We first want to thank our Lead Sponsor Energizer for their financial support,
robust headlamps and providing us with the best cold weather Lithium batteries
on the market. Lonnie will be using them for powering our communications,
headlamps, cameras, GPS and emergency beacon. Our product and gear sponsors
are Rab, MSR, and Midwest Mountaineering. Lonnie has developed a long-term
relationship with these companies who offer the best expedition products
available. They are great to work with and looking forward to many more years
of partnership. You can check out all our sponsors through links on our
website…just click on their logos.
We finally received the good word from Talkeetna Air Taxi at 10am this morning
that it was a go for a base camp landing on Denali. After making his list and
checking it twice we took off around 1pm.
Before arriving to Alaska I spent two and an half weeks training above 9000ft
in Colorado. It seemed like there wasn’t a minute to take a breather with all
the preparations. I managed to do several high elevation hikes as well as an
overnight at 13,000 ft. I’m sure the Park Service wondered what the hell I was
doing camping overnight on a mountain that high. Back in Silverthorne I went
through personal, medical and repair kits. We tried out our new high
definition cameras and put climbing skins on my custom birch skis made by Mark
Hansen (founder of North House Folk School). I also purchased key gear like
carbon fiber adjustable hiking poles and specific socks for layering in my
mountaineering boots. Our friend and host Becky Falch sewed logos from our
Lead sponsor Energizer onto expedition clothing and sled cover.
I feel ready for the challenge ahead and want to thank all that have helped
get me to this point. Thanks to my friend Buck Benson and Buck’s Radio Shack
for supporting us with an Iridium satellite phone. Thanks to Energizer for the
best headlamp and batteries on the market as well as making this expedition
possible through their generous financial contribution. My best to Carl and
Beth Foster for introducing me to Herbalife supplements that have helped me in
my training. Thanks to fellow Minnesotans Jeff and Susan Gecas, owners of the
Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais for great food and a good time.
It’s the first time my team (Stevie & Dmitri) and 10 bags of luggage has
assembled all in one place: arriving at the Anchorage airport. From here we
made the two-hour car ride to Talkeetna where we unloaded at ‘The Hideaway,’
our basecamp for the expedition. On Friday the 16th we will head back to
Anchorage to purchase any last minute supplies and for a presentation. We will
return to Talkeetna on the 17th to undergo final prep i.e. making wands for
marking the route, checking extended weather forecasts and going over protocol
while I'm gone on the mountain. I expect to fly to the mountain around 1:00pm
on the 21st of December (winter solstice), that is, weather permitting.
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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