I want to thank Phil Waters for the great job he performed as blogmaster for our To Zee Top team website. Unbelievable effort on his part! Thanx, Phil.
Also, thanx to the hundreds of people who tuned in daily, and the scores of folks who posted Blog comments. Great to finally come home and see the work of art!
We arrived in Denver, all five of us, on Monday morning about 7AM. Beckie is feeling better, and has actually been driving around today getting groceries. I'm at work...... Our flights were interesting, but we all slept some. Gotta catch up tonight.
We absolutely made the right decision to go down from 17,200' High Camp. Three of us were sick, and four, including me, just didn't have the strength to go higher. Only Chris stayed strong, and I presume he did it via eating like a horse the entire trip. He had an amazing amount of energy the whole expedition, and created most of the walls around our tents each camp. Ahhh, youth! Wasted on the young............ ;)
The Park Rangers were wonderful, and we came to know a dozen or more of them. Some knew friends of ours from various walks of life. We met up with some back down in Talkeetna, both at dinner and breakfast. Chris stayed out til 4AM partying Saturday night in Talkeetna. What happens on the mountain (or in the mountain town) stays on the mountain I guess......
Yes, some of our bags and the sleds stayed on the mtn, because the plane wasn't big enough to handle everything and still take off in the slush of the lower glacier. Our flight service, Fly Denali, will ship them to us soon we hope. They treated us very nicely, allowing us to shower at their office, and sleep there for free as well. Probably preferable to the hostel, where you bunk with dozens of other snorers....and the price was right.
We ate dinner at the West Rib, a famous joint with killer seafood, and the entertainment was next doors at the Fairview. Apparently a wedding had just taken place, and a dude on an ATV was hauling around a flat bed trailer, atop which 3-5 young women, completely inebriated, were standing upright and pretending to surf as the driver hauled them through the streets of Talkeetna for a half hour or more. One slip would have resulted in rashes or head trauma.......
We ate breakfast at the Roadhouse. Only 3 items to choose from, a scrambled egg ordinary breakfast which was massive, sausage & biscuits & gravy (reindeer sausage - spicy!), or flapjacks, with the berries determined per the day of the week. You also don't choose your bread, it's whatever the cook made that morning. Packed. Had to wait a half hour at 10:30 to get in. Lots of touristas in town. A train and buses ferry them up from Anchorage. It was raining, so we missed visiting the climbers memorial in the cemetery park.
We encountered folks from 34 countries, and 28 states. A pretty amazing bunch. The Poles gave us Kielbasa, the Ukrainian guy sausage, the Irish a ham and some cheese. We got pre-cooked bacon from Russians. Denali is a place where you gather food or fuel on the way up, and give it away as best as you can once you head down. Bizarre, yet it all works out.
I thought the two toughest days were the first, wherein we single-carried all our gear 6 miles to 7,800' Camp 1, starting at midnight the day we got on the mtn, and the last day 22, where we struggled through a mine-field of crevasses, losing count at over 50, and falling into them between 1 and 7 times apiece. I fell in to my neck on a completely hidden one, and had to be pulled out by Chris. Very nerve-wracking, especially as I led the entire day, expecting to drop in at any moment. It was about 35d and raining and snowing, which compounded our misery. We also had to wait many hours once we did reach the Kahiltna glacier air strip.
Many thanx to Stephanie who transported us from Anchorage to Talkeetna & back. Great gal.
A zillion thanx to Steve Gruhn, our highpointing friend who lives in Anchorage, to whom we shipped the sleds a month prior.
A jillion thanx to Sharmon Stambaugh, who hosted us for dinner while we awaited the arrival of Rob & Dave P.
Hats off to Susan Pellegrini, who got up at odd hours to drive us to and from DIA airport.
A bazillion thanx to rangers Mike, Ben, & Kevin, who brought Beckie down from 15,500' to 14,200' Camp. More thanx to Loomy, Jody, and the rest of the crew who tended to her. More thanx to Dave and the helicopter pilot who brought her out, and to the Hudson Air pilot who took her to Talkeeetna, and Nancy at the Latitude motel, the gal at the Talkeetna visitor center, and the great people at the NPS ranger visitor center including Missy and John L. who kept an eye on her. More thanx to the folks at Talkeetna Air Taxi (Basecamp Annie) and Fly Denali (Geri & Eric and Amber and Margaret, plus Robb & John) who coordinated with Basecamp manager Lisa and Shelly and Ranger Meg to get our gear out.
Thanx to Obidiah, Ryan, Marcus, Jared, Snowboard Lisa, and the other young skiers who entertained us. Thanx to Chris Davenport and the pro skiers who amazed us. Great Solstice Party! Thanx to the many friends we met along the way, including Kyle & Cory & Charles, (Charles attempted to solo it, spent 28 days on the mtn, and ultimately hooked up with Kyle from Vancouver to summit just as the good weather window closed on us. He fell in a crevasse on the way out to boot; dude certainly got his $ worth...), Cancer survivor Sean from Boulder, who made it for his Seventh Summit, and his crew from CO, Ken & Candy from Portland and Tina from CA, Joe from the Bay area of CA, who spent time with us at 17K, and then awaited our arrival at 7,800' Camp 1 to walk out the last day in the minefield with us, as well as enjoy Talkeetna with us (see you on a mtn somewhere, Joe!), and we especially enjoyed meeting the Japanese weather station team, led by Mr Okura-san, and their translators Tauru and Mok from Fairbanks. Mok, maybe we'll come up to see the northern lights at your Aurora Lodge someday!
We were saddened to see our friends Christy and Tauru from AZ come down without a summit, with some frostbite. We absolutely loved watching the Master Ranger of the 14K Basin Camp, Tucker Chenowa, as he in turn ice climbed a steep route, then picked up an amazing kite and wrestled with it for an hour in a windstorm, then skiied off to carve some turns as fresh powder fell. Dude has it dialed in up there..... Thanx to ranger Tim Duffy, who has such a great passion for life, be it the harp duo with ranger Mike Loso, the rap song about Alaska, or the snow ski course he built, an amazing luge run down which you ride a skateboard affixed to a short ski.... Ranger Paul, please say hi to our buddy Mike Coltrin down at Grand Canyon.
Most of all, thanx to my teammates. Rob, you are as solid a buddy as anyone could ever ask for on an expedition. Rob has done a bunch of things with me in the past 8 years, and has really come into his own as a mountaineer. I have come to believe that Rob tolerates me very well, certainly a trait I seek out in my friends. Hope it was as good for you as it was for me!
Dave P, our manager of safety, you kept us all in one piece, and for that I thank you. Dave is far more cautious than I am, and it's a good thing he was there on a number of occasions. I like to think we form a great balancing act. I push him out a bit, he pulls me back a bit. I think we'll visit a lot of peaks together down the road, especially state and county highpoints and 14ers.
Chris, what a wonderful father & son experience! He actually packed in a pink t-shirt which read "Dad tough enough to wear pink", and a nice Fathers Day card. Made me shed a tear, I confide. He has really made great strides in his life, both with his mountaineering skills, and where he is headed to personally. Kid is strong!
Beckie, what a great time we shared together! I am so sad it was cut short by the injury to your knee, and I hope it isn't anything torn. Beckie was so solid in camp, doing her part to organize everything and perform behind the scenes work only those who have been there know must be done. If you never go back again, you still have accomplished something few have done. To have stuck it out all the way to high camp at 17,200' is a heck of an accomplishment, young lady! PS - we met only one woman older than Beckie the entire time we were on the mountain.
Stay tuned, maybe a couple of years from now some of us will head back up there for another try. How on earth will I be able to convince Phil Waters to do this blogsite all over again?
--Dave (49.9) Covill
Friday, July 6, 2007