Prepping for Denali: 6 months to go

It’s still a long time before my expedition on Denali starts. But, doing nothing now simply is not an option. Read all about my current progress here: Prepping for Denali: 6 months to go.

Physical preparation

Winter is the hardest time for me to keep in shape. Nights are long, it often rains and temperatures are low. This currently forces me to mainly focus on core stability in my workouts. You can read all about my current training schedule here.

Focusing on core stability has a price; I cannot put the desired amount of time in endurance training. For know, I’m not to worried about that. When days get longer (and hopefully less cold), I will pick up cycling again.


It’s always fun to get new stuff for mountaineering. Because of this, I have been following the biggest outdoor shops in Europe to find the best prices available. My main guideline for buying equipment is the gear list of Alpine Ascents.

Remember, the Dutch Sinterklaas helped a lot!

 MSR Double-wall insulated mug MSR Double-wall insulated mug. This mug will let me enjoy a nice warm cup of tea on the glacier. It’s not that big, but is easy to grab. Even wearing gloves or mitts.
 Petzl Ascension Handle Petzl Ascension Handle. One of the hardest days on Denali I’ll be climbing Headwall. This is a 45 to 50 degrees climb. I will do this belayed using the ascender. I trust I will make it with this golden one!
Therm-a-rest Z-lite SOL Therm-a-rest Z-lite SOL. Apparently, sleeping on my Neoair X-lite will not keep me warm enough. Not even while I’m in my sleeping bag that goes down to -25. This extra layer of insulation will hopefully be enough to change that. It’s surprisingly light, but not that compact.

The expedition

Since last August I am sure I’m joining the expedition. But, not everything is settled directly. Last month I completed the Denali Climbing Registration, which is required to climb Denali. Now the main actions left are buying tickets for the flight and the final payment for the expedition.

Current training schedule

Below you can read all about my current training schedule, while prepping for Denali.

It’s been a while since I know I’ll be climbing Denali in 2017. Last October I had some good preparation by being able to successfully climb Mount Elbrus north face. This was an excellent opportunity to test my current physical condition and my gear.

However, not exercising for October till May 2017 is a perfect recipe for disaster. Alpine Ascents, the organization organizing the expedition to Denali, has some guidance on preparing for Denali. You can read all about it here.

Since I want to make sure my physical condition is the least of my problems on Denali and by ambition goes a little further, I am following a somewhat more intense program.

Here’s my current training schedule:

Monday: Run – Fitness – Run

20 minutes run to the gym. Once arrived, I do another 15-20 minutes run on a treadmill. After being completely warmed up, it’s time for some core-stability exercises. These take about 60 minutes. To end this training I take another 15-20 minutes run on a treadmill. Then change into some warmer clothes and run the 20 minutes back home.

Tuesday: Rest!

Rest is as important as exercising. Today there’s no training for me. Let my muscles relax and recover. But, at least as important; have a day to think about other things than sport. Read a book, find the best new equipment, etc.

Wednesday: Run – Fitness – Run

Current training schedule. With motivational T-Shirt!Again! Same program as Monday, but my running sessions on the treadmill are
more intense. This first session is with increasing speed (currently below 5 minutes per KM). The second is with increasing gradient (up to 12% with 5:30 minutes per KM).

Thursday: Indoor climbing

Meet friends and enjoy my weekly indoor climbing session. I currently climb about 6B (Dutch grade). Unfortunately, climbing only once a week is not enough to climb harder routes. Oh, and it’s a 30 minutes bike-ride to the climbing-gym!

Friday is always quietFriday: Fitness

Depending on my plans for the weekend I either run to the gym or take a 10 minutes bike ride. Fitness-schedule is the same as other (more on that later!)

Saturday/Sunday: Bike ride! (or run)

Depending on the weather, I take a +/- 3 hour bike ride. This is an excellent endurance workout. However, with the winter ahead, it might be hard to stay warm. I hate to be cold, so rides may be a little shorter as temperature drops.

Or I run.. Running is good, because it takes less time and it’s not so bad to run while it’s raining. I’m using a Runkeeper schedule for 20 KM below 2 hours. But.. that’s not enough. I think 20 KM below 1:45 is within my possibilities. That’s what I’m going for!

Stay tuned for more updates on my current training schedule! This is just a short overview . There’s a lot more involved. Think about food, time management, gear, etc!

Summit Mount Elbrus

Early October 2016 I was in the position to travel to the Russian Caucasus and attempt to summit Mount Elbrus north face. Read about my experiences below.

Mount Elbrus (5642m) is the highest summit of Europe and Russia.  This makes Mount Elbrus one of the 7-summits.

Getting there

It took me 10 days to summit Mount Elbrus, including necessary traveling. I decided to climb Mount Elbrus north face. This side of the mountain is less crowded, wilder but also more demanding than Elbrus south face.

I left Amsterdam Airport at 29th September at 00:15h. At Mineralyne Vody I met the rest of the group: 1 guide and 5 other climbers. The first days of the trip were used to acclimatize and to get used to the surroundings. We acclimatized the traditional way, during the day we climbed (part) of the mountain and left some stuff on High Camp. Then we descended to sleep in base camp. This way you can fully recover from your climb, but your body will start making the very necessary red blood cells. While acclimatizing, one climber decided to quit; his preparation was not good enough to continue.

Heading up to High Camp

Attempting to summit Mount Elbrus

Our attempt to summit Mount Elbrus started at Wednesday October 5th at 23:30h. We got out of bed to have breakfast (or diner?) and put the last things in our backpack. Around 01:00h everybody was ready to go, and finally we left. At 01:30h we arrived at the glacier. Time to put on our crampons and rope up. This starts the very long hike  to the summit. As expected, it’s completely dark but fortunately not very cold. I’m wearing three layers of clothing for my upper body and a Goretex hard-shell. My legs are covered with thermopants and wind-stopper pants. And, of course, I’m wearing gloves. I keep my head warm with a cap and there’s a headlight.

I always enjoy walking on the glacier. It’s calm, but you should never underestimate the possible danger. When I look around I am able to see the lights of the surrounding villages and towns. It’s indescribably beautiful.

At 4500m we take our first break. I took a thermos filled with tea, and drink some. The others eat some, but our break doesn’t last long. While standing still you get cold, fast! There’s no wind, which makes everything very quiet. I love this!

We leave for the next place to have a break, which is at around 5000m. At our arrival, daylight slowly appears, which gives us beautiful views. I’m starting to feel the altitude and the morning. This is the coldest moment of the day. There’s no wind, but it’s still cold. It’s probably far below 0 degrees Celsius, but I have no idea how far below. I’m taking another sip of tea and eat something. I’m thinking about getting some extra clothes, the cold is getting uncomfortable.

Again, our brake is short, therefor I decide not to change any clothes. Daylight has fully arrived, as did the wind. Some climbers of the group are having a hard time, while for me our pace is a little to low to really warm up. Besides this, we walk in the shadow of the mountain. This all makes the cold very uncomfortable.

At around 5200m two climbers are ready to give up theAs it's getting light, the views are magnificent! climb. They have had a hard week, and at this moment, lack physical strength to continue any further. As they go down, this leaves the three of us to continue the climb; two climbers and the guide. I use this unexpected break to put on extra clothes. I change my hard-shell for my down jacket. Because I got pretty cold, I also decide to put on a balaclava and ski goggles. This was a good decision, about 30 minutes later I warm again. I do notice my balaclava makes it hard to breath. This give me a headache, so little later I decide to put if off. That helps!

At this point, we clearly see Elbrus Summit. I feel very confident we will summit Mount Elbrus today. And I start to think about what will happen when we summit; I want to dance, scream, party! There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind.

At 5300m we reach the saddle. At this point you can choose between either the west of the east summit. The east summit is about 20 meters lower, and therefor not an option. My fellow climber and me don’t have any doubts; we will summit Mount Elbrus west at 5642m. I’m still feeling great, my headache is gone and I’m feeling strong. Of course I notice there less oxygen, but that’s what I expected. We start with the last 300m. It’s a pretty steep traverse which will end at a relatively flat area that leads to the actual summit.

A little while later my fellow climber stops walking and sits down. She talks to the guide, who’s first on the rope. I decide to walk towards her to help her up again. Just before I arrive, she’s already at her feet again. While doing so, I wonder what just happened. She appears to be in a different world? I don’t pay much attention to it and continue walking. The path is narrow, so focus is required.

I notice it’s getting harder to keep balanced while walking. I’m using my trekking poles, and fully lean on them while shifting my weight while walking. I wonder why for a sudden I’m so tired. My legs feel so heavy! But, summit is getting closer. I just have to keep walking and I’ll get there. We pass a descending group. I try to walk as normal as possible. I don’t want them to see how weird I walk!

20m below summit we leave our backpacks. The last piece is easy, not steep and a very wide path. I do take my trekking poles. Walking without them is really hard. I notice my fellow climber also has a hard time walking straight. I walk slowly, my legs feel so heavy and tired. But at last, we summit Mount Elbrus; the roof of Europe and Russia. At exactly 13:00H we are there!

Yes! Summit Mount Elbrus. But all I want to do is sit...At the summit, there’s only one thing I want to do; sit down. My legs feel so empty. The guide asks how I feel and I try to answer. While speaking I notice I can’t understand my own talking. I suddenly have 3 extra tongues in my mouth..Where did they come from?

Of course we need to take some summit pics. I decide this can also be done while sitting. After about 15 minutes we start our descent. Back at our backpacks I notice walking is getting easier. And, I left most of my extra tongues at the summit!

Returning from summit ElbrusWe take an different route for our descent. While getting lower, I feel I’m recovering. My strength is getting back. Of course I’m tired, but this is the kind of tiredness I’m used to. The only thing that remains is a bad headache. That doesn’t worry me, because that what I always have when I suffered badly.

At around 16:30h we are back at High Camp. I’m exhausted! After a cup of soup some of my strength is already coming back. I go to sleep at 21:30h after a very nice diner and some champagne. Very happy, but tired.

The numbers:

High Camp is at around 3800m. Elbrus summit is at 5642m. This results in a ascent of about 1900m to get to the summit. And 1900m ascending leaves another 1900m to descend. But, this day is not only vertical. We need to cover some distance; 23km in total. This all took us about 14 hours.