After my 1st attempt in 2017 on Denali I was making plans to return to the mountain just a month after I returned home. Along with Dave Hill, and Ashley Burke whom were on my AAI team in 2017 we were all anxious for another attempt. After weighing the pros with the cons we decided this time that we would go without guides.
We were all experienced enough, knew the mountain well, and were all physically capable of undertaking all the logistics and planning for the expedition. We decided it was more rewarding to summit without the assistance of guides. In addition when climbing with guides groups you are very limited. Climbing guides takes all the freedom, and adventure out of climbing. You can’t even make a decision on your own and if they say you aren’t fit to climb, you go down having spent $10,000 on nothing.
We decided on a 4th member, Pasang Tendi Sherpa, the director of the future Everest Expedition In 2019. Dave has climbed with Pasang before when he summited Everest years ago. Because we were each from a different country our team name was “4 Flags”
We were a strong team making it to 14k camp in four days where the year prior it took seven. With a weather forecast of snow, high winds and low temperatures we made a summit attempt from 14k but were stopped at 17k camp due to whiteout conditions. We built a snow cave to wait out the weather and attempt from their in the morning. But temperatures dropping to -30F that night forces us back down to 14k went frostbite began to set in.
Once down at 14k the weather turned for worse and it didn’t get better for weeks. High winds up to 95mph and temperatures dropping down to -50 with wind chill kept us in camp waiting it out. Blizzards came through with one dropping over 6-9 feet on us in one storm. Without a weather window in sight and another storm approaching our time in the mountain was up and we were forced once again to abandon our summit dreams.
The mountain will aways be there. Although heartbreaking, it has not been discouraging at all. I will be back to Denali and I will eventually stand on top of its summit when the mountain allows me to.