The Great One: Now We Start to Climb

Previous posts on our trip, in order:

1, Our arrival in Talkeetna                  2, Basecamp Opens

3, The Lower Kahiltna                        4, Move’n On Up

5, Goodbye to the Kahiltna

The argument can be made that we have been climbing for the past six days.  After all, we have ascended 3,800 feet so far.  The argument can also be made that you don’t really start climbing until you leave Camp 3.  There really seemed, at least to me, two very distinct parts to this climb.  The glacier was pretty much a stroll up a fairly shallow slope spread out over six days.  Crampons are not really needed, and unless there’s some fresh snow on the ground, snowshoes aren’t needed either.  You can pretty much hike up the glacier as opposed to climbing.  Today, we would start to climb.

June 21.  Day 7 on the mountain.

We got to sleep in this morning as moving during the coldest part of the day isn’t necessary any longer.  The weather we hiked through the day before had also settled on top of us in our little basin that makes up Camp 3.  Although it wasn’t snowing, the fog and clouds had moved in.  Today would be a carry day up to 13,500 feet to bury a cache just on the other side of Windy Corner.  Once the cache was in, we would descend back down to Camp 3.  Before leaving Camp 3 on June 22, we would bury a cache of gear that we would no longer be needing on this climb.  Our snowshoes would stay behind, all of our accumulated garbage, dirty clothes (if you had any), food for the lower mountain on our descent and all but one of the CMC cans would be buried here.  That would lighten our loads considerably.

Here’s Shelley ready to clip in and move up Motorcycle Hill in the background.

Shelley and I shared a rope team on this day.  Both of us were on the Purple Team with Lauren.  Here we are making our way up Motorcycle Hill.  It took just about an hour to get to the top where we could take a break on, more or less, a level spot.

Visibility wasn’t all that great.  It wasn’t snowing much, just fog and a slight wind.  It was actually too warm as the snow was kind of mushy.  I should qualify that sentence about warm.  It was about 20 – 25 degrees.  Which is warm for winter in Boise, let alone on Denali.

After our break it was on to Squirrel Hill, which we couldn’t see at all.  Then above that hill was a third hill which, as far as we could tell, had no name.  In all my research about the climb, I had never read about this third hill above Squirrel Hill.  I just kept expecting to hit Windy Corner, but instead it just got steep again after our second break.  I kept thinking, “Where the hell is Windy Corner?”  We all talked about it later and none of us knew about this third hill above Squirrel Hill.  The fact we couldn’t even see it made it all the worse since you couldn’t tell where the top was.  This first picture shows us moving into our break at the top of Squirrel Hill.  That’s Scott in the foreground taking his own pictures, which are the next three after mine.  These pictures give you an idea of just how far you could see.  Remember, I’m just 30 meters from the front of the rope.

After this stop we made one more before getting to Windy Corner.  Once at Windy Corner we lucked out.  There was hardly any wind hitting us and the sun came out as well.  The wind may have been 15 mph.

Once around, we moved on to our cache site and took a nice long break.  Between eating lunch and burying the cache, we were probably here just a little over an hour.  This was also the only time we wore helmets during the climb.  That was mainly due to the rock fall hazard as you come around Windy Corner.

As this panoramic photo shows, there were a number of caches at this location all marked with wands.  Also, if you look over to the far right of the photo you can just make out another team coming around Windy Corner in the back ground.  The next photo is a close-up shot of that team as they come around the corner.

After eating lunch and getting the cache in, it was time to head back down to Camp 3.  The descent wasn’t difficult at all and it went pretty quickly.  We took breaks at all the same spots we took them on the way up with the exception of the top of Motorcycle Hill.  In fact, the weather was so bad many of us didn’t even know we were at the top of Motorcycle Hill.  I was looking around thinking to myself this might be it, but we didn’t stop there and visibility was so bad it was hard to see the same rock formations we had seen the first time up.  But as we descended Motorcycle Hill you could start to see the tents break through the fog.  Ryan took this photo of Camp 3 from about half-way up Motorcycle Hill.

Camp 3 was deserted when we got back.  I would bet 50% to 60% of those that had been there in the morning were still there when we got back.  I don’t remember seeing many teams going up after us (we never got passed and only saw one or two teams come up behind us) so my guess is a lot of teams were heading down.  The weather began to clear later in the afternoon as well and we got some really spectacular views.  I didn’t take any more pictures this day.  Paul took this one showing the area and the empty camp sites.

We rested and napped the remaining afternoon till dinner and turned in a bit early.  Although our loads were beginning to lighten up, this was a pretty hard day.  Tomorrow would be lighter, but we would be moving all the way to Camp 4, about 2 hours beyond the cache site, and another 700 feet higher.

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5 Responses to “The Great One: Now We Start to Climb”

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

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

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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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