This episode is from The Road To Denali series. Click here to read more
I’m Chris, the host of Between The Mountains and I’m going to climb Denali in May 2023.
Well, that kinds of feels like a white lie. There’s still training to be had, money to save, sponsorship to acquire… but we’ll get on to that. The main thing for me, is that my wording has changed.
The main thing for you, is you’re about to receive a whole lot of value! Find out how below.
“The gold is not going to be sitting at home. The gold isn’t going to be dreaming of far off places. The gold is going to be you putting your footprints on that snow”
For long enough I have kept talking about climbing Denali in hypotheses, in hopes, and in dreams. I’ve mentioned it in recordings with people like Jon Gupta and Renee Roaming, and outside of recordings like Ian Finch and Emily Scott (who’s interview comes out next week). Now, I’m saying I’m going to, and since then I have literally dreamt that I have. May 2023, my 30th birthday present from me to me, I will climb Denali.
Don’t want to read? Listen to this project announcement on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and all other platforms; just search “Between The Mountains” or Ask Alexa! (“Alexa, play Between The Mountains Adventure Podcast!”).
The Value To You
Now if you are a regular listener of the show, these episodes won’t be too different. The biggest difference to you, is the value. If you have any interest in
- Winter camping,
- Keeping warm,
- Kit lists,
- Training in the mountains,
- Training in the lowlands,
- Winter skills,
- Travelling across glaciers safely,
- Crevasse rescue,
- Avalanche safety,
- and more
then keep an eye on these episodes.
Our normal episodes are, I hope, some good entertainment, inspiration, and down-time for you. As we go along the journey for this series, we’ll be taking some deep dives into outdoor aspects and getting top advice and tips from experts in the field, free to your ears! As it’s a journey, I’m calling this project The Road To Denali and it will follow me from a beginner to mountaineering through expedition specific training to the summit of Denali. I’ll be doing an episode about once a month, and I’ll usually have a guest on.
We’ll be chatting with them about a particular aspect both directly and indirectly needed to climb Denali, and the main focus here for me is value to you! In many ways I can’t do this without all of you, the listeners, so that really is so important to me; the value you can get from each episode.
I want you to walk away from these episodes having felt like it was worth your time, have learned something for yourself, maybe have even been entertained along the way and I’m also hoping to work with brands that can give you that same value too!
You Must Know Why
I had one of those moments which so many of us have had. I’ve always known you have to work for what you want. I teach it to my daughter – who’s only 5 years old , bless her – and it was Samuel Goldwyn who said “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. One day, I just pieced together the two: No-one was going to come up to me and offer me an attempt on Denali, especially with my current skill set. I would have to change my mindset and gather my training for that.
I used to say “one day”, now I say “I will”.
But, let’s kick off with the first and foremost reason for heading in to the mountains:
- The Selfish Reasons
Aside from being a father, a Black Belt in Karate that feels like a lifetime ago, and maybe, you could even argue, my degree, I’ve never fully committed to completion on any of my true passions.
Since I was 11, so in the last nearly 17 years, I’ve had 16 jobs and although I have enjoyed many, and have strong motives for one now, not one of those has been close to my heart. I’ve had 2 or 3 hobbies including powerlifting and modifying cars, and not one of them has been close to my heart.
Travel, and further to that Adventure Travel, just sparks a fire inside me that has only continued to be doused in firelighter with time and through interviewing such incredible people nearly 100 times so far who have done so much more than I could hope to achieve.
Adventure is my passion, and I want to set out to achieve and complete a big goal and milestone, if anything just for myself.
So why is this such a huge thing? Well, where I’ve grown up no one does this sort of thing. With the prospects I have previously built for myself, and also with becoming a young father, this is a huge challenge to undertake. This project is a big deal because because of the undertaking: the mountain itself, the physical preparation, the safety… just the commitment to a huge mountain.
I don’t come from this background, and I will be starting from almost scratch, with Denali in mind, documenting every step of the way.
- Why Denali?
Well… why any mountain? As Mallory said: “because it’s there”. Aside from perhaps science or charity – which we’ll talk about later – there is no real reason to climb mountains.
But, for me, it represents so much. It is everything I want to push myself for, it is extreme. The prominence, the weather, the temperature, the snow, the ice. It has glaciers to cross and not-so-technical rope work to complete, maxxing out at 55 degrees on fixed lines. It ticks every box I look for in an adventure. Given its prominence, it would make for an incredible view should I be successful in reaching the top.
Let’s talk about the weather. It’s cold. As in, really cold. It’s just underneath the artic circle, 2400 miles farther north than Everest, and over 6km into the sky. Despite my cold hands and feet, I adore the cold. If not for the challenge and personal growth from being outside of your comfort zone, then for the fact it makes me feel more alive. Cold is a metaphor for pushing yourself out of a comfort zone and learning. Cold, just like the wind and storms, heightens my senses and makes me experience more of the moment.
Although Denali is literally 4.5 times larger than this, I climbed Ben Nevis (1345m) during the start of a storm. Not only did I enjoy the risk mitigation and preparation of gear, I felt at ease and in control while climbing in up to 93mph wind gusts and a wind chill of -18 Celsius. I even had a quick coffee from the flask at the top!
Denali is also covered in glaciers; something that may not be around forever. Always taking my fascination, I want to explore this type of travel more and get up close to them.
It’s also just how iconic the mountain is. It’s the tallest mountain on the North American continent, and has the highest prominence of any mountain. It rises from around 100m all the way to it’s highest point of 6190m where it scrapes the sky. In that respect it’s a bit like my love for Scottish mountains where you climb from almost sea level to the top. Although, let me be clear: Denali is so much more dangerous and not to be approached as one would approach the Highlands.
Yes, you get flown to just over 2000m on the Kahiltna Glacier to begin, but the mountain itself dominates the region and shows off it’s full height.
- The Selfless Reasons
For me, they are my daughter, helping others, charity, and – hopefully – science.
Firstly, I want to set an example for my daughter. No, she doesn’t have to climb mountains. She can do whatever she wants so long as she remains a good person. But, I want to show her what you can achieve if you put your mind to something with an actual physical and geographical representation of that. It’s important to be a role model and show your children how to live, not just tell them.
In documenting this, I also want to help others. I love adventure, but I am in no way an expedition leader. I’ve been so fortunate to have people around me I’ve been able to quiz for a few months now on what steps to take to reach Denali, aspects to prepare for etc. If I can document my journey here then perhaps it can help or motivate any of you out there who are also setting and smashing goals of your own. My goal with all of the episodes is to provide value for you. Information tailored to Denali, but that can be transferrable to your own adventures.
In September 2019, the fundraising I did for my skydive literally saved a life. All it took was a few social media posts and strapping myself to the front of a bloke as I fell out of a plane at 15,000ft to raise enough funds to give therapy and support to veterans. Little effort for huge results there, I mean, someone is literally alive today and with their family because I posted a funding link and people were kind enough to donate. That’s why I’ll be donating a portion of sponsorships to charity, alongside a separate fundraising page for everyone else to chip in as and when they can. I hope over the next 2 years that even some of you will spare even just £5 to help towards helping those in need.
Lastly on this bit, I really want to see if I can add a geographical or scientific purpose to this trip. I will be approaching universities and more to offer my services if possible on each section I do. Which takes us to our Denali Roadmap and sponsorship.
In future episodes we will be chatting with experts in the different areas I need to be accomplished in by the time I place my deposit for Denali, many of whom have climbed Denali themselves. Speaking on training, winter camping, the mountain itself and more. The roadmap is a coverall for gathering experience needed to attempt the High One.
Travel permitting, it sees me learn crevasse skills in Chamonix, and cross a glacier to the summit of Mount Kazbek in Georgia, which also serves as a test for altitude at over 5000m. I’ll be winter camping in Scotland, and Norway and learning the skills for survival in the cold, while pushing my training further out to Winter Mountaineering in Scotland and to Mount Baker and Rainier in Washington.
Alongside this, I also need to up my training. Especially in lockdown… let’s just say I’ve taken my foot off the pedal. Starting from a general and average fitness, I will train specific for this expedition with two huge focusses: crevasse rescue, and the ability to carry 35kg on my back, and pull a sled just as heavy for 6-8 hours a day, 21 days in a row, while also signing up to climbing gyms.
I Feel The Need… The Need For
I continue to build my list of prospects who I will approach soon, but I am also creating a public sponsorship page for anyone to access and share, plus a link to make a one-off contribution if you so wish, with some proceeds of course going to charity.
Finally, I just wanted to take a moment to thank those who have helped me so far. I’m choosing to embark on this myself, by myself, so the help I have had directly from Tim Taylor, Emily Scott, Alex Staniforth, Jenny Wordsworth and Will Copestake, is hugely grateful and has helped more than you can imagine. Indirectly, Bonita Norris and her story, Jon Gupta’s story, and Renee Hahnel’s book roaming America have all been huge influences and sources of motivation too. Thank you! Also, a very big thank you in advance to all the guest coming up. I will aim to do a Road To Denali episode once a month or so, and the next episode features a future guest on the show chatting more in depth on Denali itself.
So, thank you so much for listening. Through this series, I hope to learn and share so much and I am so excited to see you in the next episode.
I want to listen, now!
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Ian Finch talks about his experience with and passion for expeditions that explore culture and purpose. We also chat about the remote wild in the Scottish Highlands, paddling the Yukon River, and more