[Part 3] [Part
Day 8 on the mountain and this was our day to move up to the 17,200ft camp
to prepare for a summit bid. We got on the trail up the Headwall once again
after packing up and leaving a cache at 14,200ft camp. The Headwall and ridge
between 16K and 17K was easier since this was 3rd time on it. Even ran into
another team from Colorado along the way! We did get stuck for awhile behind an
Alpine Ascents team
that was waiting forever for descending folks to get out of the way, that was
pretty frustrating, but luckily they were only going as far as Washburn's Thumb.
The weather wasn't bad at all around 17K. We found a site that needed little
work and had no problems with sitting outside to eat and take in the views.
Afterwards we all wandered around checking out the spectacular views with 14K
camp FAR below surrounded by crevasses, Hunter and Foraker looming in the
distance, Denali Pass shining with sun and snow, and the ridge we just came up
along the horizon. Talking to other folks, almost all teams that attempted the
summit today got turned around by high winds. We were REALLY hoping that
Tuesday would be a perfect weather day and we could summit as well as the other
teams in camp. Falling asleep I knew it would be cold as hell, so I used a bivy
sack as well and fell asleep to the winds rattling the tent.
CRAP!!!!! We woke up to some serious wind and it looked much worse at the
top of Denali Pass around 18K. Sure signs
of frostbite given the temps and wind chill. Certainly not something that we
wanted to be messing around with. Since the weather was just supposed to get
worse for the next 5 days, we figured that we would be much better off waiting
out the storm down at the 14K camp. So we left a cache of food, fuel, and
clothes at 17K and high-tailed it back down the ridge and Headwall. Apparently
most people that head back to a lower camp don't end up summiting, but with a
bunch of stuff at high camp, we had to come back up at some point! There were
only a few tents in camp since everyone had the same idea as us. The altitude,
cold, and bad weather will really deteriorate a person mentally and physically
in a short amount of time up there. Our buddies
Zach and Charlie decided to call it quits after this and headed down the
mountain after we got some leftover food and fuel from them. In the afternoon
giant lenticular clouds formed over the surrounding peaks and we could see the
winds striping the ridges of snow up at 17K....glad we weren't up there anymore!
Now starts the waiting game, our hopes of enjoying beers and burgers in a day or
two were nowhere in sight now.
Day 10 on the mountain and nothing to do but watch the weather get shittier and
shittier. Little did we know that Mother Nature had some plans of several forced
rest days for us. A daily walk or two is necessary to stay sane between bouts of
eating and reading. Within the next several days I read every book our group had
then moved on to re-reading the guide book several times and even the CB
instructions and frequencies! Every time we checked the weather at the Park
Service tent, it stated that the next 5 days of weather would be shit.
Melt water, drink lots of Gatorade, eat lots of the same crappy boring
tasteless food, and hope the weather would improve. It's now been about 40hrs in
a tent except to pee and briefly look outside. The food sucks, the weather
sucks, our clothes stink, this isn't a fun vacation.
Day 12. Started out just like the pervious day, but then we figured we
should get back up to 17K and wait out the rest of the storm up there. The Park
Services says to stay put, the guides of other groups suggest getting up into
position for that weather window, we were bored to tears and needed a change so
we packed up to head BACK up to 17K. Our 5th time on the Headwall and the 16K to
17K ridge, getting easier each time! Up at 17K camp the weather was pure
shit...cold as ever and high winds. We worked great together
as always and got tents setup and our new "home" built in about
1.5hrs. Even walking around at 17K makes you out of breathe, humpin' around a
huge pack and setting up camp would be enough to kill the average person. I was
wondering (once again) why I enjoy this and keep heading to high and cold places
when it would be perfectly warm and sunny in Colorado right now. Ugh!
[Part 3] [Part