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Alaska Expedition 2014

Updated: Jan 5

On the 26th May 2014, part of the New Zealand Alpine Team headed to Denali National Park in Alaska for a five week expedition. The expedition has now ended with all team members safely back from Denali.

Expedition Video

Team members Steve Fortune, Pete Harris, Ari Kingan, Daniel Joll and Australian Matthew Scholes have their sights set on two classic Alaskan alpine climbs. All expedition members will look to acclimatize on the West Buttress before moving off to their main objectives. Ari & Pete to the Cassin ridge and Steve, Daniel and Matthew hope to climb the Slovak Direct on the South Face of Denali.

Follow our regular updates here to see how the team are progressing on Denali:



Dan, Matt and Steve are counting themselves very lucky after an ascent of the triangular face at the toe of the West Buttress, between 11k and 14k Camps, ended in an unfortunate accident.

Waiting for stable weather and conditions to get on the Slovak, the trio decided to take advantage of a short break in the weather to do a short climb above camp. They were at the top of the climb and traversing the low angled ridge to the top of the fixed lines. Steve knocked off a small pillow of snow, which knocked him off his feet, causing a tumble down the slope, managing to arrest about 50m lower.

Dan and Matt quickly descended to find Steve with a clearly broken ankle. Being unable to continue upwards they then began a rappel descent directly down the face below. Fortunately they were joined shortly by Australian friends Owen and Kim who had followed them up the climb and joined forces for the rappel descent. This led to the flat glacier and main trail back up to 14k camp, where with the assistance of the rangers stationed there, they could use a sled to get Steve safely back to camp.

Here he was assessed by medical staff, and with the assistance of an orthopaedic surgeon luckily in camp, straightened the displaced ankle. The next morning a brief clearance in the weather allowed Steven to be airlifted back to Talkeetna and hospital in nearby Wasilla.

Following the heli-evacuation Dan and Matt packed up the team gear and descended back down to 7,200 Camp (KIA) where they are currently awaiting a flight back out to Anchorage to be with Steve when weather allows.

More updates to follow as further reports on Steve’s condition are made available.


Pete and Ari have bounced back from their recent set back on, and early retreat from, Denali to complete an ascent of the classic South-West Ridge of Mt Francis (10,450ft, 3185m). The South-West Ridge is touted as one of the best quality moderate mixed routes in the Alaskan Range and is a great result for the young team.



Steve and Matt have just returned to 14 Camp after making a lightning quick ascent of Denali's Cassin Ridge in just under 19 hours!

They left camp with only a short, less than 24 hour, weather window and climbed non-stop to complete the round trip, with nearly 4000m of vertical climbing, in an incredible time of 27 hours. Making their climb one of the fastest recorded ascents of this classic alpine test piece. To put it in perspective the only other team to climb the Cassin this season, two weeks previous, took five days!

Unfortunately while Steve and Matt were on the Cassin, Pete and Ari have had to descend back to 7000ft camp due to Ari suffering the effects of AMS. After struggling on their ascent of Denali via the West Buttress Ari was unable to recover sufficiently to make another attempt back over 6000m. And at the recommendation of the team doctor they have descended back down to a lower altitude to assist with his recovery.

Although Ari's condition is not deemed to be serious, due to the potential risk of further complications developing if he was to return back high both him and Pete have decided to finish their trip by attempting a number of the lower peaks nearer to KIA. And while they are ultimately disappointed that they did not get the opportunity to attempt the Cassin Ridge they have still achieved a significant summit on what is for both of them their first overseas climbing expedition.

The forecast is for heavy snow over the next five days so both groups are now looking forward to some well-earned rest time before venturing back out.



Yesterday all five members of the team summited Denali on an amazing blue bird day. Pete and Ari climbed via the West Buttress and a night at 17,000ft camp, while Dan, Matt and Steve ascended the West Rib in a single push. Both groups set out in relatively balmy conditions, only -15'C, and by chance meet high on the summit ridge before all topping out together.

They then descended the West Buttress and are now resting back at 14 Camp.


Today the team continued to progress their way up the West Buttress on another acclimatization climb. With Daniel, Steve and Matt ascending to 17,000ft (5,200m) while Pete and Ari reached 16,000ft (4,900m). The whole team then descended back to 14 Camp.

With everyone acclimatizing well and feeling strong the team have a rest day planned for tomorrow before launching the first attempt on the summit the day following. Pete and Ari will continue up the West Buttress while Daniel, Steve and Matt will make their attempt via the West Rib.


The team is currently at 14 Camp (14,200ft / 4,330m) on the West Buttress where despite being held down by bad weather for the last few days they have managed to establish themselves at the camp and also catch up friends Owen Davis and Kim Ladiges. Thankfully a brief clearance this morning has allowed for their first proper view of the mountain and they are looking to continue with their acclimatization by heading up to 16,000ft (4,875m) for the day.


The team have pushed on through continued bad weather to reach 11,000ft (3,350m) camp and are looking to make a load carry up to 14,000ft (4,270m) tomorrow.


First update from Alaska!!

The team has landed and have hit the ground running. Upon arriving in Anchorage they were presented with a clear forecast and took the opportunity to catch the first flight available in to the Kahiltna Glacier. Where from KIA, Kahiltna International Airport, at 7,200ft (2,200m) they made good progress to a campsite at 9,000ft (2,750m) despite some overnight snow and each having to haul 80kg sleds. Everyone is in good health and spirit and looking forward to the challenges ahead!

The expedition will last for five weeks and received $10,000 of funding from the Alpine Teams corporate sponsors. We would like to say a big thank you to Kordia, KCL Property and Jade Promotions for their generous support. The expedition is also supported by industry sponsors Macpac and Jetboil who have provided tents, clothing and cooking systems for the group.

During the expedition we will be testing several new products designed by Macpac. These specialist climbing items were developed in conjunction with NZ Alpine Team members. They include new packs, sleeping bags, down jackets & single skin tents.

New Zealand Alpine Team Expedition

Mt. Mckinley /Denali 25th May 2014- 1st July 2014

Team members

Steve Fortune, Pete Harris, Ari Kingan, Daniel Joll and Australian Matthew Scholes


Macpac (clothing, packs, sleeping bags and tents), Jetboil (cooking stoves), Tendon Ropes, Kordia, KCL Property, Jade Promotions


Slovak Direct route on the South Face of Denali (Daniel, Steve, Matt) West Rib & Cassin Ridge (Pete & Ari)

Transport & Costs

NZD - USD at time of expedition = .87 USD = 1 NZD

Insurance via NZAC five weeks = $700 (approx)

NZ - Anchorage, . Costs of flights including internal transfers $2500 NZ return.

Airport Taxi Anchorage – Talkeetna : USD $100 PP.

Denali peak fees USD $350 PP

We are lucky enough to stay with friends in Anchorage so avoided any accomodation costs. We also pre ordered most of our supplies from in advance to help speed up our departure from Anchorage.

For flying into Denali we used To get into the South East Fork - Kahiltna International Airport the cost was approx $585 USD PP

Good Anchorage Hostel Base Camp. close to all the down town shops and climbing stores. $25 USD per night.

For transport up to Talketna we used Discover Alaska , Albert provided amazing service even looking after Steve when he got flown out with a broken leg……. (Planet Earth Adventures) Albert from Planet Earth Adventures can also provide a service for receiving food and equipment pre expedition. Contact him for his details if you need to ship any food or gear to Alaska prior to the trip.

You could easily budget another $1000.00 USD for other associated costs, food etc.


Our basic plan is to spend three weeks acclimatizing with the aim of summitting Denali once or twice before having a go at the Slovak in our final two weeks of the trip.

Climbing Approach for Denali specifically the Slovak

The route lends itself to a traditional alpine approach, light bivy tent and moderate rack. We were aiming for two bivvys and three days out in total on the route including the approach.

Before the trip get a copy of each persons family contact details in the own country and give to each other, plus find out if anyone has any special medical conditions.

Gear List

The Gear List has been made up for a three man team.

Climbing Food:

Back Country meals 6 double size meals per person.

Gu Shots x 120 all

Gu Chomps 60 packets

Power Bars x 60 OSM

2kg electrolyte mix

This will give us enough climbing food for around two – three acclimatization climbs and our main objective.



  • 2 x 7.8mm 60m ropes

  • Mono point climbing crampons.

  • 2 x mixed climbing tools per person with hammers. One tool for the team with an adxe

  • 1 x small file for sharpening crampons / picks

  • 1 x Allen key or spanner for tightening axes

  • Grip tape for axes

  • Cam lube

  • 2 x tiblock

  • 1 x micro traction

  • 1 x travel bag for crampons

  • 10 light weight extendable quick draws

  • 2 x 120cm light weight spectra sewn sling

  • Pitons (approx 2) one blade one angle

  • 2 x auto locking screw gate style biners for atc and fixing anchors per person.

  • 2 x light weight screw gates per person

  • 1 x atc guide style belay device per person

  • 1 x daisy chain or safety sling per person small spectra style light ones

  • 2 x Ice screw clippers for harness

  • Spinner leash for ice axes

  • Short prussic for rapping

  • Spare rap cord

  • 1 x helmet per person light under 400g

  • 1 x climbing harness per person (needs to weigh less than 350g)

  • 1 x sets of wires number 1 - 8 + 1 set rps/offsets approx 4 mid sized off sets nuts

  • Double set of cams 0-2 camalots, one 3

  • 1 x light weight biner per cam

  • 10 x ice screws for team, 2 long, 6 med 2 short

  • Ice threader per person

  • 2 yates screamers

  • 1 x monical or similar binoculars [optional]

  • 1 x climbing knife

Route bivvy gear:

  • 1 x shovel (light weight) [optional]

  • BD Firstlight

  • Mat (cutdown Z rest) mat cut to fit exact floor plan of the Firstlight

  • Ultralight sleeping bag (<500g)

  • 1 x 35 – 45 L climbing pack (under 600g)

  • 2 x 1 nalgene per person

  • 2 x nalgene insulators

  • 1 x 10L water bladder

  • 1 x pen + notebook per person

  • 2 Jetboil 800ml variety Sol Ti

  • 1 spoon

  • Drybags for gear at least 2 large ones per person. (and stashing kit pitching the tent in snow)

  • Sat Phone

  • Laminated route topos

High camp gear:

  • 1 x base camp tent 4 person.

  • Blow up pillow

  • Took a spare pair of inner boots (spantik inners) for Scarpa Phamtom 6000 as their original inner not so warm

  • Cooking stove suitable for group cooking prefer white gas type.

  • 1 x light weight frying pan

  • 2 x 4L billy

  • 1 x fish slice

  • 1 x spoon/cup/bowl per person

  • 1 x leatherman multi tool per two people

  • 1 x light climbing knife i.e. petzl knife that can attach to harness one per person

  • 1 x light plastic chopping board

  • 1 x pot scrub

  • 1 x block of soap each person to bring one

  • Lighters, gas, other cooking supplies can be brought in town.

  • 1 x silk sleeping bag liner per person

  • 1 x sleeping bag per person (around 900g with approx 600g of fill or more)

  • 1 x sleeping mat (full length, heavy ok down Exped style)

  • 1 x small dry bag for top of pack per person

  • Stuff sack for organising clothing

  • 2 x 12w solar panels with adaptors

  • 2 x power packs for charging off solar panels

  • 1 x tablet or kindle for reading

  • chargers that can work on DC for cameras and batteries

  • light weight cooking tent

  • white gas

  • 1 x large carrying pack, 70 L + per person

  • Sleds for taking gear into high camp

  • Skis or snow shoes

  • Skins for skis

  • Ski Poles

  • Ski Boots if not skiing in climbing boots

  • Around 4 sturdy dry bags or similar to bury in the snow and use for anchors to help pitch the tent.

  • Sat Phone – Ensure a contact at home is set up to re charge the phone when needed

  • 1 x 1L thermos per person


  • 1 x alpine boot. Good for cold weather ice climbing, Spantik or Phatom 6000.

  • 1 x spare laces for climbing boots per person

  • Zipper lube for the boots

Clothing: (all items for each person)

  • 1 x one piece suit and additional thermal leggings

  • 1 x thick themol / power stretch fleece leggings

  • Light weight rain pants

  • Synthetic pants (optional)

  • Neopreane face mask

  • 1 x wind proof soft shell pants (winter weight)

  • 6 x sports style underwear

  • Small container of foot powder (to stop sweat while walking)

  • Small re sealable container for foot powder

  • 2 x mid weight sock

  • 2 x thick sock

  • 2 x travel sock

  • 1 x fleece windstopper gloves

  • 1 x warm leather glove for general high mountain travel / technicle climbing

  • 1 x waterproof shell to go over the wind stopper gloves .

  • 2 x warm water proof gloves suitable for climbing technicle terrain with cold temps

  • 1 x warm mitt .plus additional spare pair of mitts for the team

  • 2 x tee shirts causal

  • 1 x small travel towel

  • 1 x sun hat with neck protection

  • 2 x sun glasses with neck strap and cleaning case, nose cover could be useful

  • 1 x snow googles

  • 1 x thin thermol balaclava

  • 1 x wind stopper balaclava

  • 2 x short sleeve thermal shirt

  • 2 x long sleeve thermal shirt

  • 1 x silk or non cotton long sleeve shirt for glacier walking lower down.

  • 1 x wind stopper soft shell fleece jacket (with hood if possible)

  • 1 x fleece mid layer

  • 1 x synthetic or down belay jacket with hood if possible (down is fine as well) must weigh less than 700g

  • 1 x belay jacket, down high loft ideally something around the 600g mark must be suitable for very cold conditions.

  • 1 x light weight rain coat, must have hood big enough to go right over helmet, and be large enough to fit over all clothing.

  • Shoe Gu for shoe repair

  • Aqua seal for clothing repair

  • Sewing kit

  • Shorts

  • Causal in town pants

  • Nose cover for sunglasses

General Equipment: (for each individual person)

  • 1 x medium size tube of sun block

  • Drybags for gear at least 3 medium ones per person, 3 small and 2 extra large . (and stashing kit pitching the tent in snow)

  • Tent towl for wiping out frost and moisture each morning

  • Cooking board for camp kitchen, light weight ply with holes drilled out with a thin aloy top rivited onto the ply. You can put in pre made holes for securing the Jetboil / camp cooking stove on the top of the cook board as well

  • 1 x re usable mini sun block case

  • 2 x lip balm with sting so it can hang around your neck

  • Baby wipes as many as you feel you need (usually a 2 per day average works well) 34 day trip requires 68 baby wipes try to get non sented

  • 1 x small tube of Vaseline

  • 1 x personal first aid kit

  • 2 x small bottle of detol/hand sanistiser

  • 2 x rolls of dental floss

  • 1 x tooth paste

  • 1 x small tooth brush

  • 1 x tube of mouth ulcer gel

  • 1 x tube of canastine style unti fungle cream

  • 1 x small travel alarm clock

  • 1 x alpine climbing watch with altitude and barometer (need 1 between 2 minimum)

  • 1 x compass

  • 1 x area topo map

  • 1 x head lamps and 2 sets of spare batteries

  • 1 x digital camera + spare memory card if required

  • Charger for digital camera

  • Personal toiletries

  • Vitamin supplements

  • Power adaptors for USA.

Alaska Food Plan - Individual

  • 34 days and nights worth of food. Being 13 dehydrated meals and breakfasts / climbing food and 21 regular breakfasts and meals.

  • 60 energy bars of varying types

  • 30 protein bars varying types

  • 35 packets of GU & Chomps

  • 68 GU Brew Tabs (6 packets)

  • Breakfasts 21 days

  • 100g Cereal or Oats, 20g nuts, 20g dried fruit 10g milk powder per person per day.

  • 21 days total – 1.1kg Cereal, 1.1kg Oats, 420g nuts, 420g dried fruit & 210g of milk Powder

Drinks 21 days

  • 1 instant coffee, - hot chocolate, packet soup, 2 tea bags per person per day

  • 21 days total - 21 serves instant coffee, 11 packets hot chocolate, 11 packets instant soup, 42 teabags.

Communal Cooking Supplies

  • Salt, Pepper, Chilli Powder, Garlic Powder

  • Snacks

  • 50g biscuits, 50g chocolate, 25g hard boiled candy per person per day

  • 21 days total - 1.05kg biscuits, 1.05kg Chocolate, 525g hard boiled candy


  • 2 x tortilla or instant noodle, 50g cheese( pre grated parmesan), 50g salami, 25g peanut butter

  • 21 days total 22 tortilla, 11 instant noodle, 1.05kg cheese, 1.05kg salami, 525g peanut butter

Dinners communal cooking some items per meal some per person (based on three person meal)

  • Per meal - onion, bulb garlic, 2 x ginger roots (total), tomato paste 100g per pasta meal, 1 stock cube per person per cuscus meal, one packet instant soup per instant mash meal per person

  • 21 day total 11 onions, 5 bulbs garlic, 2 ginger roots, 700g tomato paste, 21 stock cubes, 21 packets instant soup

  • Per person dried instant vegi 25g, butter 25g, cuscus 100g, instant mash 100g, pasta dry 125g

  • Slightly more gourmet meal options

  • Asian noodle soup, 300gm sorba noodles, 1/2 bag dried mushrooms, sea weed strips, soup mix pack, pickle ginger

  • Spaghetti carbonara , 500g pasta , powdered egg / long life cream pack,1/2 pack dried mushrooms, dried herbs, salami 300gm

  • German style soup with mash, 300g deb,stock cube, garlic, dried peas/ veg, 3 kransky sausages, herbs

  • Pesto pasta, 500g pasta, garlic, pesto , freeze dried chicken.

  • Spaghetti Bol , 500g pasta , tomato paste, semi dried tomatoes , garlic freeze dried mince.

  • Fresh meal- peanut satay stir fry – broccoli , green beans, freeze dried chicken,peanut satay sauce , noodles.

  • Deserts - every second meal 11 deserts per person mouse, jelly etc

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