Climbing Denali Part 3
Acclimatizing, caching, planning and constructive arguing were the themes of the next 3 days.
08 Jun 12 (Day 4):
Turned out to be a bad weather day, which actually worked out for us as we weren’t planning on moving anyways. It was a time to rest and acclimatize to the higher altitude at Motorcycle Hill (11,200 ft) after all the hard work we had put on our bodies for the last 3 days. So far, I’ve been the self appointed and group accepted cook for the trip, a role which I enjoyed and the guys appreciated. Food had been pretty good to date but I slipped up and mistook Tang powder for Mac & Cheese sauce powder which then created the monster we all called Tang Tortellini. Don’t try that one at home! After a good laugh and one bowlful each, it transitioned into a tortellini broth and dinner was saved. (Photo right: Scott on the Windy Corner Traverse)
09 Jun 12 (Day 5):
Today was a cache carry up to a point aptly named Windy Corner (13,200 ft). The long climb up to this point ends on a very exposed traverse that is often impassable due to sudden, unforeseeable high winds. Not only that but the traverse itself causes sleds to want to slide down the icy slope at 90 degrees to our intended direction of travel. One slip up could lead to a nasty slide causing serious injury or even death. We carried and then buried (cached) about half our supplies including 2 gallons of fuel, most of the food and extra clothing that we would need further on during the trek. We would be retrieving all this stuff later on after will have moved up to the next camp at 14,200 ft. During the evening, we had a huge discussion on fuel. It turns out we had been using up fuel very quickly and would only have enough to last another 10 days whereas we had planned to be on the mountain for another 17. Fuel rationing became a sticky point and heavily discussed/argued between all 3 of us well into the night. (Photo above: Bob at our cache site just past Windy Corner)
10 Jun 12 (Day 6):
Just 12 hours after our fuel dispute, our expedition was saved and our fuel problems were solved. Luckily some Brits came over to our camp and unexpectedly offered us almost 2 gallons of extra fuel. We were now well topped up and in no real danger of running out as we forecasted the night before. After a good brunch, we packed up camp and setup for our next push to Basin Camp (also known as Medical Camp as a doctor is stationed there) at 14,200 ft. Unfortunately Bob decided to leave his sled at Windy Corner the day before and now ended up not being able to take his share of the group gear. This predicament created a lot of friction within the group but all we could do is deal with what we had at hand, so Scott and I sucked it up. With an extra 20 lbs or so for both of us on top of our heavy loads we put our heads down and started moving. We ended up arriving at Basin Camp very late at night and in the midst of a brutal blizzard. After a mad dash to set up our tents and get food in our bellies without freezing we crashed for the night, happy to have made it even higher up the mountain safe and sound. The plan is to stay at Basin for the next 4 days to acclimatize, retrieve our cache and prepare for even tougher days ahead at High Camp (17,200 ft). (Photo right: Chris getting ready to head out)