Denali, aka Mount McKinley, in Alaska, is North America’s highest mountain at
Only nine expeditions totaling 16 people have ever reached the summit of
Denali in winter. Six deaths resulted from those climbs. Only one team
(comprised of three Russian climbers) has ever made the summit in
January...the dead of winter. Of those nine original expeditions, four were
solo, but none of those individuals have been in January, the darkest and
January 2011 was my first attempt at Denali in the winter time. I made a fast
ascent to 17,200 feet only to be thwarted there by bad weather, just 8 hours
travel shy of the summit. Huddled in a snow cave for 7 days, I waited for a
window of stable weather to go to the summit. That day never came. I’m am
going back for another try in December 2011.
I have just under a month to get ready for another attempt at soloing Denali
this winter. I am now on my way to Colorado for 2.5 weeks to ascend some
14,000-foot peaks to work on climbing techniques and acclimatize to altitude.
From there, I fly to Alaska around December 14th then to Denali’s base to
start the climb on December 21st.
So far most of the climbing gear and equipment has been acquired less a few
key items that are being modified or made. Good friend and ski maker Mark
Hansen made the skis I will be using from base camp at 7200 feet to 11,200
feet to my specifications from local Minnesota birch. They will be light, long
for spanning crevasse bridges and boot width wide for floatation.
Food rations were packed last week consisting of about 1.25 lbs of freeze
dried per day. Breakfast will consist of my hometown whole food store’s
granola mixed with goat’s milk. Lunch will be a smorgasbord of chocolate, rye
cracker, halva (sesame butter and honey), pecans, and homemade pemmican
(cooked bacon mixed with dried cranberries mixed together via a food
processor). Dinners will be Mountain House Freeze Dried food in vacuumed
packed bags that you can just add boiling water to and stir…no pots necessary.
Like last year I will not take a tent. The winds on Denali are just too much
for even the best mountaineering tent. I will use a modified snow trench that
will be warmer, safer and quieter when the winds are blowing 100mph. For
safety, snow trenches can be re-used and a place to store supplies for the
After nearly 10 years of off and on writing I am happy to announce the release
of my new book “Life on Ice” – 25 years of Polar Exploration. The 300-page
book with a 32-page color insert of images covers all my projects including
crossing the Northwest Passage, circumnavigating Greenland and two North Pole
Sport Everest Boot has made some minor changes by adding
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