Denali Part 3
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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  099-day08.JPG (107383 bytes)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
109-day08.JPG (141497 bytes) 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 113-day09.JPG (108355 bytes)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 buddies114-day09.JPG (108865 bytes) 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.

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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 112-day08.JPG (126911 bytes)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!

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