May 6 team: final words from Nick Shepherd

Well, well, well. Let me start by saying the team I had the pleasure of climbing with over the last few weeks was one of the best I’ve ever seen. You’ve been a great crew. Without question, Denali is one of the most difficult mountains I’ve been on, demanding an extraordinary amount of both physical and mental strength to survive the day-to-day suffering that’s involved with big-mountain climbing. That being said, I think everyone would agree with me when I say that it’s worth it for the camaraderie, sweeping landscapes, and sense of success that comes from thriving in such a severe environment.

Every day individuals showed their particular strengths. Sas and Joe were constantly leading the team with their efforts toward building safe camps, moving loads up the mountain, and taking care of the innumerate details I’d come across in my patrols through the crew. Sas has all the traits of a phenomenal mountaineer and Joe has proven his meddle on Denali before. Without their strength, the team would never have had the success we did.

Whenever it came time to labor, carving out tent sites and cook mids (specialized pyramid-shaped tents), Paul’s expertise as a nursery-man showed through. For photographic evidence, take a look at any shot of the 14k camp cook tent. Within a few hours (in extremely thin air), he shaped one of the finest examples of a mid I’ve seen. Put a shovel in his hand and the man transforms snow into functional art.

Who better to keep the crew in good humor than Teodosic and Strahinja. Teo could be found on the back end of any given rope team, fulfilling one of the most important roles of travel. Tail-gunners manage breaks, pacing, fixed-protection, and communication. In Teo’s case, he managed to also insert a healthy dose of dry humor that kept rope teams thinking about anything besides the thigh-killing slopes we often climbed. Like father, like son, Strah filled a similar role but with a decidedly youthful twist. Up at the crack of noon (later whenever we’d let him), he was without fail the last person out of the tent each morning but also the first person ready to sling his pack on and get to work for the day.

However, if it was consistency the team ever needed, Mellisa and Dallas provided it. Whether needing to assemble a speed team, set up tents quickly, or shoulder a large load, Mellisa was the one to lean on. Something tells me she would have pulled a truck up the mountain if anyone had asked.Dallas is of a similar cut but with the patient persistence that likely comes as a result of his profession. Suffice it to say, he is a man that can be counted on under any circumstance.

If there’s ever been a mascot to represent the team’s spirit, it was Angela. The team heard songs belted out daily and every camp knew there was a friendly face to talk with when Angela made the social rounds to other climbing parties.

Two more men reserve note in this post, Claude and Jason. Claude was easily the most dedicated climber of us all. His body may have forced him down, but I have no doubt that his heart didn’t stop climbing for a minute. The man is a dynamo, exerting a will and passion for the mountains that I’ve rarely seen burn so bright. Jason is a similar character. Who else would have the mental strength to stay on Denali for weeks and weeks, taking whatever steps necessary in order to reach his goal.

Without rambling much further, I’d like to say on behalf of the entire guide team, thank-you. It was an epic trip and I won’t soon forget it.

-Nick Shepherd, proud member of the Mountain Trip family

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