Denali Climb

Tug McGraw Foundation

Denali Climb

Denali Climb

Check-out the latest!  David & I were interviewd on CBS2 Sunday 7/10 morningstory. 

As you may know, I hope to summit Denali this June.  Many people have expressed interest in, & support of my climbing endeavor.  I decided to create this page to inform, entertain and possibly motivate a little giving.  Thank you for visiting and please read on!

Background:  At age 15, I was fortunate that my family took a vacation in Alaska.  It was beautiful and magnificent.  We happened to see Denali (Mt. McKinley back then) on a clear day and I was awestruck.  I said then, "I really want to climb that mountain one day."  35 years later, I finally have the opportunity to realize this dream. The Mountain:  Denali offers one of the world's greatest expedition challenges. While it is exceeded in elevation by peaks in South America and Asia, its arctic environment with extreme temperatures and harsh storms and its great height above the Alaskan plain make it a severe test of personal strength, team work, and logistics. No peak in the world has greater relief: Denali rises 17K feet above its surrounding plain. In contrast, Kilimanjaro rises 14K feet over its surrounding plains and Everest, 13K feet. From our landing spot on the Kahiltna Glacier Denali's summit rises another 13K feet. As the tallest mountain on the North American continent, Denali is one of the 7 Summits.  The mountain requires great physical effort, skillful & cautious mountaineering and expedition practices, & patient acclimatization & climbing over a 3-week period.

A good cause:  Last September, my closest friend since first grade, David Roth, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  David has fought back valiently and is doing well.  I want to climb in honor of his great spirit.  He & I are both NY Mets fans and he happens to have the same type of tumor that former New York Met, Tug McGraw had.  So I am climbing to support David and The Tug McGraw Foundation. 

Please consider making a donation.   Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts.  Any amount is greatly appreciated.

Training: I have been training for this climb since last May.  I climb stairs 1 day every week, started with no weight in September and am up to a 65-pound pack up and down 25 floors, ten times now.  I also wear that pack on a weekly trek up Amity Road in Woodbridge, dragging a 36-pound tire, to train for the 80-pound sled full of gear we will drag up the mountain to 14,000 ft.  (see video above-right).  I also do various other training every day but one each week, like cardio or strength.  My last training climb was Mt. Washington with 65 lbs. Sunday May 29; my son Josh joined me adding fun and moral support.

Schedule and staying in-touch:  This is a three week trip.  No cell-phone coverage (yea!).  We fly onto the Kahiltna Glacier June 12 and I will return to Talkeetna, Alaska July 2.  During the expedition, Alpine Ascents (the excellent guide company I'm going with) will post a "Cybercast" every two days or so.  This is from a satellite-phone call our guides will make to leave an update of our progress.  My wife, Judith, will update this page with these messages, so please come back and check-in on me occasionally!

More videos:  I found these great videos on YouTube to give you a good look at the nature of this climb. 1) this one shows someone's 2009 climb and is the same thing I plan to do(6:43) play.  2) This one shows the final portion of the ascent on the summit ridge (1:00) play.   3) And this one is the same summit ridge on a windy day, I hope it's not this windy when we push for the summit! (2:00) play.

Thanks: To my family - Judith, Jon & Josh - for tremendous patience and support; Jon for the video as well.  To my boss, Mark for providing the time.  To my management team Karen, Phil, Roger, Kirk & Mary Lee for making me confident in leaving for 3 weeks.  To all my friends at work for their encouragement. To Mike Mariano at Center Of Balance in Orange, CT for guiding my training and nutrition with dedication to my goal.  To my friends at The JCC of Greater New Haven for their encouragement.  To Lauren Lennox & Bruce Becker at 360 State Street for use of the stairwell.  To Andy Weinstein for the tire :).  To Dr. Peter Blume for rescuing my feet!  To "support team Aleph" at Chabad of Orange/Woodbridge for your 'spirited' enthusiasm.  To Joe Greenberg for getting my serious climbing started (where are you now?!)  To all my good friends who have shown interest and encouragement - you may not realize how much that helps me face this awesome challenge.  To David Roth for 44 years of inspiring friendship.

Thanks for reading -- and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might be interested or may want to donate too!

"Ya Gotta Believe!"

Roger Hess

Roger’s Journey Begins: 6/10- After a 2 hour flight delay, Roger left from JFK to Alaska. At 1:45am Alaska time, 5:45am Connecticut time, he finally arrived in Anchorage. 6/11, Roger met up with the rest of TEAM 10 & from there they shuttled up to Talkeetna, the last civilized stop before heading up to base camp at 7,200 feet. On 6/14 the 1st cybercast was posted. Since I hadn’t heard anything until then, I just assumed the team was hustling up the glacier. Wrong. For the last 3 days, Roger & the rest of the team were hanging out in Talkeetna eating lots of ice cream & according to Vern their guide- drinking way too much coffee. Apparently there was a huge ugly cloud hanging over base camp & were now waiting for the weather to improve. To pass the time, the team reviewed over & over again the techniques they were going to use if they ever started their ascent. On 6/15- the team, now known as Team Better Late than Never, finally got the break they were waiting for- the rain had let up- loaded up the planes with all of the gear & flew into the East fork of Kahiltna glacier. It was an unprecedented warm night. Tomorrow they will push ahead further onto the glacier. 6/16- Woke up at 3am and got on the trail by 6am to beat the heat & possible crevasses opening up. Heat on the crevasses is not a good thing. At the time of this cybercast, the team was at 7,600 feet above sea level. Tomorrow, they are planning to get up & go early in the cold, hoping to move the cache up the hill before the sun destroys the snow. Double Thumbs Up from Roger. Sounds as though he’s holding his own! 6/17- Team Fashionably Late, formally known as Team Better Late Than Never had a very productive day. Up at 1am & breakfast at 2am, the day was clear & sunny to bring the gear up to 9,800 feet. After dropping everything off the team headed back down to Camp 3. Climb high, Sleep low (a mountaineering technique). 6/19- The team, now known as Late As Usual, moved food & fuel up to 11K. 6 -12 inches of snow on the way. Lead guide Vern forgot his snow shoes- Bummer! Special shout out from Roger to Josh & Jon thanking them for his Father’s Day cards. 6/20- Moved up to 11,200 through whiteout conditions. Now 1/3 of the way into the climb. Team is exhausted & beginning to feel the altitude. From camp, can see the notorious Motorcycle Hill & Windy Corner which will be encountering tomorrow. 6/21- Woke up early, ate breakfast & then moved heavy load. 6/22- Very hard day as the team moved up Motorcycle Hill around Windy Corner to 14,200. Everyone is feeling the altitude, but are still able to give an all thumbs up! 6/23- Beginning to feel better as they acclimatize. Moved supplies up to 13,500. Also becoming very proficient in their rope skills. 6/24- Moved cache up to 16,200 and then returned back down to 14,200. 6/25- Due to 40 mile/hour winds, snow, 0 visibility & cold, it was a good day to rest & horrible day to move up. Instead a lot of food was eaten & everyone in good spirits. 6/26- Mandatory layover due to more gusting winds & another foot of snow. So they are staying put @14,200 to avoid the high winds, frost bite, hypothermia, & oh yeah avalanches on the ridge. 6/27- Was a very long day as team moved cache to high camp @17K from 16,200. 6/28- Now @17,200 waiting for good weather to climb to the summit=the top of North America! No worries the team is all set for food & fuel. 6/29- After overnight high winds died-down, guides decided to break fresh trail & test route to summit. 6/30- 11 hours after leaving 17K camp, Roger SUMMITED @12:30AM. Go Roger! Then returned safely to camp @ 6am & celebrated with a bowl of Ramen noodles for dinner. @1:30pm the same day, everyone crawled out of their tents to break camp. Even though all were exhausted, managed a very tough carry back to 14K camp arriving @8pm. Set up camp for a real night's rest. 7/1- Great night's rest, up @8am for "Denali Special" breakfast. Afterwards, broke camp, gathered sleds & lots of cached gear & down-climbed to Camp 1, stopping @Camp 3 to pick up a lot more cached gear. Since wake up call was going to be @1:30am, they camped "commando style" - dinner & sleep in the open - no tents. It was a very long, exhausting day. 7/2- Left Camp 1 for the airstrip @3:30am & thanks to the most-respected & veteran guide on the Mountain, Roger's team leads the way through the treacherous, crevasse-filled lower Kahiltna Glacier & 1st in line for the next flight out. Had a few crevasse falls, nothing fatal & all arrived safely @the airstrip to find planes grounded in Talkeetna. Roger waited impatiently all day & @6pm, Team 10 were the only ones to get out on Saturday. WooHoo! Hot water, Showers, Toilets, Razor- Here comes Roger....

Cybercast link:

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