Denali, Day 9: Back-carry cache to 14,000'


Sunday, May 17

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


  • Back-carry cache, 1 mile, 700', 1 1/4 hours
  • Camp at 14,000'

Plan was:

  • Back-carry cache, 1 mile, 700', 2 hours

Last night I had a hard time going to sleep. It wasn't until after midnight. And this morning I had a mild headache. These are both signs of altitude stress. I decided I was dehydrated, so started drinking. Then I had a mishap with my pee bottle.... helluva way to start the day.

Inside the tent this morning, it was -10°. Figure 15 or 20 degrees colder outside. We were fine inside our sleeping bags (except mine was now a little damp and extra-smelly), but it was really hard to get moving in the morning, and the sun didn't hit the tent until quite late.

Our plan for the day entailed three chores:back-carry part of our 13,500' cache; reinforce our snow walls; and rig/pack for a summit attempt.

Tom and Bro had the blistered feet, so they stayed in camp and cut blocks of snow. It was also a chance to air out all our damp or stinky equipment.


Tommy and I went for the cache. It only took us 15 minutes to stroll down the hill. After we dug it up, we lay in the sun and had a little lunch. Then, trying not to expend ourselves or aggravate Tommy's achilles, it took almost an hour to walk back. But this slow pace also allowed me to recover and adjust to the altitude, so when we got back to camp I felt rejuvenated.

Even so, for a rest day this was not very restful-- for any of us.

Back at camp, we talked with some guys who yesterday had summited in a day from 14k. They had taken 16 hours. We discussed gear, conditions, and their schedule of times at key points on the route.


Today would have been a perfect day to summit. It was warm and relatively calm.

Lots of people took advantage of the weather to go higher; if you click for the bigger version, I think you can see more than 60 people heading up the headwall to the fixed lines.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

The 8pm weather report said tomorrow would be partly cloudy, warmer, but with increased winds.

We knew we were pushing our luck with inadequate rest and acclimatization time, but the last day of predicted good weather, and thus our only shot at the summit, would be tomorrow.

Lunch stop looking toward MackayTom Lopez photo

Mr. Natural Home | 2009 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski