Today was a big day for the climbers on our June 18th West Buttress expedition! They arose early, packed up supplies and climbed up the steepest section of the route.
Camp 3 on the West Buttress of Denali is located in a vast, glaciated bowl. The bowl is framed to the east by the steep West Rib of Denali that drops sharply down from just below the summit. The western border is the West Buttress, which forms a broad ridge 2000′ above the team, before dropping steeply to the granite outcrops that form Windy Corner. Immediately to the north, 3000′ above camp is the small area where High Camp is located.
The team ascended up towards the west-northwest aspect of the bowl, climbing moderately steep snow slopes for 1400′ to a point below what is often called “The Headwall.” This section is about 600′ and averages a bit over 40 degrees in steepness. Two lengths of rope are affixed at semi-regular intervals down the slope. Known as “fixed lines,” these ropes provide protection for climbers heading up (on the right hand rope) or down on the other line. Climbers attach themselves to a section of fixed line with a mechanical clamp called an ascender, which will slide in one direction (up!) and clamp firmly onto the rope in the event of a slip downwards. Ascenders are tethered to each climbers harness and each climber is also tied into the rope team’s climbing rope, providing a redundant system of security.
The team scaled the fixed lines to crest a beautiful ridge, which they followed up for a couple hundred more feet of elevation. At around 16,400′, they dug a hole in the snow near the ridge crest and buried their last cache of supplies, in preparation for their summit bid in the coming days. They then dropped back down the Headwall and descended back to Camp 3 for the night.
Here is Etienne Roerderer with a report from 14,200′ on Denali!