Denali - All GPS Updates

On Sunday, June 18, Kevin and his best friend, Jared, set out to tackle the highest peak in North America, Denali.  Located in Alaska, Denali's summit reaches 20,310 feet.  Not only is it the coldest summit in the world, it is also more feet from top to bottom than Mount Everest.  Kevin and Jared were prepared with 3 weeks worth of food.  Fortunately, they were also equipped with a GPS communication system. Daily updates from each of them are below.

June 18, 2017

Base Camp - 7,200'

Jared:    "We had a safe and gorgeous trip to base camp! Just set up the tent and took a hike to pick up the fuel.  We plan to rest up and start the journey at midnight."

Just before takeoff at Talkeetna Air Taxi

Just before takeoff at Talkeetna Air Taxi


June 19, 2017

Camp 1 - 7,800'

Kevin:    "We made it safe to camp one (7,800 feet), planning to leave tonight 10pm ish, to 11,000 camp. Weather is nice but cold at night, real warm right now. Feeling good."

Jared:    "We are doing fine. It has been sunny and hot since we landed. Last night we traveled to Camp 1 and did fine - a little sore.  It is crazy here how it is supposedly below freezing but crazy hot on the glacier. I think traveling at night is the way to go so far.   Like I said temperature swings are wild with the sun.  We will leave tonight again after the sun goes down, and hope to make it to 11,000 feet. "

Map of Denali camps and elevation

Map of Denali camps and elevation


June 21, 2017

Between Camps 3 & 4 - 12,500' 

Kevin:    "We're boogie chillin' at 12,000'ish.  All is more or less well, may camp here tonight or push for 14,000'."

Jared:    "We finally felt the snow and wind. We made a nice camp around 11,000 and all is well.  The fresh snow was kind of nice but slowed us down a bit to and made it hard to see the wands and stay on trail. During the day I sleep and lay around and wish I were sleeping. We hike during the night time, but it's still light outside."

Approx 12,500'

Approx 12,500'


June 21, 2017

Between Camp 3 & Camp 4 - 12,500'  

Kevin:    "Route is not bad, I got a little beat up by the altitude at 10,000'. Jared is handling it better than me. Not sickness per say, just getting winded really easily. I'm fine, just need to acclimate."

Approx. 12,500'

Approx. 12,500'


June 22, 2017

Camp 4 - 14,200' 

Kevin:    "We're boogie chillin' at camp 4. I'm feeling pretty good I'm over being sick I hope. Jared has been hitting the wall a lot but I think we'll make it. We'll do a rest day tomorrow and try for a day at high camp and summit Sunday/Monday. My air mattress has a leak and doesn't work. It looks picture perfect here at 14,000, clear skies no wind."

Jared:    "We hiked to Windy Corner today and got our sleds that we left yesterday. We had to leave our sleds part way up the hill and then go back and get some gear. Then we had to go back again and drag what's left in the sled up the hill.  I felt quite weak yesterday. The views are beautiful indeed, when we can see them.   We hauled the rest of our gear on to camp at 14,200. It only took us 4 hours, but it was tough. We are both doing fine and excited to make to tomorrow a rest day.  The views are even better up here and neighbors are shredding the snow and very enthusiastic. Some Norwegian gals came by with a sled full of food.  They wanted us to take some so they don't have to haul it down. I got some Euro jelly candies and almonds. Kev got jellies, candy bars, and jalapeño cheese.  A guide told us yesterday that in 22 trips, he had never seen someone camped on the ridge line where we were the last 2 nights. Kev said, "We know a good view when we seen one." We were probably really lucky to have hardly any wind. We piled a lot of snow around the tent to anchor it though."

camp4(1)

June 23, 2017

Camp 4 - 14,200'

Kevin:    "This is our plan, weather and health permitting. Sleep tonight at 14,000' get up tomorrow and be on the trail around 10am, get to 17,000 camp while the sun is still out, camp Saturday night at 17,000, get up Sunday morning and attempt summit around 10am (with the sun out) and make it back to camp that night. If we're feeling good go back to 14,000 Sunday night, if we're beat camp Sunday night at 17,000 again. Make our way down from there. It's only 1ish day hike down. But you have to time it right to hit the glacier when it's frozen at night. If we get storms that all could change, we talked to a guy yesterday who spent 7 days waiting at 17,000 for weather."

Jared:    "Last night our cooking stoves both stopped working. We cook with these and melt snow to get water.  We got some different fuel, but that didn't help. Kevin messed around with the stoves for quite awhile he took one apart and then put it back together.  During that time I said a prayer as it had been over an hour since they both stopped. Within a couple minutes they both worked again. The 2nd one didn't even have anything done to it.  We stayed one more day at 14,200 ft. because of weather and head up tomorrow to 17,200 and then summit on Monday, weather permitting.  I am nervous about climbing tomorrow, but I feel quite decent today, though I have done very little.  The highs are around 8 degrees. The trail to 17,200ft. looks daunting. I believe it's called the Head Wall or maybe it should be called the treacherous pass to Mordor.  It is snowing now, and I hope it doesn't get worse. If the weather is good and we are healthy we hope to summit Sunday. We still have over 6,000ft. of elevation gain ahead of us."

camp4(2)

June 24, 2017

Camp 4 - 14,200'

Jared:   "Kev is asleep and snoring away.  We plan to go to high camp in the morning and then summit Monday still, God willing. We both felt really good on our acclimatization hike up to 15,600 yesterday and took it nice and slow. We are feeling good about getting up there the only big worry that may stop our plans is high winds.  The weather has continued to be fantastic and not too cold.  It's actually quite pleasant during the day, the guy inches camp next to us who keeps skiing with his shirt off and pulling up his pants to get a burn would agree. The only problem is wearing glacier glades all of the time gets annoying.  I am getting sick of the food. Yesterday we ate pancakes and used all of the apricot jam. Today some guys from Bozeman came by pretending to be Santa Claus. I snagged some tortillas and pure maple syrup. I had pancakes again for dinner with blueberries and they were very good."


June 25, 2017

High Camp (Camp 5) - 17,200'

Kevin:    "We made it to camp 5, 17,200. I lost my fancy hydroflask thermos on the way up, that was a bummer. It was in a side pocket and fell out. Rope or something must have tweaked it. We feel decent, we'll try for summit tomorrow unless something seems too wacky. Weather report is good, winds will be a bit high but we'll dress for cold. We might be back on the 28th if everything goes well. Or later if it doesn't."

Jared:    "Last night we made it to 17,2000. Well that was no walk in the park. It was pretty rough. 14,200 was higher than Kevin has ever been, and 17,200 is only 1300 feet below my highest and certainly the highest I have hauled a heavy overnight pack. I am pretty worn out and have a headache but hope to feel better. The plan was to summit, but I think we need to listen to our bodies and take a rest day if needed. The temperature highs are -2 and the lows are -4 where we are." 

Jared at High Camp (Camp 5)

Jared at High Camp (Camp 5)


June 26, 2017

High Camp (Camp 5) - 17,200'

Jared:    "I have an unfortunate update. I got a headache the last hour or so of our hike yesterday and it has yet to go away, so we are not making a summit bid today but resting and hoping I feel better by tomorrow. It is not extreme, but enough that it would be pounding if I tried to go uphill.   I've been taking Diamox since 12000 and taking plenty of ibuprofen.  There are about 150 hikers on the mountain. Today we were alone at the high camp except for one other tent. and the NPS tents. Yesterday there were probably 15 tents here. A few more people have come up this evening so now there are more than 2 tents. It's like a boom or bust town around here."

Kevin:    "We're not going to summit today. Bummer because conditions look prime, sunny, almost no wind (at least in camp), but tomorrow looks about the same according to the forecast so hopefully we have another good day, and hopefully Jared's headache gets better.  Who knows what's causing the headache - it was a tough slog up here with our packs. Could be dehydration, elevation, general fatigue.  I feel fine, generally tired from hiking with a heavy pack and the altitude is still hard but I feel good. I've been getting heartburn from lots of fatty foods.  Jared has the meds, what a good guy, plus the know how with all things medicine.  We're going to try to go out in the morning . It started snowing with a little wind this evening. If it snows a lot it could be sketch, or if visibility or the trail is bad. We'll get up and give it a try."

Kevin at High Camp (Camp 5)

Kevin at High Camp (Camp 5)


June 27, 2017

Summit Day - 20,310'

Kevin:    "I'd like to go down to 11,000 camp tomorrow weather permitting then go to base camp Thursday night and fly out Friday. That probably sounds like a perfect plan.  That's if everything goes well, add days for weather. It's gnar gnar out there right now.  And our stoves are a great suck-sess- taking forever and a day to heat water and blowing up the fuel.  No injuries. We had a medium scary fall on Zebra Rocks just passed Denali pass as you're coming down and the GPS slid down the hill. Jared fell and it pulled me down too but luckily we were tied in to anchors at the time so we came to a stop pretty quick.  But pretty smooth all things considered.  

Jared:    "Today was a wild ride, we had quite pleasant weather going up to the summit. Not exactly a balmy 30 degrees with no wind but just some winds here and there. The trail was well packed so the going was good other than the elevation gain wears us out fast. A team of four Irish started 30 minutes behind us & we thought we would be the only one on the mountain.  However after reaching Denali Pass we heard voices & soon saw a ton of people. A NOLS team of 14 came from Wonder Lake (the long haul). We got stuck behind them but eventually passed them up when they took a break. The trail to the top was still well packed, but the view was not great due to wind and clouds. It was fantastic to reach the top & no easy feat.  On our way down I asked the Irish if they had any extra fuel. They said they had enough for 5 days so feel free to grab some. As you probably figured out we did not bring enough to high camp. They offered us food too, but we should be good there. Coming down was not bad until the last third Zebra Rocks & Denali Pass; the trail was wind blown & crampons came down on fresh snow rather than packed, meaning less secure footing. As we made it into camp the winds had really picked up. We really worried about the Irish & the NOLS crew. Kevin went over & boiled 2 pots of water as a thank you for lending us some fuel. We just finished boiling the water as they arrived around 10:30. I think they were grateful, but probably more grateful to be back to camp safe. Now I just wish that our snow/water would boil already. It has been cooking for over 2 1/2 hours. I am worried about the NOLS crew. They were moving slow as a lot of them had altitude sickness, but since they are going back down the Muldrow Glacier, we won't know if they make it back to camp. Ode to an achievement filled, eventful day.  Now we have over 10,000 feet down.  We hope to be off the mountain Thursday night.  We'll keep you posted."

Summit! 20,310 feet!

Summit! 20,310 feet!


June 28, 2017

The Decsent - 14,200'

Jared:    "We are on our way down.  There was a lot of fresh snow and as it was midday it packed really easily and stuck to our crampons, this becoming heavy and then having no traction. It took nearly the same amount of time to come down as it took to go up because of the conditions. I rested a bit and Kevin boiled water at 14,200. He really wanted to hike all the way out tonight. I said is was willing but was not sure that I was capable.   We plan to leave at 10 pm tomorrow and hike through the night when it is safer on the lower glacier. I am alright, but it seems I always feel lethargic up here."

Jared on the descent between Camps 4 and 5

Jared on the descent between Camps 4 and 5


June 29, 2017

The Descent - Camp 3 - 11,400' 

Kevin:    "Planning to leave at 10 pm from camp three get to air strip within 10 hours.  10 pm tonight to 8 am tomorrow."

Packing down the runway at Basecamp

Packing down the runway at Basecamp


June 30, 2017

The Descent - Base Camp - 7,200'

Kevin:    "Today sucked. We have no idea how long we'll be here. It's snowing so no planes any time soon."

Jared:    "We are hanging out with our Irish friends right now. They led us out of the warm glacier this AM. It sounds like they will likely be able to fly in a couple hours."

Showing off their Sustainable Summits flag they were each awarded for carrying out their waste

Showing off their Sustainable Summits flag they were each awarded for carrying out their waste

A Day Of Attempts

Written by Jerrica

A couple of days before Kevin left for Denali we decided to have one full day of epic adventures.  We headed towards Hope with the goal of rafting Sixmile Creek in the morning, and finishing the day by biking Resurrection Pass.  We were ready for a long day of adventures.  At least we thought we were.

Sixmile Creek

Sixmile Creek is possibly the most accessible technical whitewater in all of Alaska.  Sixmile is broken up into 3 different canyon sections, each canyon becoming more difficult than the one before.  The first 2 canyons are class IV rapids.  The last canyon runs at class V in all levels.  We read some reports on this section and were advised that if we found ourselves having difficulties in the first or second canyon, it would be wise to take out before the next canyon began.  Scouting the river was pretty difficult; we were unable to actually see what we were getting ourselves into.  So we decided to camp at the put-in the night before and follow a commercial tour the next morning, making sure to follow their lines as best we could.  

Waking up at the put-in of sixmile creek

Waking up at the put-in of sixmile creek

The next morning we woke up at the put-in to warm weather and not a cloud in the sky.   Despite perfect conditions I had already began to freak myself out and I was fairly nervous going into this trip.  I feel like I am a decent river guide most of the time, but I also feel like I get lucky a lot.  Everything I read about Sixmile made me feel trepidatious about a self-guided trip.  As I was pumping up our raft I was chatting with some of the commercial guides.  "Have you guys been flipping any boats in the third canyon?", I ask.  "The third canyon?", one of the guides answered, "Boats flip in the first and second canyon all the time."  Any shred of confidence I had managed to gain at that point was now gone.

We started out on the river, me nervous on the oars and Kevin a giddy passenger.  The river started out calm for a couple of miles, then quickly pinched into a narrow, twisted canyon.  All I can say is we got worked.  The rapids came quickly around each corner of the canyon walls, which made reading the river difficult.  Our rig felt big and wide in that narrow canyon and we got bounced around the rocks and walls like we were a pinball.  Kevin was having an awesome time and was really encouraging of my rowing.  Poor Kevin had to deal with me, the stress case, rowing and cursing under my breath in each rapid.  I had psyched myself out too much at the beginning and never really recovered  myself.  I sort of set myself up for a bad time.

Towards the end of the first canyon I looked down and saw a section of our raft had deflated.  Crap... Walter the Raft had a hole in him somewhere.  The raft is divided into a few different chambers, so if you pop a hole in the raft the whole thing won't deflate, just the chamber with the hole.  Trying to find a spot to pull over and fix the raft proved to be pretty stressful and difficult; the river was narrow with no beaches or eddies.  We ended up fixing the raft on the side of the river where we found about a 4 foot rocky shoreline.  Turns out we didn't pop a hole in the raft, we tore a 6" gash into its side.  Kevin did a quick patch job that helped us get to the next place to take out of the river. 

So there you have it. 1 out of 3 canyons conquered.  Sixmile really took us for a wild ride.  Now onto the next adventure...

 

Resurrection Pass

After Sixmile we set up a shuttle and headed further up the road to bike Resurrection Pass, a 39-mile single track trail connecting Hope to Cooper Landing.  The trail goes up about 19 miles, then back down 19 miles, starting out at 500', rising to 2,600', then back down again.  We parked the van at the trailhead, geared up, and before we took off I asked Kevin if he was bringing a rain jacket. We both agreed that we'd be okay without them since there wasn't a high chance of rain that afternoon. If it sprinkled on us, no big deal.

Beginning of resurrection pass

Beginning of resurrection pass

Let me tell you something about the weather forecasts in Alaska. They are garbage.

On the way up the pass we hit a couple of light rain showers but it never made the trail muddy and we stayed fairly dry.  We took care to cross a couple of creeks carefully without getting our shoes wet.  About 13 miles up we suddenly found ourselves in a gnarly hail storm with thunder and lightening fairly close.  We stopped under some trees to wait out the storm and protect ourselves from the hail.  After about 25 minutes we threw in the towel and decided there was no point in waiting for things to get better... we were turning around.

After Resurrection Pass

After Resurrection Pass

The ride back down the pass was brutal.  The riding wasn't technical at all, but it was long, cold, and the trail was now covered in about 2" of water.  So much for keeping our shoes dry.  We were both soaked to the bone and couldn't wait to get back to the van.  When we finally made it to the parking lot I actually cried tears of joy.  We were freezing and covered in mud, but happy to be done.

Our day of adventure didn't exactly turn out the way we thought it would.  We came, we saw, and we got our butts handed to us.

Rivers, Rivers, more Rivers

Odometer:  141,698 - 142,294

Written by Jerrica

Since we left Utah in such a rush, the first few days of van living were chaotic and disorganized.  Luckily, we were able to counter those stressful moments during the first 4 days with some amazing whitewater rafting.  We rafted 3 epic rivers in the first 4 days of our journey.

Rafting has been one of our favorite hobbies as a married couple. Kevin bought me a raft for my birthday one month after we had been married.  If I hadn't already known he was the man of my dreams before, I knew then.  He exceeded expectations again when a year and a half later he surprised me with a duckie for Christmas.  Kevin knows how to win me over.


June 5 - Snake River, Jackson Hole, WY

We met up with some friends from Driggs, Idaho and rafted the lower canyon of the Snake River. I spent the summers of 2008 and 2011 here as a whitewater guide here and both years were considered high water years: 21,800 cfs in 2008, and 26,100 cfs in 2011.  When we rolled into Jackson on June 5th the river was running just below 30,000 cfs. I was giddy as we drove up the canyon alongside the river.  Our crew consisted of 3 people on the raft with me on the oars (4 people total) and 3 kayakers.  It was a real treat to run the river at nearly record breaking levels.  We couldn't have timed it better.

Snake river - view from lunch counter rapid

Snake river - view from lunch counter rapid


June 7 - Salmon River, Salmon, ID

Two days later we found ourselves passing through Salmon, Idaho.  Our friends from Driggs suggested we hit the daily stretch of the Salmon River and we couldn't pass it up.  This time we ran the stretch in our duckie and I think Kevin and I laughed the entire time.  The rapids were plentiful throughout and plenty fun for duckies.  We locked up Kevin's road bike at the take-out and being the dummies we are, we left the keys at the put-in.  Luckily (and stupidly) Kev had locked the bike up to large sage-brush type "tree" which didn't take too much effort to break, so he was able to break the bike free and ride up the road and get the van. Good thing because that road was desolate!  On the way out we noticed a house... A HOUSE... floating in the river!  The river was running so high that it swept a house away!

salmon river

salmon river


June 8 - Lochsa River, Between Lolo, MT and Syringa, ID

We wrapped up our river marathon by floating the Lochsa River just outside Missoula, Montana.  The river was running high and we were unfamiliar with the river, but luckily we met 2 kayakers at the put in who knew the river well and agreed to float with us. They even lent us a laminated river map to use as we went down the river.  Kevin was at the oars this time and it was one amazing run.  Thanks goodness for our two friends who navigated us safely through everything.

lochsa river

lochsa river

We're off! - - Odometer: 141,551

Odometer: 141,551

Written by Jerrica

I work as a race director for a company who puts on 5k running races across the U.S. and Canada. I had an event in Surrey, British Columbia on Saturday, June 3. The original plan was to get the van ready to drive up to Surrey, work the work, then continue to Alaska from there. We soon realized there simply weren't enough hours to get everything done by June 1 (the date I needed to be in Surrey).

We resorted to Plan B: we get the van ready enough so that Kevin could drive up to Surrey between Jun 1-3, work the race with me, then we head up to Alaska together.  I left for Canada on June 1 and Kevin worked tirelessly to make it up to Canada.  Kevin has lots of help from his dad, roommates, and some amazing neighbors and friends.

In the end, we decided I would fly back home and we would leave Utah together in the van. I flew home Sunday afternoon, June 4, and we left late that evening.  We headed to Bear Lake for the night where we stayed at the Deiber family cabin, and then headed north the next morning.

A shout out goes out to Kevin's dad, Spencer, who spent many many hours welding important pieces for our van and sauna.  Thank you to Sarah and Justin Brown for putting up with constant van/sauna projects all over your house.  Taylor Miller offered an endless fountain of creative ideas and encouragement; even when he had plenty on his own plate he helped Kevin put the van together during those final days leading up to our departure.  And to so many friends, family, and ward members who helped, encouraged, and supported us... thank you thank you thank you!  We feel so lucky to have amazing people standing behind us during our journey.

departure