Sunday, July 28, 2013

Triathlon Update

News from the front:

-raced yesterday at the Sunset Sprint.  Was "unlucky" to have Wes Burns show up as a race morning sign-up.  Was "lucky" that he is so good that he finished 4th OA and snagged the top OA Masters award.  Which left me with the 55-59 YO MAG "victory".  Hey, I'll take it.  5th win of the year in my 8 races to date--this is clearly my lucky year as my fitness does not warrant this!

-my swim was definitely improved--best of the year but still quite a bit short of what I enjoyed the last two years.  Frankly, I was disappointed and surprised that I wasn't faster....

-my bike was pretty darn solid--especially given the fatigue from my recent big training block.  I was 3rd OA on the bike (out of 152) and was in 3rd OA leaving T2.  The two guys that outbiked me always outbike me so hard to feel bad about not having that top bike split.  I was 1:31 faster than 2011 when I did the same course.  Some power improvement but a lot of it has to be due to my new BMC TM01 and my continuing refinement of my position.  Still not  there yet but still getting better each race.

-my run was poor.  Even by my very modest current standards....

Still, given how crushed my body felt, I'll take it.  I was definitely better/more competitive this year than in 2011--when I qualified for Kona at IMAZ, so hey, things could be worse!  Race report to follow in a couple of days.

As I've mentioned above, my bod is really beat up--definitely a bit of over-training for sure.  I dialed it way back this week--just 17 hours (vs 25 for my plan).  Don't quite know what's up---maybe just old age....

Anyways, in DE tonight and rolling around 4 am tomorrow morning with 5 bikes and Roxy and headed to Minnesota to visit mom and bro.  Will get a continued break and then hopefully will be able to crush it again in August---will start by running around our lake, Ten Mile Lake (about 18 miles) on Wednesday....or so I hope!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to the tri.../IMMT70.3 race report

I've been not posting tri stuff as of late due to the interest in and focus on Anders' expedition to Denali.  Now that's safely in the books, I thought I'd give you an update on where I'm at in my triathlon endeavors and also post my Mont Tremblant 70.3 race report...

The last four weeks since MT have all been focused on IM training.  I've tried to do as much as I can handle but I have to admit it's been a hard slog.  My body was a bit trashed post Mont Tremblant and the weather has proved challenging--especially for my run.  I'm not suffering from any new injuries but I've been constantly sore--I'm not trying to do more than I have in the past but I just think my ability to absorb my normal heavy volume is beginning to diminish.  My left knee also is more of an issue these days than I recall it being in years past....

Anyways, I keep plugging along.  My aggregate training goals for July were to hit around 100 hours of total training and to hit a key long swim, bike and run workout each week.  I'm on target for the 100 hours and I've had a 3000 yard swim and a 100+ mile bike each week.  On the run, I've just been able to complete one 2+ hour run--so I'm behind there.  I feel like I'm in very good shape for my Sept. IM with respect to the swim and bike, but I'll have to rally a bit on the run.

I think I may have to back off a bit this week as I'm feeling the effects of 4 pretty high volume weeks and I plan to race for the first time in five weeks on Saturday.  Here is the volume month-to-date for July (21 days):

Swim: 31,500 yards (46.5k monthly pace)
Bike: 794 miles (1,172 mile monthly pace)
Run: 78 miles (115 mile monthly pace)
Time: 69 hours (102 hour monthly pace)

Finally, here is the belated MT race report--I wanted to hold off posting to Anders was back:

2013 Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 Race Report
June 23rd, 2013


Location: Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada
Distance: 1.28-mile swim/56-mile bike/13.1-mile run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 7
Career Triathlon Race Number: 133
Conditions:  Low 60s to mid 70s.  Overcast and very humid.  Little wind.  Water temperature around 64 degrees.

A return to long-course racing for me (my 32nd LC triathlon) and my 3rd triathlon in 15 days.  I was just 3 weeks into my IMLT build cycle (with a delayed start to training in 2013) so my fitness was relatively off and my legs were a bit weary from the recent ramp-up in training load.  Still, I was excited to race and looking forward to testing myself on this very difficult Half-Ironman course.

I flew up on Friday morning (for the Sunday race) to Montreal and then drove the 1:45 drive up to Tremblant—it was pleasant and quite scenic.  I did all of my usual pre-race scouting activities and then met up with the Ironman XC crowd—I was racing this race with the XC group.  On Saturday, we had breakfast with Linsey Corbin and last year’s defending champs Magali Tisseyre and Romain Guillaume.  Later I bumped into Terenzo Bozzone and had a nice chat with him—I had dinner with him a couple of years back in New Orleans.

My expectations for the race were modest.  I was principally focused on getting a good solid LC race under my belt as part of my run-up to Lake Tahoe.  I was not concerned with where I finished in either my AG or XC, as I had no interest in taking one of the XC Vegas slots for the IM70.3 World Championship.

It rained heavily most of the day on Saturday and I swam, rode and ran a bit of the course.  I checked my bike in at transition and had an early pasta meal around 5 p.m.  By 9 p.m. I was in bed and slept quite peacefully.

The Swim

I was up at 3:30 a.m. and did all my normal morning-of things.  I set my transition zone up by 5:45 and then went back and hung out in my room for a while.  I put my wetsuit on there and headed over to the lakeside by 6:35.  I did a short warm-up and was ready to go with a few minutes to spare. 

The water temperature in Lac Tremblant was around 64 degrees, which I view as ideal for a LC swim.  A little nippy at the start but not overly so and it helps keep you cool when you push things during the race.  The course was essentially 3 sides of a box around in peninsula with a clock-wise flow.  It was a little overcast and the lake water is only moderately clear so visibility was only OK in the water.

Us XC types were in the 2nd wave with the female pros.  I saw Linsey and we hugged and I told her it was hers to win.  She wished me well.  The men were off at 7 a.m. and five minutes later the cannon fired and we were on our way.

Given my lack of swim training to date in 2013, I did not expect to swim my usual 32-33 minutes.  That combined with the fresh-water tempered my expectations about this swim.  I also wanted to just back off a slight bit, as this was definitely not an “A” race for me.  All in all, I was hoping to swim 36-38 minutes or so.

At the start I consciously took it easy.  We had a small wave and there was plenty of room so I didn’t see the need to go anaerobic and focused on slowing building my intensity.  I was on the left side of the start area and with my left dominated breathing I didn’t have good tactical visibility of the other swimmers.  However, what I could see indicated that the whole wave was swimming faster than me!  Now I expected this from the pros but I had expected to be in the mix for the 10 XC competitors, even though I was the oldest.

However, I stuck with my plan and after about 5 minutes or so I felt pretty darn good so I began to up my cadence and the pressure I was applying to the water on my pull-phase.  Soon, I began catching folks and then pulling away from them.

I had a very pleasant swim—comfortable and completely in control.  I was conscious I had another gear above where I was cruising but this seemed like the right call for this morning.  Over the last 500 meters or so, several of the guys from the 3rd wave began to catch me and two of them swam right over me, which seemed a bit excessive given the expanse of clean water we had all around us.

I soldiered on and finally hit the shallow waters and ran through the knee-deep section until I hit the beach with an elapsed time of 37:51.  This seemed a little slow to me at the time, but my Garmin did measure the course at 1.28 miles so maybe this was pretty much what was to be expected on this morning.  My pace was 29:32/mile.  I took 1400 strokes, which averages out to 37 strokes/min.  This is about 1.61 yards/strokes, which is decidedly middling for sure.

Competitively, I was the 4th fastest of the XC group and 2nd in the over 50 crowd.  In my M55-59 AG I was 25rd out of 78 (69.2 %-tile).  I was 800th OA out of 1963 individual starters (59.3 %-tile).  (There were 89 relay teams in the mix so some of the faster swimmers were part of relay teams.)

One of the XC competitors was a fellow named Carl Wernicke, whom I had raced at Kona—and he beat me by almost two hours there.  I had also raced him at Oceanside where I bested him as he DNF’ed due to mechanical issues on the bike.  Despite the trouncing he put on me at Kona I thought we might be closely matched.  On this morning I outswam him by 1:58—this compared positively to the 3:44 that he had outswam me at Kona.

Additionally, two other XC athletes (Beyer and Le Jamtel) swam here and then two weeks later at IM Germany.  Based on their times at these two races my swim at Mont-Tremblant was equivalent to a 70:45 at IM Germany—a result I would be more than satisfied with.

All in all, I was satisfied with the start to this race.  Off to T1!

Transition One

I ran up the carpet and was directed to a side area where my wetsuit was stripped off.  I thanked the stripper (“merci beaucoup”!), grabbed my wetsuit and continued on my merry way.  The transition was VERY long—in fact my Garmin had it at 0.47 miles.  As we ran through the impressive crowds that lined the snaking transition chute I was passing several of the guys who had caught me on the swim.

I got to the bike, did my thing and was soon on my way.  I felt I had a very solid transition and completed it in 4:55.  Relative to Carl, I was 1:02 faster and left T1 with a 3:00 lead on him—I of course didn’t know this as I was gone before he arrived at his bike but I would have guessed I was 2 or 3 minutes ahead of him based on what I had observed on the swim.

The Bike

I mounted my bike, not with my usual confidence and focus on attacking, but rather with a bit of trepidation and a game plan to hold back a bit.  I had driven the course and was intimidated by 8-10 sections, which had descents that definitely gave me pause.  In anticipation of the challenges of the course, I had brought my old TT bike (I’m not yet comfortable riding hills on my new TM01) and replaced the disc with a rear 808.  I also swapped out my 54/42 chain-ring with a compact 50/34.

My plan was to target 200 watts for the total ride.  I knew the course was very challenging and in fact my Garmin would record 3,251 feet of vertical for the ride.  200 watts is about 20-25 watts below what I can handle for a Half-IM when I am really fit and ready to race aggressively.  My best H-IM rides from the past are these four:

White Lake 2007   228 watts
Eagleman 2007     223 watts
Eagleman 2008     222 watts
SkipJack 2011      221 watts (66 miles)

The first section out through Monte Ryan had several climbs and descents with the final one a long, nerve-racking screamer where my speedo hit 39.8 mph.  I was sitting up and feathering my brakes as I descended and other guys just blew past me.

The second section out to Labelle and back on HWY 117 was very mellow, with just rollers, and with the freshly paved road, it was very fast.  I chatted with my friend Devanish Paul as he passed me.  Around 25 miles or so Carl caught and passed me.  While I had a lot of reserve power I chose to ignore this—I wasn’t really here to race the XC crowd.  Here is what these first six 5-mile segments looked like, data-wise:

Miles 0-5: 19.9mph/147bpm/82rpm/210 avg watts/217 NP
Miles 6-10: 16.9/140/83/202/206
Miles 11-15: 22.3/140/86/196/197
Miles 16-20: 19.3/138/86/198/201
Miles 21-25: 21.8/137/86/200/204
Miles 26-30: 22.3/137/87/194/196

The next 15 miles back through Monte Ryan and Chemin Duplesis back near the transition area had a number of challenging climbs and descents and I again played it very conservatively (although my power spiked a bit due to the climbs).  Here is the data from the next 15 miles:

Miles 31-35: 17.3/134/81/209/213
Miles 36-40: 20.4/136/82/211/217
Miles 41-45: 19.0/134/79/199/206

I was feeling very good at this point and felt like I was being appropriately conservative.  I had done (I believe) a very good job on my hydration and eating.  At this point I had consumed all of the 56 oz. of Osmos I had brought along and ate three of my Cliff Shot packs.  I had also taken 6 Enduralytes.

However, as we rounded the transition area and began the climb towards Lac Superieur, I was definitely feeling a little uneasy.  This section of the course has the hardest climbing by far with about 1000 vertical climbing from mile 47 to 52.  That was a concern but what was really in the back of my head was the final four miles of screaming, swooping turns down the back of the ski-mountain towards the end of the bike ride.

On the climb I was very thankful for my 34/27-granny gear and I was in it a lot.  I found the climb very difficult to find any rhythm on and I was amazed to see people crushing it up the hill with relatively large gears and cadence that must have been in the 40s—ouch, I wouldn’t want to run after that!  At one point I saw the EMTs attending to a very road rash covered triathlete on the side of the road.  His bike was nowhere to be seen—not a real confidence booster!  Here are the next five miles, which has some flat in it and about 60% of the climb:

Miles 46-50: 14.5/139/78/215/227

While my power spiked a bit here, I did a good job of managing my Variability Index (NP/AP), which was 1.055…not too shabby.  It’s worth noting that in this 5-mile section I had my highest AP, highest NP, highest VI and lowest speed!  I think I rode this section very well from a tactical perspective but what that meant in the real world is tons of people were blasting pass me.

I hit the crest and turned back towards the bike finish.  I was intimidated the whole way down and sat up a lot, spun easy, and feathered my brakes from time to time.  Surprisingly, not that many people passed me on the way down—although those that did where moving dramatically faster than yours truly!

Here is the data from the last miles:

Miles 51-55: 19.9/134/78/209/221
Mile 56: 23.1/128/77/201/201 

I finished my bike with a split of 2:54:50.  My average speed was just 19.2mph.  My HR averaged a very modest 138 bpm and my average cadence was 82 rpm.  My AP was 204 watts and my NP was 211 watts.  My TSS was 168 and VI was 1.034.  These all indicate a very conservative ride and not surprisingly, I was only 28th out of 78 in my AG (65.4%-tile), which means I faired better on the swim than the bike.  Carl had put 3:57 on me on the bike and I entered T2 57 seconds behind him.

Transition Two

As I ran into transition I noted that my right hip was unusually stiff but otherwise my legs felt pretty good.  It wasn’t overly warm, although it was very humid, but I felt like I’d done a good job at hydration—all in all, I felt like I was ready to run.  I ran to my rack space and gave Carl a pat on the head as I ran by.  I executed my T2 in 2:11, which turned out to be 29 seconds faster than Carl and as I exited T2 just 28 seconds behind him, I could see him up the road.  As I left T2, Carl’s wife told me to catch Carl and give him some company on the run.  I responded that there was no way I was going to catch Carl—and I truly believed this, as Carl is a much stronger runner than I am.

The Run

The run at IMMT70.3 is quite a difficult one and the hills are concentrated in the beginning and at the end of the run.  As I was confronted with a fairly lengthy and steep hill almost immediately as we ran away from the lake, I was thankful I had been conservative on the bike and I noted that my legs felt reasonably decent (for me).

Soon after the start of my run I saw Terenzo driving to the finish line with another pro just a few seconds back.  He was absolutely on the rivet (and he would win the race).  Midway through the 2nd mile, I decided to hit a porta-potty and deal with my effective hydration on the bike.  This proved to be quite a lengthy process but one that I felt quite a bit better after completing! 

I hit my 2nd mile marker and decided to pick it up a bit—my legs felt pretty good, especially considering my suspect run conditioning.  Here is what the first three miles looked like:

1:  9:10/147bpm/121 feet of climbing
2:  9:51/148/108
3:  8:32/149/20

As the course flatted out, I settled into a nice rhythm.  My HR was relatively low and the pace was comfortable.  Just pass 7 miles or so, we hit a turnaround and I estimated that Carl was about 2 minutes in front of me, which I found a bit surprising with my extended bathroom break.  It was here that I first wondered if maybe I might be able to catch him.  Here are the next four miles:

4:  8:54/154/13
5:  9:09/154/59
6:  9:20/154/13
7:  9:22/154/33

At around 9 miles there was a short out and back section and as I approached the turnaround I could see Carl was not very far ahead—just 30-45 seconds or so.  This got my attention and I decided to hit the gas and see if I might be able to catch him—note the jump in my level of effort in mile 10:

8:  9:50/152/75
9:  9:38/153/10
10: 8:45/166/72

As we reached the 10-mile mark I pulled even with Carl.  I had decided that I would offer to run with him the rest of the way.  Even though we were competing, this seemed like the appropriate thing to do in this situation.  Carl appreciated my gesture and so we ran the next mile or so together.

The last two miles are a real challenge and as we hit the first big hill Carl decided he needed to walk.  I slowed and said that I would walk with him—it truly didn’t matter to me what my time ultimately was.  He told me that if I could still run up these hills that I should—he said he was a big boy and would get there eventually.

So we parted ways and I did my best to stay strong over the final two miles.  These were very challenging and I decided to back off my effort a little bit and just enjoy the experience.   The last 500 meters are fantastic as you run down through the village to the base of the gondola.  You run in a narrow chute with the crowds a good 3-4 people deep the whole way.  People are screaming, the music is blaring, and I high-fived at least a 100 people.  My next three miles:

11: 9:26/166/79
12: 9:48/163/112
13: 10:20/164/118

I was thankful to see my mug on the big screen and then finally run up the ramp and finish another Half-Ironman.  My total run was 2:02:53 and I averaged 156bpm.  In total there was 833 feet of climbing on this run.  Despite this time seeming slow, I was in fact 30th in my AG (62.8 %-tile).  I was 2:33 faster than Carl and ended up besting him by 2:04.

My total time for the race was 5:42:50, which was 2nd in my XC AG and 23rd in my AG (71.8 %-tile).  Overall, I finished 834th (57.6 %-tile).  A very MOP day for me but pretty much what I had set out to do at the outset.  Money in the fitness bank and solid progress on my road to Ironman Lake Tahoe in September….

Sunday, July 21, 2013

AC Denali Post 38: Back Home/Some of AC's Pictures

Sorry for the radio silence--we've been busy welcoming Anders back into cilvilian life!

We picked him up on Thursday morning at the Philly airport--he was tired but happy to be home.  We were treated to a fantastic slide show and also saw 45 minutes of stunning video from the climb.

We hung in DE for a couple of days and went and saw World War Z--what a movie!   Anyways, Anders is recovering from the challenges of the climb and getting back into swimming, biking and running here at the beach.

Here are some of his pics from the climb (we'll post a link to a slideshow soon):

One of the two planes that flew them in:

Anders' view out the plane's window:

 On the glacier after getting dropped off:

Pulling a sled:

At one of the lower camps:

On one of the steeper lower slopes on approach:

On the march in--a rest break:

Tent life:

Home for four nights--riding out the storm:

Climbing in very difficult conditions:
On the Headwall and the fixed ropes heading for High Camp:

AC resting on Summit Day:

On the Summit--calling home:

A dream fulfilled:

With the family on the summit:

Anders on the summit ridge--heading down:

Heading carefully down:

Waiting for the plane ride home--all the hard work done!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AC Denali Post 37

Talked to Anders this morning as he was preparing for the trip south to Anchorage.  They had a great time last night at a burger joint and the festivities included a "number" of pitchers of beer as well....

Shower and bed felt great and he's anxious to get back to our part of the world.  He says he's dead tired and expects to sleep most of the way home.

Dave Hahn posted this final post this morning (you can also expect several more posts to wrap up the trip--perhaps Anders will register a few thoughts and I'm sure we'll throw some of his pics up here as well--so check back for those...):

"The alarm was set for 11:30 PM at 8000 ft on the Kahiltna Glacier.  The rain began at 10:00 PM and continued on and off until 11:20.  Rain wouldn’t be considered a good thing if you were laying in your sleeping bag hoping that the glacial surface would freeze up in the night to permit safe and easy passage to the Southeast Fork and a possible airplane pickup.  So at the appointed wakeup time, we had a soggy glacier, groggy climbers and a murky vision of the world.

Although it is still light for twenty four hours in this part of Alaska in mid-July, it isn’t very light between about midnight and four.  But we made the decision, along with Rob Gowler’s AMS group camped nearby, to make a break for the airstrip before the storm got worse.  We were on the move by 2:00 AM and stumbling along on snowshoes in the gloom.

Surprisingly, it rained no more.  It was slow going at first, hitting big crevasses broadside, without being able to see them ahead of time and take evasive action.  But conditions improved as we got further down glacier… there had been a great deal of new snow (bridging crevasses) the sky overhead was clearing and the snow surface was consequently freezing, and it was getting lighter.  It was a great help to be backed up in route-finding by Rob and the AMS team.  Together, as the last climbers on the mountain, we worked through the early morning hours.  By seven, we’d solved all significant problems and found ourselves at the foot of “heartbreak hill”. We climbed the Southeast Fork to the airstrip and called in the ski-planes.

Conditions overhead were good, but it took a few hours until our planes could even get into the range.  The bigger storm was still coming in, but all passes into the mountains were already clogged with cloud.  We considered ourselves lucky to be flown out in the afternoon.  What followed was a whirlwind of drying/sorting gear, connecting with the outer world again and showers and shaves.  We enjoyed a fabulous West Rib victory dinner celebration,  a summit certificate awards ceremony and copious amounts of laughter over our shared experiences of the past three weeks.  Day 20… Trip done… all we could possibly have hoped for in defining a fine expedition."

Dave took this final pic of Denali as they flew away:

Here is a pic back in Talkeetna of Eric (one of the guides) and Dave:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

AC Denali Post 36--Back on Terra Firma!

We just talked to Anders and he is back in the warm and thick air of Talkeetna!  They had a long day yesterday coming down to 8000 feet.  They crashed at 8pm or so and were back up at midnight and made it to the Base Camp airstrip in the early morning.

The waiting game then commenced.  A couple of times the pilots set out to retrieve them only to have to turn back.  Meanwhile, the weather was going downhill in a big hurry.  Late in the afternoon a small window opened up and thankfully they were able to load up and fly back to "civilization".  The pilot said they should thank their lucky stars because it was either then or "next week".  Denali, now that all the "guests" are gone, is getting very grumpy!

Anders, when we talked to him, was in the hanger sorting through gear and enjoying a well deserved beer and pizza that the air-taxi guys got for them to celebrate their success.  Anders told us that the last two days were amongst the hardest of the trip and that upon weigh-in, he was down 16 pounds for the trip....that's a lot for 22 days!

We've organized his return logistics and he'll leave Talkeetna with his team via shuttle for Anchorage tomorrow mid day and fly out tomorrow evening.  We'll pick him up in Philly on Thursday morning--can't wait!

Tonight, promises a hot shower, a celebration with his teammates, and a comfy sleep in a real bed--after what he's been through--there really isn't much that's better than that!

AC Denali Post 35: Awesome Summit Photos

As documented a few posts ago, Anders and his RMI team summited with two other teams.  One of the teams had a guide who is good friends with one of the air taxi pilots.  At 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, July 13th that pilot flew over Denali and took pictures of the three teams standing on the summit!  Anders mentioned the plane fly-by and they all waved to the pilot.  These two pictures below are actual pictures of Anders and the other climbers on the summit:

Talk about being a long way from home!

We didn't hear from Anders last night but Dave did provide this update about yesterday:

"Monday, July 15th, 2013
It was still very calm at 14K camp this morning, but it was obvious that the next storm system was moving in.  So we moved out.  At 9:15 we pulled out of Genet Basin and dragged our sleds to Windy Corner.  The going was easy as others had plowed a nice trough through the recent snows.  There has to be some advantage to being the very last team to come off the mountain.  We made it around the corner, down the Polo Field, across Squirrel Hill and down Motorcycle in about two hours.

At 11,000’ we dug up our cache of food, snowshoes, and miscellaneous gear and took about an hour to reorganize.  Then it was down to the main Kahiltna Glacier in excellent condition for travel.  It only took us two hours to make the bottom of Ski Hill.  By that point, however, glacier surface conditions were getting soggy and slushy -as expected.  So we built camp to wait for the cool of night before going the last few miles to the airstrip.  We need the freeze to firm up about a thousand snow bridges over crevasses between here and Basecamp.

It is a relief to be low again.  Our first time in over two weeks to be taking in so much oxygen with each breath.  And we aren’t even remotely cold after conditioning to the frigid heights of Denali.  There is a downside, of course… there are smells again.  The one in the guide tent has been described as “hot garbage.”

Perhaps we will make it to Talkeetna and showers tomorrow morning."

We hope that they can get lucky again and get out this morning--the weather does not look great and they could be pinned there for a while....we'll update when we hears news from the front...

Monday, July 15, 2013

AC Denali Post 34: Heading Back Down!

We had a long talk with Anders last night at a party we held with a bunch of his friends to celebrate his Denali summit.  More on that in a second, but first of all Dave posted this lengthy and wonderful post that details much of what has just transpired:

"Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Back at 14K.  A couple of long, hard, exhilarating days have come and gone.  When we left 14,200’ two days ago, we were happy to even have a chance at getting to 17,200’.  It wasn’t certain that we’d get there with the leftovers from that two-foot snowstorm.  And as we moved up, we were aware that teams were coming down from 17,200’ because of avalanche conditions between there and the summit.  But we had a perfect day for moving up and we weren’t used to perfect days on this trip… we took advantage.

The going was a little slow, what with trail-breaking, but it was better than we expected to find.  We were able to walk on avalanche debris for a good portion of the approach to the fixed ropes.  The climb up along the crest of the buttress was spectacular and difficult with our big packs, but all handled it well.

It took 8.5 hours to reach camp at 17,200’.  When we got there we were overwhelmed at the generosity of the teams who’d been waiting there for days.  They gave us water and helped to build our tents… And most importantly, they pointed out that recent winds had virtually eliminated the avalanche hazard on the route to Denali Pass.  They were going for the top in the morning and we were invited.  It was just a matter of whether we could get camp up, dinner down, and people in sleeping bags fast enough that the team would be rested for a try on the top.

The next day dawned cloudless and windless and our teams were all enthusiastic about a chance to climb.  We took off at 10:20 AM just behind Rob Galler with AMS and Dennis with AAI.  We’d discussed things extensively and were determined that the last guided parties of the season would work together to achieve this unexpected summit.  Rob did a lot of the hard work breaking trail on the steep slopes to Denali Pass.  We took over a little past the Football Field to make a route up to and along the summit ridge.  Throughout the day, it seemed nearly unbelievable that on a storm-plagued trip, we’d get such a perfect opportunity for the top.

The wind never blew and we were comfortable the entire day… no freezing hands, faces or feet.  We hit the summit at 6:40 PM and stayed there for an hour, taking pictures, shaking hands and marveling at our good fortune.  A few thousand careful steps later, we pulled into high camp at 11:30 PM.
Everyone worked to get some dinner down before turning in.  The guides were up for hours more, melting snow and filling water bottles.

It seemed a great gift that the good weather continued into this morning.  It is always rough packing up at 17K after a summit day, but it was made immeasurably easier by the calm, sunny morning.  We set out at 1:00 PM and climbed ever so carefully down the narrow ridge crest and the steep fixed ropes with our giant packs.  It was quite hot by the time we reached 14,200’ and it seemed a good idea to set camp rather than chancing rockfall around Windy Corner.

Tomorrow will be another big day as we’ll try to make it to 8000’, putting ourselves in position to go out the lower glacier early the following morning.  Probably too much to ask, to get another nice day, but we’ll ask anyway."

We had a bunch of friends over on a glorious night in Stone Harbor and we all took time to celebrate and toast Anders' success and safekeeping:

We put Anders on speaker and we all gathered around and he was able to spend some time telling us about his experiences over the last 48 hours and answer many of our questions.  From a mountaineering proficiency perspective this was certainly a master-class for Anders.  As we've documented throughout these posts, the route of-course was very demanding physically and technically.  Anders and his team made use of many advanced techniques such as running belays to help protect them on steep, exposed slopes.  Coming down, Anders was on a rope with two other guests and one guide.  Anders was postitioned at one end of the rope so he was either leading his team or serving as anchor throughout the descent...a testiment to the confidence that Dave has in him.

Anders clearly is having a fantastic time on this adventure.  He is thrilled with the climbing itself and wowed us with some of the descriptions of what they did and saw....we look forward to the full debrief and looking at the "500" photos he has taken so far....Anders is very much looking forward to his first shower in 21 days and a nice roomy bed....

As Dave indicated, they spent the night at 14,200 (ABC) and no doubt will be getting up early to get past Windy Corner before it heats up and rocks start moving.  The plan is to get down to 8,000 feet today and then move the final distance down to the runway at night putting them in postition for a possible departure early tomorrow morning.  When they actually get out is, of course, a function of the weather, which is clearly deteriorating (winds on the summit will be approaching 70 mph tomorrow).  We are hoping the good weather fortune of the recent past continues for just a bit longer....we can't wait to have him home amongst family and friends!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

AC Denali Post 33: Dave on that glorious Summit Day!

Here is lead guide Dave Hahn (aka "The Man") posts about yesterday:

Hey this is Dave Hahn with RMI’s Denali team, the last one of the season. I’m on the summit of Denali, 20,320’, on one of the more magical days that I can remember up here in 30 expeditions. It’s really worked out great. We teamed up with some of our good friends from Alaska Mountaineering School and Alpine Ascents International. Great to be up here with good climbers and, like I say, just the most spectacular day. We stepped onto the top at 6:40 PM, and we’ll stay up here for a while. It’s very comfortable. There is maybe a one and a half mile an hour breeze and massive sun. Clouds are probably about 10,000’ feet under us. We will get back to you when we get back to camp. We wanted to let you know that we got extremely lucky. Bye now.

This is Dave Hahn calling from High Camp. We got back from the summit, no problem. We spent about an hour up there, altogether. I figure it took us about 13 hours and 15 minutes round trip. We left at 10:20 this morning and we got back about 11:35 this evening. Can’t do a written dispatch; it’s 1:30 now. After doing dinner and filling everybody’s water bottles and all the normal chores for getting us in the bed. But we’ll catch you up on the story in the next few days. The long days continue. This one was spotless weather but very long day. Tomorrow promises to be one as well going down the month. We’ll catch up, and let you know how things are going. Thanks.

AC Denali Post 32: More on the Summit and the path ahead

Please see Judy's post below for details on the summit day.  Here are a few pics followed by some thoughts on what comes next:

We haven't heard from the team today but presume they were able to descend safely to High Camp late last night.  So what's ahead?

Nothing gets better with time at high altitude if you don't have to stay there.  Or, if you walk into a room with a live hand grenade in your hand, the best case scenario is that you walk out of the room with a live grenade in your other words, no upside in staying high, so we can bet that as soon as the sun hits them and neutralizes some of the bitter cold, they'll break down their camp and head down as fast as they can--the approach will be one of "unhurried haste".  They'll be anxious to get down as quickly as possible, but will do so with deliberate purpose on the many tricky and exposed climbing sections below them.

If the weather allows, they'll mosty like push pass ABC at 14,000 and continue down to at least 11,200 and perhaps lower.  We would expect them, weather permitting, to reach the airstrip some time on Monday or perhaps Tuesday.  From there the weather needs to cooperate so that the pilots can swoop in and bring them back to Talkeetna and the simple pleasures of warmth and thick air.

We'll update when we hear from the team later today....

AC Denali Post 32 - YES! HE DID IT!

Judy here to report that last night at 11pm, (7pm Alaska time) we received the call we've been hoping for.  Anders, just slightly out of breath, mostly exhilarated, emotional, proud, and excited, "I made it; I'm on the summit!".  It was very emotional for Randy and me to hear his voice and know he had achieved one of his dreams and was experiencing not only a profound sense of accomplishment, but untouched, majestic beauty that few of us can probably even imagine.  This impressive young team, with Dave Hahn at the helm, persevered through all those unrelenting storms, endless days of waiting, precipitous climbing conditions, a 9 hour climb Friday, and another 9.5 hour climb to the summit, and made it to the top of the world, literally.  Denali is the highest mountain in North America, at 20,300 ft!

They were rewarded for their endurance and determination with, as Anders told us, an "awesome" "perfect", "crystal clear" day, where they could see "forever" and it was "so amazing", "so gorgeous".   I asked how the climb was up to the summit, in particular the infamous summit ridge with drops on both sides that I don't even want to think about.  Anders, in his charming way, trying to sort of underplay the risk for his mom, said, "Well, it definitely gets your attention!"  Remarkably, all 8 of the team that remained (2 climbers plus 1 guide turned back at 14K), made it to the top.  Now Anders has stood on the  highest peak of North American, South America, and Africa!

I'm sure Randy will add some pictures in later, but for now I just wanted to relay the news that they had made it!

Of course, after the summit, they were facing about a 4 hour descent back to High Camp at 17K.  We haven't heard back from Anders yet, but are assuming they are safely back in their little tents, crashed out, recovering from a 13+ hour test of endurance.

As a Mom, I wish they could just take a chairlift down at this point.  "Ok, guys you did it, now just hop on that gondola and come home". The truth is, they have to retrace all their ascents and get back down this mountain.  Hopefully, they will face better weather on the way down, and get back to the booming town of Talkeetna in 2 - 3 days.

Who could have imagined Anders would grow up to be such an adventurer?

Here with siblings Jenny, Kara, and Alex, (Anders 2nd from right)

At the risk of many "nice hair" comments, here's Anders, our first baby, with a much younger Randy and me!

Feel free to leave some comments for Anders on this blog so he can read them on his return, and thanks for all your support!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

AC Denali Post 31--it's probably on....

Here is Dave's post about yesterday...we are guessing they are going for it as we post this....we are waiting to hear.....

"Hey, this is Dave Hahn calling from 17,200 feet on Mount McKinley. We made it to High Camp. Huge day, beautiful day, great weather. One of the nice things that started off the day for us was we got to talk to Mike King. He and Will and Shawn had made it to Basecamp by this morning and they were looking to get picked up within a half an hour of our conversation. They reported good conditions down there and they had a smooth exit from the mountain. We were very happy to hear that. And a big happy birthday to Mike King and a thank you for all that hard work.  We set in with our hard work right after that. It did take a long time to get up here to 17,200’ because we had so much snow on the Headwall.

If tomorrow is a decent day, we’re going try for the summit. And that’s it for tonight. Talk to you soon."

If you are with us send us some energy now!

AC Denali Post 30: Is it still on?

As you might imagine, those of us Christoffersons residing on the East Coast spent our day yesterday living our lives but most often thinking of the fortunes of Anders.  We knew that yesterday was the decision point--did they assess the conditions in such a way to decide to head down the mountain or did they decide to keep their slim summit hopes alive by climbing up, retrieving their cache at 16,200 and pushing onward to the High Camp at 17,000?

We kept our phones by our sides all day.  The weather was not helpful here as it rained torrentially for much of the day--there were less things to distract us.  We went to the movies at one point only to find everything but "Pacific Rim" sold out--which, we'll admit we went to (spoiler alert: the good guys win in the end).  We returned home and had a late dinner and waited for the call.  By 9 p.m. our time it was now past when Anders had called us by every other day so far....and still no call.

RC had planned to do a little local sprint triathlon the next day so he climbed in bed around 10...still no call.  By 11 Judy did the same and still no call.  By 12 we had resigned ourselves to the realization that maybe Anders had been too busy to call and now had determined that it was just too late to call.  However, around 12:30 a.m. EST the call came--we of course were both still awake.  We had a brief conversation with Anders and this is what he told us:

- They made the call to proceed up the mountain and were successful in reaching 17,000 and had just established their High Camp!

- They left about 10:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. EST) and climbed for 9 hours to do so.

- The snow field above 14,000 and the Headwall were very stable and they saw no loose snow anywhere.

- The snow was very deep and this made the task of ascending quite challenging.

- At 16,200 they located their cache and replinished their now diminished food and fuel supplies

- Above the cache point they encountered the most spectacular climbing of the Denali West Buttress Route.  The weather was beautiful and the views unsurpassed.

- They climbed along a "knife edge" with dizzying exposure on both sides.  A unrestrained fall would lead to a much unwanted and very rapid 2000 foot descent.

- Anders described it as the most electrifying climbing of his life and the pictures below will hopefully capture a bit of what he means.

- They reached the High Camp, feeling quite knackered but very satisfied with the work and accomplishments of the day.

- A took an hour or so to establish High Camp, which they are sharing with but one other team--Denali is becoming a lonelier place this late in the season.

Anders had to end the call quickly as they needed to unpack and organize their gear for the challenges ahead.  Dinner was to be made and critical rest was needed.

So they are now in position at High Camp for a summit bid.  This, if it happens, will take place today, Saturday the 13th or tomorrow.  There are at least three factors they'll need to consider in evaluating if and when they go:

1. Are the snow conditions (especially on the Autobahn leading up to Denali Pass) safe enough to allow a summit attempt?

2. Do the weather conditions present a "window" that allows safe climbing?

3. Is the climbing team sufficiently recovered from the efforts of July 12th to have the physical reserves necessary for an attempt at the summit?

It does look like the weather may cooperate over the next day or two and give them a bit of flexibility.  If that is the case then waiting a day would allow welcome recovery and allow the snow, at this higher altitude to set a bit more.

We are relieved about the outcomes of the day but continue to think about all that lies ahead.  Of course, we'll spend our day waiting once again to hear from Anders.  Most other things are on the back burner for the time being....RC elected to skip his triathlon as his heart wasn't in it and Judy will always have her phone with her as we await the next update....

Here are some pictures of the day's activities:

This first three pictures illustrate the exposure that they faced on the ridge above their cache point:

These next to pictures are from the top of the ridge up towards the High Camp:

 The next pictures show the steep climb above the ridge and on up to High Camp:

Finally, after nine hours they reached High Camp:

 And finally a look upward towards Denali Pass and the Autobahn that awaits them....