Day 17: Back to the Land of the Living

Day 16 was long. Jason and Brent hiked down to Camp 1, slept for 3 hours until it got cold enough to continue down, and then woke up at 12:30am did an overnight hike back to Base Camp.

This morning around 10am, they caught a flight back to Talkeetna with Sheldon Air Services, making it back to Talkeetna 45 minutes later.

They celebrated with some Whiskey, beer, and oreos and are currently drying out gear and packing up.

Stay tuned for more updates from Jay once he gets some food in his body!

Jason and Brent on the summit of Denali, June 3rd, 2022.
Enjoying some breakfast beer while packing and drying gear.
Brent sacrificed some toenails for success.

Day 15 and 16: The Descent

After a successful summit, Jason and Brent slept in late on Saturday before packing up, doing necessary camp chores and descending to 14k camp.

One part of the expedition is the “camp chores” which can eat up a lot of time and energy. One of the chores in making water. To make water you have to melt large amounts of snow. At the higher elevations, this can be a lot harder, and it’s a time consuming process. A large amount of their food requires water to make, and at higher elevations staying hydrated is extremely important, so this is a task they can’t skip out on, even when they are exhausted from a 13 hour summit day.

Today they will continue moving downwards, getting as low as they can get. The Denali Rangers are reporting that due to the unseasonably nice and warm weather, the lower mountain is in poor condition and at certain elevations travel by night is being recommended for a safer descent. This is also impacting the air taxis, as the planes cannot land once the snow gets too soft so they are operating on a limited schedule.

Inclement weather is also potentially in the forecast the next few days. This could also impact the air taxis, as they do not fly in bad weather. This may hinder Jason and Brent’s quest for a warm shower and a real bed, leaving them stranded at base camp until the weather clears.

Lets all keep our fingers crossed they they get down safely and are able to get a ride off the mountain and to a real meal!

2018 photo of making water. They will melt all the snow in the sled in that small pot they have.
2018 photo of trading and giving away supplies on the descent. This lets them get some new things to eat on the way down now that they are not as worried about having enough food for the summit.

Day 14: Summit Attempt is Underway!

11:35am Update:

Around 11:35am pacific time, Jason and Brent set out for their summit bid!
Per the inReach communications, multiple other teams had been getting ready to leave around the same time. They expect the trip to take around 12 hours, but it could be longer depending on what weather conditions they encounter. Keep your eyes open for updates!

2:35pm Update

They made it to Denali Pass and stopped for snacks. Jay reported “beautiful weather”. This is around the point they turned back last time.

5:50pm Update

They made it to “Pig Hill”. There is one more big push to the summit. Jay reported it is very cold.

8:35pm Update

I will update once they are safely back at camp.

12:09AM Update

They made it back to camp. Jason stated they were feeling “utterly exhausted”, happy and accomplished, and ready to get off the cold mountain. They will probably sleep in today and then likely begin their descent.

June 3rd, 2022: SUMMIT!!!!!!!!
2018 photo of traversing fixed lines heading towards the summit.
2018 photo of their turn around point, around 18,500 feet.

Day 12 and 13: Rest, and then Upwards!

After caching on Day 11, Jason and Brent took another rest day. If you read Jasons analysis of reasons he thinks they were not successful in 2018, not taking enough rest/acclimation days was high on that list. They used their rest day to organize gear and decide what they would take with them to the next camp. They whittled down their loads by leaving all the “luxury” items behind, such as the solar charges, extra batteries, their cooking pan, cleaning wipes, and more. This will make their ascent up to the next camp a little bit easier, and at the high elevation every little bit helps.

Today, Day 12, the made the climb up to 17,200 foot camp, also known as High Camp! This is the last stop before the summit. After waking up to negative 6 degree temps, they packed their gear and were on their way.

On the way, the stopped and grabbed the items they had cached on Day 10 at around 16,000 feet. They did this so they do not have to use an extra day to go back down and get the items. This allows them to have a full rest day if they want before making a summit attempt.

High Camp is know for its windy conditions and subzero temperatures. Temps are predicted to be 15 below zero (or colder) over the next few days. Generally, you want to limit the time spent here as everything you do puts you at risk for cold exposure injuries (like frostbite), and because its much harder for the body to function so high up.

That being said, it looks like the next few days should have decent weather. It will be cold but the winds should not be super strong and there should not be any storms. That means unless something unexpected comes up (bad weather or illness) we can expect the guys to make a summit bid sometime in the next 2-3 days!

Summit Day is generally a grueling 12-15 hour day, so teams making a summit attempt need to have good weather and feel fit and ready to go. Last time they were turned around due to potential cold injuries combined with worsening winds.

Keep your eyes open for updates about a potential summit bid!

2018 photo climbing the steep snow between the cache site and High Camp.
2018 photo climbing the ridge before reaching High Camp.
They are currently at the flag on the far left. The flags show the route they take on summit day.

Day 11: Cache at 16,000ft

Today started our a little rocky. Jay woke up feeling better, so the decided to head out early to cache gear a at around 16,200ft. Unfortunately, they had a false start. They left fairly early, and it was extremely cold. They turned back to the tent feeling defeated.

Thankfully, the rallied! After some rest, some food, and warming up a bit (as much as you can warm up in negative temperatures) they set out to cache gear in the warmer afternoon weather.

To do this, they had to travel up the steep and dangerous Headwall, gaining about 2,000 feet over 1 mile. This area is so steep that the park services puts in “fixed lines” for climbers to use as the go up. These are ropes that are attached to the wall with ice and snow screws. Climbers then attach themselves to the rope for protection using gear they brought with them. The park regularly has to go adjust these as the season goes on, because the screws will start to pull out as layers of snow/ice melt.

After caching gear, they then descended back to 14,200 foot camp. They will likely take another rest day before moving to High Camp at 17,200 feet. Once you reach High Camp, ideally you summit and then descend as quickly as possible. This is because the stress on your body is much higher, and the weather at the high levels can be much colder and more unpredictable.

This shows 14,000 Camp and High Camp. The little “message” square in between them is where they cached gear, after the steep wall.
2018 photo looking down the Headwall. You can see the camp off to the right.
2018 photo of the Bergschrund* at the base of the headwall, the bottom of the fixed lines.
*A bergschrund is a crevasse that forms where moving glacier ice separates from the stagnant ice or fin above.

Denali Days 8-10: 14k Back Carry + Some Sick Days

After a rest day Friday, the guys did a “back carry” on Saturday. This means they hiked down to their last cache, which was at 13,500ft, and carried it back to camp at 14,200 feet. They did this quick!

Unfortunately, they both came down with a minor cold. Brent got it first and has since recovered, but now Jason has the head cold. Because it could be dangerous (and difficult) to ascend with a head cold, they took Sunday and Monday as rest/recovery days in hopes that Jason can beat it! If he’s feeling better, they will cache up over the headwall tomorrow. Brent, being the awesome climbing partner he is, even shared some of his precious cookies with Jay, so if you see Brent, buy him a drink from me as thanks!

Everyone send good vibes that Jason is feeling better soon. Being sick sucks, but being sick in a tent with below zero temps probably brings that to another level of suckiness.

Weather is looking decent for the next few days. The successful summit percent is at 37% and as of Friday there were 533 climbers on the mountain.

2018 photo of the medications Jason had on the mountain with him last time.
2018 photo of the thermometer showing how cold it gets at camp.

Day 6 and 7: Camp 3 at 14,200ft

Yesterday was Day 6 of their adventure, and the guys made it to Camp 3. The trek up to Camp 3 is exhausting, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation over just 1.75 miles, meaning this is STEEP.

On their climb, they took a lunch break after 3 hours during a whiteout. They would have gone up Motorcycle Hill, Squirrel Hill, and Windy Corner. Windy Corner is known for having poor conditions. Finally, after 8.5 hours of fighting their way uphill, they made it to 14,200 camp. Here, they can take a short walk and look out over “the edge of the world”.

This camp is considered the most “social” camp. The NPS (National Parks Service) maintains a second base here (the first being at “base camp” where the planes land to deposit climbers). They have medical services and weather stations. Multiple Guide groups also maintain bases here, increasing the amount of people able to help higher on the mountain during an emergency.

Jay and Brent are about a day ahead of their proposed schedule, so as of our last communication on Thursday evening, they planned to take Friday as a rest day. Its easy to want to push yourself and to burn out on your climb. Taking the time to rest and refuel will increase the odds of a successful summit.

As of right now, the current summit rate is 38%. This means that out of all the climbers who have gone up and come back down, 38% were successful. In 2018, the summit rate for the season was 45%.

2018 photo of Windy Corner
2018 photo of Camp 3 at 14,200 ft
2018 photo. I believe this is the “Edge of the World” lookout point. It drops down 6,000 feet from there.
Progress so far.

Day 5: Rest Day at 11k!

Overnight the guys experienced some snow, so there was a short shoveling session at 1:00am. It important to shovel the tent out regularly during snow to ensure the air exchange is not compromised and to prevent too much weight from being on the tent.

Brent was the first out of the tent after they woke up and Jason reported that there was maybe 50ft visibility with some whiteout like conditions.

That means its a perfect day for a rest day!

Rest days allow the body to acclimatize, as well as refuel and rest. The high elevations put strain on the body so having days to rest and acclimate is super important! They will organize gear, plan for the next few days, eat, nap and maybe listen to some audiobooks or play a game.

2018 photo of what can happen if you don’t shovel snow overnight.
2018 photo of a typically rest day. Not sure who this is, either Patrick or Brent I think.

Day 4: Cache at 13,500ft

The guys woke up in Camp 2 at 11,000 feet to 2°F temps this morning. After breakfast they loaded up gear to cache just past Windy Corner, at 13,500 feet. They ascended a steep and icy Motorcycle Hill before going up Windy Corner, which is known for its inclement weather but Jason and Brent report it was fairly warm and sunny today. To cache gear, they dig a hole in the snow, bury their gear, and mark it with “flags”, wooden poles with duct tape and their team name (Butter Bagels) on it.

Gear and food caching becomes important as you go higher up the mountain for many reasons. It lightens the load as the terrain steepens, as well as lightening the load as you gain elevation. The higher you are, the more strain it is on your body.

After caching their gear, they descended back to Camp 2 at 11k. Hiking high but sleeping low is good for acclimatization. As they descended, Jay said they saw clouds coming up the mountain and it began to lightly snow. As of writing, the weather is still holding, so they may push up to Camp 3, at 14,000 feet tomorrow, depending on how they feel in the morning.

Jason said they ate some of their “Nutella croissants” today. Brent has a vacuum sealer, and he spread Nutella between two croissants and then compressed them by vacuum sealing the bag– sounds like they were a hit!

Current Track. You can see where they cached gear, the furthest square, versus where they ended the day, the little triangle.

What the cache looks like. Items are buried under the snow and marked with distinct flags so they can find it later.
2018: View of Camp 2 from Motorcycle Hill.

Day 3: Camp 1.5 to Camp 2

Another big day today for the guys, they made it to Camp 2 at 11,000 feet, gaining over 2,000 feet in elevation in todays climb. They did this as a single carry in about 5.5 hours. After today they will most likely start caching items and then going back for those items. Typically you “cache high, sleep low”. This means you bring a portion of your gear up to or close to your next camp, and then descend to sleep at the previous camp. This allows them to go back and get it easily after reaching the next camp.

Todays weather should have been good. Per a message from Jason it was a little windy, but temps should have been above freezing and they did not get any snow overnight or during the day. The storm in the forecast yesterday disappeared, which is not uncommon. Storms and come and go very quickly on Denali. Its not uncommon for groups to be stuck in their tent for days on end if a big storm rolls in.

The weather for tomorrow (as of writing this) looks like it should hold with the partly sunny/some wind we have been seeing the last few days. Temperatures will be closer to zero from here on out as they move upwards.

Tomorrow may or may not be a rest day. It will depend on how they are feeling in the morning. On one hand, when you have the good weather its nice to use it… on the other, acclimation and rest days are important for your body. Tune in tomorrow to see how it went!

Progression from Base Camp to Camp 2.
Looking from Camp 2 up through the next section. This is where it starts getting steep.
The “bathroom” for those wondering how they do it. They like to dig out some walls for a little privacy.