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."
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. "
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."