Just a quick update, two days ago Lonnie Dupre reached the summit of Denali completing the first solo accent ever in January. While Lonnie was setting foot on the peak my back country buddies and I were in northern Wisconsin for our annual cross country ski weekend. This weekend started out 29 years ago as a work outing at our boss’ cabin and has turned into a great climbing and skiing team. As you can tell our weekend and Lonnie’s were very much the same. On Saturday night we had T Bone steaks and cheese cake followed by a hour long night ski session on the lake with temperatures in the -15 below F. range while Lonnie slept in a snow cave at about -40 F. The next day was a hard one with a three hour ski through the untracked wilds of Wisconsin where at one point we almost ran out of wine while Lonnie climbed his way to the top of McKinley. So basically our weekends were almost identical. Okay, we actually did do some hard skiing and climbing trying to get in shape for our back country ski trip we have planned for next month and I don’t know about the other guys but I need to work out more because I was feeling it and we were only climbing at 1000 feet above sea level and didn’t have packs on. I guess I’d better up my workout schedule.
Lonnie descending by headlamp.
I got a call from my father a few weeks ago and he told me that Drew, the son of some good friends of theirs, had finally retired from the Air Force and wanted me to give him a call when I had a chance. I was intrigued because of all my parents friends children that became pilots, 5 or 6 of us by last count, a surprisingly big number, Drew was the only on the get into fighters. And Drew didn’t just fly any fighter, he flew what I would’ve chosen to fly if given the choice, the A-10 Warthog. I gave Drew a call and he told me that he was now living back in Minneapolis, flying for Delta, and bored out of his mind. I can see that. After twenty years in the Air Force, living all over the world and flying A-10 during a period that the Warthog REALLY came in handy, I imagine getting plunked back down in the suburbs and driving a bus was a bit of a shock. Drew told me that he had an 18 year old son that he wanted to spend more time with and two of the things they wanted to start doing together were skydiving and flying and was there any way I could help them? Skydiving and flying, yep, I can help with that. His plan was for both of them to come out to my skydiving school this spring and learn how to jump out of perfectly good airplanes but before he signed his son up for lessons on how drive said airplanes would I possibly have time to take the young lad for a short flight to see if he actually like it? Most certainly I said. Now you might ask why Drew, who was a decorated combat fighter pilot/airline bus driver needed me, a scruffy looking ferry pilot with questionable morels and personal hygiene to take his only son flying? It’s because like most fighter/airline pilots Drew hasn’t flown anything without a jet engine and a million dollars worth of avionics in years and in Drew’s case ever. So not only hasn’t he been checked out in anything smaller than the A-10 in years but like a lot of airline pilots, tiny airplanes scare him.
So Drew and his son came out and met me at the local airport where we all piled into a Cessna 172 I’d rented. I let Drew’s son, I’ll cal him Logan, because that’s his name, sit in the left seat and do all the flying. Logan did great. I didn’t have to get on the controls on takeoff and he was smooth and steady on the controls unlike a lot of non-pilots I’ve let take the controls over the years. We flew a few miles from the airport and I ran him through a series of stalls, slow flight, steep turns, wing overs, and some cloud busting. Basically I just wanted him to have fun and get comfortable in the air. Throughout the flight Drew sat quietly in the back taking pictures and generally being a proud papa. I’m sure he was a bit apprehensive about how Logan would react to being at the controls of a small plane. It’s every pilot’s nightmare that his son hates flying or it scares him to death because every pilot I know wants to pass the torch of flying to his children, especially his son, yes I’m a little sexist, sue me. All and all Logan did a great job and can’t wait to start flying lessons.
After the flight Drew took me out to lunch where we both had a couple of local Pale Ale’s, to calm the nerves don’t you know, and did what pilots do over a few drinks after flying, tell flying stories. Drew had his share of good material after 20 years in the A-10 and I countered with my own boring stories of ferry flying. When we were done Drew presented me with a 30mm shell casing from his beloved Warthog during the 2003 Iraq invasion. This was a great gift and it turns out a perfect addition to my military hardware collection because I just happen to have a 30mm cannon shell. How do I happen to have such a shell you might ask? It’s because back when I was a young lad in college I spent three summers as an intern working for Honeywell where we were building and testing experiential munitions such as the 300mm anti tank shells. My job was to actually build to rounds and then take them out and shoot them. That job was a blast. Get it? A blast? Anyway, here’s what they look like.
I’ve always loved climbing but aside from some scary but recreational rock climbing and some serious, and sometimes scary, back country climbing on skis I’ve never had the opportunity to do any “real” mountain climbing. And by “real” I mean something in the 20,000 foot plus range. The thought of spending a month or more assaulting a mountain, climbing higher and higher, establishing camps and hoping for good weather for a final summit push fascinates me. It’s one of the few dreams I’ve yet to achieve and I’m not sure I ever will because once I started back country skiing the thought of putting in all that time and effort climbing a mountain and then just turning around and walking down again didn’t make any sense to me. I mean if I’m going to go to all that trouble to get to the top of a mountain it sure as hell will be because I’m going to get some epic skiing on the way down. Here’s a couple of photos from past trips.
All that being said I’m still fascinated with high mountain climbing and epic stories of survival. That’s why I got Super Girl (my daughter Claire) one of my favorite books for Christmas. “Epic” Super Girl has always been an adventurer and just started climbing this year in college. I’m sure she will love this book as much as I did.
What got me started on this post is the fact that Lonnie Durpe guy is attempting to make the first solo ascent of Denali in January. I went to school with Lonnie and was on the gymnastics team with him.
At 20,320 feet, Denali (aka Mount McKinley) in Alaska is North America’s highest mountain. Denali’s high latitude (bordering the Arctic), along with its unpredictable weather and vast crevasse fields, makes it a challenging summer climb even by Himalayan standards. During winter, it proves even more formidable, with winds often exceeding 100 miles per hour, temperatures plummeting below -50º F, and sunlight averaging a mere 6 hours. Only 16 people in nine expeditions (4 solo, 5 team) have ever reached the summit in winter. Of those 16 climbers, 6 died. Only 1 team of 3 Russian climbers summited in January, the darkest and coldest time on the mountain, and for some literally the dead of winter.
One of the stories in EPIC is about a winter attempt of Denali where three men are trapped by hurricane force winds in a tiny snow/ice cave just short of the summit for 5 days as their food and fuel for melting ice for drinking runs out. It’s a great story of human endurance but it didn’t sound sound like it was any fun at all. Anyway you can follow Lonnie’s progress here https://www.facebook.com/oneworldendeavors or here http://www.oneworldendeavors.com/
I think this is Lonnie’s third attempt, having been stopped just short of the summit and forced to hunker down in a snow cave until his supplies ran out the last two times by high winds. Good luck Lonnie, you’re going to need it.
As many of you might have noticed I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been traveling all over the world having amazing adventures, meeting interesting and exotic people and making tons of money but that’s not the case. You see the problem is that, boy this is hard to admit, I’m an addict.
Hi, my name is Kerry and I’m a deer hunter.
It’s again the time of year where millions of semi-drunk men head into the woods with lethal weapons in search of the elusive, some say fictitious, Whitetail Deer and I’m one of them. Starting in September I become completely obsessed with hunting and run into the woods every chance I get. I’ve never added up the amount of time I spend deer hunting from September to January, mostly because if my wife found out she would kill me (she thinks I’m having an affair), but it is safe to say that if I spent that many hours working at Burger King I could retire. Of course then I’d just spend my time hunting so I’d be back where I started I guess.
Spending a lot of time in the woods doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always very successful. Hours upon hours spent sitting in a tree stand or sneaking around on the ground rarely result in seeing, let alone getting a shot at a big buck. After hunting for forty years I’ve shot many decent bucks and does with both rifle and bow but only managed managed to bag 3 what I would call “Trophy” bucks. That doesn’t mean I’ve only seen that many monsters in the woods, it means only didn’t screw up the opportunity three times. More times than I care to remember everything fell into place and I managed to get close to a big buck only to have something happen. The wind shifts and he smells me, I move and snap a twig, or the buck just senses that something isn’t right. Either way the result is the same. The buck snorts (the alarm sound they make when they sense danger) turns on a dime and is gone in a flash leaving me shaking with adrenalin and cursing the hunting gods, my poor performance, and overall bad luck.
But the ninety five percent of the time I spend hunting alone isn’t the only thing I love about deer hunting. Once rifle season starts my father, son, and a gaggle of drunk old Army buddies descend on my hunting cabin for two weeks of poker, scotch, and cigars. Oh, some of us do manage to get up in the morning and head out to the woods but that’s optional. This year we were pretty successful. My dad shot an eight point buck, number one son got a doe and passed up a number of small bucks and I managed to drop two nice big does and a beautiful eight point buck. All in all it was a great hunting season but with the temperature dropping to eighteen below zero Fahrenheit today I guess it’s time to hang up the bow for the year and spend some time with the wife, that and the fact that hunting season’s over.