5th July 2011 // Hi All
In Talkteena after returning from base camp last night. Talkteena is about 3-4 hours away from Anchorage and we are getting shuttles to Anchorage tonight before flying out from Anchorage tomorrow.
We flew off the glacier yesterday in a single otter plane. It was an amazing flight. After 3 days in base camp seeing the plane fly towards us on the glacier was just dreamy!
We had got to the point at base camp where we had run out of happy food and was on to the stuff we really didn’t want to eat!
It hadn’t stopped snowing for 2-3 days, more a less a total white out and I really didn’t think we were going to get off the glacier but luckily at one point yesterday the clouds cleared and blue skies appeared like on the Simpsons and we had a radio message to say the plane would be coming in. The runway was too sticky at first making things difficult for the plane to take off so all the teams on the glacier, that’s about 20-30 people from different teams had to stomp the runway, in other words walk on the runway lots to improve it.
Luckily we were on the first flight out and were picked up around 6pm. Everyone managed to get off the glacier too as we saw the other teams in town last night.
My toe is flat out grosse! it looks disgusting. It still looks like a toe thankfully, but maybe a little smaller. Bits of flesh from the side and the bottom have fallen off and I have lost my nail. After summiting and the descent, which was around 2 days I took off my sock after the descent and couldn’t actually find my nail and it had worked it’s way underneath my toe, it took a while to find it! The overall condition of it though is really good despite it looking grosse. I am really pleased it hasn’t re frozen on Denali and I hope I will keep most of the toe. I might lose the tip but hopefully I will get to keep most if it, will have to wait and see. It’s really painful but from a toe point of view Denali couldn’t have gone any better, everything has fallen off as planned and I was really careful about keeping it dry and clean.
This will probably be my last update from Alaska. Got some phone ins to do with the press late tonight early morning tomorrow your time. Gotta go now as time to make our way to Anchorage. Thanks for all your messages on Twitter and Facebook and please if you can donate anything to help me keep on pushing that figure up for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
3rd July 2011 // Sorry it’s been a few days since calling in. Matt and I have been collapsing in to our tents every night at the end of the days since summiting, we’ve been shattered and other than down climbing just been sleeping loads. Summit day was a tough 15 and a half hour day. We had awesome weather on the summit though with amazing views and I even had just my primaloft jacket on the weather was so good.
After summiting we got back to 17,000ft camp and spent the best part of the next 20 hours asleep. After that the weather turned so we got a move on descending at a really good pace climbing from 17,000ft camp to 7,500ft camp picking up our cached gear at 14,000ft which was pretty heavy. It was 11 painful hours of down climbing with my toe and in a complete white out. We had about 3 hours sleep at 7,500ft camp before descending to base camp where we arrived yesterday morning.
There were quite a few teams moving though the glacier at the bottom of the mountain, it was reassuring having plenty of people around us. They led the way through 5-6 hours of the glacier which were really nerve wracking as every step I was reliving that fall. Quite a few people in other teams also had falls.
We were so relieved to get back in to base camp that we necked a whole bottle of whisky! We have also renamed the hill just as you get in to base camp. It’s called “Heartbreak Hill” but Parksy and I have renamed it “The never ending thank f*** we are alive Hill!!”
We were due to fly out from base camp yesterday but due to weather conditions the flight was cancelled. It’s snowing pretty heavily here and the weather is not great so it looks like we will be stuck here for a few days.
30th June 2011 // Rich Summits Denali!
Richard Parks summited North America’s highest mountain – Denali, also known as Mount McKinley today at 8.08am UK time and 11.08pm, Wednesday 29th June 2011 Alaskan/local time.
He has now completed an amazing 8 legs of his world first 737 Challenge and has just one more mountain to conquer to make history as the first ever person to climb the continental summits and stand on the North and South Poles in the same calendar year.
Richard summited Denali alongside climbing partner Matt Parkes (known as the other Parksy) after a gruelling 10 and a half hour summit climb.
28th June 2011 // Update for yesterday. Forecast still bad but we climbed to 16,200ft to top of the headwall to cache a load to be ready to move to 17,000ft camp and summit when we get a break in the weather. We climbed today in moderate conditions, low visibility and gusts. It was important for us to continue pushing when conditions allow. Now we will wait a lot. We have seen some teams coming down from 17,000ft camp battered by conditions without summiting. Patience and timing is everything.
Click below to read about my first week on Denali and to listen to all the interviews on my first week.
27th June 2011 // Update for yesterday (I am 9 hours behind):
Noodle curry tonight! More digging our tent out today. It was an enforced rest day as conditions are still bad. We woke with 2 and a half metres of snow and 50mph wind gusts. At 17,000 ft camp its 70mph gusts and a metre. Weather forecast has changed from yesterday, now suggests low-pressure system will last longer. The weather this afternoon was clear, it’s so unpredictable! We will cache a load at around 16,000 ft tomorrow so were are ready to take advantage of weather window to summit. We are preparing for a long wait. Patience and holding our nerve is important. We are both well and the cook off continues with Matt’s beef. The toe is kind of falling apart, all dead tissue and nail falling off as expected. Painful but in good condition.
26th June 2011 // Update for yesterday as you’ll be reading this on the 26th.
We woke to a snowstorm. Tent buried in 2ft tent of snow and gusts up to 46mph. Forecasts suggest that the low-pressure system will stay for 4/5days! Looks like we are going to have to sit it out. We are in the best place on mountain to wait, we are acclimatising and poised. We are one camp away from the summit when the storm clears.
We’ve spent the day digging tent out. Resting in tent and had lunch with Vern Tejas, who became the first climber to complete a solo winter ascent of Denali in 1988 and survive!
He made us soup, top guy! The toe is starting to look pretty gross now but I’m looking after it well and loving my gucci lorpen socks from the mountain boot company (one of my sponsors who provide me with my Scarpa and Grivel gear). Matt and I are having daily cook offs! It’s neck and neck with my chicken pesto pasta and Matt’s chilli bean fajita!
25th June 2011 // We climbed to 14,000ft camp picking up cached gear en route. A tough day carrying full loads, over 1000m. Up to 4300m. Although tired after today, we are feeling strong and making great progress having reached 14,000ft camp in 4 days. Tomorrow (today by the time you read this – we are 9 hours behind) is a rest day to allow our bodies to acclimatise. A spooky thing happened today, dropping our first full cmc poo bag into a marked crevasse so big we never heard it hit the bottom! We also built snow walls and pitched a bomber tent to protect us from wind as we will be here for a few days now.
23rd June 2011 // Another 12 hour sleep after being pretty tired. We load carried today to 13,500ft to cache. Heavy pack but great to ditch the sled for the day! Conditions were perfect and route good, smiles all round! Toe in good shape although dead flesh and nail starting to fall off and painful but all good. I am introducing Matt to the top 5 game!
22nd June 2011 // Left at 1.50am to climb 7 hours with full loads, no cache. Arrived at 11,000ft camp at 8.50am. It’s at 10,990ft – they work in feet over here rather than metres.
Conditions much better today, much colder making the route more stable. Although we did have to cross a few monster crevasses early in the day. Today was physically tough climbing over 1000m with full loads but the better conditions were a much needed boost to our spirits after our epic first day!
We’ve spent the last 3 hours building snow walls, melting snow so we are bombproof for the bad weather forecasted tomorrow. In my bag so tired, we’re off 2 sleep.
FACT: Cache is load depositing at a camp in order to split carrying all your gear at once.
22nd June 2011 // On Monday Richard fell down on a crevasse on Denali. He is okay and we will have more news and an exclusive interview with him as soon as we can speak to him at length on the satellite phone.
Richard and Matt were travelling on a well trodden route crossing a crevasse on the Alaskan mountain some way between base camp and 11,000 ft camp. Richard fell through the crossing up to his waist. On trying to free himself he fell in to the crevasse landing on his back. He was in a cavern with a depth of 7 metres. The rope cut back through the snow so he could not climb out. Normally you would cut the roof away in these circumstances and pulley out but it was too dangerous for Matt, Richard's climbing partner to do this. A very difficult situation to get out of.
Luckily another rope team came along and were able to help get Richard out. Richard was very wet but initial reports is that he is fine. Rich and Matt climbed on around another 7 hours to camp, a very long day and have since had a rest day. More news to follow once the team speak with Richard directly.
737 Challenge Team.
19th June 2011 // It took me and Matt about 4 hours to travel from Anchorage to Talkeetna yesterday morning. After checking in with the park rangers and having our briefing we had to pack and sort our food and gear out. It took us all day to repack the food originally for 3 down to 2. Both Matt and I were being slightly OCD, it almost broke us! But we cracked it and dropped about 55lbs! Awesome! Our loads are both bang on 125lbs each, 80ish in the sled and 45 on our backs! It's going to be an interesting few weeks! Both of us can't wait to get started now! It was snowing this morning on the mountain, which delayed our flight, but we've got the green light now!
18th June 2011 // Matt and I travelled for 24hrs yesterday and still ended up in the same day, it was like a sci-fi movie! It's 24-hour sunlight here too, which further confused our bodies as I was thinking it's morning but it was like 11 at night! Transferring flights in Minneapolis I remembered that Matt's the fastest walker ever - in the end I had to walk on the conveyor and Matt off it so we could walk and talk! Ha! It's great to be back in the game so to speak although I'm apprehensive about how things will turn out. I'd like to thank everyone who's helped me do that; specialists, consultants, podiatrist, chiropodist, everyone at the South Wales MS Therapy Centre at the hyperbaric chamber, friends, family, 737 Challenge team, sponsors and all the amazing messages of support from everyone following the challenge. We're all part of the journey. Rich x
14th June 2011 // Had a great time at Kev’s wedding on Saturday, was nice to see everyone. Sunday I slept most of the day and yesterday I had 2 hyperbaric chamber sessions. Also had lots of filming to do with our filming partner for the BBC Documentary. As my toe gets better, the pain gets worse! Yesterday it was painful, so painful I couldn't face dinner and just went to bed! More appointments today, met with the doc, then saw our Events manager Gemma, then picked Ben up my dog from his operation and now I'm heading back to bed with a headache until 7.30pm when I have a phone in with GTFM.
11th June 2011 // Hi Guys. I’ve have been in the hyperbaric chamber at the South Wales MS Therapy Centre twice a day apart from yesterday. Lazarus the toe still looks pretty gross but it’s improving every day with the help of the hyperbaric chamber and regular treatment with the consultants and I have also been adopting plenty of homeopathic treatments too.
I am feeling really positive about it but the realism is that it’s obvious it won’t be anywhere near healed by the time I would need to leave for Denali. With that in mind I’ve been in dialogue with Ace Feet in Motion (who already provide my orthotics) and Scarpa (my awesome boot sponsor) with coming up with a system to protect my toe should I continue with the challenge. I am continuing to do everything I can but I know I have some difficult decisions to make next week.
On a different note in between treatment and sleeping, I have managed to catch up with a few of my friends, which has been fantastic. We also took Ben (my dog) back to the vet – the screws they put in his leg are causing some irritation so he is going to have them out next week, we now have matching bad legs which is pretty cool!
Since I have come back I have put on 6kg, I am now 90kg – 14 Stone 2.4lb. It’s pretty bizarre but I am off to a wedding today! I am really looking forward to Kev’s wedding (my mate and training guru Kevin Morgan) and it will be great to catch up with a lot of guys that I haven’t seen in a while there. I am gonna pay my condolences to Kev, another good man bites the dust! Ha!
Beard update – ridiculously long - now people have started bidding for me to shave off my beard, I am growing quite attached to it! You can bid if you fancy it, proceeds raising funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care, details on our facebook page.
7th June 2011 // I headed up to Sheffield today with Russ and Dai from SMS Media, our filming partner to meet with Simon Lowe and all the team at Jagged Globe, our logistical partner. It was so cool seeing Simon again and all the Jagged Globe team. I hadn't seen some of them since before I started the challenge, especially Stephanie in the office who's been on the other end of the phone from Antarctica to West Papua re-arranging flights out for me! I was surprised when Alan Hinkes dropped in, the first and only Brit to climb all 14 8000m mountains, it was awesome to meet him and have a chat about things. I really appreciated his advice, a really top guy. The best bit was that he forgot his sandwich in Simon’s car and I'm happily tucking into it right now on the train home!!! Cheers Al!
Simon, Matt and myself had a really productive meeting about Denali. We were all on the same page with potential timings and dates, but agreed it is wise to monitor my toe and stay flexible and open-minded. Matt's been awesome and almost finished planning the group gear, which we will split next week. It was really exciting seeing everything laid out and ready to pack! I love packing for expeditions and Matt (whose surname is Parkes so I call him the other Parksy!) is just as OCD as me! We still can't guarantee I'll be able to climb yet, my toe is a long way off and I have to still process the risks, but I feel much more positive now. I'm so grateful to Simon and all the Jagged Globe team, working with them I have the best chance, but more importantly the safest chance too. Just 4 hours on a train to look forward to..and I'm back in the hyperbaric chamber at 8am tomorrow morning!
6th June 2011 // I should have flown to the Alaska today! Although frustrating, I've cleared my head of feeling sorry for myself and all the mental clutter from the last week. I'm looking forward now and focusing on what I can control. I had my second session in the hyperbaric chamber today at the South Wales Multiple Sclerosis therapy centre. It’s too early to see the benefits in the toe, but I feel better for it. Everyone at the centre in Swansea has been awesome, coming in early this week so I can fit 2 sessions a day in from Wednesday.
I'm still light but am slowly putting weight on from the 83kg I was last week, never the less I still look like a 10 year old boy wearing his Dad's clothes! So I decided to buy a new suit for Kevin's wedding (Kevin Morgan, former Wales fullback and good friend and also my training guru for my challenge) this Saturday. It's bizarre after wearing the same climbing gear for the last 6 months! Well technically I did wear a suit on Everest, my Rab down suit! I’m looking forward to seeing the team at Jagged Globe tomorrow in Sheffield, hopefully we will be able to at least pencil in plans for Denali. Will let you know how tomorrow goes. Thanks for all your messages of support on Facebook and Twitter.
4th June 2011 // Since I returned home on Tuesday my feet haven't touched the floor! I'm so grateful to the various specialists and consultants who have been amazing in seeing me at such short notice this week and are helping me have the best chance of getting onto Denali. Everyday I've been either for treatment, dressing change or a consultation. It had to be like that, but I'm looking forward to having a chilled week next week. The feedback is positive under normal circumstances, but it's the recovery time, or lack of it, that's the issue. It’s been such a whirlwind that I haven't had time to process everything and clear my head yet. I don't even feel like I've processed the summit yet!!
Lazarus my toe is much the same really, the dead tissue is drying nicely and although looks pretty gross is in good shape. It is aching and throbbing at times which is really positive as it's a sign of blood flow and nerve regeneration. I'm aware though that it's a very slow process.
It's been awesome seeing my dog Ben, we’ve got matching bad feet now! And obviously it's been great to see my folks, the challenge team and some of my mates. The support is a little overwhelming to be honest, humbling in fact. I'm very proud of what we are trying to achieve and I love that I'm able to share my journey with everyone following me. I am looking forward to watching Wales take on the Baa-Baas today, the WRU have been awesome since day one supporting the challenge. My beard is doing my head in! On expedition shaving is the last of my thoughts, and I've appreciated a little facial protection, but now I'm home it's just annoying! It's gonna go soon!!