Climbing and Culture in Alaska: Days 2 & 3

Day 2 Saturday May 16th:  Climbing in Alaska in May means it never gets dark.  While the sun may go behind the mountain, which has around 17,000 feet of relief, it does not set.  At best your tent might be in a shadow instead of bright sun.  So no headlamp required.  The warmth gained from the sun can't be understated.  Once in shadow the temperature can drop quickly from 40F to 0F.  Down filled clothing is your friend.

Our first full day on the mountain dawned sunny and cold with temps around 0F and only a slight breeze.  Breakfast and packing up camp took three and a half hours!  Why this long?  There are several reasons when added together do not allow for faster travel–the cold, the altitude (not now for us but once we get higher), the amount of gear, the newness of our routine and the amount of time it takes to brew so much water for the day.  By the time we were ready to leave camp all the other groups at 7800 were already heading up Ski Hill.  Our goal for the day was the 11 camp four miles away and over 3000 feet higher.

 

 The sleds are attached both to the hipbelt of your backpack and to the rope.  If climber falls into a crevasse the sled would be held by the rope instead of crashing on top of the climber.

 

A look back down Ski Hill and the glacier we traveled the day before.

 

We learned several lessons this day.  First off waking up earlier would be helpful on move days but since we went to bed at midnight there was little choice.  The other is Ski Hill is much steeper than it looks especially when carrying, and dragging, 130 pounds of gear.  We took four hours to go just over two miles and two thousand feet higher before deciding camp at 9800 was a great idea.  Once again we were able to claim an abandoned campsite.  After rebuilding the walls and adding a kitchen we ate dinner and were in bed by 2030 as the sun went behing the mountain.  A well deserved rest indeed.

Day 3 Sunday May 17th: Once again we woke to a beautiful day with plenty of sun and clear sky with temperatures in the single digits.  Our camp breakdown routine was quicker than previous days as practice makes for better efficiency.  Our goal for the day was the 11 camp approximately two miles away.

We left camp fully loaded before noon.  I could feel the weight even more as my shoulders and hips were bruised and my muscles were sore mainly from pulling the sled and its weight.  It is hard to get sufficient sled hauling practice prior to actually being on the trip.  Most teams double carry from the 7800 or 9800 camps.  This means they take half of thier gear one day then return to camp to carry the remainder the following day as they move higher.  We planned to single carry to 11 camp before attempting any double carry days.  Our coonditioning from living in Colorado and our weekly high altitude training allowed us to do this with only moderate suffering.

 

Looking good at 11 camp.  From l-r: Keifer, Chris, Dan, Gabe (kneeling), Craig and Colin.  The mugs weren't staged in the photo.  We were always drinking as dehydration is a major issue at altitude.

We had a slow, but uneventful, climb to camp taking two and a half hours.  This was the first camp, since basecamp, where it resembled a small town.  There were tents, sleds and walls along a central avenue that continued on towards the base of Motorcycle Hill.  We had plenty of choices for our campsite and finally decided on a multiplex unit that fit our tents, a kitchen, lounge and a bathroom which required little remodeling effort.  A late lunch and gear sorting for our carry to the 14 camp the next day took several hours.  Everything at altitude seems to, and does, take longer so it is great we had so much daylight.

 

Food11000

l-r: Chris and Colin packing food.  Gabe starting lunch while Kiefer catches up on his writing. 

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About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
This entry was posted in Climbing, Denali, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Climbing and Culture in Alaska: Days 2 & 3

  1. Ultra'thoner says:

    These photos are great as is the video and this report; I can't wait to read more!

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