Denali Part 5
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A pure Death March was the only term for today. We woke up psyched from summiting, sore from such a long day, but hungry for burgers and beers in Talkeetka. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and not much wind up at 17K camp. This got about 50 people up and moving towards the summit at our last count leading to Denali Pass. We felt kinda fortunate to not be amongst the hordes, but to summit the  149-day17.JPG (144811 bytes)day before by ourselves. We were packed up and moving down the 16K to 17K ridge for the sixth and final time. The views around were the best since no clouds could be seen anywhere. Before long we were sweating our asses off getting into 14K camp for our first long break to eat, drink, dig up a cache, and somehow fit more gear into our packs. We hauled one loaded sled from here that was an absolute nightmare on the steep sections. Wayne was worn out from holding the sled back from whacking me, I was dying from trying to control the thing and hold it back, and Bob was dying from dehydration and exhaustion. Practically crawling into 11K150-day17.JPG (145682 bytes) camp we took a couple hours to get our shit back together. Plenty of packing to be done here at our last cache and catching up on eating and drinking. Loomis, the ranger that checked us in, was at this camp with volunteers checking caches and cleaning up, so we chatted and laughed with them for awhile. They suggested waiting until later in the night when the snow was more solid, so we compromised and left in the late evening. We boogied down to the lower camps making great time and having much less trouble with the 152-day17.JPG (131453 bytes)two sleds once brakes were rigged up on them. The views down the glacier were a nice change from staring at our feet slowly crawling up the glacier feeling like death. Around the 7800ft camp we still had 5.5miles to go and the hardest part of the descent. To top things off, it started raining on us! Of course we didn't care and just kept moving along. Another long break right before Heartbreak Hill was much needed, and nothing but one foot in front of the other would get us up. We slogged up it taking 2 hours and were all ready to just fall over and sleep there. It was absolutely brutal! After 14+hrs we were at Base Camp right before midnight. Ouch. It didn't take long to set up the tents, make water, and dig up the Goldenschlager, though we were all barely awake enough to drink much of it. Still a few big swigs tasted great!! I set my alarm to wake up early the next morning with hopes of getting us on one of the first planes off the glacier and back to civilization.

153-day18.JPG (166594 bytes)Day 18 on the mountain. My alarm went off at 7:45am and I was at Base Camp Lisa's tent at 8am sharp. She called our team into TAT and got us on the list for one of the first planes that morning. It was another beautiful day and there was no doubt we were getting out. Now all we had to do was get our gear ready (though we all swore to sell it on eBay as soon as getting back) and wait for the plane. Within the half hour we were in the sky seeing Base Camp for the last time. This place is absolutely beautiful, though I154-day18.JPG (188184 bytes) was happy to be leaving it behind with the whirl of the planes propeller flying us back through One Shot Pass and seeing vegetation for the first time in what seemed like forever. Back at TAT it was HOT (atleast to us). I was happy to be bitten by a mosquito and see a change of clothes as well as a flushing toilet and running water! Its the small things in life! I called Jean and Rich immediately and found out they heard part of our choppy satellite phone call the day before and were only an hour away from Talkeetna! 155-day18.JPG (135374 bytes)WooHoo!!!! Weighing ourselves at TAT with the same clothes on we discovered that I lost 13lbs, Bob lost 16lbs, and Wayne (the eating machine) lost almost none. That's not good considering I normally only weigh around 150lbs and do not have any weight to lose. With giant smiles on our faces we took sink-showers, bought shirts, and headed towards the NPS to turn in our full poop can, and proudly report that we summited! Flip flops never felt so good on my tired and worn feet. We had a 1/2hr till the West Rib Bar and Grill so we hit the corner store for snacks and before long Jean and Rich were pulling around the corner. It was156-day18.JPG (186409 bytes) great to see them and Jean reported that we didn't stink half as much as she figured! An all-out gorging pursued at lunch with giant bacon cheeseburgers, fries, salads, and beers. My God did those beers tasted great!!! Topped by ice cream at the corner store again, we loaded up our duffels full of stinky gear and headed back to Anchorage. Aaahhhhhh, we were on top of the world!! Showers, gear drying, and naps were awesome. I was really appreciating a bed at this point. Of course we went right back out for food and beers followed up by about 12hrs of amazing and solid sleep.

Woke to the smell of bacon, my favorite fruit! Eating was the theme of today! I was amazed at watching water come164-kayaking.jpg (128303 bytes) out of a faucet and not having to put on $2K worth of clothes and gear just to go outside. That's another thing, we could go outside by choice today!! We gorged on bacon, pancakes, and gallons of coffee before heading out to do some sea kayaking in the Price William Sound where Jean and Rich paddled a few days before. A day of rest?! Forget it! Saturday was supposed to be rainy, so this was our only day. Rich and Pam are the greatest and were going to make sure we got the most out of Alaska as possible. The drive along the 165-kayaking.jpg (103996 bytes) ocean to the Sound was beautiful....beluga whales swimming by, big snowy peaks all around with their glaciers calving into the water, and Subway ready to be eaten at our feet. We paddled all around the Price William Sound having a blast with jaws on the floor in amazement of the views. We rested on a beach (eating of course) before paddling down the coast to the Kittywick birds and back towards the town of Whittier. On the way back to Anchorage we bought tons of steaks, salmon, and pork to grill along with all the fixin's. Another all out gorging before another night of about 12hrs deep sleep once again.

Our last day in Alaska before a midnight flight so we hung around the house packing up while it rained outside (after more bacon, sausage, and eggs for breakfast of course). Afterwards we all drove to Pam and Rich's new home site to check it out, then into town to walk around and hit the local brewery. On the way back to Pam and Rich's we stopped at a stream to watch the giant salmon swim upstream and their futile attempts to just up the waterfalls. We tried to tell them that it would be easier to masturbate in an eddy then to swim all the way upstream from the ocean to get laid! It was sad to be leaving Alaska in what seemed so soon, but nice to be getting back to Colorado where the sun is warm and the beer is cold! Once again, we cannot thank Pam and Rich for taking such great care of us, making life easier, and filling our bellies with plenty of beer and food!!!!!!

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