Showing posts with label Denali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Denali. Show all posts

Outside Names America's 10 Most Deadly National Parks

Have you ever wondered which of America's national parks is the most dangerous? After all, it seems like each year we see news stories about someone getting attacked by a bear or falling off a cliff face. The parks are incredibly beautiful places, but they are also nature in its purest form, and we all know that the wild can be completely unforgiving at times.

Outside magazine has published an article that ranks America's ten most deadly national parks. The rankings are based on the number of total deaths the parks have seen over the years. For instance, Grand Teton National Park makes the list because it has had 59 people die within its boundaries since it was established back in 1929. Four of those occurred in 2016 alone. Denali is also on the list with 62 deaths, although most of those have occurred on the mountain that the park shares it's name with.

Of course, I won't reveal all of the parks that made the cut, but I will say that it is a good mix of places that you would expect to see on the list and a few that you might not have anticipated. Amongst the usual suspects are a some that are bit further off the radar, including the top spot overall. It should be noted that Outside uses the term "national park" broadly here, as a few of the places on the list aren't officially designated as parks, but still fall under the jurisdiction of the Park Service.

The list was also generated purely by the sheer number of people who have died within a park, and doesn't take into account the number of years since that place was established nor the number of visitors. If a 100 people died in a park that has been around for 100 years, it seems less deadly than a park that may have had 100 people die in just 50 years for example. Similarly, if millions of visitors pass through a park's gates each year and a handful pass away while there, it isn't as dangerous of a place that has the same number of deaths but only gets a few thousand visitors for instance. Still, this does give you an idea of which parks are the most dangerous in the purest sense.

All of that said, it is a wonder that some of these parks haven't seen more deaths over the years. For instance, Yellowstone has been around since 1872, and over the course of its 145 years of existence, only 92 people have died within the park. Considering that nearly 6 million visitors now go there on an annual basis, that doesn't seem all that bad.

Update: It has been pointed out that the article says that the stats were taken for all parks from 2006 on, so my rant above is off base. That makes the article a fairer comparison for sure.

Find out which other parks earned the dubious distinction of "most deadly" here.

Video: Meet the 12 Year Old Climber Who Has Set His Sights on the Seven Summits

Meet Tyler Armstrong, a 12-year old alpinist who is attempting to climb all of the Seven Summits. Tyler has already topped out on Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, and Elbrus, and had hoped to attempt Everest this spring. But, the Nepali government denied him a permit based on his age, so he has set his sights elsewhere. In this video, you'll get a chance to see Tyler in his element as he trains on Denali in Alaska, a mountain that he hopes to summit later this year. We've written about Tyler before but it's nice to get an update on his progress and see the young man in action. I think you'll find he's a competent, focused, and experienced climber who will impress you with his focus and determination.

Lonnie Dupre Headed Back to Alaska for Winter Climb of Mt. Hunter

Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre has announced his next expedition, and it will once again take him to the extremes of Alaska during the winter. Dupre famously climbed Denali – the tallest peak in Norther America at 6190 meters (20,310 ft) – solo and in January in 2015, and now will head back to Denali National Park to climb yet another difficult mountain.

In January, Dupre will travel to the Alaska Range to attempt to scale Mt. Hunter, perhaps the most technical of all the peaks within the national park, and one of the toughest in North America. The 4441-meter (14,573-foot) mountain is known for its very steep slopes and heavily corniced ridges, which can make an ascent at any time of the year treacherous. In winter, climbers also face harsh weather conditions as well, including heavy snow, high winds, and subzero temperatures.

Those conditions are nothing new for Dupre however, who has traveled in many of the extreme locations of out planet during the winter. His experience on Denali (it took him several attempts to complete that climb) will pay off here as well, although he'll be facing even more difficult climbing conditions, although the Mt. Hunter isn't nearly as tall.

Dupre has dubbed this expedition "Cold Hunter One," and he aims to head toward the mountain in the first week of January. From there, he'll begin making the ascent in alpine style, carrying all of his gear and supplies with him as he goes. Of the expedition he says: “This project is the culmination of all my years of experience wrapped into one challenge, where every ounce of food, fuel, gear and clothing matters.” He goes on to add, “All calculations are based on the absolute minimum my body needs to survive. I’ve allowed 4 days for storms; weather will be a leading factor to the success of the climb."

We can add this expedition to our list of major winter climbs this year, along with the just announced attempt by Alex Txikon on Everest without bottled oxygen. Both should be interesting to watch unfold.

Maddie Miller Sets New Speed Record for U.S. High Points

A couple of weeks back I posted a story about the efforts of mountain guides Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller, who were attempting to reach the highest point in each of the U.S. states. They had dubbed their expedition the 50 Peaks Challenge and the original plan was to try to get all 50 high points in just 50 days. It turns out that the ladies were a bit faster than that, and in the process Miller actually set a new speed record.

All told, it took the 21-year old climber 41 days, 16 hours, and 10 minutes to climb all 50 of the high points, making that the fastest time ever. Miller also became the first woman to nab all of the summits in under 50 days as well, something that has been accomplished by a handful of male climbers too.

Unfortunately, Arnot can't share in the record because she only reached 49 of the high points. The 50 Peaks Challenge actually began on Denali back in June, but Melissa was unable to climb that mountain. She had suffered an injury on Everest earlier this spring and wasn't ready to make the arduous trip to the top of the toughest mountain in North America. Instead, she had to join Miller after that expedition and accompany her to the top of the other high points. The two ladies wrapped up their efforts by summiting Mauna Kea in Hawaii last week. Arnot has previously summited Denali, giving her all 50 high points as well, just not in record time.

Congratulations to both Melissa and Maddie on this great accomplishment. While many of the high points are easy walk ups or barely a challenge at all, several of them are serious mountaineering challenges. On top of that, to reach all of them in such a short period of time is an impressive feat indeed. That certainly makes for a busy summer and one hell of a road trip.

What did you do with your summer?

Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller Undertake 50 Peaks Challenge

One of the true adventurous undertakings in the U.S. it to attempt to reach the highest spot in each of the 50 individual states. If one wanted even more of a challenge they would try to do so in just 50 days as well. That's exactly what mountaineers Melissa Arnot and Maddie Miller are attempting to do at the moment, as they are currently in the midst of the 50 Peaks Challenge, as they strive to become the first women to nab each of the high points.

The list of high points across the U.S. is quite diverse. At one end of the spectrum you have Britton Hill in Florida, which is a mere 345 feet (105 meters) above sea level and barely a challenge at all. On the other hand, Denali in Alaska is a stunning 20,308 ft (6189 meters), and a true mountaineering challenge. In between you'll find all kinds of other mountains and hills, most of which are mere walk-ups. Still, nabbing all of them in under 50 days remains a significant achievement in no small part because of the travel time involved.

Melissa and Maddie began their challenge by summiting Denali earlier this spring, and have now been slowly but surely ticking off the other high points as they go. At this point, they've now reached the highest elevation in 43 different states, with Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii yet to go. Each of the mountains in those states are above 10,000 feet (3048 meters), which means they will all present a unique challenge. But, considering the resumes that these two ladies bring to the table, they should certainly not have too much of a problem claiming them all.

You can follow their progress on Melissa's website as they close in on the end. Check out the video below for a preview of the challenge as well.

50 Peaks Challenge - Trailer from Eddie Bauer on Vimeo.

Men's Journal Gives Us a Three-Year Plan for Climbing Everest

For a lot of people, climbing Mt. Everest is the dream of a lifetime. But thinking about everything that goes into preparing and planning for such an expedition can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Men's Journal is here to help, giving us a three-year plan to making Everest not just a dream, but a reality.

MJ's article was actually written back in 2014, with the plan of reaching the summit of Everest in the spring of 2017. But, if you ignore the precise dates, and focus just on the plan itself, the schedule can remain the same. And fortunately for all of us, the training starts in May.

The first stage of the Everest prep plan is to start getting into shape. The article says that you should start getting ready by building a strong fitness base of cardio, strength, and balance. Over the course of the three year program, that will be the focus of getting your body ready for the challenges of the Himalaya.

Next up, you'll also need to start seeing how your body does at altitude, so the plan is to bag a 14er, or a fourteen-thousand foot peak. This will not only allow you to put your fitness gains to the test, it'll let you build leg strength and lung capacity. With its 53 different 14ers, Colorado is a natural destination to bag one of these mountains, but there are plenty of others around as well.

The rest of the plan includes pushing your physical boundaries even higher by attempting more challenging peaks (Mt. Rainier for instance) and adding altitude. The Men's Journal schedule recommends traveling to Ecuador to climb Cotopaxi to get a taste for altitudes above 19,000 feet, although Tanzania's Kilimanjaro will do too. From there, it's on to Denali in Alaska – described as a "mini-Everest" – before attempting an easier 8000-meter peak like Cho Oyu. After that, Everest will be in reach.

In terms of creating a strategy for getting yourself ready to climb the Big Hill, this is about as good of a plan as any. You could literally go from zero mountaineering experience, to Everest in just three years if you stick to the schedule closely. What it doesn't offer is advice on how to pay for it all. Mountaineering expeditions aren't cheap, and even travel to and from these locations can be pricey. For most of us, that would turn this three year plan into one that would probably take a decade or more to wrap up.

The 10 Best Campgrounds in America's National Parks

The classic summer road trip to visit a national park is a quintessential part of American culture. After all, the parks are home to some of the most iconic and beautiful landscapes found anywhere on Earth. They also happen to have some outstanding campsites available for visitors as well, providing inexpensive, yet very memorable, places to pitch your tent for the night. 

National Geographic Adventure has assembled a list of the 10 best campgrounds in America's national parks, highlighting some of these great places. As Nat Geo points out, many of the national park campsites get very crowded in the summer months, but their list took this into account and suggested places that are more off the beaten path, and far from the typical gathering points for visitors. 

So, which campsites earned a spot on the list? Some of the suggestions include Tuweep on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Piñon Flats in Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Wonder Lake in Denali National Park. Each of these is unique, remote, and beautiful, and the accompany article describing them tells you not only what to expect when you're there, but how to book a stay as well.

To find out which other campsites earned a spot on the list, read the entire story here. Then, start planning your summer visit to a national park too. 

Outside's Top 10 Adventures of 2015

Our end of the year review and wrap-up continues today, this time with a list from Outside magazine of the 10 most badass adventures of 2015. As you can tell from the title, the list is made up of some of the most daring and audacious expeditions from the past 12 months, some of which you may have forgotten about, or slipped under your radar altogether.

The first entry should come as no surprise to anyone. It is Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson's ascent of the Dawn Wall, which tops my list of the best adventures of 2015 for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was an incredible climb up one of the hardest routes on the planet, but going beyond that it also managed to captivate an audience that went well beyond the normal climbing crowd. It will be difficult for anyone to match this climb in 2016, or for years to come.

Other expeditions that got the nod from Outside include an attempt at the first ski descent of Makalu, Lonnie Dupre's solo summit of Denali in January, and Will Gadd's climb of the frozen Niagara Falls, which was also a first.

I won't spoil the entire list, as obviously part of the fun is finding out what Outside deemed worthy of sharing, as well as being reminded of the interesting adventures from the year that has passed. But it is safe to say however, that each of the entries in the article are certainly deserving of the "badass" label, and will inspire you to think about some of your own adventures for 2016.

Start the slideshow by clicking here.

Mt. McKinley Officially Renamed Denali

Yesterday, President Obama announced that he would use his executive powers to rename the tallest mountain in North America back to its original Inuit name of Denali. The 20,322 foot (6194 meter) peak had been named after President William McKinley, but in recent years there has been a movement afoot to switch the name back to its original title, which means "the great one" amongst the native tribes of Alaska.

The move comes just as the president sets out on a three-day visit to Alaska, where he will address some moves that the administration will take to combat climate change. During his time in office, Obama has also sought to improve relations between the U.S. government and Native Americans as well.

McKinley has long been referred to as Denali in mountaineering circles, so this change will be a welcome one for the men and women who climb the mountain. It is known as a challenging climb, with unpredictable weather often preventing teams from reaching the summit. It is also used as a warm-up of sorts before heading to Everest, as climbers can get valuable experience and technical skills while on Denali's slopes.

The mountain officially received the name of McKinley back in 1917, but there have been efforts to change it back for the past 40 years. In 1980, the land surrounding the mountain was named Denali National Park as a compromise of sorts. But Native Americans in Alaska have pushed to have the mountain's name restored in recent years, although those attempts had been rebuffed by the U.S. Congress thus far. In using his executive powers, Obama has circumvented congress altogether, and renamed the mountain completely on his own. By doing this, he has already raised the ire of more than a few senators.

Personally, I feel this name change is a long time coming and I'm glad to see that it has been made official. I don't think I've called it "McKinley" in years, except when talking to someone who doesn't know anything about its history and mountaineering legacy. Now, we can all call it by its rightful name as is fitting for a peak of such prominence.

Video: Trailer for An American Ascent

In June of 2013, a team of of all African-American climbers traveled to Alaska to climb the highest peak on the continent – Denali. That team would be the first of its kind on the mountain, and hoped to inspire others to follow in their footsteps in seeking outdoor adventure. A documentary film was made about that expedition called An American Ascent, and it is currently screening across the country. The video below is the trailer for that film, and will certainly give you the gist of what it is about. It will also compel you to seek out the film for yourself. Hopefully this comes to Netflix, as I'd very much like to see the whole thing.

An American Ascent - Film Trailer from Distill Productions on Vimeo.

Summer Climbing: K2, Broad Peak, and Beyond

After the spring climbing season in the Himalaya was cut short due to the earthquake in Nepal, the mountaineering scene has been unusually quiet for the past few months. But now that summer is nearly upon us that is about to change, as climbing teams start to get back to business and turn their attention to other big peaks outside of Nepal and Tibet.

With the arrival of June, the seasonal monsoons are once again hitting central Asia, making it unsafe to climb in the Himalaya proper. That means that all the expeditions to Everest, Lhotse, Annapurna, and the like would have gone home by now regardless of the earthquake. There is generally a short lull between the end of the spring climbing season in Nepal, and the start of operations elsewhere. That lull won't last for long however, and even now expeditions are gearing up for the challenges ahead.

In preparation for the start of the summer climbing season, Alan Arnette has taken a comprehensive look at some of the teams that we'll be hearing a lot about in the coming weeks. Those climbers have set their eyes on some big 8000 meter peaks in Pakistan, and in the days ahead I'll be watching their progress closely.

On K2, the commercial teams have moved onto the mountain in recent years, and this year there will be two squads led by Madison Mountaineering and Himalayan Experience. Both of those outfitters have a great deal of experience on major peaks, and they hope to continue the momentum that was started last year when an unprecedented 40 climbers found success on the world's toughest mountain. But K2 is fickle, and the weather there is incredibly unpredictable, so I wouldn't count on a repeat of 2014, which was a banner one indeed.

Amongst the climbers attempting K2 this season are David Tait, a man who has summited Everest on five separate occasions. If you've followed David's expeditions over the years, you've probably heard him talk about retiring from the big mountains on more than one occasion, yet he continues to find reasons to come back. K2 will be a different kind of challenge for him however, and it will be interesting to read his thoughts on the mountain.

Alan also points out that there will be teams led by Nazir Expeditions, Adventure Tours Pakistan, and Seven Summits Treks, which operates out of Nepal. These outfitters provide less support for the climbers on the mountain, and are more like a loosely affiliated group that are sharing a climbing permit.

Elsewhere, there will be several teams on Broad Peak, which is sometimes used as an acclimatization climb ahead of K2. Last year, Chris Burke was able to summit the "Savage Mountain" but her efforts to bag both K2 and Broad Peak were thwarted. She'll return this summer to try to nab BP and claim her ninth 8000-meter mountain.

The Gasherbrums (I and II) will play host to a team of international climbers who will be working together to bag both summits. The two mountains pose a formidable challenge for any mountaineer, but are also excellent peaks to gain experience on before proceeding on to the other eight-thousanders. These mountains are rarely very busy, but it is always interesting to follow progress on them none the less.

Finally, Alan is reporting that Nanga Parbat will remain empty once again this summer. After the terrorist attack on that mountain back in 2013 – which left 11 dead – few teams have wanted to venture to Nanga during the summer season. It has been the target of numerous winter expeditions in recent years, but it seems that teams will shy away again due to security concerns.

It should also be noted that the climbing season on Denali is in full swing as well, with numerous teams already on the mountain. While not as tall as these massive 8000-meter peaks, the Alaskan mountain is as challenging as the come. We'll be keeping an eye on proceedings there as well, with updates as they are warranted.

That's the round-up of the summer climbing season ahead. Stay tuned for regular updates.

Winter Climbs 2015: Nanga Teams Retreat to BC, Moro Departs for Nepal

There is more news from Nanga Parbat today, where the combined international team of Alex Txikon, Daniele Nardi, local climbers Muhammad Ali "Sadpara" and Muhammad Kahn, along with the Iranian squad, have retreated back to Base Camp after establishing Camp 3 on the mountain. The group had been working for five straight days to establish the route and shuttle gear, and are now ready to rest and regain some strength before heading up again.

According to reports, C3 was installed at 6700 meters (21,981 ft) where at least three of the climbers spent the night as part of their acclimatization. They then fixed ropes above that point, but were unable to reach Camp 4 before deciding it was time to descend. The entire squad is still working on acclimating to the altitude, with the exception of Nardi who has been on Nanga for more than a month now.

Dispatches indicate that Txikon and the other late arrivals are in need of some rest, so they'll spend at least a few days in BC now to let their bodies recover. The forecasts indicate that the weather should be good through the weekend, with storms arriving on the mountain on Sunday. That means that there is no weather window for the next few days, which will limit their efforts. In fact, the forecast calls for poor weather for most of next week, with possibly a meter of snow being dropped on the slopes of Nanga Parbat. For now, the teams will just have to wait to see if and when they'll get another chance.

Meanwhile, Italian climber Simone Moro is preparing to set out for Nepal. He'll leave tomorrow to begin his winter expedition in the Himalaya. He will be joined on the climb by talented alpinist Tamara Lunger, who summited K2 without oxygen this past summer.

The duo have set their sighs on the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) Manaslu, which they hope to link with Manaslu East, a peak that is an impressive 7992 meters (26,220 ft) in height. The hope is to complete the climb before the end of winter, which means they'll have roughly 35 days to top out. Both are said to have already been acclimatizing prior to their departure, with the plan of eventually making an alpine style attempt on the two summits once they have scouted the route.

Finally, there have been no updates yet from Andy Kirkpatrick, who had intended to set off for Denali to complete a solo summit of that mountain in February. The latest updates to the Brit's Facebook and Twitter pages indicate that he was heading off on an expedition, but there has been radio silence for the past eight days. Hopefully he is now in Alaska and prepping for the climb, but at this point it is unclear what his plans are.

That's all for today. It looks like things will be kind of quiet for the next few days at least as the weather on Nanga sorts itself out, and Simone and Tamara make their way to the mountain. We'll have more updates soon as the news warrants.

Legislation Introduced to Officially Rename Mt. McKinley to Denali

Two U.S. Senators from the state of Alaska have introduced legislation that would permanently change the name of Mt. McKinley back to its native name of Denali. This marks the latest attempt to get the mountain, which is officially named after William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, renamed. Previous attempts to change the mountain's moniker have been denied, although the bill will likely receive more support in the newly elected Republican Congress.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, who argue that the mountain first received its name thousands of years ago by the Athabascan tribe, who called it "Denali," which means the "the Great One" or "the High One" in their language. It wasn't officially renamed to Mt. McKinley until 1917, although it has been referred to by that name for nearly 20 years prior to that by local prospectors and settlers.

At 20,237 feet (6168 meters) in height, McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America, and a significant climb amongst mountaineers. While the general public most commonly knows the peak it by its officially designated name, it has been referred to it as Denali for years in mountaineering circles. Regardless of the outcome of this legislation, that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

While there will be more Republican support for a name change this time out, it won't be without some opposition. Ohio Representative Bob Gibbs, who is a Republican as well, has introduced counter-legistiaiton aimed at blocking efforts to rename the mountain. President McKinley was from Ohio, and many people there still take pride in the fact that the mountain bears his name.

As you can imagine, in Alaska the sentiment is quite different. There, the indigenous people and others feel it is time to give the mountain its original name back. Denali is used commonly there to name streets, businesses, and even children. There has been a groundswell of support for the name change there for years, although most locals already refer to it by its Athabascan name anyway.

There is no word yet on when the vote on the bill will come to congress, and while it may seem like a rather trivial piece of legislation, it could get bogged down in committees to try to stall it out. Still, later this year, it is possible that Mt. McKinley will be no more, and everyone will refer to the mountain as Denali.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Lonnie is Off Denali, Team Drama on Nanga Parbat

We're barely two weeks into 2015, and it has already been an historic year for winter climbing. With Lonnie Dupre's successful summit of Denali, he has now become the first person to climb that mountain solo in the month of January when it is the coldest, harshest days of all. Meanwhile, over in Pakistan, the three teams currently on Nanga Parbat have pressed forward, while a fourth squad continues to try to clear logistical hurdles.

We'll start with an update from Denali. After reaching the 6168 meter (20,237 ft) summit this past weekend, Lonnie was able to make the descent back to Base Camp with little difficulty. Retrieving his gear as he went down, Dupre managed to return to BC on Wednesday, where he had hoped for a quick airlift back to Talkeetna to start his celebration. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, and even though two planes took off to retrieve him and his gear, neither of them were able to land Kahiltna Glacier due to high winds. With the mission to retrieve him aborted, he was forced to settle into his tent for one more night and wait for calmer weather.

Yesterday, the conditions were much more conducive for the aircraft, they were able to land and retrieve the mountaineer/polar explorer from his chilly campsite. Lonnie is now safely back in Talkeetna, where he is thawing out and relaxing, while enjoying sharing his tales of the climb with the locals. His website promises more updates on the summit push, as well as video from the ascent too. Stay tuned for that post, as I'm sure it'll be quite the tale.

Over on Nanga Parbat there seems to be a bit of a drama brewing between Italian climber Danielle Nardi, and his campmates Tomek Mankiewicz and Elisabeth Revol. Tomek and Elisabeth departed Base Camp a week ago to establish several higher camps, and have apparently decided that they are now going to attempt to push up towards the summit. They have made this decision without consulting Danielle or without being in communication at all, as they are traveling with just a satellite phone. In a post to his website, Nardi has said that the cooperative expedition is now over due to this lack of communication between the teammates, although he says he will continue to provide support for Tomek and Elisabeth out of a sense of obligation for their safety.

It seems that the trio of climbers had planned on working more closely with one another on their eventual summit bids than was previously thought, and now Danielle feels that he has been left out of those plans. The lack of updates from Tomek and Elisabeth – who refused to take a radio with on their ascent – has left Nardi to read about the duo's progress on the Internet, rather than hearing directly from them. Considering they had planned the project together, it now seems as if he is the one who has been left behind.

As for their part Tomek and Elisabeth have now established Camp 4 at 7000 meters (22,965 ft) amidst fluctuating weather conditions. High winds have been buffeting the mountain over the past few days, although very little snow is reported on the Diamir Face. The forecast is expected to improve over the weekend however, and the two climbing partners may take the opportunity to move up even higher. So far, they are happy with their progress and can see a good line to the summit, but the blisteringly cold conditions are making it very tough. (Update: It now appears that the two climbers will go down from Camp 4 to BC. How this will impact future plans remains to be seen.)

On the Rupal side of the mountain, the Russians team of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval have started their second rotation up the mountain. They had been back in BC at the beginning of the week where they were resting and waiting out the weather. On Wednesday they started back up the mountain but there have been few updates on their progress ever since. Presumably they are heading put to stock Camp 2 and possibly press on to C3 as the weather permits.

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that the Iranian team that had hoped to be on Nanga by now has hit a snag with Pakistani immigration. Apparently there have been some issues with their visa, and the squad is trying to work through the situation so that they can proceed with their expedition. Hopefully they'll get over those bureaucratic bumps soon, and can proceed to Base Camp.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Lonnie Descends on Denali, Progress on Nanga Parbat

With the winter climbing season now in full swing, teams are working hard Nanga Parbat, where several squads are hoping to complete the first winter ascent of that 8000-meter giant. While they gird themselves for the challenge ahead, another climber is already wrapping up his expedition on the tallest peak in North America.

We'll start with an update on Lonnie Dupre, who successfully completed the first solo ascent of Denali in January on Sunday. When I posted the news of his success yesterday, Lonnie had already returned from the summit to his high camp located at 17,200 feet (5242 meters). An update later in the day indicated that he only spent a few hours resting there before proceeding down to his camp at the West Buttress Ridge, which sits at 14,200 feet (4328 meters). He stopped there long enough to cache some of his supplies, and then was immediately proceeding further town to 11,200 feet (3413 meters) where he had hoped to rest for the night. That means he is almost safely off the mountain, and while he still has further to go before he gets to Base Camp, the most treacherous part of the climb is now behind him.

Lonnie's home team expects to hear more from him later today, including potentially more details on his summit push. As you can probably imagine, he is exhausted from his efforts and could use some rest, but the weather on Denali is fickle, and it is best that he get to the safest place possible before the winter weather returns.

Meanwhile, the Russian team of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval arrived in BC on Nanga Parbat last week, and have immediately gone to work. According to Russian Climb, the team has now shuttled gear up to their camp at 6000 meters (19,685 ft) on the Rupal Face, and have fixed ropes to that point, but were forced back down due to high winds. After four days of working the route, they have now returned to Base Camp to rest and gather their strength before proceeding up further.

Italian climber Danielle Nardi is back in BC on the Diamir Face as well. He reports that snow is in the forecast over the next few days, so he'll wait for the weather to pass before going back up the mountain. At that time, he hopes to finish establishing Camp 2, located at 5100 meters (16,732 ft). Danielle is hoping to make a solo-summit of Nanga, which means he'll have to be very patient, conserve his strength and energy, and hope that the weather turns in his favor.

Tomek Mackiewicz and Elisabeth Revol are sharing BC with Danielle, and are bit further along in their acclimatization efforts. They have reportedly climbed up to Camp 3 at 6600 meters (21,653 ft), and are planning on going as high as 7200 meters (23,622 ft) before turning back. They report that the weather is holding at the moment, but the route is extremely difficult, with very cold temperatures.

As you probably already know, Nanga Parbat is just one of two 8000-meter peaks that remain unclimbed in the winter. K2 is the other mountain to hold that distinction, and an attempt on that peak was shut down this year when the Chinese refused to issue a permit to climb from the north side. With all of these climbers concentrating on Nanga, it seems that there is a good shot of someone reaching the top this year. But as always, the weather will dictate if that proves to be true.

The season is truly just getting underway. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Lonnie Dupre Summits Denali!

The winter climbing season is barely underway, and we already have our first successful summit of the new year. Yesterday, polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre reached the top of Denali in Alaska, bringing an end to his quest to climb the highest peak in North America in January, the coldest, harshest month of the year on that mountain.

On Saturday, Lonnie's home team updated his status indicating that he had reached 17,200 feet (5242 meters) on the mountain, which would put him within striking distance of the 20,237 foot (6168 meter) summit. Better yet, the weather forecast indicated that a period of excellent weather would cover the area for the next few days, creating the best summit window that Lonnie has seen during his winter visits to the mountain. It is not uncommon for temperatures to drop to -50ºF/-45ºC on Denali in January, and winds can blow at speeds of over 100 mph (160 km/h). In the past, those conditions have prevented him from summiting, but that wasn't the case this time.

Yesterday another update was posted to Lonnie's website, this time indicating that the team had received a SPOT GPS signal from the summit of the mountain. Lonnie had reached the top at approximately 2:08 PM local time, and while I'm sure he took a little time to enjoy the view, he was soon heading back down the mountain. Another SPOT update later in the day indicated that he has descended back to his high camp at 17,200 feet, where he is likely still resting now. He'll continue his descent today, and will likely be off the mountain in a few days, provided the weather continues to hold.

The successful solo-summit of Denali brings an end to a quest that Lonnie has been on for the past five years. This was his fourth attempt at climbing the mountain in January, and this time all of the variables came together in a proper fashion. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for just a bit longer, as the decent can be a treacherous one as well. He won't breathe easy until he has made it safely back to Base Camp. From there, he can call in a flight to come pick him up, and the celebration can truly begin.

Look for Lonnie to post his summit report once he is safely off the mountain and back in BC. I'm sure he has plenty of good insights to share.

Congratulations to Lonnie on completely this challenge. Get down safely!

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Updates From Nanga Parbat and Denali

Now that the holidays are officially behind us, and we're all returning to a more typical routine, it seems fitting that we start a new week with an update on the winter climbing expeditions that are underway in Pakistan and Alaska. Over the past few weeks, the teams have been getting settled into Base Camp, and have started the challenging work of acclimatizing to the altitude and the cold temperatures. Soon, the real work will begin, with each of the teams hoping to make history in the weeks ahead.

We'll start on Nanga Parbat, where three teams are looking to make the first winter ascent of that peak. The Russian squad of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval arrived in Pakistan just before Christmas, and set out for BC on the Rupal side of the mountain almost immediately. They established Base Camp on December 27, and have been shuttling gear up the slope ever since. As of yesterday, they have reached 5900 meters (19,356 ft), and have firmly established Camp 1 at that location. They are currently back in BC resting up before they head up the mountain once again.

Over ont he Diamir Face, the first team of climbers in BC as well, with Tomek Mankiewicz and Elisabeth Revol sharing space with Daniele Nardi. While the trio are officially on the same permit, they aren't intending to do much climbing with one another, as Daniele is looking for a solo summit, while Tomek and Elisabeth join forces on their attempt at the first ascent. According to Russian Climb, they reached Camp 1 on January 2, so they are making solid progress thus far. Meanwhile, Daniele is just getting settled in Base Camp today.

A third team consisting of Iranian climbers Reza Bahadorani, Iraj Maani and Mahmoud Hashemi is preparing to depart for Pakistan. The trio intends to arrive on the mountain next week, and begin their expedition as well.

Over on Denali, Lonnie Dupre is forging ahead with his attempt at a solo-summit in January. Conditions remain very cold, but the weather has improved over the past few days, allowing him to move more than 160 lbs (72 kilograms) of gear up to 13,600 feet (4145 meters). Yesterday he planned to go up to 14,000 feet (4267 meters), where he will build a large snow cave that will serve as one of his high camps. Once that job is done, he'll begin carrying gear up to 16,000 ft (4876 meters), which will mark his next major campsite. At the moment, all seems to be going well, and Lonnie is happy with his progress.

Finally, it appears that Dupre won't be the only climber making a solo-summit bid on Denali this winter. British mountaineer Andy Kirkpatrick is also in the final stages of planning his own expedition to the mountain, and intends to arrive their in February. Kirkpatrick says that he has been thinking about this climb for 14 years, and he is now ready to make it a reality. We'll certainly be following his efforts closely in a few weeks as well.

That's all for today. Expect regular updates on each of these expeditions in the weeks ahead. It should be an exciting time on both Nanga Parbat and Denali. Perhaps this year could see the first winter ascent of Nanga at long last.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: High Winds and Extreme Cold on Denali

Just a very brief update from Alaska today, where Lonnie Dupre has been waiting for the arrival of the New Year, while preparing for his major challenge ahead. His plan is to make a solo-summit of Denali in January, which is when that 6168 meter (20,237 ft) mountain is at its absolute coldest. This is his fourth attempt at this expedition, and Dupre is already being reminded of why this is such a difficult goal to attain.

Since his arrival on the mountain a few weeks back, Lonnie has been shuttling his gear up the route, and building a series of camps that will be well stocked for when he eventually makes his summit push. This is not only a good logistical move, it is also helping him to acclimatize. A few days ago, he reached an altitude of 11,200 feet (3413 meters), where he had intended to stash some gear, and then descend 600 feet (182 meters) back down the slope for a rest day. High winds and very cold temperatures have hit his location however, forcing him to take a second consecutive rest day simply because it was unsafe for him to climb in the whiteout conditions that had developed. Reportedly, winds were as high as 60 mph (96 km/h), and temperatures plummeted with their arrival.

Just how cold does it get on the mountain? Have a look at the photo attached with this blog post. That's Lonnie inside of a snow cave that he dug for protection on his 2012 expedition. As you can see, the frost is forming on his boots and pants, and just about all the rest of his gear, due to the temperatures. These are the kinds of challenges he is facing as he presses ahead with the climb.

Tomorrow marks the first day of 2015 and of January. That means the clock is now officially ticking on the expedition, and Lonnie has 31 days to complete his quest. The weather forecast calls for improving conditions over the next few days, so he now plans to descend a bit lower, collect some more gear, and bring it back up to 11, 200 feet. From there, he'll begin scouting the upper sections of the mountain and start placing his high camps in anticipation of an eventual summit push. The next few weeks should be prove very interesting.

Elsewhere, the teams on Nanga Parbat should be gathering in Base Camp now as well. Expect reports on the progress on that mountain soon too.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: Teams Gathering in Pakistan

Just a quick update on the winter climbing expeditions that are either now underway, or are preparing to begin. With the new season just over a week old at this point, most of the teams are still making their way to the mountains following the holiday season last week. While they are in transit, the climbers are mentally and physically preparing themselves for the challenges ahead on what will likely be the most difficult expedition of their careers.

As mentioned last week, the planned attempt on the North Side of K2 has been scrubbed following the denial of a climbing permit by the Chinese government. This has left Denis Urubko, Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon on the sidelines this season after they had been planning their expedition for months. As you can imagine, the team is disappointed by this turn of events, but they have vowed to try again in the future. Chinese officials cancelled the permit after terrorist activity in the region picked up in November. They have already invited the climbers to reapply for a permit when conditions improve and it is once again safe for foreign visitors to travel in the Xinjiang region.

With K2 now off the table for this winter, all attention will now turn toward Nanga Parbat, the only other 8000 meter peak that remains unclimbed in the winter. There are no fewer than three teams attempting that mountain, including Daniele Nardi, who arrived in Pakistan on Saturday and is now making his way out to Base Camp. He'll climb with Elisabeth Revol on the Diamir Face, and now expects to be in BC by January 1.

That duo will be sharing Base Camp with Tomek Mackiewicz, who spent a few weeks acclimatizing in the Rupal Valley before the arrival of winter. Tomek should already be in BC at this point, where the is scouting the route and already preparing to make his solo attempt on the mountain.

The Russian team of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval arrived in Pakistan in time for Christmas, and wasted no time in getting to work. They were in and out of Islamabad as quickly as possible, and arrived in Base Camp on December 27, where they report that all is okay. After a few days of getting settled, they will begin the first preliminary steps of heading up the mountain, while they begin to acclimatize to the altitude and cold weather.

Finally, we leave the Karakoram behind to check in with Lonnie Dupre on Denali. He is busy preparing for his attempt to summit the tallest mountain in North America in January, and has already been very busy establishing some of his higher camps. He has already climbed up to 11,200 feet (3413 meters) where he has started to get a taste of the weather that the mountain is so well known for. Wind speeds have already been in excess of 50 mph (80 km/h), and temperatures are well below zero. Still, he is happy with his progress thus far, and will take a rest day today before continuing to shuttle gear up the slope. Once January 1 arrives, the expedition will be officially under way, with Lonnie hoping to become just the 4th person to stand on the summit during the coldest, darkest, windiest month of the year on Denali.

That's all for today. I'll post more updates as the teams start to progress.

Winter Climbs 2014-2015: The Season is Underway!

This past weekend officially marked the first day of winter here in the northern hemisphere, which means it is time for the winter climbing teams to start their expeditions as well. While some are waiting until after the holidays to get underway, others are already making their way to the mountains, where they'll now face the daunting task of climbing some of the world's toughest peaks during the coldest, most treacherous time of year.

There will be no fewer than than three teams heading to Nanga Parbat this winter, and according to ExWeb the Russian squad of Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval left for Pakistan yesterday. They hope to be on the trail to Base Camp as early as tomorrow, with plans for reaching the mountain as quickly as possible. They intend to climb a variation of the Schell Route on the Rupal Face, establishing Camps 1-3, with an intermediate camp consisting of one small tent stationed between C3 and the summit. They'll start acclimating as soon as they arrive, and will then let the weather dictate their progress.

The Russians won't be alone in Base Camp. Polish climber Tomek Mackiewicz is already there after acclimatizing in the Rupal Valley. He's sharing space with Elisabeth Revol and Daniele Nardi, although they won't be climbing together. Mankiewicz is attempting a solo summit of Nanga Parbat, while Revol and Nardi will try a new route.

Also heading to Nanga Parbat soon will be the Iranian team of Reza Bahadorani, Iraj Maani and Mahmoud Hashemi. The trio of climbers remain at home in Iran at that moment, where they are currently putting the final touches on their planning and logistics. They plan to depart for Pakistan during the second week of January.

After sorting out the issues with their climbing permit on K2, Denis Urubko and his team, which consists of Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon, will now depart for China in the first week of January. Denis posted to his Facebook page that they will have 40 days to climb once they reach Base Camp. He feels confident that they are a strong enough team to accomplish the first ascent of K2 in the winter. They will be climbing along a new route on the North Face of the mountain, where they hope to get some protection and respite from the dangerous winds.

Finally, we head to Alaska for an update on Lonnie Dupre's efforts to climb Denali in January. He was flown out to the mountain last Thursday, and has skied into his first campsite, which he's using as a base of operations until the expedition officially gets underway on January 1. In the meantime, he has started to shuttle gear up to Camp 1, located at 7800 ft (2377 meters) as also acclimatizes to the cold and altitude. He has a lot of work to do for his solo expedition, but with more than a week to go until the arrival of the new year, Lonnie is in good shape so far. He even reports that a raven has joined him on his expedition, and has followed him on his journey over the past few days.

For more on Lonnie's efforts, check out the video below.