Denali 2018 Recap. 2022 Reboot.

It’s Been Four Years

In 2018, when we made the decision to turn around on summit day only 2000 feet from the top, I was pretty crushed. In that moment I knew I wasn’t mentally strong enough to try again. In one instant, I was simultaneously feeling sad, defeated, relieved, and most of all confident in the decision.

In 2018 we had perfect weather. We were fit, fast, and (more or less) efficient. We reached our high camp on May 31st, a mere 11 days after landing on the lower Kahiltna Glacier (I promise, that’s really fast). In hind sight, I think our quick progress (on a route that can often take 20+ days to climb) was a double-edged sword. On one hand, moving quick gave us lots of extra rest days in case we got bad weather. However, it also meant we didn’t rest much (we only had two full rest days during that 11 day stretch). I think this left us with slightly frazzled nerves (I know that’s how I felt!)

In 2018, summit day was cold, about -15F, and there was a slight breeze blowing. This lead to an uncomfortable ascent of the affectionately known “Autobahn”, a particularly steep section of the route right out of camp. At the top of the Autobahn, at about 18,300ft elevation, we decided it was too cold to continue. Brent was particularly having trouble with his toes. We decided to turn around.

Looking back, it’s easy to say we should have spent a couple more nights at our little camp at 17,000ft. We could have gone back down the ridge to get more supplies we had cached at the top of the headwall around 16,000ft and probably summited 2 or 3 days later. But at the time, that just seemed overwhelming. Patrick and I were ready to head down. Brent was the only one saying it might be worth it to give it another go.

Looking back now, I wish I had just agreed with Brent. Had we stayed, we likely could have summited; there was another 2-3 days of good weather above 17k. But that’s the game isn’t it? We make the decisions we can and we have to live with them. Better to be too conservative than do something dangerous.


It took a couple years before I really knew I wanted to go back. Somewhere in the fall of 2021 I started thinking it was time for another attempt. I called Brent, he was instantly interested. We called Patrick. Let’s just say that when he said he didn’t want to come back, while we were deciding what to do on summit days 3 years earlier, he meant it.

After a few months of searching for a third partner with similar goals to our own, Brent and I decided to go as a team of two. This would have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages would be that we could bring a smaller tent (but still have more overall space, and that getting two people out of bed in the morning is (arguably) easier than three! One major disadvantage is that without that third person, we will need to be even more alert around crevasses. When you don’t have a friend to help you rescue someone from a crevasse, you really need to know your hauling systems (which we very much do).

Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me. We’re a little over a week away from our start date now and I’m both excited and nervous. Here’s hoping we learned something in 2018!