It’s been snowing quite a bit here at 14,200 feet on Denali. A final energetic burst dropped about a foot last night. First result of that was a collapsed cook tent, with two broken poles and a nice tear.
I’d thought about harassing the boys last night about taking down the tent or at least checking it several times during the night, but just wasn’t in the mood to nag and figured the consequences would speak better than me. As penance for not being more verbal, I spent two hours stitching the tear.
Louie repaired the poles and we’re back in business, better than ever, as the boys activated our snow saws and built some really nice block walls around the tent so a wind event doesn’t do to us what the snow did. We all agreed we’d take the tent down at night.
After the tent mini-epic we made a few ski laps on the lower part of the West Buttress route behind camp, three or four hundred vert that felt like a thousand to me as I’m still not acclimated. Just for grins, Joe and Jordan made the run shirtless–that’s how much the weather up here varies. Apparently the run behind camp is the only place the Park Rangers are allowed to ski on a glacier without a rope. I was a bit leery of doing so anyway, but the slope gets use on a European scale, with no incidents, so with that in mind I stowed the rope in the pack.
After the ski laps it was time for some avalanche watching. Camp was amused when a fairly big one ran from the area looker’s left of Messner Couloir. When that one turned into a huge roaring powder avalanche headed straight at us shouts of RUN echoed across the glacier and nearly the whole camp began scrambling away from the powder cloud in a mass run-for-your-lives panic attack. That is everyone but the seasoned vets such as alpinists Colin and Bjorn who are camped next to us. They just stood by their tent and laughed, then mentioned that if you want to see something really big, go to the Karakorum.
At any rate, the avalanche panic was pretty funny and quite the adrenaline rush. And the debris did end up a few hundred feet from the perimeter campsites on that side of camp. The dusting of snow felt good in the heat.
Park Rangers stationed up here have been giving us good advice. They’re saying that as things stand now, our best bet for a summit ski is to take the West Buttress route down to the Rescue Gully (which leaves from near the 17,000 foot camp, then take the Rescue Gully back to here. The key will be for us all to do some acclimation climbs as high as possible. For me, getting acclimated to 17,000 is probably essential so I’ll try to do a few climbs to that elevation within the next five days or so. But when the summit weather comes, we’ll need to at least give it a try as you just don’t get that many windows up here.