Busy on Denali

Before the girls left, I was invited to be a guest blogger for the camp at 14K. I was on Denali a bunch of years ago (didn’t summit due to conditions) and spent a lot of time in the camp at 14 K (didn’t summit due to conditions).denaii2

So I am too late with my post since they seem to be returning to that camp about now. ‘I’ll do it tonight’. And I don’t even consider myself as that busy. Trying hard to be a human being, not a human doing. Which brings me to ‘time’.

Time on Denali works differently somehow. On Denali, there are no e-mails to be sent, no back to back meetings to be missed, no checking up on the news, no ideas to be had or developed, no chores to be hated, no workouts to be scheduled and no weekend trips to be planned.

So objectively, there is a lot of time on Denali. You can only ascent so many feet per day to avoid altitude sickness so except for summit day, climbing time per day is pretty short with a lot of rest and acclimatization days in between.

And yet. It seems like there is no. Time. Sure, me and the two boys played a lot of cards, read some books and rearranged gear (especially the boys) for the one millionth time. But we were surprisingly occupied. It just seemed everything took a lot longer.

  • There are no choices to be made about what clean shirt goes with what clean pants, or should I wear a skirt today, and gosh I have a bad hairday today, I’ll just put it up. But dressing on Denali is cold, akward in the confines of a tent and did I mention cold. It took a lot of mental effort and time to change in order for my clothes not to be stuck permanently to my dirty sweaty body.
  • And then there is food. No complicated meals for us. But we needed water. It took so much time to dig snow, slowly melt it, fill all the water bottles (and you need to drink a ton, again to avoid altitude sickness problems) and then finally get some water to make your food. All that in the cold and wind with a stove full of ‘character’ (we were lucky ourselves – the Denali Girls learned how to deconstruct and reconstruct their stoves in case of too much temperament). Do that a couple of times a day. Half a day. Gone.
  • There is no IKEA on Denali so you actually have to construct your own living room/kitchen. Digging ice/snow blocks out at 14K is hard, your body would rather be on an oxygen tank than assembling kitchenettes. It takes time. Lots of it.denali3
  • Going on a little walk around camp (14 K is a little city, see the picture above) seems like a relatively major excursion. Makes you think how the hell you’re going to make it up the mountain. All in good time?

Even though time seems to be at a different pace on Denali and we were ‘busy’, this was a different kind of busy. This was being, not doing busy. Priorities were very clear (cause eating, dressing, going to the loo etc) are pretty essential needs. The link between action and outcome was rather obvious. Very uncomplicated. For me, that was/is one of the greatest experiences on Denali. Apart from the avalanche just stopping short of the camp but I promised Meredith to not talk about that.

Barbara Dekeyser