Denali, Day 5: Place cache at 11,200'

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Wednesday, May 13

Day 1 Travel to Talkeetna, AK
Day 2 Fly to Base on glacier, ski to 7700'
Day 3 Tent bound
Day 4 7700 to 9450'
Day 5 Place cache at 11,200'
Day 6 Move to 11,200'
Day 7 Place cache at 13,500'
Day 8 Move to Genet basin, 14.000'
Day 9 Back-carry cache to 14,000'
Day 10 Summit attempt
Day 11 Return to Base
Day 12 Fly out

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Stats:

  • Day 1 of doublecarry, 1.75 miles, 1800', 2 hours
  • Return to camp at 9450'

Plan was:

  • Singlecarry 1 mile, 1200', 2-3 hours
  • Two days and behind plan
Airport

We woke to cold, sunny skies with just a mild breeze, maybe 15mph. There was still blowing snow on the surface of the glacier, but at least you could hear each other yell over the wind.

So after the normal morning routine of melting snow for drinks, mocha, and oatmeal, we attended to a new chore: throwing the CMC bag into a crevasse. The previous evening, we had watched the party camped down-glacier from us (you can see their snow walls in the picture) do this unroped, but we were a little more cautious. I belayed Bro as he walked to the upper lip and flung the poo.

Airport

Then we loaded up the sleds with a ton of food and gas and proceeded to walk up the glacier. But we were doing a double carry, so the "ton" was fairly tolerable. Even with lighter loads, my calves and shoulders were sore from our hard carry yesterday.

We had been using skis, but all along the snow had been hard enough to simply walk. So today we walked. This is Tommy following my lead, looking back at our camp.

Airport

This is looking the other way, up the Kahiltna to Kahiltna Pass. 11k camp is to the right, in front of the ridge that forms the skyline. The right turn looks close, no?

Hint: It's not. It's about an hour away.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

After we had climbed above Kahiltna Pass, this is looking back at it. Note that behind Tommy, you can see the snow-less lowlands, which here extend all the way to the coast.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

After working through some initial soreness from our single carry yesterday, Tommy and I made good time. From our camp to the 11k camp, around 1800', took us about 1:50.

The 11k camp lies in the pocket right below the red circle. The circle is showing some climbers ascending Motorcycle Hill, and that rocky ridge above (about 5000' higher) is the tail-end of the West Buttress.

When we got to the 11k camp, we met some folks on their way down. They told stories of flattened tents at the 14k camp and four days there in a snow cave. They invited us to take over their cache hole, which saved us a bunch of shoveling in super-hard snow.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

Then it was time to head down. With empty sleds and moving downhill for a change, it took about 45 minutes. That's Bro and Tom right behind us.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

When we got back to camp, we got our first chance to relax; it was warm and sunny, and the wind was down. We were adapting to Denali; as the picture shows, "warm and sunny" still requires several layers, plus hats and gloves.

We aired out the tent and our sleeping bags (and down booties), and chatted. As we sat and relaxed, there were a ton of folks going up past us. Fortunately, most of them were just caching at 11k and would soon be passing back by in the other direction. But it was obvious that we were just ahead of a lot of people (we had been told by TAT that more than 40 were scheduled to fly in with them the day after us).

As the evening progressed, there were clouds moving in from the NE. Were we in for a change in weather? Whatever the weather did, this was a double carry, so we would get to haul this section again tomorrow.

Lunch stop looking toward MackayTom Lopez photo

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