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Jul. 11, 2007
Davenport’s Denali Summer Vacation
Summit!TCB skier (and all-around athlete extraordinaire) Chris Davenport just sent me his latest field report. Nice to get a hearty shot of wintery madness come our way in mid-July. A week ago some of us here in the office were racing bikes in 108 degree heat up in Davis, CA so it’s pleasantly bizarre to read about Chris carving through the powder on Denali. Enjoy!

Hello ski friends and a happy summer to all of you!

In the current tradition of my ski descent trip reports, I'm going to interrupt your flip-flop and shorts wearing and margarita drinking summer-time mode with a bit of winter stoke.  

Denali Ski Camp 2007 (as it affectionately became called) was the brainchild of Clark Fyans, Chugach Powder Guides and Mountain Trip guide and something like 10-time Denali summiter. Problem for Clark was that he is a skier, and in guiding Denali he couldn't ski, because guides need to be always roped to their clients. So Clark decided to skip guiding on Denali this year and put together a fun crew for a dedicated ski expedition to attempt as many ski lines on Denali as possible. I spent two weeks with Clark at the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in AK this March with Warren Miller Films, and he mentioned the trip. Of course that was all it took for me to sign on. 

He had met my keen Aspen ski partner and part alien telemarker Nick DeVore last year on Denali, so Nick was in. Adam Clark, photographer extraordinaire from Salt Lake, spent like a month with Clark filming with TGR this winter, so he was on board, and then we needed a girl, and the strongest and most stoked big mountain climber and skier out there today has to be Kirsten Kremer, so she rounded out the team.

Denali SummitThe other four flew into the mountain on June 1st and I raced across the Atlantic from Switzerland on the third  of June and played catch-up for a couple days before finally rendezvousing with my team at 11,000’ camp on June 8th. We spent a day skiing incredible powder above camp, taking 5 or 6 runs a piece on the 750’ slope before moving up to 14,000’ camp and our home for the next two weeks on the 10th of June.

Up to this point the weather on Denali had been typically bad. There were no summits between May 26th and June 9th, and most parties that had been high on the mountain during that time were coming down beaten and frozen. But as we arrived in camp at 14,000’, things changed. From that day on, the wind would not blow and the snow would not fall, and the sun shined upon our lucky soles. From our bastion of power, the Mountain Hardware Stronghold tent (fitting 27 people during our Summer Solstice party), we set out on day missions up the upper flanks Denali.

Between June 12th and June 22nd our group, along with various friends, climbed and skied the following major lines on Denali:

  • June 12—Climbed Upper West Rib and skied Orient Express

  • June 14—Climbed Upper West Rib to Summit and skied Messner Couloir (11 hours round trip) (1st ski descent of Messner in 7 years?)

  • June 16—Climbed Rescue Gully to 17,000 then Black Rock Peak (19,000’ near North Summit) and skied first descent of “Thunderbird Couloir” (1800’ vert) to Sunshine Couloir (3000’ vert)

  • June 19th—Climbed West Buttress and then North Summit. First Descent of Stronghold Couloir (1800’ vert, on Black Rock Peak) to Rescue Gully (Only group on North Summit this season)

  • June 20th—Climbed Rescue Gully to 17,000’ camp in 2:10 and skied steep, direct “no name” line straight to 14,000’ camp. Solo.

  • June 23—powder skiing on Headwall below fixed lines

Foraker SunsetThere are so many highlights for me on this trip. I think my photos do it some justice. The NPS rangers said they had never seen such a successful ski group in their memory on Denali, which is hard to believe, but we did have perfect conditions with which to practice our passion.

By the 24th of June our team was more or less exhausted and sleeping later and later every day, so we decided to pack up and ski down to the airstrip at 7200’ on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, arriving in a whiteout.

With no planes flying in to pick us up, we all set up the tent and actually slept for almost 20 hours straight. Thirty-six hours later the skies opened up just enough to let a flock of Otters and Beavers fly in and we piled in for the journey back to the green, mosquito-infested world of low altitude summer in Alaska.

I have to say thanks to the other amazing skiers that joined our group for a run here or there during our trip, including; Ryan Campbell, Sherri Soltice, Kellie Okinek, Peter”PI” Ingalls, Greg Collins, and Colin Haley.

The groupBack home now I am happy to report that in the last six months, having skied from the summits of the remaining Colorado 14ers, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Rainier, the Grand and Middle Tetons, Mt. Adams, Denali, and various other Aspen area peaks, I had no accidents, injuries, avalanches, blisters, and only a day or two of bad weather. All in all a pretty good run of luck in the mountains, a fact not in the least bit lost on me.

So, with that report, enjoy your summer-time eye candy, and I hope your stoke for the coming season is more than slightly fueled, at least for a few minutes.

All the best from sweltering Colorado.


Posted by:
Le Sensation American
Team Clif Bar

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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