Dispatch from Denali: What It’s Like Being 17,000 Feet in the Sky – on Foot

Simon Wallis, Jason Harvey and Mark Thomson start their summit to the peak of Denali.

Denail
by Your Edge Blog Team
June 15, 2022

For the past week and a half, Simon Wallis, Jason Harvey and Mark Thomson have been slowly making their way up to the top of Denali in Alaska. This isn’t their first rodeo, so they knew what to expect from the trek. But that doesn’t mean they were fully prepared for the treacherous terrain and extreme temperature swings. 

As they await the green light to complete their summit to the peak – 20,000 feet in the sky – they give us the lowdown on how they have been spending the past five days:

“Hi everyone...this is The Three Amigos checking in. 

We're writing this blog from high camp at Denali, which is 17,000 feet and averaging balmy temperatures of -32c. Since our last blog at the end of day six, we have continued moving up the mountain but have been slowed a little by the weather. 

Day seven saw us have our first pseudo rest day, which involved retrieving some cached supplies buried previously before returning to camp to kick back and have an afternoon to recuperate. 

Day eight was a big day and the first ascent of "The Wall," which rises steeply 2,000 feet out of Camp 3. The top half of the wall has fixed ropes for safety, so we're tied in and ascend them slowly, climbing over large crevasses as we go. At the top of the ropes, we stepped onto the West Buttress ridge and were immediately hit with a strong freezing wind. The ridge is very narrow and, in places, just wide enough for our boots and crampons. It was pretty scary in places, but for safety we were roped together and also clipped into safety points on the mountain "running protection" in case any of us fall. We worked our way along the ridge, gaining another 500 feet or so of altitude and found a spot to cache supplies for our future summit attempt. The whole exercise was aimed at building our endurance and tolerance to altitude. After making our cache, we returned to Camp 3. The whole exercise took 7 hours. We were tired. 

Day 9 was our first proper full rest day...a lie in, finally, and a hot flask brought to our tent for tea and coffee. Luxury! We stayed in bed until the sun hit our tent and started to defrost us. Then we had a long lazy breakfast and spent the day relaxing playing cards. Because of high winds and cold temperatures forecast at the summit, we had to delay our move up to high camp as it would be too dangerous to make an attempt. Secretly, we were quite happy to have another rest day in camp, so we ended up playing cards and chilling once more. We had a special treat of pizza for dinner. It was very welcome, although we're all missing fresh fruit and veg. 

We have an 8pm radio weather forecast every day that ends up dictating our schedule. On the evening of Day 9, the outlook suggested better weather and lower winds on the way. So, with that news, we prepped for Day 11, which is today.

We finally made our move up to high camp, and it has been a challenging day for all of us: another seven hours of climbing this time with 40lb packs up the headwall, along with fixed ropes and then a ridge to the cache. We dug up our provisions and loaded up even more weight into the packs. We then had another 600-700 feet of ascent along a section of fixed ropes and very narrow ridge to high camp. It's freezing up here and blowing a gale, but we had to make camp before being able to relax. 

We were hoping for our summit attempt tomorrow, but the forecast is still showing high winds up here. So, unless there is a drastic change in the weather overnight, it looks like our summit attempt will be Thursday. 

Signing off for now, The Three Amigos!”  

Want to show your support to the Three Amigos? Help them help others by making a donation to the Red Cross in their name here. Zebra will match all donations up to $10,000.

See how far the Three Amigos have come thus far. Check out past posts now: 

And, if you’re hooked on their story, you can read all about their Aconcagua adventure in 2019 here: 

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