So we reached the summit 15 mins after “turn around time” (our designated time to start heading down) on Sunday night. It was cold, windy and I was freaked out about getting the girls down.
I don’t know why I suddenly felt such an ominous responsibility. Meredith had been doing a great job as our team leader. She really was the one that got us to the summit in so many ways. She was the one who convinced me I could do it in the first place. And with a dream team of four strong, experienced climbers, there was no reason to expect that any one person needed help getting down.
I can’t explain it but I had this sudden feeling that I alone was responsible for getting “my girls” down and that I needed to keep the girls moving at all costs. It was totally unwarranted, but that’s how I felt. I felt completely responsible for all 40 fingers and all 40 toes as if they were all mine.
I don’t think I even looked around at the summit. I certainly don’t remember if I did. I remember barking at the girls that we were going down NOW. No pictures. No spreading of ashes. No celebrating. I was a big meanie.
Meredith would say later that it was pretty much the most anticlimactic summit of her climbing career. I would have to say, I agree. All those months of hard work, planning, training and I didn’t even look around. I regret that.
But I don’t regret leading the team down to 17,200 camp with no mishaps. I don’t regret pushing the girls a little aggressively at times.
We crawled back to high camp just after 1:00 AM in time to see an Alaska summer sunset/sunrise that rivals any I’ve seen.
And that view from Denali Pass of High Camp in pinks, oranges and reds from an unlimited sky – with our tents in sight – was perhaps better than the view from the summit.