EXPEDITION CANADIAN SUMMIT 2001

(27 April - 8 May)

Introduction / 27 Apr - 8 May / 8 - 14 May (Main Group) / 8 - 14 May (Advanced Group) / 15 - 19 May / Sitreps / Metreps / Map

  Friday – 27 April

Wives, kids and girlfriends, were at the airport to send us on our way. Departure was delayed by an hour due to a tire change and the investigation of a noise from the nose wheel. Flight to Toronto was uneventful and departure to Seattle was on time. All told it was a long day and we didn’t get much sleep on the flight. We arrived at the Hotel around 2300 (west coast time) and went to bed.

  Saturday - 28 April

We got up at 0515 and enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast. The airport shuttle dropped us off in front of an "advanced baggage check". It was an easy decision to pay the $2 to save the hassle of carrying our 2 heavy packs around the airport. Team members are looking forward to arriving and are speculating on our chances of reaching the base camp this afternoon. Rain has been coming down all week in Yakutat and there’s another week of it forecasted. Flight to Yakutat was uneventful. George from Gulf Air Taxi was kind enough to drive a truck over to carry our kit to the hangar. After an excellent lunch at the Yakutat lodge, we started the waiting game. The weather was clearing this afternoon and looked favourable. Alas the Park Ranger has not faxed our climbing and landing permits to Gulf Air Taxi and we can’t leave without them. We finally got hold of the ranger after supper. He promised to fax our permits that same evening allowing us to fly to base camp early the next morning (weather dependent). We rented a small cabin at the lodge with 8 bunk beds. $25 each bought us a good night’s sleep before the departures planned for 0700 tomorrow.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Getting ready to leave Base Camp

Patrick enjoying the scenery at Camp 1

Sunday - 29 April

Enjoyed one last breakfast at the lodge before heading over to GAT (Gulf Air Taxi). The flight in was spectacular. We got a good look at the route and were able to locate the biggest crevasses on the climb to Camp 1. First 2 planes arrived at 0830 and the 3rd one at 1000. Base Camp located at 6718292 / 0510272 (2764m). We buried our emergency cache (5 days of Mr. Noodles) and started the ascent at 1100. Coming from Yakutat (sea level), the air is thin even at Base Camp and just walking burns the legs. The weather was good to us today: overcast and sporadic sunshine. Wind gradually decreased from 25kph to near 0. In some rest stops it was so quiet that the silence was uncanny. Two German climbers are dropped off at Base Camp just after us. They’re here for 3 weeks and want to do Logan and another peak. We reach Camp 1 site at 1500 and start digging. In one hour we’ve built a solid snow brick wall to protect us from the wind. We can see team Germany following our tracks. They’re carrying all their gear on their backs. 1800: Our camp is well established and we are preparing supper. Most of us have a headache (fatigue and/or AMS), 3 of us had nausea that evening (definitely AMS) and 2 were slightly dizzy on the climb up. We’ll get a good night’s rest tonight and see how everyone feels tomorrow. We gained around 3100m between Yakutat and Camp 1, so extra time may be required to acclimatise.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Looking up the Trench from Camp 1

Monday - 30 April

Metrep from Comox

Today was made a rest day. Still some people with slight headaches and a few sunburns. The night was fairly chilly but mostly clear. At 0500 it was –19C. We spent the day drying/airing our sleeping bags and preparing our non-essential gear that will be carried and left at cache 1.5 tomorrow. Aside from that we fortified our latrine with a snow wall. That will cut the wind and give some privacy. Team Germany said they were moving higher but ended up staying. A team of three Americans came through also and skied to a higher location.

Ian, Pat and Patrice felt nauseous today and were unable to eat. Definitely AMS. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Magoo getting our morning Metrep with the Satphone

Eric the snowman!

Tuesday - 1 May

Metrep from Comox

Today started out pretty good. We woke up to a balmy –12C and called for the Metrep. There’s a snow storm on the way tomorrow, but today looks good. So we alter the plan a little and decide to break camp an carry a full load to camp 2. We’ll be able to rest tomorrow while we wait for the storm to pass.

Once we get moving (around 1000), the clouds quickly move in, the winds pick up and the snow starts falling. We’re already 1 km away from Camp 1 by now so we decide to continue as long as we could. Eric then started using his compass along with David’s GPS (to periodically confirm location) due to nil visibility. A few km later, the winds increase to the point of making us lose our balance so we decide to stop and establish camp roughly at our planned cache 1.5 location. We gained a total of 200m and 2.5km before stopping. By now the wind is howling and pelting us with frozen bullets. We get to work on cutting blocks for the wall that will protect our tents from the wind. It takes us from 1330 to 1530 to build that wall and erect the tents. We all look like snowmen and Patrice has some frost-bitten spots on his face. Once in the tents we start to warm up, but get blasted with snow anytime we unzip the door.

A couple of hours after our arrival, team Germany joins us at our camp 1.5 location. We are all happy to see them.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Patrick and ...

Magoo enjoying the wind...

Wednesday - 2 May

Metrep from Comox

Last night and today were the same. Wind gusts from 50-70 kph blasting us with snow. When we called for the Metrep, this morning, the forecaster predicts more intensity tonight. Yesterday’s surprise storm was just a teaser. There’s an "Organised system" on the way. We were confined to the tents all day. Too much wind to cook even in the vestibules so we ate lunches throughout the day. Early after lunch, Eric & I go into Pat & Patrice’s tent to play Euchre for a few hours. It’s a tight fit but it passes the time. At 1430 Dave’s tent has had enough. A pole snaps and we are unable to repair it in the current conditions. The bigger dome tent was taking the brunt of the storm. The tent is collapsed and Dave and Ian scramble over to share the space in the other 2-pers tents. Cords are attached inside the remaining two tents to reinforce them but it also made it even more difficult to move inside the tents. It’s going to be a long night. Team Germany is still tented near our snow wall. They must have noticed that we’re one tent short now since they’re anchoring their dome tent with additional pickets using their climbing rope.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Patrice stretching out the legs

Thursday - 3 May

Metrep from Comox

Last night was rough. Three people packed into a 2 pers tent makes for not much sleep and even less comfort. The weather forecaster couldn’t give us any good news either. There’s a low pressure system hammering most of Alaska. They predicts another two days of strong winds and more snow. Yesterday we weren’t able to light a stove because of the wind. The thought of another two days of eating lunch food is not easy to take . The crowded tent conditions coaxes many of us outside. We start shovelling snow away from the tents and building our snow wall higher. The wind isn’t as bad as yesterday and we managed to erect Dave’s tent after it is repaired. The wind is still blowing but the sun is partially shinning and people feel great to be out of the cramped tents. The storm may be back tomorrow but today we can eat a hot meal, sleep in our own tents and moral is great. I should also mention that Eric, Pat & Patrice built the most luxurious latrine ever seen on Mt Logan. Now we are protected from the wind when we do our business. The team members are all fine. Some people complained of dizziness and shortness of breath this morning, myself included. Probably a combination of the wind and having eaten very little yesterday. I also have a sun/wind burnt smile on my cheeks that is starting to crack. Most of us have some evidence of the weather extremes on our faces.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Today's project ... a V-shaped wind deflector wall in front of our camp

Looking up the trench towards Camp 2

Friday - 4 May

Metrep from Comox

We all slept much better last night. The wind was howling between 50-60 kph and Ian & Dave had to get out twice to shovel snow away from their tent. Still, we were all back in our own tents with enough room to lay down. The forecast called for high winds (70 kph) today and we took it seriously. We didn’t want to get caught in another storm. The winds died down this morning and the sun came out. We wanted to move but remembered the forecast. So we dug up the accumulated snow around our tents and found all our buried gear. We want to be ready to move if tomorrow’s predicted "high pressure" comes through for us. The German team hasn’t moved either. They are rather dependent on us in these conditions. They have no snow saw and their best shovel was blown away by the winds two days ago. That means they are unable to build a proper snow wall to protect their tent after a move. One of the Germans went looking for the shovel at 1100 when the sun was still out. Our activity today was building a V-shaped snow barrier 20 ft in front of our camp wall. Hopefully it will deflect the winds and snow before it hits our main wall and Dave’s tent. The American team of three are on their way up when we start. We inform them of the forecast but they want to try going up. We are finishing the barrier 1 hour later, in windy conditions, when they pass us coming down. They decided it was better to retreat back to the safety of their camp below us. We’re sorry their effort didn’t pay off and glad we decided to stay. At 1430 the German shovel hunter (Andrea) has not returned and his partner is concerned. Unfortunately, the visibility is very limited by the blowing snow and there’s little we can do. Hopefully he can make it back with his GPS.

Just as I finish this sentence the German appears… We’re all glad to see him, but none more than his partner. He didn’t find the shovel but he did manage to recover some food from their cache at camp 1. The biggest success today was Eric’s. He finally figured out what was wrong with our barometer. Now it’s giving us a reading that the forecaster won’t laugh at! The weather has been improving progressively since 1700. This is definitely the high pressure that was forecasted. The questions is: what happened to the 70km winds? Did we miss them or are they coming tonight? Well, we have supper at 1830 and it is even calmer when we go to sleep at 2000. Hoping for the best we make sure that all our gear is dug up and ready for action if the weather is good tomorrow.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Final preparation before departure

We've created a monster!!!

Saturday - 5 May

Metrep from Comox

Last night was chilly, but the calmest we’ve had yet. We wake up to Eric’s rally call at 0420. It’s perfectly calm and clear outside and above us. It’s –23C, but that doesn’t matter. We start breakfast and the concurrent activities that will get us on our way. It takes us longer than expected to get ready and we make the 0700hr call to get the Metrep. Clouds, flurries and winds 30-40kph. Well, it’s clear now so let’s go. By 0820, we finally have everything in line and we depart. It’s cold but the sky is blue and finally we are getting away from camp 1.5. We carry our full load until the base of the 30 degree slope. At that point the sleds are slowing us down so we leave them to carry a load to the top of the slope (1 km away and 350m above). Half way up the slope we have to stop and add clothing to protect ourselves from the increasing wind and blowing snow. The progress is slow and it takes us about 2 hrs to reach the crest. By this time many of us are getting cold. The thought of going for our sleds and another 2hr climb in these conditions leaves us with images of frost-bitten cheeks, noses and fingers added to the fact that the limited visibility does not allow us to safely select a new camp site. Difficult as it is we abandon the day’s progress and down climb to the relative safety of camp 1.5. The Germans inform us on arrival that we can have our old tent spots back (they had moved in their tent to our choice spot). They also say that the American team started climbing after we left and turned back when they saw us coming back down. Considering the very short windows we seem to get, Eric & I have decided to adjust our strategy a little. Tomorrow we’ll try to carry just a load to the top of the slope. At least we’ll have made progress and certainly save time and effort when we finally get to move to camp 2.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Beautifull view of Mt King's north face

Sunday - 6 May

Metrep from Comox

This morning’s forecast wasn’t the most promising. Despite that, the weather was too calm and similar to yesterdays to sit still. At 1000, we started the climb with our load. We took all non-essential gear and all food + fuel minus 4 days. It was a heavy load. Certainly more than half of our total gear (avg 130lbs total / pers). The weather was good to us until we neared the crest of the slope. Blowing snow and 40kph winds greeted us. We quickly got dressed for the conditions and prepared our sleds & bags to be cached. We reached the cache at around 1145 and by 1220 we were on our way back down. Our cache will save the effort of carrying our full load over 1.5 km and approx. 350m up. That should also save us 2hrs over a full load carry to camp 2. Now we just have to wait for the window of opportunity when the weather breaks. As we were coming down, the German team was skiing up. They never came down so hopefully they made it to Camp 2. The three Americans visited us this morning to give the Germans a spare shovel. They are heading back down the glacier today to go climb King Peak from it’s south ridge. Hopefully that extra shovel will enable the Germans to build and adequate wall to block the winds forecasted for tonight and tomorrow. The weather was nice when we reached our camp. We made good use of it to dry our frosty sleeping bags and air out our clothes. One interesting observation is that today we crossed three crevasses, where yesterday there were only two. The gaps were small (less than 2 ft). Unless we missed one the first time we went up, this clearly indicates the movement of the glacier below us.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

A very enthusiastic Magoo preparing the 7th consecutive daily Sitrep at Camp 1.5. Note crossed ropes behind Magoo to reinforce the tent's structure.

Monday - 7 May

Metrep from Comox

Finally some good news in the Metrep. Today’s snow and winds will clear tonight and we should have two good days to travel. That being the case, it would be nice to use those two clear days to complete two full load carries (camp 2-3 and 3-4). Therefore we are closely watching the weather for a sign of improvement. If we can reach camp 2 tonight we’ll still have a fair chance of reaching the summit. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the itinerary. Half load days will have to be sacrificed for full load days whenever possible. We are well acclimatised at 3200m, so AMS should not be a problem for the next 2 camps or so. What we need is clear days so we can see the crevasses and avalanche slopes around us. Without proper visibility it is too dangerous to travel in unknown terrain. We’re well rested at this point. Most of us are showing signs of frostbite or sunburn on our faces: dark patches of peeling skin. Both Patrice & Ian have drained blisters from frost-bitten toes and Patrice has a nice collection of blisters on his finger tips. We got a bit of maintenance done today. Eric fixed his stove and I did some sewing on my coat. Unfortunately both Snowfield tents got burnt holes in their vestibules from the stoves this morning. I sewed up the hole in Eric’s tent and Pat & Pat will tape theirs. No luck with the weather, at 1700 it is still snowing and the decision is made to stay here until tomorrow morning.

Sitrep sent to NSMC

Finally leaving Camp 1.5

Looking back at Camp 1.5

Tuesday - 8 May

Metrep from Comox

Woke up around 0500 to a less than promising Metrep. Nonetheless the conditions looked good and we're eager to try a carry to Camp 2. By 0800 we were on our way and the clouds started to clear above us. Making good time up the slope we reach our cache at 0920. We quickly organise our gear to "comfortably" distribute the load between our packs & sleds. It’s a heavy load. The pace is slow and we take regular breaks. But the weather is good to us and we have sunshine all the way to Camp 2 (4195m). We reach our new campsite around 1330 and must then decide who is able to go on to Camp 3. We’ve lost too many days to bad weather. If some of us are able to continue to Camp 3, it will greatly increase our chances of making the summit. At least part of the team that is. Eric & Patrick are up to the task and leave as soon as their full load is prepared.

Next... with the Main Group or the Advanced Group

Introduction / 27 Apr - 8 May / 8 - 14 May (Main Group) / 8 - 14 May (Advanced Group) / 15 - 19 May / Sitreps / Metreps / Map