Denali Gets Skied Like It’s Never Been Skied — Guest Report from Chris Davenport

Post by blogger | July 10, 2007      

Chris Davenport continues as a leader of the current generation of North American ski mountaineers in their prime. I’d heard he was going to Denali this spring, and as always expected plenty of inspiring success, but this is over the top! I’ll let Dav’s TR speak for itself:

Hello ski friends and a happy summer to all of you!

In the current tradition of my ski descent trip reports, I’m going to interrupt your flip-flop and shorts wearing and margarita drinking summer-time mode with a bit of winter stoke. I know the trip of a lifetime thing is a cliche (especially coming from me) but I’m really, really serious this time. I just got home from 23 days on Denali, North America’s highest and one of the world’s gnarliest mountains, and it was good! We skied everything! Here is the somewhat abbreviated trip report.

Denali Ski Lines
Davenport and crew’s Denali ski lines from this season.

Denali Ski Camp 2007 (as it affectionately became called) was the brainchild of Clark Fyans, Chugach Powder Guides and Mountain Trip guide and something like 10 time Denali summiter. Problem for Clark was that he is a skier, and in guiding Denali he couldn’t ski, because guides need to be always roped to their clients.

So Clark decided to skip guiding on Denali this year and put together a fun crew for a dedicated ski expedition to attempt as many ski lines on Denali as possible. I spent two weeks with Clark at the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in AK this March with Warren Miller Films, and he mentioned the trip. Of course that was all it took for me to sign on. He had met my keen Aspen ski partner and part alien telemarker Nick DeVore last year on Denali, so Nick was in. Adam Clark, photographer extraordinaire from Salt Lake, spent like a month with Clark filming with TGR this winter, so he was on board, and then we needed a girl, and the strongest and most stoked big mountain climber and skier out there today has to be Kirsten Kremer, so she rounded out the team.

Denali Ski Lines
Davenport (left) and his crew on Denali.

The other four flew into the mountain on June 1 and I raced across the Atlantic from Switzerland on the third of June and played catch-up for a couple days before finally rendezvousing with my team at 11,000’ camp on June 8th. We spent a day skiing incredible powder above camp, taking 5 or 6 runs a piece on the 750’ slope before moving up to 14,000 foot camp and our home for the next two weeks on the 10th of June.

Up to this point the weather on Denali had been typically bad. There were no summits between May 26th and June 9th, and most parties that had been high on the mountain during that time were coming down beaten and frozen. But as we arrived in camp at 14,000’, things changed. From that day on the wind would not blow and the snow would not fall, and the sun shined upon our lucky soles. From our bastion of power, the Mountain Hardware Stronghold tent (fitting 27 people during our Summer Solstice party) we set out on day missions up the upper flanks Denali.

Between June 12 and June 22nd our group, along with various friends, climbed and skied the following major lines on Denali:

June 12- Climbed Upper West Rib and skied Orient Express
June 14- Climbed Upper West Rib to Summit and skied Messner Couloir (11 hours round trip) (1st ski descent of Messner in 7 years?)
June 16- Climbed Rescue Gully to 17,000 then Black Rock Peak(19,000′ near North Summit) and skied first descent of Thunderbird Couloir (1800′ vert) to Sunshine Couloir (3000′ vert)
June 19th- Climbed West Buttress and then North Summit. First Descent of Stronghold Couloir (1,800′ vert, on Black Rock Peak) to Rescue Gully. (Only group on North Summit this season)
June 20th- Climbed Rescue Gully to 17,000 foot camp in 2:10 and skied steep, direct line straight to 14,000 foot camp. Solo. (See ice face photo.)
June 23- powder skiing on Headwall below fixed lines.

Denali Ski Lines
Davenport skiing in area between the Sunshine Couloir and the Rescue Gully (lookers right of the Rescue Gully).

There are so may highlights for me on this trip. The NPS rangers (Park Service) said they had never seen such a successful ski group in their memory on Denali, which is hard to believe, but we did have perfect conditions with which to practice our passion. By the 24th of June our team was more or less exhausted and sleeping later and later every day, so we decided to pack up and ski down to the airstrip at 7200 foot on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, arriving in a whiteout. With no planes flying in to pick us up, we all set up the tent and actually slept for almost 20 hours straight. Thirty-six hours later the skies opened up just enough to let a flock of Otters and Beavers fly in and we piled in for the journey back to the green, mosquito infested world of low altitude summer in Alaska.

Denali Ski Lines
Nick DeVore in Messner Couloir.

I have to say thanks to the other amazing skiers that joined our group for a run here or there during our trip, including; Ryan Campbell, Sherri Soltice, Kellie Okinek, Peter�PI� Ingalls, Greg Collins, and Colin Haley.

Back home now I am happy to report that in the last six months, having skied from the summits the remaining Colorado 14ers, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Rainier, the Grand and Middle Tetons, Mt. Adams, Denali, and various other Aspen area peaks, I had no accidents, injuries, avalanches, blisters, and only a day or two of bad weather. All in all a pretty good run of luck in the mountains, a fact not in the least bit lost on me.

So, with that report, I hope your stoke for the coming season is more than slightly fueled, at least for a few minutes.

All the best from sweltering Colorado.



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11 Responses to “Denali Gets Skied Like It’s Never Been Skied — Guest Report from Chris Davenport”

  1. steve romeo July 10th, 2007 6:49 am

    Ummm…just a LITTLE jealous!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Way to send it Chris!

  2. Lou July 10th, 2007 6:54 am

    Ditto. Amazing how Dav keeps hitting all this stuff with nearly perfect weather windows. Perhaps we should all just quit checking weather reports and simply follow him around the globe (grin). Least we take this lightly, for a ski expedition to have the conditions Dav’s crew did is simply incredible. That mountain can be tough…

  3. Oliver July 10th, 2007 8:03 am

    Congratulations Dav and crew!!!

    A link here to Kellie’s blog who skied the Messner Couloir on the same day (together with you guys?) I guess.

  4. Dav July 10th, 2007 8:15 am

    Yes Oliver, Kellie skied the Messner with us that day after she climbed the West Rib and Orient to the Summit by herself. Nick and I ran into her after we skied down to the Football field and decided to wait for her in the Upper Messner. She is an amazing woman and very strong skier. A total joy to be with in the mountains.

  5. Zach July 10th, 2007 8:41 am

    Absolutely unreal…. The very definition of “getting after it”!

  6. Rick July 10th, 2007 8:41 am

    I am the same age as you and also love to ski mountaineer. I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration. People like you are the salt of the Earth. Keep on Keepin on!!!!

  7. Oliver July 10th, 2007 8:51 am

    Looks like Kellie enjoyed your party tent as well ! 🙂
    (bottom of page)

  8. Jordan July 10th, 2007 9:42 am

    Hey Chris,
    I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Awesome stuff. What are you going to do with yourself here in Aspen with the heat and all?

  9. Mark July 10th, 2007 7:27 pm

    What a great trip with so many incredible lines skied! Way to go Chris and crew.

  10. Aaron July 10th, 2007 7:50 pm

    Are people using the stock boot liners in their AT & tele boots on Denali? If not what are they using? Intuitions? I have skied Adams and Rainier, but this is a whole different ball game.

  11. David Marchi July 17th, 2007 10:39 pm

    Good to see some great news on Denali. I was hoping to join in on the expedition as Clark and I had schemed of this idea at the end of the guiding season on Denali in 06, but unfortunately responsibilities at home kept me away. Looking forward to joining in on some future trips next year. A little jealous but it seems like you guy’s ripped in and always had a smile on your face……Stronghold must have been sick!

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