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Well, a beast of a storm has moved in and the air service may not be flying until Friday. Due to the storm we realized our other sub-goals for the mountain, like skiing some big lines such as Messner or Orient, were not going to happen. That’s the way it goes on Denali; you’re really controlled by the weather and have to accept it. This is one reason only about half of the people who try for the summit make it.
But we’re all of course very satisfied to have planned and executed a trip that got us a summit ski descent of the highest mountain in North America. This especially true for the young guys for whom this was their first Alaskan mountaineering expedition.
Last evening, though still feeling incredibly worked, we descended back down to the 11,500 foot camp. The descent was rather epic, as the storm was blowing 60 mph winds around Windy Corner and Squirrel Point. The winds were so bad and our sleds so difficult that Louie and I finally resorted to crampons and lowered our sleds in front of us down Motorcycle Hill. Luckily we’d already skied that section during a double carry, otherwise I’d be bummed to have skipped one of the classic downhill sections!
Louie and I are being conservative, staying here and hydrating and resting for a few hours before trying to continue down. The other guys have pushed ahead and seem to be doing fine with that. So either style is probably fine. My guess is the air service won’t be flying till Friday, so no hurry, but nothing like a little dose of optimism.
We set up our Hilleberg Nammatj 3 last night in wind resistant mode. Meaning all guy lines taut, rear into the wind. The tent was amazing, as I was told it didn’t need snow block wind walls for this kind of wind (around 40 mph), as they just cause turbulence. Instead, the tent just let the wind slip around it with a low pitched humming sound, no flapping. Truly good stuff.
WildSnow signing off for now, we’ll try to get down the glacier to the airstrip so we can make that our last camp, but we won’t push it.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.