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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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Gear Check and off we go….

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We started out day at 6am, the sun does not set here it just gets darker. Made sure I charged all my electronics and had a big breakfast. You never know how it is on the mountain.

We went to a warehouse to have our gear check and make sure we have everything we need and also not to take many things as we will end up carrying them on Denali.

Climbing gear, hand gear, foot and head gear. We then had to choose the snacks we need for the 3 weeks, which is approximately 8kgs. We had to choose wisely things we love eating. I don’t want to take a little and end up with no food or take too much and end up carrying them up and down the mountain.

We then rehearsed crevasse rescue techniques in case we fall we will have to pull our selves out. Has been a while but memory kicked in quickly.

From there we had pizza, you can never go wrong with pizza. I will miss good food from now on.

Final point is a safety brief by the Rangers and some do’s and don’t’ son Denali and we fly in a ski plane for 45min to the base of the mountain.

from now onwards it will be very difficult to update everyone, I will do my very best to have a voice blog or email regularly.

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Gear Check and off we go….

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We started out day at 6am, the sun does not set here it just gets darker. Made sure I charged all my electronics and had a big breakfast. You never know how it is on the mountain.

We went to a warehouse to have our gear check and make sure we have everything we need and also not to take many things as we will end up carrying them on Denali.

Climbing gear, hand gear, foot and head gear. We then had to choose the snacks we need for the 3 weeks, which is approximately 8kgs. We had to choose wisely things we love eating. I don’t want to take a little and end up with no food or take too much and end up carrying them up and down the mountain.

We then rehearsed crevasse rescue techniques in case we fall we will have to pull our selves out. Has been a while but memory kicked in quickly.

From there we had pizza, you can never go wrong with pizza. I will miss good food from now on.

Final point is a safety brief by the Rangers and some do’s and don’t’ son Denali and we fly in a ski plane for 45min to the base of the mountain.

from now onwards it will be very difficult to update everyone, I will do my very best to have a voice blog or email regularly.

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img_3098.jpg

img_3100.jpg

img_3101.jpg

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Talkeetna

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Just after breakfast we enjoyed a 3hr drive to Talkeetna where we were welcomed by a family who own a cottage where we will spend the night. The weather was beautiful, sunny and clear skies. I can only pray for the same weather on Denali. We all went through our luggage adjusting them a bit, separating street clothes from climbing gear. 

We then were invited to Tod’s home, the owner of Alpine Acsents the company I’m climbing with. He has a beautiful home with the mountain range view on his porch. We spent some time catching up with Tod, last time I saw him was on Everest.

Soon later we had to go back for dinner where we met Willie and Damian Benegas our guides for the trip. Both of them climbed Everest numerous times and are two of the strongest guides there are. We are extremely lucky to have them. Discussing team plans and mountain stories while enjoying a traditional Alaskan meal.

We had to sleep early as tomorrow is the day I hit the ice. We should fly out around mid day and from there onwards I will be sending audio blogs as there is almost no internet.

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SEA – ANC

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Last day in Seattle, we had a 10:00am flight so had to leave the hotel at 8:00am. We had to say goodbye to AJ who came to see us off from Canada. For some reason I felt the flight was too long, I wanted to land and see Alaska it’s one of those places that I always wanted to visit.

The place is very quite and peaceful, we finally met with our fourth climber Suzanne in the hotel went to a few mountaineering shops. Nevee ending last min items. We keep remembering small items here and there. We just catched up on sleep and didn’t do much. The few days ahead of us will be hard and we can use all the sleep we get

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The Starbucks City

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Waking up at 5:00am, the city looks so beautiful and peaceful. Wanted to have breakfast in the hotel but apparently you can only have breakfast at the Starbucks in the lobby. So I did.

Later on went for my last workout, I have been training really hard the past few months and it all came to this last day. I trained hard, but not pushing my self as its not the time to risk any injuries. I did an hour higher intensity elliptical which was the closest machine the gym had to a stair climber.

I have a lot of last min things to do, I’m going to keep charging my electronics and updating my iPod for Alaska here in Seattle I must cross some things off my bucket list.

First thing to cross was Featherd Friends, it’s a Seattle based company that specializes in down suits. All their products are handmade and one of the best in the world. I had to get something from them, so I bought a mid layer down jacket that will keep my warm at camps.

The second thing we couldn’t miss was the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. That was really impressive some of the coffee beans was exclusive to them. They also roast it in front of you. Such an experience.

We spent the rest of the day walking around downtown and the ripe market.

Tomorrow our flight is at 10am to Anchorage, and two days until we hit the mountain. Need all the sleep I can get.

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