IMG Partner Phil Ershler called in from High Camp this morning after his team reached the summit! After a cruiser trip last year (right around 14 days) Phil and his team paid their dues while they waited out a barrage of storms. They spent over a week at 14,000ft as well as several days at High Camp (17,200ft)… but the waiting paid off! They’re hustling to get off the mountain while the flyin’s good… The sprint downhill has begun – luckily daylight in Alaska is in their favor!
Fellow IMG Guides Mike Hamill and Greg Vernovage who flew onto Denali well over a week after Phil and IMG Guide Eben Reckord caught up with Phil’s team at High Camp and are going for it now… Hope to know more tomorrow on their progress.
On a side note this was Phil’s 31st climb of Denali and is 26th summit! 26 for 31… pretty darn awesome!
Phil called from high camp at 17,000 feet. This is their second night at high camp. With him is guide Eben Reckord and 3 of the original group of 6 team members. The rest of the team descended with other guides due to time constraints. All is well with the group, and they are waiting for a summit opportunity. Phil sent the sat phone down with the descending members, so will not be able to call again until an opportunity arises to use another phone.
Hopefully the next message from Phil will be news that he is safely down with the team from a successful summit of the mountain.
Last Saturday the team gathered for the half-day orientation and instruction day here at HQ. Guides: Brian Warren, Andy Polleczek, Karl Rigrish and Austin Shannon. Our climbers were from all over the place but several of them already new each other so that made for a pretty fun group. The others who came independently fit right…throw me into the mix and you’ve got quite the team!
After the gear check we all went our separate ways for the night. Several members of the team stayed in the tents here at HQ and were awoken for breakfast by the resident alarm clock a.k.a. the peacock across the street – yes a peacock!
After breakfast the team reassembled at roughly 8am. We loaded the van and trailer then hit the road. About an hour later we arrived at Paradise in some marginal weather but it wasn’t too bad (yet)…
About an hour into the hike we pulled off the main trail and roped up to begin our glacier travel across the Nisqually Glacier and up the Wilson Glacier to our first camp at roughly 8500ft or “Lower Castle”. The weather during the day was extremely varied – I put on and took off my gore-tex jacket at least 4 times! In about a 30 minute span it was blowing snow sideways then sauna like conditions in the clouds and right back to snow. Once we got to camp, Mt. Rainier turned up the weather dial to sustained heavy winds and snow. We all hastily put up our tents. By now it’s 5:30 or 6:00. Austin and Andy drew the short straw that night and had to cook dinner and fill up the water bottles. On the menu was cous-cous, sausage and stirfry veggies (not freeze dried!). Andy and Austin took the food from tent to tent to make sure everybody was fed – thanks boys! Just a crack in the zipper meant endless snow would blow in so a quick unzip, fill up the bowls, drop the water bottles off and zip er back up was about it.
Twelve hours later we awoke to beautiful weather, hot drinks and breakfast – again prepared by Austin and Andy. The goal for today was to breakdown camp and get moving up to High Camp at roughly 10,700ft at the top of the Turtle Snowfield. Not a huge day vertically which is great as we would be getting up early the next morning for our summit attempt.
After a few hours of some relatively standard glacier travel we pulled into camp -this time the weather was perfect. We made some nice tent platforms and got settled. Karl and Brian would be on dinner that afternoon and summit morning breakfast. We hydrated and dined on some pasta, meatballs and veggies around 4pm. After dinner we topped off the water bottles, had a hot drink and tried to get some shuteye. The plan: wake up at 12:30am and be walking by 2:00am.
Summit Day: 12:30 Brian shakes the tent and jumps in on top of Andy, Austin and I – Breakfast & Hots – come and get it! We moan & groan in general disgust. The temps were moderate and the winds weren’t too bad…yet. The team once again efficiently got ready and we were off close to 2:30am.
Directly out of camp is low angle terrain to the first challenge – the rock step. The guides lower everybody down the 25-30ft step to a moderate snow slope where we put on crampons…
After a quick uphill and a short traverse we find ourselves at the base of the Kautz Ice Chute. The type of climbing from here reallly depends on time of year and general snow conditions – for us we had some great conditions with the recent snow covering the ice giving us some nice hard snow to dig the crampons into. Mixed into the snow was some hard ice where front-pointing was necessary. Above the first ice section we found some good snow and moved quickly through to the next ice section. The ice was in great shape so the team moved efficiently through these two pitches. Above the ice we took our first real break. By then it was 6:30 or so and the sun was just out of reach behind the top of the Wapowety Cleaver and the wind was picking up.
After a break we extended out into glacier travel mode to the sunny side of the Wapowety Cleaver for our next break. Even in the sun folks were getting pretty chilly so we moved on up through the upper Nisqually Glacier to our High Break at about 13,800. Winds were steady but the sun was out and the summit was in sight. We made the final push in about a half-hour and made the summit at about 10:30. After a quick walk to Columbia Crest we loaded up to get out of the winds and back down to High Break for some food and water.
We made quick work of the upper mountain on the way down and back at the ice the guides lowered everybody two by two down the Ice Chute. Back at the bottom of the ice we traversed back to the rock step and after some mild rock climbing we regained the step and made our way back to camp…2:30pm. 12 hours round trip – nice work everybody!
Once back at camp we radioed to George Dunn back at HQ, he promptly told us of an expected windstorm coming in that evening. After some spicy rice noodle stir-fry, story-telling and some hot drinks we tightened up the tents and readied for the storm. Windy it was indeed! Ear plugs sure came in handy that night, but we all made it through the night – and so did the tents! We awoke to some great weather and were able to see Paradise 5000ft below us. After about 4 hours of walking we pulled into Paradise to our awaiting van, cold soft-drinks and some salty snacks!
Mt. Rainier let us sneak one in and we were all grateful – and hungry! After some hugs, hand-shakes, and signatures on the summit board we once again went our separate ways.
A big thanks to Andy, Karl, Brian and Austin for a safe and successful climb!
Phil Ershler called in from 14,000′ on Denali at 11:00 a.m. on June 22 with the following report:
They have carried supplies to high camp at 17,000 feet, and are holding at the 14,000 foot camp, waiting for an improvement in weather. They would normally spend 4 days at 14,000 feet, so now are just about 3 days off the best possible time schedule. No reason for concern!
The weather is not bad up high, just not good. They will wait for a clearing trend and then move up to high camp in preparation for a summit attempt as soon as conditions look more favorable.
IMG guide Adam Angel called from Mweka camp (11,000′) on Kilimanjaro where the team has descended to after their summit climb. They had 100% success to Uhuru today (all the climbers summited.) Tomorrow they go back to Moshi, and the next day are off on safari. All’s well!
Today – Justin Merle and crew head up the DC on a 3-day climb… They’ll pass IMG Guide Jason Tanguay and his team on their way down after summitting on a sunset climb yesterday…pretty cool!
Also today our next Kautz and Liberty Ridge teams will meet here at HQ for gear check, orientation and some training. Andy Polloczek will be leading the Kautz team while Jeff Ward will take care of the Lib Ridge climbers. Busy day!
Oh and we’ll have an Emmons climb going up on Monday too so we’ll have the mountian pretty much coverd this week!
***Our first Kautz Climb of the season walked off the mountain yesterday with a summit! A few pitches of ice made summit day fun for all! Nice work to guides Brian Warren, Eric Gullickson, John Colver and Eric Remza and their team! The weather cooperated until their last day…snow, freezing rain and rain made for some wet, cold but happy climbers!
I’ll be joining the Kautz team on the mountain so I’ll bring back some details and some photos… more on this late next week…
IMG Guide Brian Warren called in this afternoon and reported that the team is camped at roughly 10,700 near the Kautz Headwall. The winds are calm and they’re in and out of the clouds… sunny one minute… clouds the next.
They plan on heading up late tonight/early tomorrow (depending on your perspective!)… If all goes well they’ll be on the summit around dawn and back at the tents a few hours after that ready for a nap and some dinner!
A note on the Kautz: this is a great intermediate route for those looking for a more challenging route after the DC or the Emmons.
Eric Simonson is back from Nepal and hard at work planning upcoming Himalayan Climbs and Treks…below you’ll see what’s on the horizon.
Great news for anybody looking to climb Cho Oyu (6th Highest Peak in the World) or trek in Tibet because this Fall’s Cho Oyu Climb & Trek are a GO! It looks like the Chinese roadblocks have been lifted and permits shouldn’t be an issue… The lead guide for this trip is Greg Vernovage who is fresh off our successful Lhotse climb and is en route to climb Denali with fellow IMG Guide Mike Hamill.
And finally for all the Everest enthusiasts out there – Everest 2010 info is now available. This includes info on the EBC Trek, Lobuche Peak Climb, Everest C2 and C3 Climbs… And as a result of this year’s success on Lhotse, we’re happy to offer this as an option to the more savvy climbers out there looking for a challenge!
IMG Guides Brian Warren and Aaron Mainer took the team to the summit on Tuesday morning.The team had great weather and specifically enjoyed the technical parts of this climb.To keep them honest they did get hit with some weather on their way down. All in all it was about as smooth a climb as possible! Nice work guys!
The Team’s Schedule
Day 1 – White River to Curtis Ridge
Day 2 – Curtis Ridge to Thumb Rock
Day 3 – Thumb Rock – Summit – Camp Schurman (Emmons)
Day 4 – Camp Schurman – White River (11am).
If you want to test your skills on Liberty Ridge next year but don’t have the required technical skills check out an ice climbing course this winter in Ouray, CO.