26th June 2010 Saturday
On the 26th of June 2010 I left the UK with my private guide Ben to climb Mount Mckinley or Mt Denali. I was fairly nervous about this undertaking because I knew Denali was going to be the hardest mountain I have ever climbed. This is why Ben was going along to help me get up this mountain. I had already climbed Aconcagua with him and my father thought that I was going to need more help on Denali and that Ben would be helpful because of his organisation and mountain skills.
We got up at 3:30am to make sure we got to the airport in time. Our first flight was to Paris which was a slight annoyance because after Paris we went to Seattle and we flew back over London. We got to Seattle at about 2:00pm and we had a five hour wait. This did give us time to eat something. We were both feeling slightly jet lagged by this time. This wait did at least allow us to eat something. We also got a look at what we thought might be Mt Rainier. At 5:00pm we went to the boarding gate and we took off at 7:30. We got to anchorage at about 8:30pm. The airport was very quiet which wasn't what I was expecting for a state capital. We took a taxi to B&B where we were going to be staying until we moved to Talketa. We met the first member of our team straight away. His name was Alistair.
After talking with him a while we went to sleep at about 10:00pm. Both me and Ben were both exhausted from the almost sleepless plane flights.
27th June 2010 Sunday
The next day we woke up at about 6:30am. Although it was very early it was still incredibly light outside and if I was back in England I would have thought it would have been about 9:30am. I was still fairly tired but I needed to get on with the day. When I went down stairs I found everyone watching the world cup. England was playing Germany. It's very rare for me to watch football but as it was the world cup I made and exception. I almost got through watching the entire game until England started to loose badly and the shame was too much to bare. The score was 3:1 to Germany when I left and when I came back it was 4:1. After this I organize my stuff. The people in our expedition then sat down at the table so that we could meet the guides and introduce ourselves. The team members were. Ben, Alistair, Alex, pier, Kasey, Gabriel, Jacob (guide) and Shawn (guide).
We were told by Jacob that they , the guides, were going to go around and check everyone’s stuff and if they needed anything they were going to tell them since we were going to go out shopping. After the stuff had been checked we went out in a minivan to the climbing shops and buy what ever we need. I needed some lip salve and a new pair of goggles. This annoyed me slightly because the goggles I had were goggles slash sun glasses and these cost a lot and the reason I bought these was because this would cut down on weight. After we went back we had a fairly lazy day where we packed our stuff and did nothing. In the evening around about 4:00pm some of the group got together and we went out to some bars. This was good opportunity to get to know everyone else. We got back quiet early but we all went to sleep because we were all slightly jet lagged and we knew we were going to need our energy.
28th June 2010 Monday
I woke up at 4:00am on the 28th. I was nervous about today because we would be moving up to Talketa and possibly onto the mountain it's self as long as there was flights going out of Talketa. The morning comprised of everyone making last minute checks and getting ready for the long journey. The minibus drive to Talketa was fairly smooth. We did have to stop at a supermarket to get lunch. When we got to Talketa we got all the stuff that we were going to take to the mountain ready and we had to weigh everything and be very Meticulous in the planning. After we had done this and put all our bags in the storage tent we were able to eat our lunch. I remember have a feeling apprehension we all probably felt similar. The flights for that day had been postponed due to the bad weather around the mountain. We were all told we could leave and go and see the town. This changed however and when some of the team members and I were having coffee. We then had to make our way to the storage tent and take out the clothes we were going to be wearing on the mountain and moved the bags to the plane. This was a new experience for me. I had never before got on a plane to get to a mountain. Usually you could just drive to a location which you could then proceed on foot, this served as a reminder just how remote this mountain was. When we loaded everything that we could onto the plane we all got in. We couldn't all go so Alistair had to stay behind. When we were all in the plane we all took pictures of the inside.
We also took pictures of the landscape below us. The forests and mountains we could see from the air were amazing.
We landed on the glacier and dragged our stuff off the run way. We had burgers that night which was very rare for a mountain expedition but appreciated. Soon after this we all went to sleep in our tents.
The next day we set off for base camp. This took 7 days. to get to base camp we had to walk on a glacier which was very dangerous because of the crevasses but we were roped up which made it safer. The scenery is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was very hard to get up to the base camp because we had to pull sleds behind us because we had so much equipment and supplies that we need to ferry up there. This was however the easiest part of the climb because at least we could take most of our stuff most of the way to base camp. It was surprising how little we actually seemed to be on the move. This wasn't exactly a bad thing but this was very boring most of the time. Sometimes we would take longer packing up camp and then unpacking the next camp. Most of the way to base camp the snow was too soft to use crampons and we only used them on the 4th. The food was surprising good. Mountain trip, the company we were going with, was very good about providing us with food which we would enjoy. Either Jacob or Shawn would cook actual meals. This isn't common practise on a mountain and we would usually be eating freeze dried food. The best meal we had on the mountain was definitely Denali sandwiches. This consisted of a slice of bacon with cream cheese in a bagel. We seemed to have these quiet a lot.
We got to base camp on the 3rd of July 2010 Saturday. Base camp it's self was quite amazing. The whole area was covered in snow walls that had been built by people to keep the wind out. People were still pitching their tents inside these but there was no need to build new areas. We took longer with setting up this camp because we were going to be staying there a long time and it had to be in tact when we came back from high camp. I was feeling confident at this point that we were going to make it. We had good weather up till that point and we were easily on schedule. Over the next couple of days we rested apart from one day were we walked up a small section of the walk up to base camp because we needed to stash some stuff on the way. The reason we took such a long time to rest was because we need to acclimatise.
On the 7th of July Wednesday we moved up to high camp. This was very important because this was the last time we would be carrying a very heavy pack up hill. The plan was to wait for a day at high camp and then go for the summit. This didn't work out perfectly. We all attempted to climb it on the third day of being at camp but it was a very cold morning and the weather wasn't in our favour. We all got up to the first point of the summit day called Denali pass. This was the longest section and definitely one of the hardest parts because it was long and we had to constantly fix ourselves into point along the way which meant we had to stop and start a lot because we were also roped up. I and almost everyone else decided that it wasn't a good idea to carry one because it was very cold and we were told the weather was unlikely to improve. Pier and Gabriel however decided to move up to the summit with Jacob. The rest of us went down with Shawn. While we were going down the weather improved. This aggravated me because I could have made it if I had continued. I don't think I made the wrong decision but it was still annoying. We used the rest of the day as a rest day. Pier and Gabriel came back but we didn't talk to them much because they went straight to the tent were the food was being prepared. The next day everyone except Jacob, Ben and I went down. They had either summited or decided they couldn't do it. They all gave their encouragement and left. For the next two days we waited in our tents. We weren't able to make another attempt because the weather was bad. It snowed the first day and the next there were winds getting up to speed of 50mph. This added to my frustration. I had failed to do the mountain last year because of a volcano eruption and now we weren't going to make it because of the weather. On the 12th of July we got the weather window we were looking for and we went for it. The sun was shining and it felt like nothing was going to stop us. I remember feeling very desperate to make it. I was praying for nothing else to stop us. On our way out we got to see some spectacular views. The mountains were amazing in their awesomeness and beauty.
After a long time walking in what seemed and never ending ice world we got to summit ridge. We could now see the summit. We felt like we had made it. Although we hadn't got to the top we had at least made is most of the way. The summit ridge was too steep to tackle straight. We had to go around the side of the ridge to get onto the ridge. From there we walked to the summit. There were more fixed lines. Most of these had however been covered by the snow fall. The ridge it's self was actually really dangerous because on one side we had a drop of a hundred feet or so and on the other it was a drop of about a couple of thousand meters. The snow had also built up into overhangs. It was a great feeling when I got to the summit. It made all the suffering at high camp worth it. It also gave me the sense of finishing something that should have been finished a year ago. The views from the top were quiet spectacular. We could see for miles around. We could even see the fringes of the mountain range.
After waiting at the summit for 20 minutes to 30 minutes we left for the long walk down. It took us just two days to get down from the summit to the airstrip. When we got to the air strip we had all been walking for about 18 hours. This had been broken up by a couple of hours when we stopped for something to eat. We had bought some beer and spirits at the supermarket in Anchorage. We spent a couple of hours on the airstrip drinking the beer and relaxing. I was so tired that I managed to catch an hour’s sleep at midday. We were all mentally and physically exhausted. Before our plane came we saw a plane that was carrying some passengers to come and see the glacier. This amazed me and it was strange to see them there because they were essentially tourists and Denali isn't exactly a tourist destination. They left after a while and our plane and we loaded our stuff aboard and got on. The expedition was over. This both filled me with a sense of joy and sadness. Although it was tough it was also fun and I had done what I set out to do.