Sunday, May 15, 2016

Alaska bound

Three years ago, in 2013, Ian Welsted and I enjoyed a successful trip to Pakistan. We did a bunch of good climbing and even managed to summit what was, by Karakoram standards, a moderately big peak. Two years ago I went north to Denali with Alpine Mentors, presumably to impart some alpine experience to four talented climbers half my age. But all that June the weather in the Alaska Range was atrocious, and during the entire four-week trip we didn't swing a tool once. Then last year I got ambitious. Daniel Bartsch, David Gottler and I figured that if we were going to climb Everest, we might as well do it in alpine style by a new route. When the earthquake struck we hadn't even put our crampons on.

Ian Welsted curses the hot afternoon sun as he swings and kicks his way up a moderate ice pitch on the northwest face of K6 West.

Steven Van Sickle hikes up to the north summit of Denali. No swinging required.

Yours truly on a nameless bump in Tibet, with Everest in the distance. Even though the bump in question was taller than Denali, sturdy hiking shoes was all it took to get up it. Photo: David Gottler.

Tomorrow Juan Henriquez and I are leaving behind the warm rock and fresh greenery of spring in the Bow Valley and heading north, bound for the icy giants of the Alaska Range. There's something about the place that keeps drawing me back. I don't know if it's the endless ice runnels framed by walls of perfect granite, or the endless days of subarctic mountains as summer solstice approaches. But this time I figure the bar is set low: after my last couple of trips, I'll consider this one a success if I get to swing a tool.

If you know Juan and me, it won't come as a surprise when I tell you than we're not social media fiends. There'll be no real-time Facebook updates from the north buttress of Hunter or south face of Denali. But if you're curious if we're festering or sending, you can always check the Alaska trip links on this blog: the tracks from our inReach and the Kahiltna base camp webcams (the blue dot north of Anchorage).

See you back in the Rockies in June.


  1. Hola Raphael!
    It was very good to meet you in person at Base Camp, I guess the good side about those bad weather days was that we were able to have good conversations and meet other people.
    Good luck to you and Juan in the next projects.

  2. Kakiko,

    It was great to hang out with you during all the ping pong ball days in basecamp. After you left we had a go at the north buttress, but even in the middle of the night it was insanely warm. Ice climbing and running water don't mix! Oh well, we'll just have to come back earlier in the season.

    I hope we get to share more laughs on a glacier sometime. Keep in touch,