Denali Prep Course, Day 5. Crevasse Rescue.

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 if you need to catch up.

We awoke on Day 4 to a break in the storm.  A break that would last the rest of our time on the mountain.  The sun was out with just some low clouds.  But the wind was gone, the precipitation was gone and the mountain was out.

We spent the first part of the morning taking in the views and sights around the camp.  30″ of snow and storm conditions for three days leaves some pretty impressive results.  I walked around camp and took a couple scenic shots you see below.  I also took a short panoramic video of our camp site after I took some still shots.

While making breakfast in our little kitchen I noticed we had a pretty nice view of the mountain out of kitchen door.

This is our little kitchen.

Once the day got started, it was time to start training.  This day’s plan was to do crevasse rescue and move some supplies up to Pan Point and cache it there for the move to Camp Muir the following day.  Pan Point was chosen for the cache site because it is very, very steep and pulling a sled up it would be difficult.  So by caching our sleds at the top today, it would make the move to Muir a little easier.  We would do a lot of these “double carries” on Denali, so it was good practice and training.

We loaded up our sleds and moved out towards Pan Point’s slope and worked on crevasse rescue skills all morning.

First, we took our skills at digging anchors and put them to the test for real.  We would be hanging, sort of, at the end of these anchors so everyone took them seriously.  We split into two groups with an instructor working with each group.  The views were pretty nice.  In the photo on the right, with Shelley looking at the camera, you can see the slope up Pan Point in the background.  In the photo on the left you can see our sleds lined up behind us.

After the anchors were in place I went over the edge first.  Okay, it really wasn’t a cliff and we could actually stand on the slope.  However, if things didn’t work right it was still a long way to the bottom.  The training here was to simulate everyone being on a rope team when one member falls into a crevasse.  So, after I went over the side, Shelley was the lead on the rope team and Bruce was in the middle.  Shelley had to use her prussiking techniques to get back to Bruce, then set up back up lines with Bruce and the anchor.  Then she needs to prussik back to me in the crevasse and set up a 3-1 pulley system using carabiners she placed near the anchor where Bruce was and near the edge of the crevasse where I was.  Then she attached the system to her harness and using her weight and pulling like a horse, walks back to Bruce and pulls me out of the crevasse.  It’s kind of hard to explain, sorry.  Each of us got the chance to be in the ‘crevasse’ and the lead.

We were out here all morning and afternoon.  One of our instructors, Ben, recently had fallen into a crevasse up in Canada earlier this same year.  His team got him out but it took 3 hours to get it done.  He said that was fast, too.  It can take much longer.  He wasn’t hurt in the fall either.  Imagine if you broke an ankle or hit your head and you were unconscious?  These were scenarios we discussed.

Near the end of our crevasse rescue training, the weather began to turn on us and visibility dropped to a few dozen feet.  We hurried up our clean up, hooked up to the sleds and tried to get up to the top of Pan Point.  We didn’t make.  The weather whited out on us.  I’m at the back of the line and Shelley is right in front of me with the red pack.

We had to turn around.  You just couldn’t see where you were going at all.  We came back to camp and rested up a bit then the instructors came up with another skills class to go over.  There’s a part of the climb up Denali where you are traversing along a fixed rope.  In a prior post I mentioned the ascent and descent along fixed ropes, but this is different.  The skill you need to learn is how to move your harness from one side of the fixed line anchor, to the other side of the anchor without coming off the line.  The instructors set up a big circle at camp with seven stations simulating the anchors.  We tied into the rope going through the stations and walked in circles practicing this technique.  You have to learn it going left to right and right to left.  It really isn’t that hard once you get it figured out.  This is a photo of me on this line that Shelley took.

After rope skills we ate dinner and settled in for another night.  If you’ve been following these stories about this course, you’ll remember me talking about my sunburn.  Shelley took this photo of me as I went to bed that shows off my new ‘tan’.  I got pretty burned on Day 4 even though the weather was so bad and the sun never came out.  Once again, lesson learned.  Better to learn it on Rainier.

It was very eerily calm this night.  This was the first night we had where there was no wind.  Very nice.  Tomorrow, we were going to move up to Camp Muir.  Finally, we get to do some climbing.

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