High Camp and Beyond!!

Well, we believe the ladies made it to high camp (and the summit!) over the weekend; I had promised them that I would write a little ditty about my time at high camp once we received a Spot check in.  But sometimes Spots miss their check ins.   So, here goes, a bit late…

After spending a week at 14,200’ with 100 or so of our closest friends (this camp is often called the highest “village” in the world this time of year!), we began our push to the final camp (ideally) on our climb.  To go from 14,200’ to 17,200’ takes several days for most teams, as they have to first climb the fixed lines (the most technical part of the climb), cache at the top of the fixed lines, go back down to pick up their high camp packs, head up to high camp and set up camp, then head back to their cache to unbury their gear (you get the picture, a lot of up and down with heavy packs).  Our experience was much of the same.

Personally, I LOVED the fixed lines!!  As the ice climber in my group, I loved the short steepish sections of blue ice (not a lot of blue, but it WAS there!).  And, you are traveling on two lines (one fixed to pickets for nearly 800’ and one to your climb team), so it feels very safe.  There were teams going down one set of lines right next to us, giving us beta for what was ahead, and one set of lines going up.  It is a bit of a bottleneck though, as you can imagine 100 villagers going up and down depending on summit bids.  But the view from the first time we went to the top of the fixed lines (to bury our cache) was fantastic!!  You can see our little “village” (14 Camp) below…

1058473_388080271313620_566707842_n

I remember the ridgeline heading into high camp as quite pleasant, amazing views overlooking the highest “village” in the world, and well protected (many fixed lines put in that many teams don’t use in totality as it is not a technical ridgeline).  On our way to high camp, we had to wait for a rather large group (as there are many spots that only allow room for one team at a time).  I found myself at Washburn’s Thumb with Conrad Anker and Jon Krakauer.  CA and I talked about Bozeman and the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival (a festival that both Jenn and I love and frequent) and the importance of mentorship.  I was a bit starstruck to be honest.  And, then I pumped JK about his upcoming book, to which he said that he was under contract to not release any information, bummer.  But, there I was chatting with some amazing people, waiting for my turn to continue up the ridgeline (no views on this particular day, as seen in picture 2 with one of my three person climb team, Anthony Bell.  Please note Anthony is a 6’4” tall man; do you see the size of his pack!?!).

1057696_388079904646990_372963076_n

High camp for our team was less than pleasant.  We had been warned that you should never go up to high camp unless there is a three day window forecast with winds over 35 mph.  Since we also sat at 14,200’ for a week, we were itching to get higher and disregarded the warnings.  High camp was consistently cold and the winds were nearly as consistent.  There are fewer distractions, fewer people, and the view was weak and rather socked in.  We sat inside our tents for nearly three days before we thought we had a window. Lesson learned, do not go up without a favorable window!!  But we did get a really good look at the Autobahn, a glorious intersected with massive crevasses that we would have to cross to get up to leading to Denali Pass…

And, please forgive any typos as I am rushing to the airport as I type!!