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    christoph benells


    Like many folks I visited the forum rarely over the last year. I apologize.

    After seeing a hard vs. soft debate pop up it’s clear that will live again!


    The Alaska Range was great this past season. There was a large splitboard presence at basecamp and several lofty goals were reached. I would like to congratulate Ryan Irvin and Zak Mills on their descent off Mt. Francis’ Southeast face, Zach Clanton for his ascent of Bacon & Eggs, and Reese Doyle for solo birthday descent off the Cat’s Ears on Mt. Hunter.

    I was able to climb Denali by the West Buttress and snowboard back down the route. I had good snow off the summit ridge, and through the lower angle glacier from 19,000 to 18,000 feet. The headwall above the “autobahn” was soft but had lots of wind deposits that you had to dodge and dictated where you could turn.

    Here are some photos and captions.

    None of these photos were taken by me. All photos were taken by @ryanirvinphoto, @zachclanton or Rusty and Celine.

    Ryan Irvin had flown out earlier to help with basecamp for Sheldon Air Service, Zak Mills and Zach Clanton had flown in from a week or so on the glacier near Haines, and Reese and Emily came from their home at Thompson Pass. I flew in to the glacier a couple weeks after.

    Sheldon Air Service is a great family business and deserves your money.

    Original Sheldon plane-


    Ryan spent something like 7 weeks on the Kahiltna Glacier this summer.

    Congratulatory descents and climbs,

    Zak Mills’ and Ryan Irvin’s line on Mt. Frances. Steep and big, we went a bit up this last year but found conditions not good for riding. Awesome they rode it this year.


    Zach Clanton’s ascent of Bacon and Eggs, a basecamp ultra-classic with around 12 pitches of hard alpine ice and awesome granite walls.


    Reese Doyle’s solo birthday descent off of Mt. Hunter’s west ridge,

    Ryan Irvin and I started up Denali about a week later, with too much food, clothing, crap, and everything else. Clanton saw us off the right way down at the bottom of heartbreak hill. Later that day we ran into the rest of our group who left earlier for a day trip up to 12,000 feet.

    It went pretty routine and easy getting up to 14k camp, some highlights were;

    Riding down ski hill between caches
    2 days in a storm at 11,200
    Cache day at squirrel hill in 60 mph winds.
    Endless amounts of gaper climbers who shouldn’t be up there.

    Once at 14k camp we took several days of ski runs, stormy rest days, and acclimatization hikes.






    On summit day Ryan unfortunately got altitude sickness at 18k. He had to turn around but got down safe, and snowboarded the rescue gully during his descent. He did not recover until the next day when we descended to 11,000 feet.

    Summit day for me was a long one, about 15 or so hours start to finish. I took a long break at 17k on the way down and enjoyed the sunlight and some water.

    We left 14k around 5:30 with a large group of new friends, the Outward bound guys from CO, Jeff and Alex (alex also snowboarded from the summit that day) from MA, and Rusty and Celine from AK.

    On the summit with Rusty and Celine;

    About to ride from ~21,000 feet on the summit ridge

    The next day Ryan was still not feeling better at 14k, so we had to make a quick escape down the mountain. We gave away 1/2 a gallon of whiskey that proved to be a great mistake.

    Once down the hill he felt much better. I really figured out snowboarding with a 80lbs sled and there was great corn snow. I would ride either using “the dog on a tight leash” or the “wakeboard” method to handle the sled.

    The “wakeboard” method you tie rope to the back of your sled and hold onto it like a handle. The sled goes first down the mountain and it pulls you behind. Just like in wakeboarding you don’t want to get slack in the rope.

    The “dog on the tight leash you ride with the sled right on you toe edge, with rope at the front. Hold rope with about 1-2 feet space to the sled., and direct it where to go.

    On the final slog out;

    Once back at basecamp we kicked around ideas for our remaining 12 days on the glacier. We wanted to rock climbing in the Pika area but a 10 day storm opposed that idea. We ended up sitting around in camp, bouncing in between the artic oven at the top of the hill and the basecamp at the bottom. In between was fun Pow surfing on Clanton’s pow surf. There were some dejected folks there in that 10 day storm, mostly the groups who planned too much and cut out lots of food and had pre-pakaged meals, in tiny alpine tents.

    Reese is bummed;

    We did get to climb a few pitches up Mt. Francis’ climb “midnight ranger”

    Then it socked back in;

    We flew out and enjoyed several days of partying in Talkeenta. The night we were supposed to leave the road was closed from a forest fire, so everyone was stuck in Talkeetna. A late, drunken night turned into an all-nighter for Ryan as he soaked in a homemade wood fired hot tub on the banks of the Susitna. The locals, crusty as they are, are a great group of people and provide lots of great and interesting entertainment.

    Thanks For reading.


    Thanks for the great update. It’s awesome to see some stoke showing up on the forum here. I love seeing the split mountaineer scene represent.


    Despite my calling you a kook on TGR I think you’re pretty rad. Thanks for sharing the adventure.

    christoph benells


    when did you call me a kook on tgr?

    your not the binding din guy are you?

    oh, and the picture of me dropping in should be 20,100 feet, not 21,000 feet.


    Nicely done!!!!


    Strong work fellas! thanks for posting this up @christoph benells much better seeing the photos here than on IG.


    Alaska looks so Rad! Denali is so Huge! Nice work, very impressive!

    Splitboarding is the answer unless Splitbooting is the answer, either way we're going snowboarding because America!


    I think it was in the splitboard 2016 thread. 😀

    Hope you’ve started in on new winter adventures this year.


    just awesome christoph,
    love how you are truly combining these different pursuits.

    also like how you give us a dose of reality of what it takes to ride Denali

    christoph benells

    ah yes,

    Jason was calling me a kook for wearing softshell pants and sunglasses on the descent. All good!

    I have found that if you train your eyes you wont get watery eyes from the cold. In fact, I did not wear goggles on the descent off denali. Sunglasses worked fine. One less thing to change over…

    Just to give people an idea of the timeline and weather, total trip was around a month from Portland (oregon) to Portland.

    2 days were spent in talkeetna waiting to fly.

    One day was spent riding the “radio control tower” at basecamp before heading up denali.

    Time on Denali proper was 14 days base camp to base camp. Summit-ed on day 12.

    the rest of the time on the glacier (including about 5-6 days on denali) was spent in stormy conditions, with brief breaks in the weather. Not too harsh though.

    2 days were spent in talkeetna after, partying and waiting for the fire to be put out.


    Thanks for the AK stoke CB! Oh how I miss the AK range, and a half standard from the Roadhouse in Talkeetna.

    We gave away a lot of loot on Denali, food, fuel, smokes, etc., but never the whiskey! Getting grounded for a day at KIA waiting for a flight out made that decision reap rewards.

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg



    Congrats Chris!

    It’s nice to see the logistics laid out. Initially you made Denali seem like another stroll up Hood.

    Giving away whiskey!…. Well I guess, when climbing you got to make some hard decisions sometimes.

    Team Chronic Racing has relocated to Enterprise! As the bottle says, “Middle of No Where, Center of the Universe.”

    Safe Travels,


    christoph benells


    good to hear from you buddy!

    i’m missing the oregon life. living in enterprise seems nice and quiet. you’re going to rule the wallowas!

    as for me, i’m living on the maine coast for the next several months. strange where life leads us!

    and the bit about giving away whiskey, we had a 24 pack and another handle stashed at basecamp so it was no big deal…until that all ran out! 10 days stuck in the storm…we built a jib run, some bmx jumps…

    then a guided group mistook our course for a pre dug out camp site…they were confused on how the jumps worked as a wind wall.


    Very impressive — congrats!

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