In March 2010, I completed a weeklong expedition into the Alaska Range, a relatively narrow, 650-km-long (400 mi) mountain range in the southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaska. The Alaska Range runs from Lake Clark at its southwest end to the White River in Canada's Yukon Territory in the southeast. The highest mountain in North America,Mount McKinley or Denali, is in the Alaska Range. Pictures and updates from the expedition are below.
The Alaska Mountain Range
March 26, 2010 - Expedition Complete!
The team made it safely back to Talkeetna. This expedition is one for the books. So even though Mt. Dickey remained elusive, when asked if this trip made him more or less excited for any future Alaska climbs, Mike's response was that it made him "more prepared." Fair enough.
So here are some closing images from the 2010 Spring Alaska Range Expedition.
March 25, 2010
The team moved via skis to a new camp on the other side of Mt. Dickey to evaluate a different route. Mt. Dickey is clearly not in the mood for climbers - the back route looked even worse than the front. All day and all night the team can hear the rumblings of avalanches - a constant reminder that safety is the first priorty.
Last night they camped in the Ruth Amphitheater amid starry skies and under the shadow of Denali. It remains brisk; their camp, facing north, took several hours to thaw this morning and Mike reported that everything - even the sleeping bags - were coated with a thick layer of ice.
The plan today is to climb a nearby minor peak. Pictures are promised once the team flies out tomorrow and back to Talkeetna.
The team made some progress yesterday but by 6:00 pm, they wisely determined that the avalanche risk was too great to justify an attempt of Mt. Dickey. They relocated the camp about five miles north and will attempt a peak in the general vicinity. Mike wasn't sure which one they were going to try - it was going to depend on what they found when they got to the camp.
The weather forecasted some snow today and overnight with park accumulations of about one inch. The temperatures will stay about the same as the past couple of days hovering somewhere around flippin'cold.
The SPOT updates below are from 6:16 pm yesterday and 5:00 pm today. Don't forget to turn on the "Sat" for the best view.
The team is still holed up on the Ruth Glacier. The wind is strong. Specifically, to quote Mike, the wind is "need-to-stay-in-your-sleeping-bag" fierce. Even though there is no percipitation, Mike is calling it the equivalent of a winter storm.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to get a good read on the weather as the closest weather station is in Denali National Park which is balmy comparatively speaking. The temperature has dropped since I checked last. At noon MT is now 1 degree (feels like -6). The high in the park today is estimated at 22 degrees (feels like 8) and tonight will get down to 7 degrees (feels like a chilly 1). Tomorrow looks about same.
The winds are compounding the already serious avalanche risk so the team is waiting it out for now. All their technology is frozen so the sat phone remains the best link of communication. As I hear more, I will update.
Send your warmest and best wind-calming thoughts so they can get back in the groove. Alaska, it seems, is a whole different ballgame.
March 22, 2010 - UPDATED
I heard from Mike late this aftenoon with an update on the day's condition and progress. They are battling some serious cold - temperatures are in the low single digits with wind chill in the minuses. All their technology is frozen save for the sat phone. The skies were blue and clear today which is great for climbing but only (oddly enough) makes it colder. Besides the cold, the overwhelming concern right now is avalanches. Unpredictable and huge, these are a very real danger.
The plan is to move to a higher camp tomorrow at a pass. The day will involve about 1000 vertical feet over some crazy cravasses. But they are playing it safe and the avalanche danger may jeopardize this plan. As I know more, I will update.
March 22, 2010
The Alaska Range expedition started on Friday 3/19 with a bang. After battling a major storm and multiple flight delays in Denver, Matt and Mike arrived in Anchorage around 1:00 am on Saturday morning. Everything was smooth sailing - they slept in and enjoyed the Anchorage Museum - until they took off via shuttle bus to Talkeetna. Mike's Twitter update read simply, "Sometimes the adventure is just getting to the mountain. Stranded in AK with a flat tire and no spare!" They did manage to arrive in one piece and flew out at 2:45 am.
Check out this amazing SPOT update that shows the team smack in the middle of the Ruth Glacier. (Click on "Sat" on the map for the best image.)