I’ve been dreaming about Denali since I started climbing mountains a decade ago with two best friends. This is the year we made it happen.
As many Xconomy readers know, I just returned from a successful three-week expedition to climb Alaska’s Denali, the highest peak in North America. Many saw me grow a beard to protect from the winds, or saw me get ready through one of my grueling daily hill climbs with a 75-100 pound backpack. All the community encouragement and support was greatly appreciated in the run-up to this extreme physical, mental, and psychological challenge.
For those unfamiliar, the Alaskan peak is known as Denali, or the “The High One,” to Native Americans and climbers, and Mt. McKinley to many others. The summit, first reached 100 years ago, stretches up to 20,320 feet. Everything about it is extreme. It’s so remote, you have to fly 40 minutes on a bush plane to land on a glacier at 7,200 feet to start. You need to bring three weeks of food and supplies to allow time to climb, adjust to altitude, and last through inevitable bad weather. You need to haul 120 pounds of personal gear, and team gear, spread between your backpack and a sled that you get to drag uphill.
This is also a U.S. National Park, which means there are no Sherpas or Andean donkeys to help carry the load, and don’t even think about littering. I was part of a team of 11 guys—eight climbers and three guides—who were supported on this quest by the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, WA.
Then there’s the weather. The June sun can beat down on you at 85 degrees on the low glacier in the afternoon, and the mercury can easily dip below 0 when the sun hides behind a ridgeline at night. Wind gusts can be powerful enough to knock you off your feet, especially in tricky spots where every foot placement counts. Storms can move in, and pass, at a moment’s notice, with little forecast warning.
People ask me sometimes why I climb, and it’s hard to answer in a single line. I love being in a beautiful natural environment. I love testing my own physical and mental limits. I love camping. I love the joking around, and fellowship with other climbers. I’m sure I could go deeper into mountain metaphors for life and business, but I’ll save those thoughts for another day. Today, I hope you enjoy these photos from a great adventure in one of the world’s amazing natural environments. Have a great holiday weekend.