Denali Part 4
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06/11/05
Day 13 and I woke up singing "all I want for Christmas is a warm place, unlimited food, and unlimited beer". Nothing to do but wait in the tent and listen to the raging snow, wind, and shitty ass weather. Brief periods of sun let us take short walks around camp and chat with neighbors. Other then that....boredom and thoughts of warm places with lots of food and beer. The food sucks more, the weather is worse, and our clothes stink even more. No one has summited since last Sunday and the route up Denali Pass is completely covered up. This place is so beautiful, but I could really care less right now. At some point during this day Bob and I had a long detailed conversation about looking forward to water from a faucet, darkness, and food that doesn't require boiling water. 

06/12/05
Stormed in again. Surprise surprise. Several other teams have made their way into 17K camp and its filling up fast! Everyone wants to be in position once the weather finally breaks. We're hoping that the guided groups break trail up Denali Pass to 18K, above there should be mostly wind-blown. Rumor around camp is that the weather is supposed to improve on Tuesday (today is Sunday). Another day of doing nothing except going stir crazy.

06/13/05
Day 15. I woke up so fuckin' angry at the weather this morning that I felt like tearing the tent apart and going through camp on a rampage. I was miserable. The wind is worse today and its obvious we're not going anywhere. Risking jinxing ourselves, Bob opened up a tin of "summit Pringles" to get back into reality. These tasted awesome and got me out of such a horrible mood. Rumor has it now that the weather may be bad through the end of the week. CRAP!!! A couple of the guided rope teams made their way up towards Denali Pass breaking trail and digging avalanche pits. Several other teams followed and apparently one group of two guys made it to the summit around 11pm after a ton of work and trouble. Looks pretty damn hairy up there right now and the winds sure haven't subsided at all. We are running out of food and fuel real fast and if we stretch it, it will last 2 more days. At this point its real easy to justify going back down without a summit. We decided to have Wednesday as our last possible shot at the summit then follow up with a marathon trek back to Base Camp to barely make our flights home. Hopefully tomorrow will be "the day," we got all packed up and ready to go for the morning.

06/14/05 - SUMMIT DAY!!!!!
The wind seemed relatively calm all night, until early morning. Then it picked up like usual and shook the tent like a116-day16.JPG (134111 bytes) freight train was going by constantly. Regardless, we got up around 9am, put on the majority of our clothes and headed up Denali Pass behind a couple small groups. I had on 2 pairs of socks, plastic boots with custom liners, overboots, long johns, softshell pants, heavy shell pants, 2 shirts, soft shell jacket, heavy shell jacket, balaclava, heavy wool hat, googles, glove liners, down mittens, as well as all my climbing gear. Along with this and some extra clothes in my backpack, if I got cold...I'm certainly in the wrong place! In my pack I had fleece tops/bottoms, bivy sack, first aid kit, 4 quarts of water/Gatorade, food, a stove and fuel, extra hats gloves and socks, down jacket, shovel, pickets, and hand/toe warmers. We figured we would go as far as possible then turn around. It was freakin' cold, the wind was blowing around 30-45mph, 119-day16.JPG (108639 bytes)and we were on some pretty scary avalanche terrain. The first 500ft was unprotected, but after that were pickets every 50ft or so to clip into. Some of the foot placements slid out from under us and thank God for ice axe, crampons, and a rope team! After a couple hours we were at Denali Pass at 18K. We hunkered down behind some rocks with other folks while eating, drinking, getting numb hands, and pondering our future while getting blasted by wind and snow. All three of us were relatively warm and felt good, so we decided to press on since we were 1/3 there. During the next hour or so I was talking to my Grandpop up in heaven asking for some help with the weather and kept looking around for blue spots. After Denali Pass the route continues up the steep ridge past the busted Japanese Weather Station. Amazingly enough the winds were dying down, the blue patches of sky got larger and more frequent, and the views were123-day16.JPG (127005 bytes) opening up. Holy crap!, if this continues we just may do this!!!!! By the time we were at Archdeacons Tower, it looked like a beautiful blue-bird sky day! Our moral was up 300% and we plodded on, one slow step after the other. It really is impossible to move ANY faster then this. The slope turns more gentle and after another small ridge we saw the "football field" sprawled out ahead of us. You couldn't smack our smiles off with an ice axe and we made good time across to the final steep slope up to the summit ridge. Scenic planes were flying by occasionally and we were waving away to them. I was thinking that Jean may be in 125-day16.JPG (111032 bytes)one of them and several days later we found out that she actually was and knew we would be summiting! This final steep section was nerve-wracking and tiring. Before long we were on the heavily corniced final summit ridge and could see the world below us and all around down to sea level while carefully stepping on a trail not much wider then a single boot. The wind was almost nil and the skies were a deep blue similar to Colorado. One last break for food, drinks, and pictures then we slowly and carefully made our way along the fragile-looking summit ridge that felt like the cornices could129-day16.JPG (144331 bytes) break off at any second and send us thousands of feet down. Right before the summit we belayed each other together then did the final steps together. There we were....20,320ft on the roof top of North America, "The High One", three buddies who worked our nuts off for over a year to get here, and didn't imagine we would summit until only a few short hours previous!!!! It was a feeling like none other. There were only two other guys up there and we spent 30 minutes celebrating with pictures, high fives, and pure bliss. 134-day16.JPG (142977 bytes)I couldn't help but to shed a tear, like on all high peaks. Now that the climb was only halfway over, we had to put our safety-caps back on and get off this giant mutha in one piece with all 21 digits. We were all in complete awe and were loving every single minute. The climb back across the summit ridge was just as spectacular and we ran into a couple other small groups near and past the Football Field.146-day16.JPG (140940 bytes) Ironically enough, the weather was taking a change for the worse with wind and clouds on their way back in. The only hairy section on the descent was coming down Denali Pass. To me, it felt incredibly prone to an avalanche with the wind loaded snow and sun beating down cookin' the top layers. Luckily, we got down without incident and were back in camp after 9.5hrs roundtrip of ass-kickin climbing. The other Pringles got opened and it wasn't long before we ate, drank, and were sacked out knowing we had a LONG day ahead of us getting off the mountain! Aaahhhhh, what a day!!!

Windows Media Player video from the summit, 45 seconds with sound. ~1MB

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