Denali 2018.. Let’s do it!

Great news! The Denali 2018 expedition is on!

After my failed attempt to summit Denali in May 2017, I will have another try in 2018.

I still remember my last time when I realized I would not summit Denali. My preparation was good, I was in such a great shape. I already knew back then my Denali story wasn’t finished yet. I did a lot of thinking on what happened. This started during my hike in Iceland, but it really hit me when I got back home. After settling with what happened, it felt very natural to start preparing for my next attempt. I picked up training and got in touch with some really interesting guys. This all led me to this big announcement; the 2018 Denali Expedition is on! But with some changes…

What a day!

Changes for Denali 2018

Small team

The first huge change is that my team will be smaller, just as small as it can get. The team will be just 2 climbers, Rob and me. When I was on Denali last time, I knew there was a Dutch team as well. I briefly met one of them and was able to contact Rob back in the Netherlands. It turns out he’s a great guy, and very capable of climbing Denali. So the team will be just the 2 of us!

No guide

Second change is that we will go unguided. This time we will have to do everything by ourselves. Since we both have been there, this looks like a small step, but it’s not. During a guided expedition, a lot of decisions are made without the clients knowing about them. Think about the route, where to camp, the weather etc. I think I can pretty much say that in a guided expedition, you are pretty sure you will not get into any real (life threatening) danger. And if you happen to crash into a crevasse,  you are pretty sure you will get out alive and kicking. So our responsibilities are much larger, and we will have to do everything ourselves, which will make the expedition a little heavier overall, both mentally and physically.

Go early

Yet another change: we will go earlier in the season. We plan to step on the Kahiltna glacier 1st May. While this was mostly a decision we had to take on availability of Rob, it does have a great benefit; the lower Kahiltna glacier will be colder and more stable, limiting the risk of falling into a crevasse. Plus the weather will probably be more stable hopefully with lots of sun and steady weather. To be honest, I still expect some bad weather, but we need to stay positive!

There is a downside of this though; it will be colder and there might be some black ice in the higher parts of Denali, increasing the risk of sliding. Then again, another benefit (or not) is that it will be a lot less crowded, increasing the overall adventure feeling, but also increasing the risk of having to break trail.

As you see, there are good things and bad things about going early. Overall the most successful period on Denali is end May, early June. It’s the most crowded period and thus the period with most successful summit attempts (thus some self fulfilling prophecy?). And I was there in 2017, without much luck!

Returning for Denali 2018

And now.. prepare more!

I am already slowly increasing my training load. Right now I am running 5 times a week on a 20K schedule, and I go boot camping once a week. I will probably add another strength/core stability exercise pretty soon. Overall, I think right now i am stronger than last year around this time.

But there is more. We need to arrange flights, food, buy extra gear, make important decisions, etc. More than enough needs to be done, read all about that in the upcoming Denali 2018 series!

Don’t be sponsored, influence!

 

Trying to find sponsors for your sport, dream or challenge? Not easy! After all, who wants to pay for your dream, which happens to be on some high, remote, extremely cold mountain?

Well, to be honest? I think lots of organizations do, but it’s not easy. And before I raise any expectation, I haven’t found one yet either. But, I did look into the subject and have tried one or two things. So I do think I

have some experience.

Before getting to the point, let’s have a short look at how most mountaineers get sponsors.

Two traditional options

Black desert on Iceland

Most mountaineers focus on good, and of course bad, things they l

earn from mountaineering. They translate their experiences towards everyday situations and use this to bring some important message to their sponsors. Most of you know this as a motivational speech. Add some impressive climbing photo’s and all elements of a great presentation are there.

To sell this well, you need to be a good speaker. And it really helps if something really bad happens during the climb. Lose a limb or two or barely survive. The more goes wrong, the better the story, the more people love to listen to it!

Your second option is to commit to a charity.  For me, the  most successful example of this is Alan Arnette. He committed himself to raising money for research on Alzheimer’s disease. His link to the disease is strong since his mom died of it. So Committing to a charity requires a strong belief in the goal the charity organization is aiming at. You can connect your name to the organization, and will (hopefully) be able to raise money and find a way to get enough funds for your personal goals.

Don’t be sponsored, influence!

Social media offers some great features, and I probably don’t have to tell you social media is huge. Anyone can tell anything about whatever you want. And if you do it the right way, people start listening and your opinion gets valued more and more. After all, you, as a mountaineer know best what the right stuff to use for mountaineering.

This is where Endrse.com comes to play. The people of Endrse offer an excellent platform  to bring together skilled people and organizations that need your network and opinion. They are constantly looking for organizations that benefit from good reviews on gear, clothes, support, etc. All you need to do is tell what you think about their product to as many people as possible. And the easiest way to do that is… social media!

So make sure as many people as possible like, follow or read everything you publish on social media. Register at Endrse.com and chances are they will help you to get in touch with the right organizations!

Garmin Fenix 5x

Back to training! Currently I am busy working out a plan for 2018. Chances are I’ll return to Denali. But this time with a private team. No guides, no help, just the team. More on that later!

But while this is still work in progress, my training preparations have already begun. To get back in shape I roughly follow the same schedule as last year. One big change is the hardware around my wrist; a Garmin Fenix 5x (See Gamins page for full info on the watch). I wear this excellent watch daily, and I just love Garmin Fenix 5Xit. I love it so much, I want to tell you about it!

Since I do a pretty wide variety of sports, I will share my experienceswhile mountaineering, trekking and training (cycling and running). No matter how you use the Garmin Fenix 5x, the watch is comfortable. No further discussion on this!

Mountaineering

For mountaineering, I basically need two things; current time and change in altitude since I started climbing.

Knowing the current altitude can help you navigate. But, at the same time, your barometer can also tell you something about the current weather.  Upcoming bad weather (thunder for example) might be coming if the current altitude on your watch changes dramatically in a short period of time.

The Garmin Fenix 5x has a barometric pressure sensor. This, in combination with GPS, should be enough to get accurate altitude information. However, having two altitude sensors doesn’t mean the Garmin Fenix 5x always displays the correct current altitude. At the moment of writing (this article took rather long to finish 🙂 ), I’m sitting in the Wangenitzseehütte in Austria. The sign on the hut tells me the current altitude is 2505m, but my Garmin Fenix 5x displays only 2461m. As you probably know, GPS is getting less accurate the higher you get, so despite having GPS, it’s still necessary to keep  calibrating your devices and known altitudes. No problem, just remember this.

The other important thing works flawlessly; time. But that is very much expected from a watch. One thing that is very convenient is that it automatically changing time zones while traveling. This is done by syncing time to your phone.

While mountaineering, I usually use GPS in UltraTrac mode. The mode limits GPS accuracy, but improves battery lifetime. So far, this has mostly resulted is some strange routes and distances on Strava. But I am very happy with the battery life of my Garmin Fenix 5x. It easily lasts a long day of climbing.

Garmin Fenix 5x

Training

This is where the Garmin Fenix 5x truly shows its abilities. Like most Garmin devices, the Fenix is able to sync your training data with Garmin Connect. Here, you see tons of data about your training sessions and how effective they are. One nice feature of the Fenix is that it is able to display how effective your current training is, if you training load is manageable, and what your current VO2 max is.

Garmin has tons of training schedules programmed into Garmin Connect. While using such a program, the Garmin Fenix 5x nicely displays useful information at the right time. For running; your current heart rate, training zone, current pace and time left. And after about 5 minutes it displays how you are performing given your current VO2  max.

All Fenix watches have a built in heart rate monitor. Don’t be fooled by this though! For good accuracy during your workout, a chest strap is still necessary. I have found the internal heart rate monitor is inaccurate and too slow the be able to train effectively with.

Is it completely useless? No, it’s not. The Fenix will monitor you heart rate 24/7, giving you some nice insight about, for example, you heart rate at rest and your daily activities. And for low intensity activities, like walking, the internal heart rate monitor is sufficient.

Trekking

Yes, navigation time! This is the reason why I chose for the Fenix 5x instead of the Fenix 5(s). The Garmin Fenix 5x is the only watch in the series equipped with maps, and thus navigation option. I am really surprised by the amount of detail of the maps and ease of the maps. During my last trek in Iceland, I noticed the Laugavegur is on the maps by default; one very nice feature that helped me a couple of times to get back on track. GPS on the device is accurate.Navigating with the Garmin Fenix 5x

On bad thing though is that it’s not easy to copy a GPX-file from the PC or Smartphone to the devices. To copy a GPX-file, you have to attach the Fenix to you PC and then copy it. However, the Fenix has Bluetooth so why not use that? As far as I know there currently is no way to add a route using you smartphone.

It has a lot of nifty features besides just navigating, but I haven’t used, of even found, them yet.

Conclusion

It’s hard to describe all the features of this extensive watch without writing a complete book. There are tons of features, I am still discovering more and more, and I am not even using all of them (Strava Live Segments, for example).

Speaking for myself, I am very impressed with the watch. Sure, it has some flaws (connectivity with your phone, for example), but they are very acceptable.

Is it really worth the money? That is an answer you have to answer yourself. I wouldn’t want any other watch (at the moment 🙂 ).

For a complete review, including all features, review of the Garmin Fenix 5x, have a look at the excellent site of DC Rainmaker.

I would like the thank Juwelier De eenhoorn for helping me getting the Garmin Fenix 5x just before my trip to Denali.