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Moe Al Thani | Moe Al Thani
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Author: Moe Al Thani

IN DENIAL!

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Over a week has passed since I left the ski plane in Telkitna. Since then we had an u forgettable dinner with the guides, bought last minute souvenirs, and took 2 flights to the UAE. Reaching home first day of ramadan, I was sunk in the formalities of the majlis etc…

People greeting with congratulations, at first I thought it was about Denali but then I hear the occasional “welcome back” and suddenly ah! That’s the Denali one… As I came straight into ramadan, I do not feel that I just came back from the mountains. Everything was back to normal in no time. Until I see a reflection of me in a mirror and be reminded by my farmers tan. 

Over a week has passed since a climbed Denali, since I completed my seven summits challenge and I chased for seven years. I came back feeling victorious and yet I find my self not announcing it, not posting about it, not even looking at any of the pictures. For some reason doing any of that means that I confirm that “I’m Done” and it’s hard to say I’m done for something I worked very hard for a very long time. For something that have changed my life for good, and has touched everyone around me. That’s until I realized that I’m Done does not mean the end! It only means I finished this book and on to the next one.

Those who know me, know that I plan ahead. I know exactly what I want and how to get it. I knew I wanted the Seven, and I got them. What scares me now is I do not know what’s next! That’s why I am in Denial, that’s until I realized that why not make my seven my stepping stone. Stepping stone to what though I didn’t get that far but writing a book doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me.

As for climbing, I’m not so sure if I will ever climb again or not. One thing for sure is that the self adventure is built in me and can never be separated, I might continue climbing, might take up flying, maybe go to the most remote places. For now though, visiting the tops seven beaches in the worst sounds about right.

I find myself daydreaming being stuck in a small tent waiting for the weather to clear or remembering how we portioned a bag of chips so it lasts us a week. Being so cold that you can’t feel your fingers and in your head you lost them. Then I remember standing on the summit, screaming and suddenly I find the biggest smile on my face. A feeling of self accomplishment.

Here I am overcoming my denial, posting the first picture of Denali and it is with my brothers and sister. Who by standing there, realized our dream and becoming firsts of our countries to do so. I would like to thank my family and friends who have continuously supported me, always pushed and never doubted. You were all with me every step of the way.  

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Trail of Tears

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Walking down is hard work, most people think it’s easy. We woke up the next day, again packing all our gear on our backpacks to head down to camp 3. Doesn’t take a long time but very technical terrain, crossing snow and rock paths, ridges, then the fixed lines. It’s very similar risks as driving, the problem is not you but other climbers mistakes that may risk your life. Took us 2.5hrs to reach camp 3, and quickly dig up our stash to cook an amazing lunch without setting up our tents. We also reorganized our gear into sledges that we were also starting to pull down. Then we descended to camp 2, which took another 2hrs. The plan was to reach base camp straight away but, the weather didn’t help. It was snowing heavy, we also had a white out that led us to call it a night at camp 2. It took us another 2.5hrs to reach camp 2. We had the final stash there, some food and gear we left there a few weeks ago. Loaded our sledges again and slept that night.
The next day, we woke up at 8:00am getting ready for our final descent to base camp going to be a long day. With a whiteout and snow in our faces, we left our camp pulling very heavy sledges. Now we have to carry all our gear, leftover fuel and food, and our trash to Basecamp and have to fly out with us keeping the mountain clean. 
Pulling down was not a problem for the most part until reaching heartbreak hill. Which is a 300m incline just before Basecamp, where you know you are there and still you need to climb that one hill. Pulling a heavy sledge does not help. It’s very frustrating, I know I am almost there but I must do this last stretch. 
Reaching Basecamp brings tears to he teams eyes, not only because of heartbreak hill, but as we realized that our journey of 7 years have finally came to an end. As the weather was bad I expected that we would spend the night at Basecamp, and hope for better weather the day. 

But an hour after our arrival we didn’t even unpack. The skies suddenly clears up and we heard the planes engines as he planes landed. 
The Rangers told us that we were leaving, I couldn’t believe that it will happen. I learned on the mountain not to get my hopes up, as the chances of disappointment is high. But I was wrong, planes one another started landing and so on me and my team were in one. Doors closed and minutes later we are in the air heading back to Telkitna.
It happened so fast, one minute we were fighting agains a whiteout and pulling sledges, couple of hours later we are on a plane heading home. Landing in Telkitna we realized how lucky we are. We were the last team that leafy that day. After our flight the weather closed again and the other climbers got stuck at Basecamp another few days. 
Finally reaching Telkitna, as I stepped out of the plane I could smell the trees and grass. I was so happy I am done with this. Now the first thing on my mind was good food and shower, in that order. Telkitna is a small town, and we landed at 11:00pm so everywhere we went was closed. We headed for Ankerage straight away, stopping by a supermarket to grab food and shampoo. Me and the team were still in our mountain clothes, not showering off 23 days walking in the supermarket. We looked homeless, picking up the things we wanted and headed straight to the hotel for our well deserved shower.
That shower was everything we dreamt about the whole climb, I took and hour just standing there. By the time we were done it was 5:00am and we just crashed.
The next day, was my last day so I spent it walking around the city. Adjusting to seeing people and cars. We had an unforgettable dinner with the whole team and the guides as I said goodbye to all of them. The bond that is between climbers is inseparable, the guides to. We start as strangers, and in 3 weeks we are family. Unfortunately I had to fly back as ramadan is starting and I really miss home. 

I am ending this book, that I worked on for seven years. And successfully climbed the heights 7 summits on each continent. The time has come to close this book and start a new one, still don’t know what is is though.

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Making History

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Few days ago, we finally woke up and actually packed all our gear and headed up the fixed lines to move to camp 4. The play was to summit the next day. It took us a record 4:30hrs to reach and then to quickly set up camp.  

Nothing fancy just our sleeping tents, and a small wall for our toilet. There is no kitchen tent, as we are very high and it is a waste of resources to carry unnecessary gear. We bearly left our tents. As we were supposed to rest for our summit push.

The wind pattern was, very windy in the morning and then died down by noon, so our decision was to see of its the same the next day to make our move. 

The next day, woken up at 7:00am with hot coco and oatmeal. We had to get ready, quickly me ant the team put on all our layers getting ready For the cold long summit day. I was ready to go by 8:00am so as the team I even did a voice dispatch to everyone wishing me luck. It became 9:30am and still nothing, from the lead guide. Then we heard the news it’s too windy we won’t be moving as it increases the risk of frostbites. So we decided to stick one more day. 

That day at camp 4 was spent doing nothing but think of the summit, we wanted to go badly. We were also afraid that the weather might close on us and we will get stuck on the mountain again, and this time we will run out of food and will be forced to head down.

After a day filled with mixed emotions, we woke up the next day to a beautiful quite day. Where there was no wind, no snow, and not cold at all. we put on our summit clothes, leaving out the big parkas and down pants in our backpacks just in case the weather changes. 

We leaft for he autobahn, which is the first step on the summit participants push. A 300m wall of snow and rock, our team zoomed up in no time catching up with the teams that left before us. That made a bit of a traffic jam as the team infront of us didn’t let us pass on the autobahn. It is a very steep area and there were anchors that we needed to clip in to, and when there is a team infront of you that won’t let you pass that causes a line up and increases the risk drastically.

Anyway we managed, to pass hem by zebra rocks and from there onwards the path was open for my team. In total of 6hrs we managed to read pick hill the last steep part before the summit. By that time I see the summit and I know I’m there just another 20min walking over a knife ridge. A knife ridge is a ridge hat is very narrow, and in this case it’s so narrow that is about halt my boots. The trick is not to think about it and just walk. The moment you think of it, bye bye. 

Approching the summit, we reached with tears and glory. Hugging one another what an amazing day. That was so warm we were wearing our liner gloves. The guides never had such a warm summit day this time of a year. We were so lucky, especially myself and some of the team get extremely cold hands. That was a blessing from God. We quickly to our summit pics, raised our countries flags up high. Then did something everyone there didn’t suspect. We started singing victory songs very loud, that the next team was also trying to copy (they failed).

As we were only half way, and had to also head down to camp 4, we had to leave. The journey back was quick,as we got lower we felt the oxygen and moved faster reaching the autobahn. Where it became very technical again. But the anchors were perfect this year that realy helped. So we reached camp in 3:30hrs decent and all crashed in our tents and were really tired by the long summit day.

We slept, without fully absorbing the fact that not only we summited but all four of us are 7 summiteers and firsts for our countries. It takes a while to sink in.

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TP Situation

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Here is the rarest commodity on the mountain. When I pack my bags it’s the last thing on my mind, and when I remember I always say I will do it later. Until the time comes for my gear check and I realize I don’t have any, I rush to the grocery store to buy some. In my mind I don’t need more than one, so I grab one. Until I realized on the mountain that I am spending more time than I thought. I also realized that I can not survive without it but then it’s too late.

Toilet Paper, yes toilet paper is the hardest thing to find on the mountain. Fuel, food, gear no problem you will always find someone who will offer, but not toilet paper. You can’t even buy it for a $100 a roll!

So I end up rationing, not only my food but also my toilet paper and if I hear anyone leaving the mountain before saying good bye I ask “Do you have any TP to spare?” the usual answer is let me check and their let me check is our “يصير خير”

Luckily I am a good in rationing and I don’t need any yet, I know some that are out and are using snow instead. I can’t relate for sure and hope I never do. Now I know when I am leaving the mountain what is the most precious gift to give another mountaineer and will cherish his whole trip.

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The Dish Washing Situation

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So here is something interesting for you, how do we clean out dishes. As you know by now water is very scarce. It takes 45min to melt snow for water and it uses a lot of fuel, fuel that we had to carry up the mountain. So no wasting of water here!

First we add snow to the dish and scape it using my spoon, I keep doing it again and again until it’s relatively clean. That means all the big chunks of left over food from the last meal is gone. I try me best to also take out all the bits and pieces but that is always a lost battle.

Then we take a tiny bit of toilet paper to wipe down any leftover oil or food. You only can use one tiny bit of toilet paper as you also need it for other things.

Last you serve yourself your next meal and there is always traces of the previous meal.

On the other hand, my cup has multi uses. First I have my hot drink in it most rid the time either hot coco or tea, then it’s soup time so just add the soup. Depending on what’s the main coarse I either use my cup again or my plastic container. Last is desert either pudding or brownie all in the cup. Then to make it clean again I have my after meal
Hot drink that usually have a bit of everything in it (soup, main, and desert). Voila my cup is clean!

 

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Denali Calling

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We spent today getting ready for the summit push. We finally got the green light that we will move ahead. That is until it started snowing again and now we have to wait until tomorrow morning to know if we are heading up or not.

We did our last gear check, we have to know what we are taking up. We only carry things we must. So many of my gear will stay in camp 3 including the iridium go which is the device I use to update you all. Weight is a huge thing every gram counts so I try to go as light as possible.

The things I am taking with me are my down parka, down pants, water bottle, thermos, sleeping bag, self inflated mattress, pee bottle, gloves, and goggles rest stay at camp 3.

I will update you through the audio blog, the plan for now is that we move to camp 4 tomorrow and then either spent a rest day there or summit the day after its all weather dependent. I wish we can move up tomorrow, we broke the record of spending 11 days at camp 3 waiting for a window.

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Thumbs Up!

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Finally, good weather. We had the quickest breakfast ever before we geared up and headed up the fixed lines again for an Acclimatization climb.

We went up the same route we did before to the top of the fixed lines then traversed until reaching the thumb which is just before camp 4. We made it there and back in to camp 3 in record time. We did it up and down in 7hrs reaching an altitude of 5,200m. While traversing the winds were very high, and cold -20c.

Coming back to camp, we had an amazing meal and discussed the way forward. We will take a rest day tomorrow, for last minute preparations before the summit push. We must make sure we have everything we need and packed, we don’t need surprises at camp 4.

The whole team is doing great, and especially after the weather cleared up. Many teams went up for the summit, but we decided that it would be safer to go in 2 days as the forecaster is showing better weather.

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The Silver Lining

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The weather gusted all night reaching record winds ever recorded on Denali of 140km/hr. We were very lucky that we didn’t loose any tents that would have been the end of our trip.

We spent all day digging the snow from around our tents, we moved tons of snow and made our walls stronger.
When we first reached camp 3 there were no walls anywhere, now every team built high walls protecting their selves from the high winds.

We have been stuck in the storm for 4 days, and suddenly out of nowhere the flapping stopped and there was silence again. Looks like the storm is dying and hope good weather ahead.

Weather reports say that there might be a summit window on Wednesday, we have been here for a while now and ready to head up.

We are staying put at camp 3, until we feel the conditions are safe to move up. The team is very strong, and keeping each other strong and positive.

Once the sun shined again, we were treated by the magnificent view of the Alaskan range beneath us. We feel so lucky witnessing this beauty.

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Another Day In Paradise

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Woken up at 5:30am with the gusting winds against my tent. I put on my earplugs and slept another few hours. Our wake up call was at 9:30am so I went to the kitchen tent. I realized that the winds were very high today so I know we weren’t going out. The guides faces were all gloomy, and not very happy with the weather.

We spent all day maintaining camp, as the high winds were blowing snow to our camp burying our tents. So we have to continually shovel the show from around our tents. The gusting winds didn’t stop all day, reaching 120km/hr. Park rangers and many guides never saw winds this strong in camp three. With our strong team we managed to secure our camp.

One of the other teams on the mountain had their kitchen tent blow away, our team helped them figure out what to do. They are in a tough situation where they are a team or 9 climbers and with no kitchen tent!

When we weren’t helping we were in our tents trying to dry it. As the weather wasn’t too cold today am the snow that was blowing in our tents melted soaking our sleeping bag and clothes. We did our best to dry them but as the sun isn’t out what ever we do won’t work.

There. Is some bad news from higher on the mountain, there are 10 climbers stuck at camp 4. We heard that they are suffering from frostbites and two of them got frostbitten on all their fingers and toes. They have been stuck there for two days, where they couldn’t rescue due to the weather. If it clears up tomorrow, teams will go up for them.

The weather reports are contradicting one report that we get from the same weather forcaster that does Everest forecast for the big teams that the weather will get better tomorrow on the other hand the Denali park forecast is telling us that the winds will continue until Monday.
We spent 8 days in camp 3, just waiting for a window to continue.

That being said, the four of us are in great shape, and in high spirits. We are all fine, and spend the time when not working playing cards and discussing the meals we will have once we are back home. Include us in your prayers,
That we get good weather and have a safe summit and back.

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The Sleeping Bag Situation

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Well, let me tell you this my sleeping bag is not only my sleeping bag, it’s also my wardrobe, changing room, and sometimes toilet!

As its gets colder that -25c while we sleep everything outside the sleeping bag freezes. So toothpaste, water bottle, wet wipes, socks, layers I will wear in the morning, even my shoes in my sleeping bag as if it’s cold in the morning my feet will freeze in the morning.

Batteries drain in cold weather so anything with batteries also sleep with me. That means, iPod, iphone, sat phone, iPad……..

When I wake up in the morning all the clothes I wear is in my sleeping bag so it’s also my wardrobe. I change in it as I am sharing a tent.

As for the toilet I will leave it for your imagination, let’s say it’s the most privacy you can ask for in the mountain

So imagine with all these things plus the cold weather and sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Can’t wait to sleep on a bed again!

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