Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Before Denali: 5 days to Anchorage

Today was mostly making stuff smooth at work, getting backup infrastructure in place, giving direction for the next month for my absence. After work I hooked up with Ryan again and we climbed at The Draper Red Rock in between some scouts, and a guy toprope solo'ing the 5.7. I asked about his rig in comparison to mine, and he was happy enough with his.

We did the 5.8, both in the crack and on the face, and Ryan worked the thin and sloper 9 up to the large horizontal crack and I worked the 10a, making it over the first bulge and over into the same cra
At home I messed with my boots some more. Why oh why can't I feel happy with my boots and socks? Maybe because in the past it's been so painful for me? Because between losing 50 lb and running a lot, and rock and ice climbing my feet are a pitiful mess?

I got all the pointy bits laid out from last night, and got my down parka stuffed in a sack - maybe I need a couple more compression sacks. Sorted out my harness, and emailed the other guys.

Todd of Mountaintrip responded right back that guide Sebastian broke his collar bone and will not join us. We'll be taking Sean McNamany instead. Exciting news just before leaving.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Before Denali: 6 days to Anchorage

Got my stuff together in one pile, printed up the gear list, then went to town. First I looked all the clothes, and tried them on again in layers to verify it would all work out well. Got real hot doing it too ...

This is the base layer. Underarmor under First Ascent pants and a Patagonia Capilene 2 zip top.

This is the next layer, a Mountain Hardwear hard-face fleece zip hoodie, and Montbell Softshell pants.

This is the First Ascent wind jacket.

Over this is The North Face primaloft hooded jacket.

And finally, a Montbell summit down parka, and a pair of Smith OTG goggles.

I got all the pointy bits together in a pile, my backpack, and my large sled duffle. I have a little laundry to do, then I'll pack it all up tomorrow and Thursday.

Stay tuned ...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Before Denali: 7 days to Anchorage

I put all the Alaska gear I have prepared and set it out to sort, organize, and check off the list.

This is most of it in one place, ready to go. Today I did very light training, had a checkup at my family physician, and did a lot of work at my place of employment to make sure things will go mostly smoothly while I'm gone. I also did a little arranging of my small music player I'll be taking, and have previously loaded up my Kindle with a handful of books that I hope to keep myself amused with in case I end up in the tent for a week or two ...

Tomorrow I hope to sort my gear, check it off the list, and pack it. I'll show more about it then. This is just a teaser of sorts.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Before Denali: 8 days to Anchorage

Slept in a bit, even though it's Easter Morning (thanks kids!). Had some Easter Candy, an egg/cream cheese/bagel thin sandwich and a bowl of bran flakes with craisins for breakfast.

My good friend Ann, who is doing Denali West Buttress in June with IMG/AMS told me that after all my hard training this should be my taper week, in which I eat "Pizza and Ice Cream every day" and stop working out. Not sure if I'm the kind of person who does that ???

Today is total rest day and returning to work in Utah for this last week, to get them set up and ready to function in my absence. Longest time away from work yet in one chunk of time (assuming the longest scheduled time for the trip - if we end a week early I'll be tied with the previous time off record).

I'll be hanging with the family for a short bit, then off I go. Tomorrow morning will be a light workout, as I have a physical in the morning, and a good workout messes up your chemistry in case they do blood work.

Only 8 days to Anchorage on the way to the Denali Northwest Buttress expedition.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Before Denali: 9 days to Anchorage

Today in Summit County Colorado it's been snowing off and on all day. I went out late in the day (1 PM) with the intent of doing some coloir on Quandary's South Side to test my boots in crampons, and my new sock combo, and my steep snow skills.

I parked as far up the Blue Lakes road that I could, at a turnaround just before the fork to the private road, then changed into my Lowa 8000 meter boots, put on my pack, and took off. There were a lot of ski tracks, and one set of snowshoe tracks, but no boot tracks. The snow was firm with about 6" of fresh powder on top.

I passed a skier going up, and one coming down, said "Hi" and continued to an old wrecked cabin where I did a layer adjustment, peeling off my Houdini.

With the falling snow, and being beat from the past week in which I did two 5k speed tests, I decided not to continue on to the main coloir, and picked a pretty looking one of about 1000' from the look of it.

I wasn't sure what fork to take but it would all work out. I went up about 100' above the road and put my crampons on, but kept my trekking poles for now, since it wasn't so steep. I tightened my boots, now that I had crampons on and needed more "control".

I could feel the hard but broken chunks of snow from the avalanche debris under the fresh snow, and there was a layer of hard slush, so the top layer wasn't adhered well, but it wasn't too bad danger-wise since that top layer was only 6" of soft powder.

I went up to a rock where I paused to switch to my Camp aluminum ice axe. It would be a lot steeper above me. I made my way up, angling around some of the huge blocks of rock.

I tried a couple of the forks, and ended up doing a bit of steep mixed climbing. Ice/snow/slush over broken choss that broke off in my hands if I tried using them as holds. The snow and wind picked up and it got darker just as I faced a stiff looking section of low 5th class climbing, so I bailed.

I did a bit of downclimbing for the first few hundred feet, and as soon as the angle let up and the snow improved a bit, I faced out and sidestepped down.

My technique was back in the groove and I felt good, having solo'ed up and down a random coloir. My Garmin 305 later told me it was 900'. Good guess.

Picture looking down from the fork where I rejoined the main path after my detour into the rocks. At the road I found my tracks all filled in, as well as the ski tracks. I made good time to the car, where I took off the boots and found one layer of socks had wandered all the way down off my ankles. That sucks. Otherwise all was well enough. I drank a bunch and headed for home.

Overall great day testing and training. 3.4 mi round trip with about 1500' of elevation. 9 days to Anchorage.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Before Denali: 10 days to Anchorage

In 10 days I'll be flying in to Anchorage. Last night I fit my Black Diamond Sabretooth crampons to my Lowa 8000 Meter boots, and experimented with sock combinations with various insoles. I'm heading to Colorado to test them this weekend.

I went climbing with a friend, toproping at Rock Canyon by Provo, Utah. We did laps on a 5.7 - first time I've climbed outside on rock in about a year. Last time was on lovely granite up Boulder Canyon. Ahh, Rock Canyon crud ... photo below is Ryan just clearing the 2nd "crux".

I actually prefer the Draper Red Rock for lapping. Might get that in yet this week.

This past week I did two 5k running tests. First one was at 31:55 and the second at 29:00. I'm not a runner. I run because it gets my heart rate up. I'm feeling kind of tired now, so I'll be cutting back on my training just a bit to reload/refresh before I head out.

I'll try to put some more up here as I get stuff done.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Northwest Buttress Route

I've been looking at the route in this book: High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter, by Jonathan Waterman

High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter

There are some really good pictures by the inimitable Bradford Washburn, with little lines on them (mostly correctly labeled) where the historical routes passed.

Perhaps it is because the Northwest Buttress leads to the North Peak instead of the higher South Peak that this moderately difficult ridge is seldom climbed. However it is a classic Alaskan route because it offers the full spectrum of climbing snow and ice cornices, a knife-edge ridge, couloirs, frost-fractured schist towers and pink-speckled granite. Last, but not least, it has an awe-inspiring view down the biggest wall in the world and across the vast Alaskan tundra.

Our anticipated route has the following elevations:

Plane Lands: 7,200'
Glacier Low Point: 6,700'
Kahiltna Pass: 10,000'
Peters Glacier, foot of Northwest Buttress: 7,800'
North Summit: 19,500'
Camp between summits: 18,500'
South Summit: 20,320'
Plane Pickup: 7,200'

The ridgeline should involve a couple thousand feet of up and down as we ascend the various peaks and spires along it, so we'll probably have to ascend over 15,000' from our plane dropoff.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Solar Power for Denali - Part 1

I'm going to be on the Northwest Buttress of Denali for about a month, and between the music, audio books, Kindle, Spot, and who knows what else, I'll need some serious power.

I'm an Elite Team Athlete at Goal0, so I'll be proving the ability of their equipment to work on an Alpine Expedition like this. They have some great larger solar panels, and some great battery packs and inverters, but those are all pretty heavy. For this I'll be taking a Nomad 7M panel with USB charging ability.

In the picture above, while hiking up Quandary, a 14,265' mountain in Colorado, I took one with to test (one of the first beta models I've had for about a year). At the 13.200' break spot I pulled it out and hooked up my Droid Pro to see if it charged regardless of angling the panel directly perpendicular to the sun. You can see the summit ridge in the back of the picture.

The answer is a happy yes. Though I won't be taking the phone on the mountain, it shares similar USB charging characteristics with many of my other gear.

A few days later I dropped by the Goal0 office to talk to some of the great people there and pick up a Guide10 kit - which has a newer model 7M panel, with a special plug to charge the included AA battery pack that stores power to charge small electronics. I also got a Luna 1/2 watt LED tent light - which might come in handy for the few hours of total darkness during the May Alaska nights.

I'll show some tests of that in an upcoming post.

Goal0 Guide 10 Kit
Goal0 Luna Light