Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don’t think, you act (Part 1)


Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don't think, you act

Account of the expedition to McKinley by Vivian Bruchez, who accompanied the team and contributed to mountain safety with his knowledge. Vivian is one of the best extreme skiers in the world.

[  ¿Have you read all the McKinley Stories?  ]

[  Download “Déjame Vivir”, the challenges of the second year of Summits of My Life ]

Part I

Going on an expedition with Kilian Jornet, Sébastien Montaz Rosset and Jordi Tosas is intimidating if one considers all their achievements! We all have a different view of the mountains, but on McKinley we realized that we are in fact quite complementary and each of us contributed to the group with our experience and identity. Just like Kilian, we all learned from each other and taught each other.


Phase 1: Journey, preparation and awaiting good weather to access the glacier by plane (4 days in Talkeetna)

We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, where we bought all the food we thought we would need. The first dilemma of the expedition emerged: should we be “light” in every way? Or should we leave a little room for comfort in terms of food? The following weeks would teach us that, even though we thought we had everything we needed, we were wrong. We were lucky to get hold of some food that other climbers had left behind at Base Camp.

The weather held us up in Talkeenta for 4 days as no planes could fly.. During those days, Kilian would go running in the morning and afternoon and Jordi would go climbing on a metal bridge over a large river. Seb would adjust the final details of the drone and he also taught me some tricks on how to set up video. He likes to share his knowledge; you can tell he is a bit of a pedagogue as a well as mountain guide and ski instructor.

Over those four days we were given some training by the rangers at Denali National Park. This is mandatory to catch the plane to the glacier. I found it very interesting and informative, as the rangers gave us a nice presentation about the mountain and they listened to our questions. It was a preventive measure that I liked. 

Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don't think, you act

Phase 2: Take off, portage to Base Camp

After a few days waiting in Talkeetna, we were finally able to fly to the glacier. The weather had improved and we took off at sunset. Upon setting foot on the glacier we did not even hesitate: LET’S GO! I had never used a Pulka before and, in the hurry, I tied my rucksack the wrong way, so it kept turning over and over…

My mates, much faster than me, slid off right away and I suddenly found myself alone on the glacier. I gradually got going and continued at my own pace. In the end I caught up with them. They had stopped to take some pictures! Together we carried on a bit more, looking for a place to spend the night near Camp 2.

The next morning we got up and quickly reached Camp 3 (3.400m), where we settled. We went all the way up to Camp 4 (4.400m) to leave the equipment and went back to Camp 3 to spend the night. The next day we climbed up to Camp 4 (medical camp), which would be our home over the next few weeks. It was a good place to acclimatise and feel comfortable, with plenty of places nearby to climb.


Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don't think, you act

Phase 3: Acclimatization

On the fourth day we went to West Rib with our skis in our rucksacks. At nearly 5,200m Seb and I decided to stop. We were pretty tired and weak because of the height, so I skied some parts of the West Rib route.

Jordi and Kilian and continued to the top. Jordi stood there, on the ridge top, and skied down alone  the normal way. From there, Kilian went up to the summit of McKinley and descended on skis via the West Rib climbing side!

Amazing. At that moment I realized how much Kilian’s skiing level had improved. He skips rocks equally as agile as if he were running down the Matterhorn. On uphills, he concentrates to measure and analyse the difficulty of each step to be taken. Right now, Kilian is the most versatile skier on the planet.


Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don't think, you act

In the second part of Vivian’s story we’ll dig into the record day, the personal projects ant coming back to reality.



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    3 Responses to Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don’t think, you act (Part 1)

    1. Nice article and adventure… just would like to correct one thing. Juneau is Alaska’s capital city. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. Thanks!

    2. Pingback: Vivian Bruchez: In Denali you don’t think, you act (part 2) » Summits of My Life

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