Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Word from a slightly lower elevation

When I spoke with John on Saturday, he said he'd call...then the call was lost.  Luckily, I had a chance to speak with John today to get a clearer picture on the end of the climb.

In order to reach the summit, the team has to take part of the gear to the next camp.  That meant climbing from 14,000, up the head wall to the 17,000 mark.  According to John, the head wall is the steepest and (to my ears) the most technical part of the climb.  There are six permanent ropes, approximately 50 feet apart.  The climbers really put to use the crampons and pick axes to achieve this climb and the team did it.  John spoke of how this aspect was the most daunting task of the trip.  First of all, physically, the head wall represents the steepest climb: 2000 feet starting at 40 percent grade and raising to a 60 percent grade.  Everyone feels the burns in their calves on this climb.  Mentally, John said that hanging on ropes 50 feet apart from the others on the team left a climber completely alone with his thoughts - even a little lonely.  Self-doubt and homesickness begin to creep into the brain.  John said that what he did to fight off those thoughts was to imagine the students right there with him, urging him on.

Once they hit the top of the head wall, he was able to walk along the ridge wall and over to Wahsburn's Thumb.  He said the view was just spectacular.  But, looking back on it. he cannot imagine being up there with the weather that was heading their way.

The team descended back down to 14,000 to retrieve the rest of the gear (after the three hour trip up) and the bad weather hit.  At one point, they were pinned in their tents for about 30 hours.    Visibility was nil.  The winds pounded the tents and the National Parks Service rangers told them that the weather would not clear for at least another three days. Two feet of snow fell on them, fully covering the lines and the path that had been previously tramped into the snow.  This is when the team decided to abort the climb.  Based on the weather that occurred at the summit, this was the wise choice.  The summit received five feet of snow and experienced wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour.

While John is disappointed that he and the team did not reach the summit, he realizes that they made the only decision they could make.  There was a team from China camping next to them who were going to wait out Mother Nature.  The team gave them some of their extra food and then came down the mountain.  The snow followed John and the team.  He said that coming down was like being in a snow globe, snow puffing up from the ground and flying hither and yon. They had to spend an extra night on the lower glaciers because the weather did not permit the plane to come in and get them.

I spoke to John while he was in Talkeetna, the place where the journey started.  He has a touch of bronchitis and should be home in a couple of days.  He is thrilled to have taken this trip and proud of the students who have helped to raise nearly $18,000 for student activities Hamtramck Public Schools.

You can, of course, still donate.  Make your check out to Piast Institute ("Mr. Rostek's Climb" in the memo) and mail it to:

Hamtramck Public Schools
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Two days ago, the team reached the 17,400 feet mark. They dropped off half the equipment and laid 6 lines, with the intention of going back up.  However, Mother Nature had a different idea.  The team has experienced extreme white-out conditions for the past 48 hours.  The National Park Service ranger (there is one stationed at each designated camp site) informed that team that the white out conditions would continue for at least three more days.  The team needs to be off the mountain by June 30.  Thus, the team decided to abort the climb.

Our phone call was cut off three times, so I'm not really sure how long the descent will take.  As soon as I know, you will, too.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Among the clouds

After putting in an 11 hour day on Wednesday, John Rostek and the team reached the 14,000 feet mark.  Not only are the climbers above the clouds, but they also stand poised to attack the final 6,000 feet.  At the 14,000 feet mark, they are at the base of the peak.  In order to make next steps safe, the team is taking a couple of days to acclimatize themselves to the elevation.

They have left the sleds behind, a fact that made John pretty happy.  They will go up a ridge line in order to reach the summit.  Depending on the weather, they just might make that peak some time this weekend.  First, they will have to reach and camp at 17,000 feet.

Just how is that weather?  During the day, John stated that it was just beautiful.  The sun's reflection off the glaciers emit enough heat to walk about in a fleece and light gloves.  Over night, however, the temperature drops dramatically.  Condensation in the tent freezes.  John anticipates that the cold will play a much larger factor in the final ascent.

Everyone on the team is healthy, though John showed signs of a bit of a cough on the phone.  He wasn't winded and was very alert.

If you haven't already made you TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation - why are you waiting???
Make your check out to:  Piast Institute ("Mr Rostek's Climb" in the memo) and mail it to:

Hamtramck Public School
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Thanks for your support.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Day 3 and a game of who can get there first

John just called in to report that they have indeed reached 11,000 feet.  He said that pulling the sled was extremely tiring and laborious.  I asked if it got very dark at night and he said no AND that the sun was gleaming brilliantly off the glaciers, making the ice mushy.  Then, I lost the call.  He sounds tired, but coherent.

John and the team are 9,000 feet from their goal of reaching the 20,320 summit.  Our fund raising goal is only $2463 away from the $20,320.  Our total stand today at $17,857.97.  The question is, who will get to 20,320 first: our mountain climbers or the fund for student activities in Hamtramck Public Schools?  You can help us get there first.  Please send that check today.  Here's the information:

Make the check out to Piast Institute ("Mr. Rostek's Climb" in the memo) and mail it to:

Hamtramck Public Schools
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Friday, 17 June 2011

Day 1

Most of the day was spent waiting in the hangar, waiting for the weather to clear.  It was rainy and visibility was too poor to drop the team at the mountain.

Clearance finally came late afternoon, Hamtramck time.  Alaska is four hours behind Michigan.  The call to Michigan came in around 11:10 at night.  The first words out of John's mouth were, "It's beautiful here."  He then gave a quick rundown on what would happen next.  At about 2:00 p.m. our time, the team would begin the climb to the second camp, 9,200 feet.  The team started at 7,200 feet.  They will climb for six hours, set up camp, eat and sleep during the day.  They will climb at night because of the lower temperatures.  The surface of the glaciers will harden at those temperatures, making the climb easier (relatively speaking.)

Check back here tomorrow for more.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

How to prepare to climb a mountain

Since January, John Rostek has been enduring increasingly difficult physical training in order to be ready to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali): tread mills at the steepest incline while carry a 70 pound backpack, dragging 50 pound sleds up hills in area parks, and running 10 miles. 

All of those tasks will help him (and the other 10 people in the team) as they start their ascent tomorrow.  So, what has the team been doing since arriving in Anchorage on Tuesday?  Grocery shopping.  Everyone in the team will cart food provisions up the mountain by dragging a large, heavy-duty sled.  Today, John bought Ramen noodles, mac and cheese, sardines, cheese, bagels, snickers, trail mix, peanut butter, crackers, instant soup, beef sticks, and instant potatoes.  All of it is food that is both easy to transport and easy to make.

That's not all the team did today. They also traveled to  Talkeetna (a four hour drive) to meet with the National Park Service for an orientation before starting their trek. John also worked in an interview with the public radio station at Central Michigan University, his alma mater.  Just as soon as that link is available, we'll bring it to you.

On the home front, our fund raising total has topped the $17,000 mark.  The big question remaining is who will reach 20,320 first, John Rostek or the fund for student activities in the Hamtramck Public Schools?  You can help student activities in Hamtramck by sending your TAX DEDUCTIBLE check, made out to Piast Institute ("Mr. Rostek's Climb" in the memo), to:

Hamtramck Public Schools
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Thanks for all of your support!

Saturday, 11 June 2011


That is our current grand total.  We are incredibly touched by everyone's generosity.  Only $3,742 remain until we hit our goal of $20,320.  We have some people to thank for their kindness this week.  Thank you to:

Joseph and Karen Quinlan : 17,200 Ft.Crest Camp
Avanti Press: 17,200 Ft. Crest Camp
Balance & Strength:  20,320 Ft. Summit Camp
Sandy Sabotka
Samir Al-Hadwan:  17,200 Ft. Crest Camp
Tony Marasco: 11,000 Ft. Camp

John Rostek starts his climb on Thursday, June 16.  It's not too late to donate and it's simple.  Make the check out to Piast Institute ("Mr. Rostek's climb" in the memo) and mail it to:

Hamtramck Public Schools
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Bells and whistles!

If you  look to the immediate left of this post, just above our total page view counter, you will see some new text.  It reads "Click here to track Mr. Rostek's as he climb's Mt. McKinley."  Well, go ahead and click it, I'll wait...

That is a link to a GPS device that Mr. Rostek will wear.  Once he starts his trek, we can join him.  Right now, you are looking at the U.K.  I promise, he is not there. 

He and the team start their climb on June 16, so come back here often to see where they are.

In the meantime, feel free to make a check out to the Piast Institute ("Mr. Rostek's Climb" in the memo) and mail that TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation to

Hamtramck Public School
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Thanks for all of your support!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

With great apologies

The run-up to the end of the school year is an extremely busy time of year and your intrepid blogger has been swamped.  Please accept this mea culpa and this very belated list of donors.  Hang on, it's a lengthy list(and it's not in alphabetical order, but in the order the donation was received):

7,200 Feet Base Camp
Joseph and Shirley Kroon
Rula Bilbeisi
Mike Stenvig
Jennifer Maloney
Robert and Joy Lamerato
Stephanie Ashcraft
Valerie Allen
Amel Alibasic
Ramuald Szuberla
Mike Dobbyn
Makedonka Dimitrijeska
Nancy Erickson
Marybeth Williamson
David Hecker
Christina Adamczyk
Richard Kolbusz
Apostoll Lala
David Preston

9,500 Feet Camp
Stanley and Justina Nalepa
Jacqueline Dziedziula
Sean Carter
Diana Kolaj
Tanya Bardy
Jackie Delekta

11,000 Feet Camp 
Andrew MacGibbon
Susan Richner
Gregory King
Anthony Bagdasarian
Laurie Kroon
DBA Pharmor Pharmacy
KMS Jean Collection

14,200 Feet Camp
AFSCME Local 257
Gail and Lois Warden
Class of 2007

17,200 Feet Crest
Alpha Delta Kappa Beta Nu Chapter
Hamtramck DDA

20,320 Feet Summit
Dr. Mary Beth Hardwicke

There is still time to mail your TAX Deductible check.  Make it out to Piast Institute (put "Mr. Rostek's climb in the memo and mail it to:

Hamtramck Public Schools
3201 Roosevelt
Hamtramck, MI 48212

Thanks to everyone!