About one week left until my Denali expedition officially begins (5/16). So I’m working though the final preparations for a three week excursion out in the snow and ice. Last night I went through all of my gear to confirm I had everything on Alpine Ascents’ required list.
I’ve been accumulating gear over the last year and a half for this trip and at this point I think I’m finally all set and have everything together to pull this off. Yes the gear list is huge but one of the biggest challenges with a trip like this is with taking too much. So I’ve separated out everything on the gear list into my required items and the nice to have items. I’ve got a few extras like a solar charger, extra batteries for the camera and memory cards and some liner gloves (I tend to trash them) but overall I don’t seem to be too excessive. We’ll see how it goes in the official gear check once I get to Alaska.
In addition to my own gear I’ll have to carry group gear as well as food and fuel. I expect the weight is going to fall somewhere between 100-130 lbs. In order to move these kinds of loads up the mountain we’ll have our backpacks, be pulling plastic sleds behind us as well as performing double carries. A double carry is when we transport a load up the mountain, bury it in the snow (cache) and then descend and repeat the next day with the rest of our belongings. This type of travel although tedious gives the added benefit of enough time to acclimatize to the altitude as we ascend the mountain.
In order to haul these loads of gear up a mountain I’ve been focusing my training. I still Crossfit 3-4 times a week but I’ve altered my weekend hiking and climbing to mimic what I’ll be doing on Denali as much as possible. Since there is not enough snow to haul a sled here in NY, I’ve been packing heavy weight on my back. For the past few months I’ve been increasing my pack weight on my weekend trips starting at 60lbs and have worked up to about 75lbs and climbing around 3000 Feet. If all goes well this is in excess of what I’ll be carrying and how much elevation I’ll gain in a single day with that kind of weight. I’ve been performing quite well with this; the standard goal is to be able to ascend 1000 feet in an hour with 60lbs.
To start out with my heavy load training I climbed Algonquin with 60lbs and did 3k feet over 3 miles in about 1 hour and 50 minutes on snow and a some slippery ice as well. This works out to be a rate of 1000 feet in about 37 minutes or 1636 feet per hour. As this benchmark was on ice I could have gone faster but the conditions slowed me down to remain safely upright, its no fun falling on your ass with a heavy backpack. This pace did not seem to be an issue and I’m well above the recommended pace of 1000 feet per hour. Since then I’ve increased the weight over several weekends up to 75lbs and have kept the pace similar on Cascade (65 lbs), Whiteface (70 lbs), Giant (75 lbs) and Big Slide (75 lbs). All shorter distance wise but have good elevation gains making them perfect climbs for this type of training. After each climb I expected to be sore but with the exception of Giant I felt great the next day, my training all winter is paying off. After Giant my hip flexors were a bit sore, this was the first trip with 75lbs total and I pushed it pretty hard. The next week on Big Slide I did the same weight and speed and had no soreness the next day.
In additon to carrying a heavy pack I’ve also put on about 15lbs of mostly muscle (at 170lbs right now) by stuffing myself on a fully paleo diet since January 1st. Iv’e gained the weight because while on Denali I expect to lose a significant amout of weight due to the cold, altitude, and increased metabolism it takes to keep warm in such an environment. At this point I feel great and ready to be put to the test and have the snot kicked out of me by the biggest mountain in North America.