Not satisfied with the extreme cold, mild frostbite and storms they experienced on Mount Aconcagua in 2020, the “Three Amigos” from Zebra (as they’re affectionately known) are at it again. This time, they will journey to the northern reaches of Alaska to scale Denali, the highest mountain in North America.
This imposing mountain, formerly known as Mount McKinley, stands at over 20,000 feet above sea level and requires high levels of fitness as well as technical snow and ice climbing experience. The summit of Mount Denali is permanently covered in snow, and some of the glaciers are more than 30 miles long. The longest glacier on the mountain is Kahiltna glacier, which is 44 miles long. No one can summit Denali without walking along this glacier and trying to avoid its many crevasses.
Denali is cold, too. We’re talking temperatures that would put the most extreme winter storms to shame: a real temp as low as negative 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a “real feel” as low as negative 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Calling that a “wind chill” almost feels wrong.
So, as The Three Amigos begin their preparations, we had to ask them the obvious question… “why?!”
Why not just take the “W” from the last climb (and the three before that) and use paid vacation time for an actual vacation? This is what they had to say…
Your Edge Blog Team: We won’t name names, but after returning home from Mount Aconcagua in 2020, some of you said – and we quote – “I will NEVER do anything like this again.” And here we are! What made you decide to do something so extreme once again?
Mark: I guess the flippant answer would be – to let the beard grow and not have to wash for three weeks. Plus, the theme for Zebra’s 2022 sales kickoff was “Go Beyond,” so we’re just following through on that guidance! But to be serious, I guess I am driven and motivated by goals. Goals that inspire and challenge me. Denali has always been a name that sends tingles down my spine and having climbed most of the Seven Summits so far, it is a natural progression to make that the next goal.
Simon: Someone told you I said that? I would never [he says laughing]. Okay, I’ll admit that Mount Aconcagua was tough. We were very honest about that in our postings during the trip. But I always like to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and what better way to do that than to scale the highest peak in North America?! Plus, I want to achieve another one of the “Seven Summits” and who better to do it with than Mark and Jason? At least I know what to expect when I’m with them, for better or worse.
Jason: The Three Amigos have been on the Seven Summit journey for some years now. It has always been an ambition for us all to climb the seven highest mountains on the seven continents and this brings us one step closer to fulfilling that dream. After Denali, that will be five down and two to go. It does help doing it with colleagues with common goals and interests, and you know these guys have your back on the mountain when you are in peril or just not feeling well due to altitude sickness. If we can take Zippy to the highest point in North America, it will be a great adventure though!
Your Edge Blog: Does that mean you plan to go all the way with the Seven Summits? (And remember you’re on the record.)
Jason: 100% yes.
Simon: But ask us again after we return from Denali.
Your Edge Blog Team: It’s reported that the success rate for summiting Denali is about 60%, and many say it is one of the most challenging mountains to climb because of its location beyond the 63-degree latitude. It has the lowest barometric pressure compared to other tall mountains around the world, among some of the most extreme temperatures and terrain. So, maybe this is a silly question, but what are your main concerns?
Jason: Simon and Mark snoring…it could bring on an avalanche!
Simon: Haha! I wish Mark’s snoring was the worst thing we had to worry about. But, unfortunately, it’s the extreme cold, pack weights and crevasses that are more likely to keep me and the others up at night. You have to remember we’re talking about conquering “The Great One.” If you have ever heard the Athabaskan legend about its origins, or read stories from others who have scaled Denali, you know this is a mountain that demands respect.
Mark: Though we joke about the snoring, you would be surprised at how things that seem irrelevant in our daily lives matter so much up on that mountain. For me, there is always the fear of failure. No matter how many people tell you, “You can do it,” or “It’s the journey that counts,” I still have the worry of letting someone – or myself – down. But I guess that also drives me to go on too! I also have a growing fear of heights that seems to increase as I get older, so there is that fear of standing on a ridge and not being able to take the next steps. I expect I will simply follow the boots in front of me and take one step at a time.
Your Edge Blog Team: You’re afraid of heights, yet climbing the highest peak in North America?
Mark: I am. I imagine myself falling whenever I am near an edge…you would never believe I have over 1500 skydives under my belt! I think it’s a case of “feel the fear and do it anyway” mentality. The satisfaction of facing the fear and moving through it brings an even higher sense of achievement which draws me back time and time again.
Your Edge Blog Team: We would imagine your training plan is pretty intense. How do you physically and mentally prepare?
Mark: Probably not intense enough! I’ll look to shed a few pounds in the next few months, as I am carrying a Christmas bulge! But I keep generally fit by going to the gym three times a week and cycling around 100 miles a week. I plan to get more focused on climb-specific fitness as we get closer to the trip, and Simon and I are booked on an expedition training course in the peak district in March, specializing in rope skills and crevasse rescue. Of course, Jason is a pro, so he doesn’t need to join.
Jason: True. But let’s be honest…there’s no training for the altitude, unfortunately. We know we are all going to suffer. The only thing we can do is suffer a little less by making sure that we are physically and mentally fit. Mentally, I prepare by selling Zebra Intelligent Edge Solutions every day, so, I am well versed in how to handle the highs and lows [he half jokes]. Physically, I am doing more running at the moment. I finished December with 80 miles logged, and in January I should break the 100-mile barrier. After that, with four months left until we depart, I’ll focus on running and hiking with ever increasing loads in the backpack.
Simon: Though I’m doing a combination of aerobic and strength work, I am a bit more grounded in my training than Mark and Jason in the sense that I’m already doing lots of hill walking with increasing pack weight to mirror the weights carried on the expedition. I’m currently at a 25kg pack and hill walking for 6 hours a week. But we should be clear: this is no walk in the park. We will go beyond what we have done before in terms of physical and mental extremes. But we will work as a team, as Zebras do, and our herd mentality will help us through.
Show Your Support!
The Three Amigos are going to need our support during their forthcoming expedition. But, until then, they’re asking for us to help them support the Red Cross. They have setup a JustGiving page here about their goals and expectations for Denali. If you would like to donate in support of their cause, we know they would greatly appreciate it.
And, like the last time (see below), Mark, Jason and Simon will do their best to keep us updated on their expedition progress. It may be a little harder to share near-real time updates once they start their ascent of Denali, as they will be reliant exclusively on satellite comms. But if you’re like us, you’re going to be on the edge of your seat (and checking out the Your Edge blog several times a day) awaiting updates. So, we’ve made it a little easier for you to stay in the loop. Subscribe to regular email updates here.
Want to read about their Mount Aconcagua adventure? Check out these journal entries…