Denali Prep Course, Day 6. The Move To Muir.

First some good news since my last post about the Denali Prep course.  We both knew that the course was “Pass/Fail.”  And that we had to receive a passing grade from the guides in order to climb Denali with Alpine Ascents.  A few weeks ago we both got our evaluations and we both passed the Denali Prep Course, which is one more hurdle for us if we are to go to Denali.

Day 6 was an early morning.  We got up at 6:00 am to get the camp broken down and packed up.  The sky was clear, which made for a very pleasant morning.  This is a really good picture of our guides’ tent inside their wind wall.  Notice how tall the wall is and how it surrounds their tent.

Once again, the view from our front door was quite spectacular.

With all the snow we had, our tent guide lines were buried about three feet down into the snow and considerable effort had to be made to dig them out.  Here’s Shelley trying to get the front lines out from under the wind wall.  Grant and Tyler are in the background working on their tent.

Our guides decided we would not need to pull our sleds up to Camp Muir.  A big giant hole was dug at the camp site and any unnecessary gear was cached in the hole with our sleds.  This included tents, sleeping pads, duffel bags, etc.  The plan was to use the guide shelters up at Camp Muir.  The same one’s we stayed in last year when we attempted Mt. Rainier.  You may remember that trip titled, “Mother Nature Wins.”

The climb up to Camp Muir took about five hours.  We had three breaks.  It was warm and sunny the entire time.  Really a very pleasant hike.  Before we left for Camp Muir, Ben loaded up a sled of garbage and spare stuff and took that down to Paradise.  Because we were leaving, he had to take his pack with him as well.  So, remember this part, Ben left about 30 minutes before we did and dragged a sled and carried his pack down to Paradise.  After dumping the garbage, he reloaded his sled with weight and then caught up to us about 30 minutes after our first break.  He pulled a sled up to Camp Muir because he is scheduled to guide a trip to Denali this summer.  You’ll see pictures of him later with his sled and that is why he’s not in any of the early photos of the hike, but is in the later ones.

Here we are just outside camp, very near where we did crevasse rescue the day before, moving toward Pan Point.  You can see the ski tracks in the snow up the slop to the right of us.  That’s the slope we climb up leading to Pan Point.  The photo of the right is a shot of us on the slope itself.

Here we are at break #1.

At break #2 I took a series of scenery shots looking down the mountain.

There were a couple of groups that climbed up early this morning or the previous night to get an early start to skiing down from Camp Muir.  This was the second group that passed us.  Unfortunately, the camera didn’t focus right and the video is pretty blurry, but you get the idea and I couldn’t pass up posting it.

At break #3 we stopped just below Camp Muir.  We both remembered our last climb up to Camp Muir last summer and how we got out onto this glacier and could see the structures at the camp but it just took forever to walk that last “little bit.”  This last break was still 45 minutes from Camp Muir.  If you look between the heads of the two people standing up (photo on the left), you’ll see a brown square box.  That’s the guide shelter.  Camp Muir is in that saddle with the guide shelter on the left and the public shelter on the right (out of view in this photo).  On the right is Shelley finishing her push up to Camp Muir.  She was just a machine going up that mountain.  It really is a mental game.  You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and stay in a nice smooth rythem……….and don’t stop.

Once we made it to Camp Muir, we moved into public shelter for the first night.  Alpine Ascents was running a guide training course at Camp Muir and they were cleaning up and living in the guide shelter for the first night we were at Camp Muir.  They would move out the next day and we moved in on Day 7.  The only training we did on this day was after arriving at Camp Muir and learned about how to test a slope for avalanche danger.  They call it “Digging a pit” or “Doing a shovel test.”  What you do is go find a slope that is similar to what you’ll be climbing on and dig a pit with your shovel and checking to see how the slab of snow is looking and how big it is.  JP showed us this on a slope just outside Camp Muir and the slab was about 3″ thick and broke right off with no effort.  That was bad.  Some climbers that were already at Camp Muir said they had done shovel tests higher up, near 11,000 feet, and the slab was closer to 10″ – 14″ thick.  That was real bad.  JP met a guy, he came to be known as the “Mountain Hippy”, and he told JP about his shovel test.  I overheard this conversation.  He told JP, “Even I’m not crazy enough to go up in those conditions.”  We weren’t going to the summit.

There was quite a bit more snow up at Camp Muir this time compared to last.  Just as a reminder, here are some photos for comparison.  On the left is last year, on the right is this year.  The first one is the public shelter.  In the photo from last year, you can see a door on the left hand side and the right hand side.  Obviously, the door on the right was buried, but the door on the left was still accessible.

I don’t have a good overview shot of Camp Muir from last year, so here are two from last year showing a little bit of the camp.  Then after those two is an overview of the Camp Muir I took when I climbed up a slope above the camp.  Needless to say, we had a lot of snow this year.

After settling in and finishing our shovel test, it was time for dinner.  I took a short video of Shelley making dinner and then went outside to video the sunset as well.  Then it was sack out time for one last full day of training on day 7.

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