Day 2: Base Camp to Camp 1.5

Today was the first big day of climbing for Jason and Brent! They started at Base Camp this morning, and made it to Camp 1.5 at about 8,850ft according to the GPS waypoint. They opted to skip Camp 1, hoping to get a little further ahead. The mileage would have been high today. The distance between Base Camp and Camp 1 is around 5 miles and the with some ups and downs, making their total elevation gain high.

They planned a “single carry” meaning they did not cache (ie: bury in the snow to come back for later) any food. As they get higher, they will begin to cache food more regularly.

The weather today should have been good. Overnight tonight there is a 40% chance of snow. If the snow is significant, they will have to wake up and dig out their tent periodically to avoid damage to the tent and to prevent getting snowed into the tent. The snow will continue Monday, so we will see if they are stormed into their tents or if the snow will be light enough for mountain travel.

Todays route. At the bottom is Base Camp. The top marker is their camp tonight, with the other few being rest/snack stops along the way.
2018 photo of setting up a camp.
2018 photo from an area they likely would have trekked through today.

Day 1: From Anchorage to Base Camp

(Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to see all the photos!)

The guys woke up early, and took advantage of their last hot showers and real breakfast at the hotel, before they were picked up by their shuttle. After a few stops to buy groceries and fuel, they made their way to Talkeetna.

In Talkeetna, they had their mandatory orientation with the park rangers. This is to ensure they know what they’re doing, have all the right supplies, etc. Denali is a popular climb, doing this lowers the chances of accidents and rescues on the mountain. This is also where they get their CMC’s. Whats that, you ask? Well, it’s the portable toilet cans they will carry to use on the mountain. Leave No Trace is important in fragile ecosystems like glaciers, so climbers are required to bring their #2 deposits back down to Talkeetna for proper disposal. If you want to learn more, you can read about CMC’s on the Parks website HERE!

After orientation, it was time to grab a quick lunch (Tacos, no one is surprised by this) and head back to the hangar to pack and organize gear. They will carry half the gear in their backpacks and the other half in their sleds. They each have around 100lbs of gear.

At around 2:30pm local time, they took off from Sheldon Air in Talkeetna to fly to the starting point for their summit attempt. They landed safely, and will pitch their tent to spend the first night at Base Camp (7,200 feet). When they landed it was a balmy 50° out.

Tomorrow they are planning for an early morning start to hike up towards Camp 1!

Good luck Jason and Brent, we are all rooting for you!

2018 photo of Brent (L) and P at the Base Camp “runway”.
Wow! A perfectly clear day with an amazing view of Denali from Talkeetna.
Todays ending location.

The Adventure Begins

Hey All, Beth here!
I’ll be taking over the posts from here on out, as Jason and Brent have left California and are en route to Alaska, woooot wooot!

Today is a long day for the guys. We were all up early, woken by a rude little bear on our deck (video here!). Jay and I made an early morning Starbucks run followed by a dog walk for Chloe, and then the real fun began.

The guys packed up the car and we were on the road by around 8:30am. After some stop and go traffic due to construction on 50, and a quick detour for breakfast burritos, we had smooth sailing to the airport.

Once at the airport, they checked their bags and got through security quickly before grabbing some food and hoping on their first flight to Seattle. After landing in Seattle they grabbed some more snacks, and as of writing this they are on their plane to Anchorage (after a 40minute delay…. yikes)!

They expect to land in Anchorage about 9:50pm local time, with hopes of getting to their hotel in time to grab a quick dinner before everything closes for the night. Once all this is done, the plan is to get to sleep asap, because tomorrow will be even busier with an early wake up for them!

Good luck Jason and Brent, we are all so excited for you!

At the airport with over 200lbs of food and mountaineering gear.

Preparing for 2022

After our near success in 2018, it took a few years to decide to go back for another attempt on Denali. In the winter of 2021-2022 my friend Brent and I committed to going back in the coming spring.

Have you heard of type two fun? Look it up.

How to Prepare for 3 Weeks on a Mountain

The main difficulties on the West Buttress route of Denali include: 1) Weather – cold and frequent storms. 2) Challenging winter camping conditions (see 1#). 3) Long physically tiring days. 4) The ever-present risk of falling into one of the Alaska Range’s monster crevasses.

To mitigate the risk of cold, we needed to very carefully consider what we would bring for clothing and shelter. Luckily we figured this out in 2018. The only change would be we could swap out our four-person Mountain Hardwear Trango 4 tent for a (slightly) lighter North Face VE 25 three-person tent since we decided to go as a team of two this time.

Our clothing for 2022 will consist of many layers which can all be worn together if the temperatures really plummet (-20F is common at high camp and above).
For the legs I’ll have: light weight long underwear, heavy long underwear, soft shell pants, hard shell pants, and puffy down pants.
Up top I’ll be wearing a combination of: moisture wicking base layer, heavy weight base layer, zip up fleece, mid-weight fleece-lined soft shell, a light hard shell jacket, and an expedition-weight down parka.
On the hands I’ve got: expedition-weight mittens, light weight soft shell gloves, heavy soft shell gloves, and warm (but dexterous) climbing gloves – I LOVE the Luminary glove from OR.
For the head I’ll have: a Windstopper hat, a Buff, a thick neck gaiter, face mask, glacier glasses, ski goggles, and a nose guard (for both sun and wind protection).
My boots are a plastic double boot with upgraded warm liners from Intuition and Superfeet Red Hot insoles. I also have 40-below overboots for really cold days up high.

Wearing Lots of Layers on the Ridge at 16,500ft

Winter Camping
Denali is known for its spring storms which can last days and have winds in excess of 80mph on the upper mountain. Because of this, it’s necessary to build walls around your tent using blocks of snow carved from the glacier. The cold temperatures also lead to a great deal of condensation forming inside the tent each night as you sleep, which then freezes and does its best to become a snow storm inside the tent each morning. This year we’ll be experimenting with some ways to make this less miserable, including putting a tent footprint over our sleeping bags to catch the water/ice as it fall, or maybe even hang that footprint to trap the moisture on one side of the tent. We’ll see how it works.

High Camp 2018 – 17,200ft

As preparation, we spent a total of only 4 nights in our tent during particularly cold (for Tahoe) nights. We felt pretty confident in our sleep systems from last time and were excited to learn that we could fit our backpacks in the tent with us!

The other biggest challenge presented by spending nearly 3 weeks on a glacier is access to water. All of your water must come from melting snow. This leads to two fundamental truths of climbing the West Buttress: 1) You have to carry A LOT of fuel (at least a gallon per person). and 2) You WILL spend at least an hour melting snow every day, possibly more.

Physical Preparations

Luckily for Brent and I, endurance sports seem to be where we shine. In 2018 we were often one of the last teams to leave a given camp (we’ll be working on our efficiency!) but were often on of the first groups to the next camp. We’re hoping to be in even better shape for 2022.

Training mostly takes the shape of putting on a heavy backpack and walking. This started off as relatively short walks with around 50lbs on our backs. However, with exactly a week until we leave as I write this, I just put in about an hour climbing up and down stairs at my local climbing gym wearing an 80lb pack. On the mountain we’re hoping to never get our packs above 60lbs. However, we will also be pulling a heavy sled so better to train with a very heavy pack.

A Particularly Fun Training Climb – Winter 2022

Running is also a great way to keep fit for Denali. Brent especially has been getting in his running training, with at least one 10 mile run per week. I, however, have only gotten in a handful of shorter (4-5mi) runs after a particularly grueling running season last year with two 50k races I just didn’t find the motivation to run a lot. However I’ve noticed that I have carried over a decent amount of fitness from my fall races.

A typical pattern on Denali consists of 6-10 hours of hiking on the Kahiltna glacier to either cache gear between camps, or to move to your next camp. Most days you can expect an elevation gain of about 2-3 thousand feet. Summit day is the longest days, with roundtrip time expected to be close to 18 hours with about 3,000ft of elevation gain. For reference, if we were at lower elevation and on dry ground I’m pretty sure I could run summit day in about two hours. Being above 17,000ft is HARD. I wonder what it feels like to be above 20,000ft… I hope I find out soon!


Last but not least, we need to talk about crevasses. The West Buttress route on Denali follows the Kahiltna Glacier for many miles. As with any glacier, there is an ever-present risk of falling into a hidden crevasse. We chose our dates for this climb primarily to mitigate crevasse risk. By traveling to the mountain in late May, we’re arriving while nearly all the crevasses are covered with snow. In May, these snow bridges are typically strong enough to walk over without consequence. However as you get closer to the end of June, these bridges can become weak and collapse; this is why we are planning to be off the mountain by the second week in June.

Falling in a crevasse may sound scary, but most of the time it simply entails “punching through”, meaning a leg or maybe just your lower body breaking through a snow bridge. In this case it’s a fairly simple process for your partner to assist you out of your predicament since you always tied into a rope together.

Practicing Crevasse Rescue 2022

For more serious (and unlikely) scenarios, we are prepared to haul our partner out of a crevasse using any of various hauling systems that provide as much as a 6-to-1 mechanical advantage. Brent and I have spent many hour memorizing and perfecting these scenarios. The idea being that you may need to deploy a combination of techniques for any given incident.

Echo Peak Descent

I’ve been looking at Echo Peak with a longing to ski it since I first moved to Tahoe. Every winter I see it staring at me as soon as I leave my home. For the last couple winters I had assumed Echo was too much for me, but this morning I got the chance to find out first hand.

This was my first time skiing with Michael and Scott, both of whom I met through a mutual friend, they are all on the local Search and Rescue team. We decided to do a weekday morning ascent since this was the time Michael and Scott had available and the conditions looked good. I wasn’t going to pass this up just because I didn’t want to take a half day of work!

Starting the skin up Echo

We got started skinning up the standard approach from the end of Wintoon Drive at about 10am in beautiful sunny weather with great snow conditions.

The climb was straightforward with only a few steep sections. By 11:45 we were already traversing the upper part of the mountain to gain the summit ridge.

Approaching the Echo Peak summit ridge

With the steepest part of the climb finished, we soon reached the summit (11:53 AM – less than 2 hours after we’d started out!)

We hung out on top for about 20 minutes, the weather and views were top-notch!

Required summit selfie from Echo Peak

As we took our skins off at the summit I was a little nervous about how steep the upper part of the descent would be. I still consider myself a relative beginner when it comes to backcountry skiing, but I’m definitely gaining confidence with every trip out.

We followed the ridge back the way we had come and continued on a little farther until we found what looked like the descent we had been aiming for on the east face just south of the ascent ridge. Both Micheal and Scott commented about how steep the entrance looked but once I saw it I knew it was well within my abilities.

Amazing powder on the upper part of Echo

The snow up top was amazing! The powder was perfect and the snow was still basically untracked. This was hands dow the best descent of my life! After skiing the upper part of the mountain, we traversed skier’s left to drop into the lower pitch before the long (barely downhill) runout back to Scott’s truck.

Distance: 4.2 miles
Duration: 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 21 seconds
Average Speed: 1.5 mph
Minimum Elevation: 6604 feet
Maximum Elevation: 8893 feet
Total climb: 2304 feet
Total descent: 2336 feet


PB+J successfully made it back to the land of the living!

They were beyond excited to get some showers and some real food.

So glad they are back, and cannot wait to see the photos and hear the stories!

Patrick and Brent enjoy some Pizza and beer!

Jason enjoying ice cream after the climb. Missing the cold already.

Back at Base Camp and enjoying the cached goodies.

Almost Picture Time!

PB+J have made it to Camp 1, yay!! They picked up their caches, their snowshoes, and their CMC’s. They were super happy to be in the positives for temperature!


Hopefully tomorrow they will make it down to Base Camp and catch a ride to Talkeetna! Once they are back into cell service, I am sure we will get to see some of the amazing photos they took. Great job PB+J, so proud of your adventure!

Headed Down

After the last few days of extreme cold coupled with the aborted summit attempt, Team PB+J has decided to return to the land of acceptable temperatures  and flushing toilets! (can imagine trying to go to the bathroom in -20ºF?? Me neither…)

It will be a few days to get down, but coming down will be MUCH faster than going up. I hear there may already be plans for PB+J to do some kayaking upon their return during their last week in Alaska!

Good Job PB+J!  You did something not many people do– followed an idea and a dream to the end!!!!!  

Summit Day!!!! (maybe?)- Abort!

Its finally here– Summit Day! (maybe?)

Jay texted me this morning “Cold AF. Probably going for it”, and that was the last I heard.  Hours and hours of wondering what was happening until finally another Garmin update!

4:30pm PST Update:

“Autobahn Top”

The autobahn is a long steep, section that leads up to Denali Pass at 18,300 feet. The summit is at 20,310 feet, and High Camp is at 17,200 feet.

This means they have gained about 1,000 feet of elevation and have about 2,000 feet to go.  I will post updates as we get them, so stay tuned! We are not sure if they are just exploring or going for the summit.

You can see High Camp (far left), Top of Autobahn (triangle, current location) and the summit to the right.

7:00pm Update:

Temperatures were reaching extreme lows, so after reaching Denali Pass PB+J made the very smart decision to turn back to camp .  Temps are dangerously low and it was decided risking frostbite was not worth a summit.

They are unsure if they will make another attempt for the summit or not. Conditions at 17,200 feet are harsh.

Rest Today, Summit Tomorrow!

Today PB+J will be taking a rest day to fully acclimatize to the elevation, and rest up for a Summit bid tomorrow! Jay has been enjoying M&M’s (I am pretty sure he had a few pounds of those, haha).

Tomorrow the weather looks good. Winds under 15mph, scattered snow showers, and temps around -25F. They are hoping to head up around 10am and be back at High Camp by 8pm.

They will then use the weekend to return to the glacier to catch a plane back to Talkeetna!  Good luck PB+J!!