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Mount St.Elias

Diary


First attempt: May 2007


May 6, 2007
Axel Naglich and teammates Peter Ressmann and Jon Johnston are currently in Girdwood, grappling with how to pack roughly 10,000 pounds of supplies into a single pickup truck. Tomorrow they will drive six hours to Chitina, where they will fly the final 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the remote Ultima Thule Lodge and wait for a weather window before making the final flight into base camp, at 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) on Mount St. Elias.

May 11, 2007
Around midday the crew is flown up to the base camp. Thousands of pounds of gear and 13 team members are stationed at 3,200 feet on Mount St. Elias. The altitude is significantly below the 10,000-foot elevation originally planned for base camp on the Haydon Shoulder. Instead, the team will have to start from the Tyndall Glacier, adding 6,600 feet of climbing to an already extremely challenging expedition.

May 12, 2007
If the athletes are ready for it, current favorable weather conditions will be perfect to begin their climb and ultimately bag the descent, but having arrived yesterday, the sunny skies are only good for setting up the camp and beginning to scout their route. The team will begin scouting the route down to Icy Bay and up to Haydon Shoulder.

May 13, 2007
The team is trapped on the Tyndall Glacier and is busy scouting a route over the glacier to Haydon Shoulder.

May 15, 2007
Yesterday’s weather brought wet snow, soaking crew and equipment as they hunkered down at base camp. Today St. Elias is shrouded in cloud, preventing the skiers from exploring the mountain or scouting their route to the summit. The key to success on this expedition will be patience.

May 17, 2007
Two days ago the clouds cleared and the team made plans to ascent to 9,800ft. Yesterday’s weather brought rain and heavy winds. This morning it was covered and now the mountain is fogged. Plans to bring the team to Haydon Shoulder don’t look too good.

May 18, 2007
Eight team members, including skiers, mountain guides and camera operator and all their equipment are flown to Haydon Shoulder in eight shifts.

May 19, 2007
Temperatures in 9,800ft increase to 50°F (10°C). After an ascent of 1,000 ft the skiers have to return due to high danger of avalanches over the traverse to Haydon Col.

May 20, 2007
Axel Naglich, along with fellow skiers Peter Ressmann and Jon Johnston, starts the descent from 10,000 feet on the Haydon Shoulder this morning at about 9 a.m. and reaches the ocean by mid-afternoon, only to be swept back up to Camp 1 in Claus’ Super Cub. They still haven’t given up Mount St. Elias’ upper slopes.

May 22, 2007
At midday the team climbs through the south west crest of the Mount St. Elias – a headwall of blue ice with a 65° steep slope – not far below the high camp at 13,000ft. All day long heavy winds blow clouds land inwards and the weather forecast predicts a front which moves in the direction of the Mount St. Elias at a speed of 20 knots. The actual trend says the same as the sea weather, which predicts an end of this spectacular weather for tomorrow.

May 23, 2007
American skier Jon Johnston, one-third of the three-part St. Elias ski team, quits the expedition. A downturn in the weather yesterday is sure to try the patience and motivation of the most hardened adventurer. Winds reaching 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour on the mountain kept most of the team pinned down yesterday and nighttime temperatures dipped as low as -10° to -25° degree Celsius (14 to -13°F).

May 24, 2007
Despite the clouds on the coast, the weather in the mountains stays well. Yesterday cameraman Rob Frost was picked up from Haydon Shoulder by Paul Claus. Skier Jon Johnston stayed on the mountain.

May 25, 2007
Apparently exhausted from climbing and altitude, the group decides not to begin the ascent due to wind. Jon Johnston decides to stay with the group until they reach the high camp.

May 27, 2007
The team, all seven who are left on the mountain, starts climbing this morning at 3 a.m. when the weather is cold and humid. In the beginning it is cloudy but in the evening all enjoy a great view and the evening sun in the bivouac at 15,000ft.

May 28, 2007
The climbers make their way to almost 17,000 feet, just 1,000 below the summit, before the weather begins to close in. Visibility is reduced to almost nothing and the team is forced into a disappointing retreat from the attempt. Now, the challenge will be getting down safely. They hope to move back down to Haydon Shoulder before the bad weather predicted for the next few days moves in. Early this morning, the temperature at 12,000 feet is -13°F (-25°C).

May 29, 2007
Though unscathed, the climbers are now stuck at their relatively high and somewhat exposed base camp at 10,000 feet in a thundering snow storm. After battling winds exceeding 90 miles (140 kilometers) an hour in little-to-no visibility, the climbers reach Haydon Shoulder at 05 a.m. They will remain there until the weather breaks before trying again or being flown out.

June 1, 2007
Despite a successful, though treacherous, return to base camp at 10,000 feet late Monday night, the team of seven, already exhausted from the climb, spends the following three days digging for their lives, eventually finding refuge in a snow cave while their tents become completely buried under mounds of blowing snow. Thursday morning, 31 May 2009, the team members were flown to the Ultima Thule Lodge and after Jon Johnston’s departure the rest will waits and hopes that the next weather window will allow them another attempt at the summit.

June 5, 2007
Refueled by downtime at the lodge and Donna Claus’ cooking, skier Axel Naglich and Peter Ressmann, along with guide Volker Holzner and cameraman Günther Göberl, hope to fly back to Haydon Shoulder on Friday if a predicted weather window materializes. A little thinner, a little frostbitten and significantly pared down from its original size, the crew is not yet beaten.

June 8, 2007
: Hopes are turned into disappointment today as the good weather window is narrowed down to 18-20 hours – not enough to fly up to Haydon Shoulder and make it to the summit to ski down. instead of that the team will return to Europe to wait for better weather. Despite this set back, Naglich is positive when it comes to a successful expedition in the summer months.

June 13, 2007
The team leaves. Acclimatization is lost – it lasts for a maximum of three weeks. The forecast for the next weeks is bad.

Second attempt: August 2007


July 31, 2007
Good weather forecast. The team flies to Alaska.

August 9, 2007
After six weeks in Austria, the team is back on Mount St. Elias and preparing for another summit attempt. Axel Naglich, Peter Ressmann, cameraman Günther Göberl and mountain guide Volker Holzner begin their final climb toward the summit, leaving base camp at midnight and ascending through a loose rock face in the dark to avoid rock fall.
They are now camped at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) and are preparing to climb to high camp at 15,700 feet (4,800 meters).

August 10, 2007
The team is now perched at 15,700 feet (4,800 meters) and preparing for the final summit push. Axel Naglich, Peter Ressmann, Günther Göberl and Volker Holzner will set out to climb the summit face early tomorrow.

August 11, 2007
Axel Naglich and Peter Ressmann successfully ski from the summit of Mount St. Elias.
Between 7:30 a.m. when Naglich, Ressmann, cameraman Günther Göberl and mountain guide Volker Holzner leave high camp and 12:50 p.m. when they reach the summit, the team climbs through pockets of new snow that are continuously sliding, making for a treacherous ascent.
The team spends only ten minutes on the summit before Naglich and Ressmann begin their descent down an unexplored line to avoid the avalanche-prone slope they ascended. It takes the two less than two hours to ski to high camp, break down camp and continue the ski down to 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) where they will camp tonight.

August 12, 2007
The team leaves their camp at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) this morning at 03:30 a.m., repelling down the treacherous rock face before dawn. They arrive back at Haydon Shoulder by noon and are picked up by Paul Claus in the Super Cub, who shuttles them back to Ultima Thule Lodge. Tomorrow they will fly out to Chitina for their return home.