All posts tagged as Denali AK

07 Jun

Denali, You Win This Round…

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / June 7, 2014 / 8 Comments

My fellow exile and I made the hike all the way down to basecamp yesterday from 11,000′ in around 5 hours through blue skies, cool temps and dramatic cloud formations (photo on blog post) swirling all around around us providing protection from the searing sun as well as amazement. It was the best part of the trip to be sure and we hoofed it to prove a point.

After 5 days sleeping in a storage room next to the airport and 6 days on the mountain I find myself back in civilization marveling at modern conveniences like showers, toilets with seats and beds that don’t need to be blown up.

My Decision
Climbing Denali is a serious challenge with life or death consequences, and having had time to reflect and weigh the options I’ve come to a decision; I don’t like to quit, and that is a point of pride for me, often to a fault. Being hardheaded as I am God has to slam a lot of doors in my face to get my attention and I’m feeling his hand here. So I’ll give my pride a rest and take what I have learned and attempt Denali again next year with a more informed action plan.

Danger Network Going Offline
I will be writing a trip report, photo album, ETC and will let you know when it’s posted to the Highpoints Page, but aside from that the Danger Network is going offline until the next adventure.

Thank You All
I want to thank everyone for the messages of encouragement while I was up there, and especially Danielle at #GrabTheGold the purveyor of those amazing snack bars that were the core of my nutrition plan. Here’s a Grab The Gold Endorsement Video I shot for you at 11,000′ in appreciation of your sponsorship and support.

01 Jun

We are Flying!

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / June 1, 2014 / 0 Comments

We have clear skies in Talkeetna and at basecamp and are in the air now. If the opening holds, we will be on the glacier soon.

Please pray for the families of those who were lost on Mt Rainier this week.

01 Jun

Crevasse Rescue Z-Pulley 3-1 System

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / June 1, 2014 / 3 Comments

While waiting around I’ve been brushing up on crevasse rescue skills. I really enjoy the mechanical theory behind these systems and thought I would share a bit of it with you in case you ever need to pull someone out of a hole.

If you are lucky enough to have 5-6 people on the surface, you can drag out one climber. Fewer and you need a mechanical advantage system like this Z-Pulley 3-1 Mechanical Advantage system I improvised from the gear that I carry on my harness during alpine climbing.

Click here to see the full screen photo gallery.

01 Jun

Awesome Turbo Otters

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / June 1, 2014 / 0 Comments

When we finally get airborne it will be aboard a de Havilland Turbo Otter. This is a turbine driven prop aircraft with 900HP that is designed for short takeoff and landing environments. It’s an impressive machine that I have been admiring for days as I stand next to it waiting for a break in the weather.

I shot what I think are some interesting angles with a wide angle lens. Here is a full screen photo gallery for this beauty.

31 May

Day Five A Bust

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 31, 2014 / 0 Comments

The planes are still sitting idle, and I didn’t see a moose today.

The predictions are that we won’t be able to get in until Tuesday or Wednesday. We are currently working out the logistics required to shift the expedition forward to give us the 3 weeks required on the mountain.  One week of that time is weather days to accommodate for the days when it is not possible to move. If we tried to climb without the extra days, we would have no margin for weather and would require perfect weather everyday, which rarely happens on this mountain.

Satellite Tracking Not Yet Active
I have gotten some questions about why the satellite tracking is not working. It is currently turned off and will be activated when we land on the glacier and actually start the expedition.

iPhone Based Tracking
However I cobbled together an iPhone based tracking system that shows the location of my iPhone over the last 24 hours as long as I have the corresponding application activated which I do currently. This is what geeks do when they have too much free time on their hands. You will find the iPhone Tracking Map here.

31 May

Day Four A Bust

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 31, 2014 / 5 Comments

Today was somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. This morning the weather was dreary and we knew it was not likely we would fly so we were disappointed as you can imagine. Then it started to lift and we were called to suit up and the fire drill ensued as we proceeded to get suited up and load the plane while our spirits soured with excitement. We were going to be on the glacier soon! But we were told to stand by, which we did until the flight was scrubbed. Then we went for dinner, even more disappointed than before. Once again we got the call, and once again we scrambled like fireman to get suited up and to the plane. And this time we were going for it! Again we were asked to standby, so we waited for another three hours before that flight was scrubbed. And to add insult to injury much of our food supplies which would have stayed deep frozen and good for weeks on the mountain have spoiled.

Momma always said to look on the bright side, so:
We got lots of practice dressing really fast.
We looked very handsome in our mountaineering gear.
We got lot’s of exercise running back and forth to the plane.
I got some nice photos of a pretty airplane.
We get to go grocery shopping tomorrow.
Nobody fell in a crevasse.
We aren’t freezing our buns off.
I’m not at work.
I saw a moose.

30 May

Foiled Again

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 30, 2014 / 0 Comments

The hole closed as fast as it opened and the plane never got off the runway. So we are sitting in the rain, plane loaded and geared up, hoping it will open again.

30 May

Loading Planes Now!

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 30, 2014 / 1 Comment

We finally got the call and The last 30 minutes have been a mad scramble to get suited up and gear loaded onto the planes.

After three days of waiting, we finally have a slight break in the weather and have decided to go for it. It is more likely that the hole will close before we get there and we will have to turn back. But a plane ride through the mountains is far better than sitting around.

If all goes well we should be on the Kahiltna Glacier soon. We have pre-rigged our sleds and ropes so we can hit the ground running and markup for lost time.

Weasel Limitations
Blog posts from the mountain will be limited to 160 characters and will have no images posted. Remember the weasels from the first post?  The weasels can’t be trusted with photos either. If you are only reading the emails you won’t see them anyway, you have to visit the full blog which is linked at the bottom. And let me know if you find some smarter weasels.

30 May

More Weather and Trivia Answer

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 30, 2014 / 0 Comments

Today the weather looks worse down low, so it’s not looking good for today either. There were reports from yesterday that the weather high on the mountain was beautiful. Here is a photo from 14,200 taken by a team who got in before the weather.

14,200 Weather

Weasel Net
I have gotten emails about the satellite Tracking Map and Satellite Messaging not working and that is because the weasels have not been released. That won’t happen until we get on the mountain as I don’t want to lay down a satellite track of the restaurants in Talkeetna. Then I would have to add Resturant reviews to my after action trip.

Unladen Swallow Trivia
Just what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? Many of you recognized the Monte Python Holy Grail movie reference, and knew the response that King Author gave the bridge keeper. But surprisingly nobody knew the actual answer.

The average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour. Don’t believe me, here is the math.

29 May

Day Three A Bust

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 29, 2014 / 1 Comment

Yet another day lost to weather. We are literally camped within 100 feet of the runway with our bags packed so if the call comes, we will be ready, but it did not come today. There was a short window that looked promising, but before the planes could rally, it was closed.

Drills & Skills
We have been occupying our time rigging gear and prepping equipment. We have also been reviewing and practicing mountaineering skills, such as knots, glacier travel and crevasse rescue systems extensively.

Trivial Pursuits
But alas, the guides finally ran out of content today and resorted to Monty Python trivia. Who can answer this one (without Googling); What is the terminal velocity of a unladen swallow?

29 May

Will the planes fly today?

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 29, 2014 / 1 Comment

It’s about 9:00, and the small but typically bustling Talkeetna Airport is as quiet as a tomb this morning as it has been for the previous two days. Walking along the barren runway lined with idle planes is a frustrating sight for the growing number of mountaineers waiting for their chance at the mountain.

We slept next to the runway last night as did many other climbers and are ready to go on a moments notice should a window open, however the weather looks no better today, and even worse weather is forecasted through Sunday. If we don’t get out till Sunday, this will hurt our summit chances as we will have no weather days left for the mountain and a single storm could shut us out.

The Challenge of Glacier Landings
The Turbo Otter Air Taxis that will eventually deliver us to base camp are high performance aircraft equipped with snow skids and modified 900HP turbine engines. These well engineered machines, are well suited to the task, however glacier landings are challenging in the best of conditions. It is difficult to judge distance to the ground, the runway is short and the approach is steep to name a few. There is not a proper airport runway with lights, beacons and such, but only rows of orange gear sleds buried in two long rows. So without good visibility, the planes do not fly.

28 May

Day Two A Bust

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 28, 2014 / 5 Comments

The window of opportunity for today has closed, so a second weather day is burned before we even get to the mountain.

Lodging Situation Problematic
Talkeetna is filling up with climbing teams that like us cannot get to the mountain. The Fireweed Inn where we have been staying is booked with another team, as is every other traditional option. The Talkeetna Air Taxi service has a “Bunkhouse” which essentially some plywood decking on 2×4’s which they had been using as storage. They cleared out the supplies and that is where we will make our home tonight.

TAT Bunkhouse Inside

Several more days of bad weather is forecasted, but perhaps a hole will open. So the waiting game continues.

27 May

Day One A Bust

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 27, 2014 / 5 Comments

It’s official, we are not flying in today.

Extreme and unpredictable weather is typical for this mountain which is why 7 of the 21 days are weather days where we expect to be cloistered in tents waiting it out storms.

Spent some time at the ranger station and learned that it has been extremely windy high on the mountain and has turned around most of the teams. So far only 20 out of 114 climbers have made the summit.

Met Willie Prittie today from Season 1 of the Ultimate Survival Alaska TV show, and he is just as colorful in person. Willie runs the Alaska operations for Alpine Ascents, has guided on many of the worlds highest mountains and is regarded as a one of mountaineerings preeminent experts.

We are going back to the Fireweed Inn and God willing we will be on the mountain tomorrow.

27 May

Weather Has Air Taxis Grounded

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 27, 2014 / 0 Comments

Team fully assembled at 7:00AM this morning at the Fireweed Station Inn for breakfast, lost one climber due to illness, so we are 7 now as follows:

Blake Norrish
Alex Rosenthal
Stephen Wilson
Roland Yearwood
Robert Danger Byrd

Matthew Emht
Eric Salazar “Salz”

I am happily the least experienced climber on this trip. This is the second Denali attempt for two of the team and most have done at least some of the highest mountains on several of the continents.

Sponsor Swag
Handed out the bars from, the titanium pocket knives from, and the beards from last night, and everyone loved the swag. Thanks again to the sponsors for all of the support.

Gear Check
Completed exhaustive gear check by 11:30, and got all group gear distributed. It takes a lot of gear to climb this mountain. Haven’t weighed out yet, but I expect 130-150 lbs personal load. I’ll have 60% of that on the sled. Salz quipped that climbing Denali is like dragging a wet mattress up a steep hill. Well see if he is right.

Denali is already throwing fowl weather at us, which has shut down the air taxi service that will take us to the our starting point at the Kahiltna Glacier. So unless the mountain changes her mind, we won’t be on the her today.

So we are all geared up with no place to go, so we wait, which is a big part of climbing this mountain.

26 May

The Calm Before The Storm

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 26, 2014 / 1 Comment

Tomorrow I’ll be climbing a mountain, a really big one. But today is for relaxing.

Yesterday I finished all my gear related tasks and double checked everything, so I’m kicking back in a lovingly restored log cabin in the Alaskan countryside by the name of The Fireweed Station Inn. The proprietors Hobbs and Todd operate this bed and breakfast and have been taking excellent care of me, so if you find yourself in Talkeetna, the Fireweed is a great place to unwind.

Tomorrow we climb…

25 May

2014 Denali Expedition Begins!

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 25, 2014 / 1 Comment

Hello Friends,

The gently swaying train winds gracefully through pristine Alaskan wilderness, spiriting me towards my greatest mountaineering challenge thus far; Denali (Mt. McKinley) the tallest mountain in America. Soon I’ll step off of the train in Talkeetna the gateway to the mountain. Here our team will assemble over the next couple of days, while we prepare our gear and ourselves for the expedition.

And so begins the adventure of a lifetime…

Read more →

24 May

Surprise Denali Sendoff

In State Highpoints by Robert Danger Byrd / May 24, 2014 / 0 Comments

So when I arrived at the airport today, I found my good freind, climbing partner and EO Hocus Focus forum mate standing there waiting for me. Needless to say I was very surprised, and humbled by the gesture.

It was Rick who introduced me to highpointing in the first place, and you can read about it under About/The Story.

So thank you for your show of solidarity Rick, it means a lot to me.