Denali, Day 3: Tent bound


Monday, May 11

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


  • Stayed in camp, no move or gain

Plan said:

  • Ski to 9700' camp (see day 4)


When I woke up at 5:30, the wind was still howling. It had been all night. I had gotten up to check on the tent multiple times, each time tightening the guy lines, shoveling snow out of the drift pockets, etc.

The wind strength was in the 35-50mph range. I feel comfortable with this estimation thanks to a little experiment done with Big Dan on Second Peak. This kind of wind is normal on Denali, but it takes some getting used to.

Airport Tom Lopez photo

At about noon, a group of eight skied by. The picture shows them 45 minutes later.

I wondered if perhaps we shouldn't be moving as well, but we were fatigued from yesterday's effort, combined with not a lot of sleep inside the snare drum of our tent.


Both Tom and Bro had incurred huge blisters on their heels, silver dollar sized. In the wind storm, no one had wanted to stop to do the foot maintenance required of skiing in new boots, instead hoping to simply call it a day. And Tommy was complaining of achilles tendon issues, a holdover from training in his new boots.

And Tommy was also complaining of intestinal problems. Nerves? Eating too fast at the West Rib? Who knows.

AirportTom Lopez photo

But we didn't sit idle. We added another row of snow blocks to our shelter (the wind sand-blasts holes in the blocks over time and turns your wall to a lacy web, but doubling the blocks makes the wall much more durable). We helped build snow walls for the couple camped next to us, who seemed overwhelmed. And we read. And napped.

And we built a place to use the CMC (circled). The park service tells you to pee in a single spot, and mark the pee hole with a wand. There was an established spot at this camp site, but in this wind your pee would broadcast 40 or 50 feet down the glacier... if you could stand still at all.

AirportTom Platt photo

We also had a new concern: we had been given a strong recommendation to buy Scripto lighters. But ours would only work intermittently, even when kept at body temperature. We did have emergency matches, which worked fine, but we didn't have very many. If we couldn't light the stoves, we were screwed.

Later, as the clouds parted and the sun came out, we felt guilty that we were letting a little bitty windstorm keep us in camp, especially as a few more groups passed later that afternoon.

At dinner, you could hardly talk in the tent due to the buzzing and flapping. But we were determined to get moving tomorrow.

Note: On our return, we found that an AAI group in Genet basiin this day lost several tents and recorded 70MPH winds.


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