The Great One: Goodbye to the Kahiltna

Previous posts on our trip, in order:

Our arrival in Talkeetna

Basecamp Opens

The Lower Kahiltna

Move’n On Up

June 19.  Day 5 on the mountain.

Our fifth day on Denali was another blue bird day.  Light wind and just a few clouds.  A beautiful day for climbing.  Today was our carry day up to Camp 3 and the day we climbed off the Kahiltna.  The Kahiltna glacier, geographically, begins at Kahiltna pass.  Our climb to Camp 3 would take us to Kahiltna pass where we would turn right and climb up to Camp 3.  One big advantage to getting off the glacier was we could travel during the day and not have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the softening glacier in the afternoon.  But that would be once we got to Camp 3.  Today, it was another early morning rise.

This morning we also saw three climbers making a summit bid for Foraker.  We could see them moving along the ridge leading up to Foraker from our camp.  We don’t know if they made it or not as clouds obscured the summit.  We did see them get to the cloud layer and we saw them descending later in the morning, but we don’t know how far up they made it.

Our climb to Camp 3 was uneventful. We woke up at 4:30 am and had breakfast burritos.  We moved out of camp around 7:00 am.  We took our first break stop at the base of Kahiltna pass and one more before arriving at Camp 3.  This first photo is taken before Kahiltna pass.  Lauren’s Purple Team is leading and Shelley is in the second position on that team.

Here we are just before our first break stop.  To the right is the climb up to Camp 3, directly ahead and to the left is Kahiltna Pass.

Once that short break was over, we continued our move up.  Ryan took this photo as we climbed higher.  Yes, those are ski tracks in the snow too.  A lot of climbers took skis with them on the climb.  Shelley was very jealous.

In this next one, which Paul took, you can see me just ahead of Paul taking a video of Shelley and the Purple Team as they pulled into this second break stop.  Camp 3 is still somewhere up ahead and to the left.

And here’s the video I was taking.  Shelley and I had talked about having her take the camera this day so she could get some pictures and video but I forgot to hand it over.  You can hear us discussing this as Shelley passes me.

More scenic shots from our climb.

Just before we finished our break, another team came through on their way down to their Camp 2 to pick up their cache.  This was a guided team like ours but doing things just a little differently.  You can see one person here, a guide, on skis too.

Here’s a picture that Paul took as we pulled into Camp 3 at around 10:10 am.  The Orange Team arrived first.  Just beyond the tents is Motorcycle Hill.

Paul then turned around and took a picture of the Purple Team arriving just behind us.

I was able to take a short video of the Purple Team arriving too.

Once we arrived, we unclipped from our gear and started digging a hole for our cache.  While we were putting our cache in, other teams were heading up Motorcycle Hill.

After we were done, I handed the camera off to Shelley so she could get in on the videos and pictures.  She took this one of me as the Orange Team left Camp 3 and headed back down to Camp 2.  The time was around 11:20 am.  Vern took the easier way down, he rode his sled.  Not all the way mind you.  But he rode it down off and on as we moved back to Camp 2.

Here are the teams on a break just below Kahiltna Pass.  I’m on the far left in this photo.

Here’s another photo from Paul showing Vern still sledding as we descended back to Camp 2.

We got back to Camp 2 around 12:30 pm.  We stopped just one time on the descent to de-layer.  Other than that, it was a pretty quick stroll back to Camp 2.  The weather had begun to change a bit for the worse later in the afternoon.  We really didn’t notice it too much although we did get some light snow flurries later in the afternoon.  The change was very subtle.  By the morning of June 20, we were in our first Denali snow storm.

June 20.  Day 6 on the mountain.

We awoke early, just like on the 19th, to a full on snow storm.  Visibility was negligible.  Sometimes you could see a few hundred meters, sometimes you could only see about 15 meters.  This would also be the first (and only) time we needed our snowshoes during the ascent.  We probably got between 6″ and 10″ of snow overnight.  Which wasn’t so bad but it was enough to wipe out the trail we had been following.  Luckily we had Vern leading and even though no one could see more than a few hundred meters (at times) he lead us right up to Kahiltna Pass like he had some form of radar.  It wasn’t until we arrived near the pass that we broke through the clouds and visibility, and the weather, improved for us.

Here’s a video I took of everyone breaking down camp in the morning.

Paul took this photo of the teams getting ready to move off.  Shelley is on the right in the light blue jacket.

There wasn’t too many pictures taken by anyone during our climb up to Camp 3 this morning.  Most were taken at Camp 2 with just a few on the climb itself.  I did take this video as we pulled into a break stop.  Vern’s comment in the video while talking to Lauren gives you an idea of how bad visibility had been.

We heard a lot of avalanches during this climb.  It was very odd as we couldn’t see them, but they were all around us.  We knew we were pretty far from them, but just the same it was eery hearing them crashing down somewhere off in the fog and snow.

Once we got closer to Camp 3 the weather broke and the sun came out and it turned quite spectacular as these photos from Roger show.  The second photo shows a very good example of the windwalls that we used to protect our tents.

I took a couple panoramic photos too.  The first looking down the mountain and the second looking up at Motorcycle Hill.

Since we were no longer living on the Kahiltna, we no longer had to wake up early for our next climb up the mountain.  We would get to sleep in a little bit and start to climb during the warmer part of the day instead of early in the morning.  The crevasse danger was still present, especially around the outer edges of camp, so just because we were off the glacier didn’t mean we could stop being vigilant.  In fact, there were a number of crevasses on Motorcycle Hill itself and just outside of camp.  The avalanche danger was still very real here as well.  We were reminded of this shortly after arriving when a chunk broke off a chute just outside of camp.

We had been making good progress over these first few days on Denali.  The storm from this morning didn’t slow us down and everyone was feeling strong and motivated.  We had moved up rather shallow portions of the mountain to this point.  Beginning on June 21 we would really start to climb.  We would be leaving our snowshoes here at Camp 3 and wearing our crampons everyday from this point.  Beginning tomorrow, the days would begin to get longer and the slopes would begin to get steeper.  Tomorrow we would begin our climb of the West Buttress proper for the first time.


6 Responses to “The Great One: Goodbye to the Kahiltna”

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

    […] 5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna             6, Now We Start to Climb […]


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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