MT. DENALI – WEEK 3: 23 May – 01 Jun 2014

May 23:  We are stuck at 14,000 feet due to bad weather on the summit.  Added one layer of snow walls to the camp.  We all built a replica of Big Ben since Selina is from Britian.  Walked to the Ranger Station again to check the weather board.  Slept bad last night.  Felt like I could not get any oxygen and had trouble concentrating.  Temps were -5 F and winds to 25 MPH.  Most of the day was sunny and nice though.  Andrew built a pit to do a pull-up contest in which should be interesting tomorrow.  Tonight is supposed to be -5F and windy again.  Weather predictions for the next few days are not good.  1-2 feet of snow and 50MPH winds predicted for the Sunday.
Big Ben.  Photo by Amy.
Guide Andrew in pull-up pit he and Geoff built.  Photo by Mark.
Guide Geoff goofing off. Photo by Amy.
Guide Andrew, Selina and Mark hanging out in the cook tent.  Photo by Amy.
This picture was take about 11:20pm.  It never really gets completely dark this time of year.  Photo by Mark.
May 24:  Up late for a nice sausage and home fries breakfast.  Because weather forecast is bad, we climbed back up to 16,200 feet to retrieve our summit food cache.  I was dreading this climb.  It was steep the whole way and then you have the fixed lines for the last 800+ feet. However, I did do better than the first time up this altitude a few days ago.  It was a fairly long day.  My left leg was sore from hyperextending it the last time we came down from 16,200’.  The 8:00pm weather report was not good for the rest of the week.  Still 1-2’ of snow predicted with 50 MPH winds sunday and possibly more snow Tue/Wed.  Summit temps and winds were too cold and too fast to move up.
Here is another picture of Foraker but this one was taken around 7:30am.  Photo by Mark.
Mark and Adam prepping for the climb.

May 25:  The weather predictions were for 1-2 feet of snow but we woke up to just a couple inches.  Up late for breakfast again and took a walk to the ranger station to check the weather.  It is not looking good for summit attempts.  As the guides explained, we need a minimum of 3 days and preferably 4 days for a summit attempt.  One day to go from 14,200 feet at Camp 3 to 17,000 feet at Camp 4, one day to rest and help acclimatize, one day to summit and get back to 17,000 feet and a fourth day to get from 17.000 feet back to 14,200 feet.  Four days is optimal but a summit bid is possible with only 3 days except you lose a day to acclimatize which can affect people differently.  In addition, the temperatures and wind speeds need to be reasonable.  Something like zero degrees and 20 MPH winds or possibly -20 degrees with minimal wind – either of these would be on the edge or reasonable.  Pretty much anything better than those combinations would allow a summit attempt.

We played UNO and a Norwegian card game which was fun.  Read a book and napped too.  Outlook for the summit this week is not good.  We will see what tomorrow brings.
May 26:  Up late again since we are not moving anywhere today and it gives the sun time to come up and hit our camp.  Read a book for a while and then we all walked over to the “Edge of the World” to take some photos and explore.  Played more UNO and then walked over to the AAI Team 3 that was a week behind us.  I saw Paul and Nancy who did the Denali Prep course with me on Mt. Baker in WA back in Feb/Mar timeframe.  During dinner, we had discussions on the weather and plans to move up to 17,000 feet tomorrow depending on the weather when we get up.  Things are looking promising!
Geoff keeping me protected from a loooong fall…   Photo by Andrew.
Taking a picture.  Photo by Amy.
Enjoying the view.  Photo by Andrew.
Mikkel practicing his “I summited Denali pose.”  Photo by Mark.
Andrew hanging out getting pictures of everyone.  Photo by Mark.
Andrew taking a photo looking down…almost straight down.  Photo by Andrew.
Mark, Amy and Selina hanging out at the End of the World.  Photo by Andrew.
View of Camp 3 at 14,200 feet coming back from the Edge of the World.  Those tiny little bumps on the horizon are tents and people.  Photo by Mark.

May 27:  Today is the day that we are hoping to climb to 17,000 feet.  However, when we got up, the guides had some bad news.  The weather forecast for the next few days had completely changed with predictions for lots of snow all over the mountain.  So, after a breakfast at 7:00am our hopes were dashed and our window for a summit attempt had closed.  Because there is no chance to summit and the weather is looking bad, the decision is made to break camp and go all the way down to base camp today.  We spent 2-3 hours breaking camp and packing up ALL the gear.

We started down late morning and arrived at Base Camp around 9:00pm after a 10+ hours slog through snowy conditions with lots of wind around windy corner and the polo fields.  Once we hit Camp 2 and retrieved our cache, the rest of the way down to base camp was not too windy but it did snow steadily.  Total distance was approx 12.25 miles.  We go from Camp 3 at 14,200 feet down to 7,200 feet and then go the last half-mile up Heartbreak Hill and gain 600 feet.  Total elevation loss and gain is around 7,800 feet.
We spent a couple hours setting up camp and eating before hitting the sack for the night.  We were all looking forward to hopefully flying out the next morning.
A couple pictures of breaks during the hike out.  Photos by Mark.
Base Camp setup.  Photo by Mark
Adam, Mikkel and Mark hanging out in base camp.
May 28 – May 31:  OK, the weather never cleared overnight.  In fact, we are socked in by clouds and snow for the next 4 straight days.  A bunch of people stream into camp each day from higher on the mountain looking to get out but no planes are flying.  It turns out to be a few days of boredom…mostly reading books, watching movies, eating, and walking on the runway with snowshoes a few times to tamp down all the new snow for a landing strip.  I think we all find it a bit frustrating because once we realized we would not summit, we all kind of wanted to be off the mountain and move on to other things.
A line of people working on the runway.  Photos by Andrew
A view of most of Base Camp from the runway.  Photo by Mark
June 1:  Sunny weather!  Finally, the weather is breaking and the whole camp is getting excited to leave.
From left, Adam, Selina, Geoff, Mark, Andew and Mikkel enjoying the break in the weather.  Photo by Amy
Our planes being loaded.  Photo by Mark
Geoff, Mikkel and Mark onboard and in flight. Photo by Mark
Mikkel, Selina, Amy and Mark back in Talkeetna.  Photo by Selina’s camera.
That pretty much wraps up this adventure.  I will have another email with some random photos for folks but otherwise it is time to move on to something else.  I do have a number of videos flying into the glacier and from a couple other spots on the mountain.  If I can figure out a way to share them I will let you know.
It was a great experience and thanks to all my teammates who made it interesting and fun!  
Next Page