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May 28: Climbing Denali's Upper West Rib Route

Steve and I summitted Denali at 8pm-ish May 22 via the upper West Rib -- from 14,200' Base Camp to the Balcony at 16,200' and overnighted there, then next day to the summit. Here are some photos...

Back in Talkeetna before the flight onto the glacier, we thought of a great plan... to bring meat onto the mountain. We went out and got 8 lbs of ground beef and cooked it up with tons of spice, then bagged 4lbs each... and since it was going to be cold as a freezer up there, we figured we'd be ok. Here I am with my 4lbs of meat... loving every ounce of it since she'll give me protein up there. Perhaps someday I will make a good father... I've just got to remember that I can't add bits of my baby to a pasta meal as I would this bag of meat.

At the airport ready to get on the plane. My 100+ lbs of gear (including 4lbs of meat) that I will be hauling up to the 14,200 ft Base Camp. I'm sportin' the "Alpine Mullet".

Here's the airplane that'll take us onto the glacier.

Flying towards Denali ...there she stands at 20,320 ft and freakin' cold!

There's Denali and the Kalhitna glacier that flows out 40-some miles or more! We would land on it and start the 12 miles glacier trek to the 14,200' Base Camp.

Almost there. Folliow the arrow. (Disclaimer: Arrow is NOT actually painted on the glacier. It was added using hi-tech computer graphics.)

Yeah! Mango Mountain Man is back! We landed on the glacier at 7200' and had to traverse 5 miles of glacier to get to Camp 1 at 7800'. Mango Mountain Man is ready for action!

Red arrow shows where plane flew into. Black shows the 5 miles of glacier crossing to get to Camp 1.

View from my tent. I call this "Snow Shovel in Snow with mountain in background."

Here's my sled that I pulled to 14,200' Base Camp. I call this "Snow Shovel on bag on sled behind shit-bucket." FYI... shit bucket is what you haul up to the 17,200' camp to ...yelp, you guessed it... to take a shit in and then haul allllll the way back down in order to preserve the mountain. Damn environmentalists! Can't a man just shit anywhere he pleases anymore?! Note: That's Steve in the background... and, no, he's NOT taking a shit. He's just pondering...

Classic shot of a Denali scene: Climber hauling his/her 80lbs sled. This is Camp 2 at 9600'. Another 5000' of hauling to go before the climbing starts.

Mango Mountain Man in action... but suffering. Mango Mountain Man's thoughts: "Must say f*ck it and get the hell off this stupid mountain. French fries, beer, steaks, ....yummm."

A Czech team behind us also ascending to the 14,200' Base Camp. We were in a snow storm and visibility was pretty bad. Mango Mountain Man's thoughts: "Yasp adoyr alhiout 65 a%%$#". (Disclaimer: If you're a code-breaker, don't even try cuz there is ABSOLUTELY no meaning his the MMM's thoughts.

OK, lots going on here. This is at the 14,200' Base Camp where climbers set up a "base." We stay here to acclimatize to the thin air and plan our "assault of Denali." Mt. Foraker stands out cuz it's big! There are two shitters (3 walled toilets with a beautiful view of Foraker.) So as you take a crap, you can either contemplate life... or just marvel at the magnificense of Foraker. In between the shitters is a pee hole... the communal pee hole. Yes, peeing and shitting are two very basic things we humans do... and in the mountains, it's all just "normal" activity and nothing to be shy about.

A couple of times, helicopters flew up to the 14,200' Base Camp to evacuate people with altitude or medical illnesses. Pretty serious stuff! There's a Ranger Station staffed by 4 to 5 rangers during the busy climbing season to ensure all are ok.

Steve and I took an acclimatization hike up to 16,200' above Base Camp. This mountain is HUGE!

A couple of days later, we went back up and camped here. 2 other guys from Seattle and us joined forces to climb the West Rib. Good guys. Mango Mountain Man's thoughts: "??????"

Moving higher up... here's our view. I feel sorry for those people who sit at home watching TV and living a boring life.

We take a break near 19,000'. Here is Steve way above Base Camp and the Shitters, which are somewhere way down below.

View... we are climbing up... and up... and up...

The end is near. I am at around 20,200' and the summit is just a ridgeline traverse away. It's pretty scary since the drop to either side is thousands of feet. You can see people coming back from the summit.

Summit... this is what I imagined... now I've just got to get there...

View... from 20,320 ft... from the top of Denali, the highest point in North America.

Yeah! We've made it! Steve's summit pose.

Yeah! Here I am! Mango Mountain Man's thoughts: "Colors... circles... circles of colors... cool... loops... vibrating strings and loops... particle's characteristics... " NOTE: Talkeetna DOES NOT have a Wal-Mart, so this photo was not taken in a studio with a summit backdrop.

Me and Steve with the ridge line in red behind us.

After we summitted, we descended down to 17,200' Camp on the West Buttress route and spent the night there. We were stalled by a guided team that took forever to descend a steep section. Needless to say, we didn't make it to the camp till past midnight. I ended up getting frost bite. Oh well. The following day, we continued to descend the West Buttress back to the `14,200' Base Camp. This is a photo from the top of the fixed lines at 16,500' with the 14,200' Base Camp circled. Can you find where the shitters are? I sured needed them by this point! Who cares about Foraker or life, I just needed to shit!

But one more view from this place... before we descend so that I can take a crap. Mango Mountain Man definitely did NOT want to become Kiwi Mountain Man.

Hard to tell, but circled is the finger that got minor frost bite. Ouch.

After a couple of days' rest at the 14,200' Base Camp, we descended back down to the glacier airport at 7200' to catch a flight back to Talkeetna. Denali in the background. The truth about Mango Mountain Man -- stripped of his suit, he's just a regular guy... who sports an Alpine Mullet.




  • 3/16: Camping on Flatiron, AZ

  • 4: Ice Climbing in Ouray, Colorado
  • 18: Winter in the Sierras

  • 5: Rock Climbing Flatiron
  • 11: Colorado Snow Trip

  • 3: Humphrey's Peak, AZ
  • 18: Joshua Tree Trip

  • 1: Road Tripping to Alaska
  • 6: Mt. Rainier, Washington
  • 11: To Talkeetna, Alaska
  • 28: Climbing Denali's Upper West Rib

  • 15: Washing Dishes After Denali

  • 19: 4th July Trip to the Sierras

  • No Update. Didn't do much.

  • 5: Hiked Lone Pine Peak (Sierras)

  • 27: Rock Climbing in Moab

  • 30: Thanksgiving at J-Tree

  • 8: Christi's Birthday
  • 17: Rock Climbing in Sedona, AZ