Denali, Day 7: Place cache at 13,500'

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Friday, May 15

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, 2 miles, 2500', 3 hours up, 2 hours down
  • Camp at 11,000'

Plan was:

  • Day 1 of doublecarry, 2 miles, 2500', 4.5 hours up, 1 hour down
  • Camp at 11,000'
This morning I had a rookie move with the stove. We had been too lazy to refill the fuel bottle last night while it was relatively warm out. So instead, at about -10°, I had to switch fuel bottles. But when frozen, the seals don't like to open or let go. So I had to remove my gloves. Even so, I had a hard time loosening the top of the bottle and installing the other pump. After a lot of wrestling, I finally got it put together, but the pump wouldn't seal to the bottle (the rubber o-ring was frozen). So I re-switched bottles, and finally got the thing to work. 20 extra minutes had gone by, and now I had very cold hands.  

After breakfast, it was time to dress, pack, and get rigged. This all takes way more time than you would expect. And this was under good conditions!

One reason it takes so long is that you are trying not to get ahead of others' progress. Once rigged and loaded, it's really hard to change clothing. And since you'll be working hard, you don't want to over-dress. But in lighter clothes, if you stand around for more than just a minute or two, you'll freeze. So the key is getting everyone ready at the same time, which is like herding cats.

We were carrying some personal clothing, plus eight food bags (at 10# each) and about 1.5 gallons of gas, basically 100 pounds of freight split between three of us.

AirportTom Lopez photo

Even with our "late" start, we were the first ones out of camp, so when we left camp we had Motorcycle Hill to ourselves.

It had snowed the previous night, leaving about 1" of snow in pockets. Just enough to bury the old trail and make cramponing a little slippery or unstable.

Airport
Tom Lopez photo

This is the first hill where we were walking across open crevasses. Previously, they had all been bridged.

According to Tom, who had nothing better to do than time us, we hit the top in 41 minutes. That's 11k camp below us.

Airport

From the top of Motorcycle Hill, you swing up a little ridge then traverse in the shade (and cold) under Squirrel Hill.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

Then back out into the sun.

And then onto a broad ridge.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

Followed by a basin below Windy Corner.

The saddle ahead is Windy Corner. More open crevasses to cross, and some of them getting bigger.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay

Once around Windy Corner, we got our first up-close view of the upper mountain. That's the Messner Couloir right above Tommy's head, and the Orient Express to the right of Bro's head.

Somewhere near here, Tommy wasn't feeling well so I took one of his food bags and put him in the front (as you see here). I was now lugging five food bags (at 10# each) plus a gallon of gas. Uggh. Just like my Cervidae training, except now at 13,000'.

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay
We got to the cache area in just under three hours for 2800' of gain. We found an abandoned hole and plopped our stuff in the pit. Then we happily (with empty packs) headed back down to 11k camp. Lunch stop looking toward Mackay
When we got there, it was sunny and warm. We had planned to ditch our stinky clothes in the cache, so I took advantage of the warmth to take a baby-wipes bath and change into some clean clothes. I was feeling sort of spoiled, since I had only worn the previous ones for six days!
Lunch stop looking toward Mackay
Tom Lopez photo

Then Chef Tommy whipped up a batch of tuna quesadillas. Man, that's living!

The 8pm weather indicated that Monday looked good, but Tuesday would bring increased winds and possibly some snow. But as this was Friday evening, Monday wasn't too far off.

We all went through our stuff to see what we could eliminate before the 3200' grind up to 14k camp tomorrow.

 

Lunch stop looking toward Mackay
Tom Lopez photo

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