesome trip!

  29. michael Kennedy June 15th, 2010 7:55 am

    Fantastico! Can’t wait to hear more.

  30. Frank K June 15th, 2010 8:07 am

    Congrats everyone!

  31. Jesse June 15th, 2010 8:08 am

    Congratulations all of you! Have been refreshing the site like crazy for the last couple days : ) Lou, thanks so much for blogging this, it’s been incredibly fun to follow. Can’t wait for the photos. Have a fun and safe trip down!

  32. CDawson June 15th, 2010 8:09 am

    Wonderful,can’t wait for more pics of the climb. Good luck on the way down.

  33. SteveS June 15th, 2010 8:28 am

    You guys rock!

  34. Barbara Collins June 15th, 2010 8:34 am

    Wow. I guess you can teach old dogs new tricks….You amaze me. What a blessing to be with Louie. Next it will be the Amazing Race. You, Louie, Bekah and William. I think you would make a great team. Lots of safe traveling mercies be with all of you as the descend must feel like an ascend in heavenly realms. :angel:
    Kindest regards,

  35. Jeremy Plofker June 15th, 2010 8:47 am

    Congrats on the successful climb/descent. This blog has been great, can’t wait for some pics.

  36. alyn June 15th, 2010 8:49 am

    Way to go, guys. Now it must be time for some free skiing? Enjoy all that snow!

  37. Carl Dowdy June 15th, 2010 8:50 am

    Congrats! Looking forward to seeing the pics and hearing all the details! Have a safe descent.

  38. Josh Gage June 15th, 2010 9:05 am

    great work guys! i’ve been thrilled to follow your progress.. que vayan bien..

  39. julie Kennedy June 15th, 2010 9:15 am

    Such awesome news to wake up to – an adventure of a lifetime! We are all so PROUD of you lads. Can’t wait to see your beaming smiles with a newfound confidence & appreciation for such an extraordinary life! You can be sure that the Mamma bear is anxiously awaiting those BIG SKINNY HUGS from her boys!
    xxoo, Julie

  40. Penn June 15th, 2010 9:28 am

    Lou and Crew – Congrats and way to go! Wishing you guys a safe and enjoyable trip home!

    Penn and the gang at Backbone!

  41. Dimitar June 15th, 2010 9:38 am

    Great trip and blogging experience! It was simply amazing! Thank you, Lou!

  42. Patrick Odenbeck June 15th, 2010 10:59 am

    Well Done!

  43. montanaskier June 15th, 2010 11:00 am

    awesome work fellas! CONGRATS!

  44. Skian June 15th, 2010 11:41 am

    Way to go guys! What a great adventure! Safe travels home.

  45. Peter Banta June 15th, 2010 11:56 am

    Congratulations, Lou(s)!!! Great job! Safe descent!

    Looking forward to pics…

  46. Seth June 15th, 2010 12:18 pm

    Great work Lou Louie and crew! I live hearing about Denali. I agree Lou, summiting Denali was my best, most memorable day of my life equal only to my son Asa’s birth and my marriage to Randi. Proud for you all!!!
    The only thing you might have enjoyed during your trip was an igloo at 14,200′ camp. We had our excellent Hilleberg tents from Petra at all other camps but did all of our shoveling the first three days with the 4lb Ice Box igloo form and never heard the wind again. We were happy hobbits’s…

    Good luck and safeness to you all on the ski out. I suggest a visit to Homer’s Salty Dog if time allows. For more adventure, a FULL DAY OF SUN above the Arctic Circle on SOLSTICE and a quick peak bag off Atigun Pass would be cool since you’re close to edge of life…. then a soak in Chena Hot Springs… Cheers Cheers Cheers :alien: again and thanks for sharing your life’s joy Lou. This is a great exclamation to it.
    And thanks so much for the get well card after my avalanche. That really meant a lot to me.

  47. Joel at Forty Below, Ltd June 15th, 2010 12:21 pm

    Congratulations WildSnow team! Way to go! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us via your website. I really appreciate all of the time and effort you have taken to facilitate this experience. Have a safe trip back. Joel at 40 Below.

  48. Carl Pelletier June 15th, 2010 12:51 pm

    Congrats you all. It’s been a great trip to follow you all one. Be safe on the way down. I’m super psyched that you were able to acheive this with your son. Nice job to the team.

  49. CDawson June 15th, 2010 1:05 pm

    Don’t forget to have a cool one at Chilkoots!!!

  50. Mike Marolt June 15th, 2010 2:07 pm

    Congratulations!! Lou, being old is just a bad frame of mind, and “old” injuries are only your enemy if you let them be.

    Lou Jr, very proud of you and your buddies. I hope, as with my brother and buddies, this trip, as it was for us on Denali, is the start of a lot more incredible journies to the world’s greatest ranges. If you guys can keep it togehter, you have no idea how powerful and fun what you have started there will be for decades to come, and where you will find yourself climbing and skiing!!

    Nice going.


  51. AJ June 15th, 2010 2:38 pm


    stay safe

  52. PIncze June 15th, 2010 2:48 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Congrats to you and the guys. Thank you for sharing this adventure with all of us and be safe on your way down. Can’t wait to see you and hear about it in person.

    Paul Incze

  53. Boone June 15th, 2010 3:09 pm

    From CYO to Denali and beyond! Maybe we’ll cross paths in Anchorage?

  54. Derek June 15th, 2010 3:53 pm

    Congrats, guys! Don’t forget to take on the Seward’s Folly burger at the West Rib in Talkeetna on your way back home.

  55. CDawson June 15th, 2010 4:23 pm

    And get those pictures up for all to see!!

  56. Joe's mom June 15th, 2010 5:08 pm

    :heart: Whew! Now I can breathe! Joe, congratulations to you and all your mates and safe travels home!

  57. Randy June 15th, 2010 5:24 pm

    Congrats to one and all!
    Very exciting reading. Stay safe on the descent!

  58. Ashley June 15th, 2010 5:39 pm

    Congratulations fellows!! I am proud of all of your efforts and am wishing you a safe journey down the mountain. Big props!!!!

  59. Jarrett June 15th, 2010 6:18 pm

    NICE JOB EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    :cheerful: :silly: :cheerful: :silly: :cheerful: :silly: :cheerful: :silly: :cheerful: :silly: :w00t: :biggrin: 😆

  60. pioletski June 15th, 2010 6:58 pm

    Yeah! Well done by everyone. Lou, how cool is that, to ski Denali with Louie?! Thanks for keeping us all posted, be safe coming down.

  61. Andy_L June 15th, 2010 8:36 pm

    Congrats Lou! It’s been great fun following your progress up and now down the hill!

  62. ScottN June 15th, 2010 8:40 pm

    Knew you’d make it Lou! Way to go and thanks for sharing your journey with all of us!

  63. Randonnee June 15th, 2010 10:26 pm

    Congratulations to the entire successful team! Fantastic! Now I will be praying for your safe descent and return!

  64. Prakash June 16th, 2010 10:52 am

    This trip and the blog haveeen truly inspiring for us wannabe mountaineers. Thanks for the great updates. Joe, Jordan et al. are like Sasquatch and the Yeti combined as far as trail-breaking through deep snow is concerned… true, they have NO clue how strong they are.

  65. Drew Tabke June 16th, 2010 12:00 pm

    Congrats team! Thanks for taking us couch skiers along with you! Super stoked to see you found success, you deserved it.

  66. Martha June 16th, 2010 1:47 pm

    So cool. Congratulations everyone. Thanks so much for doing this story. It’s really been great following you and having a sense of your experience. If you ask me, this is what the internet is all about. Good luck and safe travels homeward.

  67. slave.to.turns June 16th, 2010 1:59 pm

    Well done to all of you. You have much to be proud of…get down safe and get those well earned beers!

  68. Bar Barrique June 17th, 2010 11:18 pm

    Congratulations on your successful summit. I’m catching up on your adventures, as I have been out on a fishing trip.



  69. Lou July 8th, 2010 4:49 pm

    Going back through and doing some copy editing on the Denali blogs, adding a few things here and there for posterity, and checking out all your comments once again. Thanks everyone!

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