D E N A L I (20,320')
1998 Alpine Ascents Expedition

Wally Berg
Feeling Good at 14,200'
Wednesday, June 24, 1998

Hear the Satellite Call from Denali

Hi Mountain Zone, this is Wally Berg calling you from what we call the edge of the world. A short walk out from the 14,000 foot camp on the West Buttress of Denali. Sorry that I haven't gotten a dispatch to you earlier. Actually, I flew the satellite phone in with me to the Kahiltna Glacier, intending to do dispatches from that level and below on the mountain, but I found out — I should have known before I came in — I underestimated the scale of this terrain. Foraker was this looming mass to the Southwest from the Kahiltna base itself where we landed all the way up the glacier, and in fact, there was no way for me to get a satellite phone dispatch out. Now I'm calling you via good, old fashioned cell phone from the edge of the world. I had to walk out here to hear the repeater, and I hope that you can hear me well. I have this short report for how our group, Alpine Ascents/ Fantasy Ridge group, is doing.

Mount Denali
Mount Denali
[click to zoom]
(photo: Darsney)
Seven members of us all together, including Sean Sullivan and myself as guides. We've moved remarkably fast up the route to this point not really at the speed that guided ascents generally move. We're moving faster than that because we've been able to physically; we're a very strong group, I believe. Also, because we have had quite good conditions to this point, very favorable. Some very clear weather, some mild snow storms but no high winds, no extreme conditions at all. So, we've moved along quite well.

We got to 14,000 feet on our seventh day of the climb. Now we are in position. We've carried all our loads this far, we have everything we need right here, and we'll use this camp as a staging ground, you might say a staging point, for ascending the rest of the West Buttress. Acclimatization is important, always, and we'll be here for a minimum of three days and nights. That's going to be quite easy at this point because I'm standing here at the edge of the world as I described earlier in a snow storm, a light, beautiful snow storm, actually. Nothing that's going to present any problem but nothing that I'd really want to move in anyway. So, we'll be here acclimatizing and waiting for the storm to stop. From here we hope to attempt a single move up to 17,000 feet from which we'll acclimatize a little further, and from that point, we'll attempt the summit.

So as you can tell, seven or eight days into this trip we have a great deal of good positive momentum going. We're very encouraged, but we're constantly reminding ourselves what a serious place this mountain is and how we need to keep that in perspective and in mind constantly. We might be here a lot longer before we're allowed a good summit shot. We still have to deal with acclimatization; we take that very seriously, and of course, on a route this size, even if you get to the summit, you have a long and involved and dangerous descent both off the summit day itself and on the rest of the way back out the route. We're here for the long haul.

I'll keep you posted as to how we're doing from time to time from this point forward on the route. My goal is to get you one from the summit. Best wishes, and you'll hear from me over the next few days as we continue to ascend.

Wally Berg, Expedition Leader


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