The Great One: Move’n On Up

Previous posts on our trip, in order:

Our arrival in Talkeetna

Basecamp Opens

The Lower Kahiltna

June 17.  Day 3 on the mountain.

June 17 would be the start of our double-carry strategy of moving up the mountain.  The plan was to carry everything up to Camp 2 that we would not be needing for June 17 and June 18.  Basically, this meant most of our food and fuel would be going up to Camp 2.  Once at Camp 2 we would bury this gear in the snow and place our sleds over the top to act as a lid.  The sleds would be buried as well.  Believe it or not, the ravens on Denali would dig up your cache of food if you didn’t bury it deep enough or fail to protect it.  After burying the cache, we would climb back down to Camp Ferine and spend the night before moving our camp up to Camp 2 on June 18.  We would repeat this strategy all the way to Camp 5.

Here’s another photo of the route using my GPS data along with the climb’s slope profile.  The dark maroon colored straight line is one section of the trip where I neglected to turn on the GPS upon leaving camp.  I was able to start it at our first break which was at the base of Ski Hill.  At that point we followed the green line.  This picture also shows just how close (about 1 hour) Camp Ferine is to Camp 1.

We woke up early once again, 1:30 am, and had an early breakfast of hash browns, bacon and cheddar cheese all mixed together like an omelet without eggs.  One thing we learned for our climb today was to prepare our gear the night before.  This allows for a little more sleep and a quicker start to the day.  So we prepped our sleds the night before and only needed to do a little bit of packing after breakfast.  However, this didn’t help us on this date as we took a leisurely breakfast of over an hour.  We left camp at 4:10 am.

We awoke to another clear day with the moon setting behind us down the Kahiltna.  In the photo below you can see some sticks sitting up out of the snow.  These are wands that we use as markers.  We used them to mark trails, bathrooms, caches or the boundary surrounding the camp.

Once we left Camp Ferine, we walked about an hour that took us through Camp 1 and onto Ski Hill.  We stopped right at the base of Ski Hill for our first break stop.  Ski Hill was our first real challenge on this climb.  It turned out we went right up it with no problem.  Little did we know that Ski Hill was nothing compared to what was in store for us, but it was a confidence booster just the same.  Here’s a photo looking back down the rope teams with Camp 1 in the background.

From the same spot looking up at Vern and Lauren and looking up Ski Hill.

A little bit farther up the climb I pulled into the break first and was able to catch Shelley walking up alongside me.

Camp 2 is not an established, specific spot on the map.  It seemed to be a series of camp sites along the trail, spread out over about a mile or so of the glacier.  We ended up going up quite a way before we stopped to set up camp.  This was the same camp site, or pretty close to the same camp site, that Vern used on his first trip up Denali earlier in the season.  In fact the sign he put up marking this spot was still there when we walked in at 8:25 am.  Once we arrived we had to stomp out the camp site just like we did for Camp 1 and once that was done we collected all the gear off the sleds and buried it in our cache.

After the cache was buried and covered with a mound of snow, we placed wands into the snow to mark its spot.  In case we have high winds or snow over night, you want to make sure you can find your cache the next day.  Here at our Camp 2 site, like Camp Ferine, there was no other climbers around us.  We would have this area all to ourselves.  The problem would arise if another team came along after we left and took our spot.  Just because we buried our cache here didn’t mean we had some type of reservation on this spot.  So the next thing we did after burying our cache was spend a few minutes cleaning up the tent platforms that were already present.  Again, this didn’t reserve our spot, but the hope was that if someone came along they would see our cache and the work we’ve done and move along.  Here’s a short video showing us working on our cache.

Once the cache was set, it was time to head back to Camp Ferine.  The time was 9:50 am.  We still needed to get back to camp before it got too warm and the glacier began to soften up.  So, back down we went.

We also cut back through Camp 1, but this time I took some photos of this area.  This first one was taken while still coming down Ski Hill with Camp 1 down at the bottom.  A wand (bent over to the right of the trail) can be seen along the trail as well.

Once we got back to camp at around 11:15 am, we worked on getting things ready for the next day, ate lunch and relaxed for the afternoon.  We also got the chance to dry some of our clothes out.  Mainly socks.  Although the idea is not to sweat while you’re out climbing, you do perspire to some extent.  It was warm enough during the afternoon that we could hang up our clothes inside the tent, or outside the tent, and let them dry off.  There were two more avalanches this day as well.  One on the way to Camp 2 and one on the way back to Camp Ferine.

June 18.  Day 4 on the mountain.

We woke up at 1:30 am to the moon setting over our camp yet again.  This day would be our move day to Camp 2.  After breakfast we tore down camp, packed everything up and were moving on the trial by 5:00 am.  One idea behind these double carries is to make your carry day (June 17) a heavy, hard day.  This way on your move day your quite a bit lighter and this makes for an easier day.  We also don’t have to drag our sleds on move day.  Since most of our food and fuel was already up at Camp 2, the move day is much lighter.

Vern made bacon and french toast, with hot syrup, for breakfast.  Paul took a great photo of the moon rise over camp.

Here we are getting clipped in to the ropes.  You can see the ropes coiled on the ground at our feet.

Paul took this really great shot of the teams approaching Ski Hill from just outside Camp 1.

Ryan took this great photo near the base of Ski Hill really give some perspective to the hill.  There are two rope teams on Ski Hill in this photo.  One near the bottom and another about 2/3 of the way up.  Just so you know, this photo was taken while we were stopping so Vern could throw our poop bag from our CMC can into the crevasse.  That’s Vern at the front leaning over to take the poop bag off his sled.  The crevasse is Vern’s left in this photo.  Of the four CMC cans the the Park Service gave us, we only used one.  That CMC can would last a couple of days before the bag was full.  This would allow us to toss the bag while moving between camps instead of having to make a trip down the glacier just to toss the bag.  We only saw one avalanche this day and it was on the lower glacier before Ski Hill.

There are also crevasses all around us as Ryan demonstrates in this photo he took while climbing up Ski Hill.

Paul also took this picture near the top of Ski Hill looking back down towards Camp 1 and another team coming up the hill.

Here we are stopped for a break at the top of Ski Hill.  Following this photo is a video I made as the Purple Team pulled in alongside us for this break stop.

This is a good picture showing Vern leading my Orange Team as we ascend higher after Ski Hill.  You can see another rope team off in the distance to the upper right of the photo.

We arrived at Camp 2 at about 9:15 am and noticed that someone had been there after we left the day before, but they moved on and didn’t take our camp site.  That was honorable of them.  So we dumped our gear and started setting up camp.

Here we are arriving at Camp 2.  Lauren and the rest of the Purple Team are just pulling in.

Here’s Shelley leveling our tent platform.

Once camp is established and all the chores are done, we could settle in and relax or eat lunch.  We brought a pair of 40 Below camp booties with us on this trip which allowed us to take our boots and boot liners off and set them out to dry.  The camp booties were great on the lower glacier to walk around camp in and sleep in.  But that’s why you see our boots lined up outside the tent in the sun in this photo.  Also, because the sun can be so brutal on the glacier, we toss our sleeping bags over the top of the tent in order to provide some shade inside the tent.  Without the shade it can get up to 115 F inside the tent.  You just have to be careful if it’s windy out so you don’t lose your sleeping bag.

Once we collected our sleds out of the cache, we rigged them again for the next day’s move to Camp 3 and then turn them upside down.  This protects the food bags that our packed on the sled from the UV rays from the sun.  Notice the ropes are set up on their tripods too.

Here’s an overall view of our Camp 2 on Denali at 9,600 feet.

One way we were able to take so many pictures of this trip (2,000+ photo and videos between the 6 of us) was because we brought a solar panel and a universal charger that charged all sorts of batteries.  It was able to charge the AA batteries for my GPS as well as the camera batteries for us.  Once Paul found out our adapter could charge his camera battery, he went crazy with the videos and photos.  Man, he could take some great photos.  I’m really glad we were able to keep his battery charged during this trip.  Here’s our solar panel at work outside the tent.  The total weight of the panel and the adapters was appx 2 lbs.

We were spoiled again by Lauren for dinner this night.  She made pizzas.

We did some medical tests on ourselves for the first time during this trip.  Shelley’s pulse oximeter (or just pulse ox), pre-breathing, came in at 91%.  And with breathing, it bumped up to 97%.  Pre-breathing is just sitting and taking the measurement while resting.  With breathing is after making an effort to pressure breath while taking the measurement.  Her pulse was 98 but it dropped to 88 with breathing.  My resting pulse ox was 96% with a pulse rate of 76.  It appeared at this point that I was acclimatizing to the altitude better than Shelley, but who really knows why.  Maybe I was doing a better job at breathing while we were climbing or maybe my body is just different.  Who knows.  Those numbers would get drastically worse for both of us the higher we went.

Another aspect to the double carry strategy has to do with helping with acclimation.  The idea is to only gain about 1,000 feet in elevation for each day you are on the mountain.  By double carrying loads up about 2,000 feet you accomplish this goal.  To go along with that, you want to “carry high, sleep low.”  That’s why we work hard and carry big loads on the carry day then return to our camp down low to sleep.  All this is to help with acclimation and try to avoid altitude sickness (otherwise known as AMS).

So came to an end another productive day on Denali.  Everyone in the group was still feeling strong and no one was feeling any effects of the altitude or cold weather.

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7 Responses to “The Great One: Move’n On Up”

  1. The Great One: Now We Start to Climb « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 3, The Lower Kahiltna                        4, Move’n On Up […]

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  2. The Great One: Feeling the Altitude « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 3, The Lower Kahiltna                        4, Move’n On Up […]

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  3. The Great One: Rest and Weather « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 4, Move’n On Up                                5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna                    6, Now We Start to Climb […]

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  4. The Great One: 20,320 « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 4, Move’n On Up                                5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna                    6, Now We Start to Climb […]

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  5. The Great One: Coming Down « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 4, Move’n On Up                                5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna                    6, Now We Start to Climb […]

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  6. The Great One: Going Home « News From Summit Ridge Says:

    […] 4, Move’n On Up                                5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna                    6, Now We Start to Climb […]

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