Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Go Team 1!

Nice to be able to give Alpine Ascents a summit for their first team on Denali for the year! And nice to finally be able to stand on top and take some pictures. Team 1 was little, just me and three climbers, but we worked hard, got along well, took care of ourselves, and made it up and down safely.

Our fly-on day was delayed by weather, so we ate, drank, sat around, ate some more, waited, and did actually get to fly on the next afternoon, through some clouds that were borderline acceptable to fly in. (I sharpened my crampons while we were waiting at the airstrip.) On our first few days working up the mountain, we encountered lots of teams coming down who hadn't been able to get a day of good summit weather, and had to come down. Only two teams in our first few days had been successful, the first summits of the season.

The weather for our overall trip worked out perfectly. We had some pretty nasty days in the middle, between 11,000' and 14,000' camps, but the team dealt with the strong winds and snow quite well, staying warm and functional as we carried gear and moved camp. It prepared us for summit conditions, which were less windy than those we encountered down low!

Once we reached 14,000' camp, things cleared up a bit, and we were able to actually see some of the amazing scenery around us. We moved to high camp at 17,000', took our rest day, and were duly rewarded with a seemingly suitable summit day. The winds died down to almost pleasant for the second half of our day (OK, it was still cold enough to wear my down pants, balaclava, and goggles) and we were able to stand on top at about 8:30pm. Go Team 1!

Fortunately, it doesn't ever get really dark there this time of year, so we got down around 1am and cooked some dinner before going to bed. Two days later, we arrived back at base camp, drank the beers we had stashed there for our return (only good ones - Alaska Amber and Moose Drool), and got right on a 4-seater
plane back to Talkeetna. Sweet!

Third time's a charm. It was nice to finally be able to stand on top and take some pictures. A big thanks to my team for persevering and making it up there. Nice job, crew! And huge thanks to everyone back home for your thoughts and prayers - we aren't out there all alone...

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