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W

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W last won the day on March 17 2018

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About W

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    old hand
  • Birthday 11/30/1999

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    Talkeetna, AK
  1. No matter where one stands on the issue of risk, this thread is an important and necessary conversation for climbers of all ages and skills. Like many climbers, I believe, my relationship and outlook on risk versus reward in climbing has been complicated from the very beginning. That relationship spans 26 years, more than half of my life. My view of risk has had many faces through the years, and it continues to be complex and fraught with contradictions. Which it should, if we are being honest with ourselves and continuing to play the game for the longhaul. Perhaps the most consistent element of it for me is that even in my younger age when I thought myself more 'bulletproof', I've always gone into every serious alpine climb with a very clear-eyed attitude as to the danger I was willingly embracing. "I could die on this trip", is something I silently recited to myself, as the plane lifted off in Talkeetna, or I stepped off the pavement in El Chalten, or I began traipsing up some Rockies drainage towards my objective. While just verbalizing these words didn't change the objective risks I would be facing, it allowed me to proceed with commitment and decisiveness into that zone, and to fully accept the potential consequences. It also served as a reminder of the responsibilities I had at home, the responsibility I had to get back home, which means that aforementioned commitment was not without conditions or limits. I don't regret any of the adventures I've undertaken over the years, nor my lifelong commitment to climbing. Yet in some respect, today I have an increasingly difficult time reconciling my desire to celebrate these memories, with a nagging question of why I have survived, when so many others I knew have not. My wife and I never had children, but I know that if we had, I would have done much less than I have. My wife is a saint for having tolerated so much time away, so much of our money spent, and so much worry that I have subjected her to, in what has been inarguably a selfish pursuit. We have been able to navigate it successfully out of a mutual recognition that a passion for something is what makes a person who they are. I think she has been simultaneously admiring of and appalled by my dedication. I became friends with Marc Leclerc a few years ago in Patagonia, where we shared a number of dinners and trips to Domo Blanco together. He seemed an astonishing soul to me, and someone who was extremely kind, humble and unassuming, especially considering the wavelength on which he was operating in his climbs. When I have observed some of the achievements and risks that he and others like him have taken, I am certainly impressed by the athleticism and the mind control they exhibit. And I've also just shaken my head in a manner that represents neither condemnation nor unbridled approval, but rather, an honest acknowledgement that these sorts of achievements are so far outside of my own abilities and comfort zones that I simply don't understand what they are. It is almost as though I'm watching an entirely different sport. It's tempting to frown on extreme risks, and yet as I myself have taken more than my own share, I'm not in a strong position to judge. In fact, I think we must recognize that their propensity and ability to take such risks is an intrinsic part of their character, the very thing for which we love those of this group that we know personally. And so if Bob's concern about applauding high risk has any merit- and I think that it does- I think it's that the community needs to be brutally honest with themselves about what we are witnessing, even if we choose to admire it. The brutal and honest truth for me is that I have ceased to even feel shock, much less surprise, by each one of these successive tragedies. Ryan, in fact was a good friend. Last fall as we unsuccessfully tried to synch up for some rock climbing in the Cascades, he glowingly told me how he didn't want to be away from his 2 year old son for very long, and that he no longer needed climbing to fill a void in his life. So heartbreaking to think back on this exchange now. But I fear that I've become so accustomed to these accidents as to be desensitized, out of a simple need to protect myself from a total meltdown. I have a photo from my own wedding, in 2006. In it, Lisa and I are surrounded by 7 of my closest friends. Three of them have since died in the mountains. A photo from one of the happiest days of my life now causes pain. Amidst the deaths of numerous casual friends through the years, the loss of Lara Kellogg, Joe Puryear, and Chad Kellogg, leaves a hole in my heart that can't ever be repaired. The widespread wreckage left behind from incidents like these can't be understated. A friend of mine here in Alaska who used to do some cutting edge stuff likes to remind me of why he scaled back the big alpine. "My wife says, you won't care when you’re gone, but I will". The losses that have touched me, my work commitments, being well over 40, and most recently, having a serious illness have all conspired to blunt the sharp edge of my formerly insatiable motivation for the mountains and big adventures. And yet I still do it, and I still hold ambitions on which I plan to execute in the near future. Amidst the flood of mixed emotions and out of a cloud of darkness, certain things have become clear. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with the ultra rare and very lethal adrenal cortical cancer. At the time, I thought that if I somehow survived it, getting a second chance on life, I could never justify taking serious risks for recreation anymore. Two years, two major surgeries, and a month of radiation treatments later, I'm somehow not only still here but cancer free, and throughout much of this time, I've been able to climb at full speed. I have so far gotten off easy. But I've deep dived into the world of this disease and what I've seen is neither pretty nor dignified. And I'm not out of the woods by a longshot. I know who I am and what has taken me to this point in my life. I've wrestled over and over again with how sustainable this activity is. I've simultaneously envied those like Marc who at a young age had the vision and heart to become committed in every fiber of his being to climbing mountains, and also had the talent to be one of the very best; but also guys like Simon McCartney, who at age 24, with Jack Roberts, established the hardest route ever done on Denali at the time, the massive southwest face. It was the zenith of what had been a meteoric few years of serious and groundbreaking alpine ascents for him. But high on this climb, Simon nearly succumbed to altitude illness in a harrowing ordeal, and afterwards, quit climbing cold turkey, moved to Australia, got married and started a successful business. Simon told me: "I knew what I needed from climbing at the time, each climb had to be harder and more audacious than the next. I could see exactly how that was going to end. I didn't want to die, not at that age". Simon is now 62 and has had a happy life. I've come to realize that as long as I have a chance of dying of cancer, and that if I could choose the manner of my death between that or climbing, I'll take the mountains. Ultimately, between the all or nothing of the above examples, I hope to walk a fine line right down the middle on my way out of this life, whenever and however that happens. Onward, and upward-
  2. If I ever thought that luck played only a minimal role in surviving years of alpine climbing at a higher than average level of risk, this feeling was nothing that couldn't be altered by the compounding effects of a collection of personal close calls, and a long list of dead friends.
  3. Nice trip, also really good pictures. I have the S120 as well and am very happy with the image quality and especially the 60fps video quality. Great camera and lot more affordable than the Sony RX-100 ii (which is also excellent, just $300 more). I am not certain, but if anyone cares, I think you guys might have made the fastest round trip ascent on 11,300 to date. Back in 2004, Joe Puryear and David Gottlieb climbed the route in one day to the summit, bivied, and got back down the next day. At the time (pre-guidebook) the route didn't get nearly as many ascents as it does now and I hadn't heard of anyone climbing the whole route to the top in a day, so I was pretty sure Joe and David's ascent was the first in that regard. The snow was in great shape, and Dan Aylward and I headed up a day later. We were inspired enough by their effort, and the track they'd put in, to leave behind everything except a puffy jacket each- we didn't even take a stove. We climbed the route in 7 1/2 hours to the top, spent over an hour on top, and returned to camp, 13 hours tent to tent. We simuled the route in 4 pitches. Since then I've heard of several ascents that came close to that time (and it get lots of ascents now so it hasn't obviously been possible to hear every story) but this is definitely the fastest time I've heard about. I did the route again in 2013. We had to break the trail in pretty bad snow. It took us 15 hours just to get up the route, and 22 round trip! Conditions are everything on this route. Anyway, well done, gentlemen! Thanks for the report and the great photos.
  4. Denali pricing

    This is correct, the vast majority of rescues in national parks are for non-climbing related activities- in fact climbing accounts for something like 3 or 4% of rescues nationwide last I checked. However, the cost of every SAR that occurs in a national park- climbing or otherwise- is paid for out of the National SAR account, e.g. the general fund. Climbing rescues are not paid for by the climbing fees, per se. El Capitan is largely kept clean by YOSAR patrols and climbing ranger patrols which include unpaid volunteers, doing 1-2 day ascents. Simply getting a team on the ground at the 14,000 and 17,200' camps on Denali, to safely and efficiently perform any sort of work, requires a 25-28 day expedition involving successive crews comprised of one ranger and four volunteers.
  5. Denali pricing

    One point that everyone should understand: The Global Rescue base insurance that is provided by the AAC with your annual membership only covers the costs of getting you to a trailhead, it will not get you transported to a hospital or repatriated to your home country, as several of my friends have discovered. You need to purchase supplementary insurance for that- Global Rescue 30 day coverage for this is $229- I buy it for all my foreign trips. If you were to get rescued by the NPS on Denali and brought to basecamp (e.g. the "trailhead"), you'll be passed off to a private company (usually LifeMed helicopter ambulance) and transported from there to a hospital in Palmer or Anchorage, and this part will cost you in excess of $30,000! Denali is a special case, Bob. 1200 people per year pack onto a single route (including all those vying for the Cassin, South Face, etc.). The impacts from just a small percentage of those who decide to leave their garbage and human waste on the mountain, leave behind gear they decide not to take down with them, or who carelessly leave improper caches for the wind and the ravens to scatter about the mountain, is substantial. A major component of the climbing program at Denali is education, starting with the mandatory orientation in Talkeetna. Having been doing this job for six years and also having climbed in the range for 22 consecutive seasons, I can tell you that the orientation has had a positive effect on overall visitor safety, especially considering the number of rather inexperienced climbers that come to attempt Denali (a "seven summit"). The statistics back this up, also. That said, accidents still happen, and altitude sickness also, even to experienced climbers. The advantage of having a fit, experienced and acclimatized team of rangers and volunteers on hand, along with a capable helicopter and expert pilot with whom those teams have trained with extensively, in my opinion, makes performing rescues up in this environment a far safer affair than utilizing outside personnel or resources of unknown capability. As for the costs...before I worked here I also was a vocal critic of the fee, in part because I climbed here before the fee was ever instituted. My first three trips on Denali were the Muldrow and the South Buttress (twice), it wasn't until the third trip when we descended the west buttress that I saw another climber on Denali, so I couldn't figure out why a "climbing program" existed here. I still don't like the idea of climbing fees but I do understand the need for the program. I'd prefer that our taxes cover all of this, but I would also imagine that our taxes would be a lot more than an extra $365- IF we were somehow able to convince the general population to cover this- which you and I both know is a longshot. Until then, it's a special use program, with both value, and costs, operating in service of 1200 visitors to a park that sees over 2 million visitors annually. Bob, You should come join me on a Denali patrol as a volunteer. You might come away with a changed perspective (and you wouldn't have to pay the fee! ). I do agree the fees are unfortunate and I'm pleased that the park service has worked with access groups and the AAC to keep the fees from increasing without a fair public process; but the larger problem is in how climbing is viewed and treated in our culture (as opposed to Europe).
  6. What is this route?

    WCC's info is the same as what I have. I seem to recall that the 2005 team did not succeed in climbing the east ridge, but I'd have to dig further.
  7. What is this route?

    That is Mount Providence, not Mount Hunter. The southeast spur of Hunter is not visible in your photo, it is far to the right.
  8. For over a decade I've been loyal to the BD Punisher as my 'go-to', and the BD Specialist if I need something slightly warmer. This is all I've used for pretty much everything from alpine routes in Alaska to ice routes in Canada. If you seam grip them out of the box, they'll not only better resist getting wetted out, they will last quite awhile also.
  9. Blame Obama

  10. Good Food- Marblemount

    At least one person I know got gnarly food poisoning from eating there, so there's also that...
  11. Hey Wayne- Jens, Sol and I did the FA of the direct in 2011- pm any one of us or however you want to do it. I'm haven't heard of anyone repeating the upper section yet but I haven't been paying much attention, Jens and Sol would know more. The direct has great climbing, and overall it's a bit easier than the lower part- it will be even better when it gets more traffic and gets the lichen cleaned off it. Go back and hit it!
  12. Blake, Awesome! When I climbed this with Joe Puryear in 1998, that first pitch was my lead- and I definitely remember doing something really crazy and hard to get leftward to reach the belay ledge with the fixed tat. I seem to recall going high and then getting shutdown, then downclimbing the crack I was in until I could get left somehow- I definitely did not dyno and it definitely wasn't 5.11, I don't recall exactly what I did apart from some sort of bear hug maneuver, but it was really insecure and I barely pulled it off. I think it's worth noting that if the belay where Jens stopped is adequate, it might actually be better to go that way anyway, because the 'fixed' anchor on the belay ledge was actually not very inspiring, it required a lot of time in equalizing a nest of small brassies and blue alien sized cams; there were broken off kb's in the thin cracks. Further, there's a slabby runout to start the next pitch with a factor 2 potential onto the belay. Colin's partner took a huge, zippering fall on pitch 1 a number of years ago, I think trying to do the dyno move. I think it was about a 70 footer if I remember the story. Sounds like the route has cleaned up a lot already. On pitch 4, I had to use a lot of aid while using a nut tool to excavate a thirty foot section of crack that was completely packed with dirt and vegetation, and the 10c crux had mossy holds. At the sidewalk after p5, we moved left and climbed the major rib directly to the summit, which took much longer than we had expected. It was about 5.7 or less until just below the top we encountered a 5.9 pitch that was somewhat circuitous and insecure. Overall it's a great route and glad to hear its cleaned up. Be aware, back before we did it, Jim Nelson gave us fair warning that it had been subjected to some major rockfall; indeed if you look at Blake's overall photo there are some big rock scars directly overhead.
  13. I have a pair of BD Stainless Sabretooths which have seen light use- probably less than 10 days total, almost all for waterfall ice. Just touched up the points so they are sharp and ready to go. $100 gets them to you including shipping from Alaska. Thanks, Mark
  14. Thanks Jay, hope to get another shot. The lower part of the route has been reduced to bare rock several times by mid summer in recent years, so if it used to be the ancient blue Alaska ice it's definitely not anymore, it's entirely seasonal now. It just doesn't get enough direct sunlight to form ice reliably. I won't diminish the objective hazards of the lower half. I was nearly knocked off while leading a steep pitch in the lower gully by a large spindrift, then higher up I was hit very hard by falling ice, hard enough that I almost blacked out. At the bottom as we skied away from the schrund (which lately is pretty large) a very big slide came out of the route and knocked us both over, I hate to think what it would have been like had we been up in the gully for it. If the lower part was real ice it would have been a cruise. We had waited three full days after a large snow dump to attempt the route- it was not long enough, this thing needs a prolonged period to settle out after a storm. I would also add that rappelling the route has been done and is in my opinion much safer and faster than descending by the Rooster Comb-Huntington col, the latter of which if anything is getting more dangerous each year. In fact I would say the RC-Huntington col descent is an outright roll of the dice.
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