June 21 West Buttress Team Descended to Base Camp

Well, we have some rather unexpected news – last night, our June 21st team made the decision to descend to base camp. There are numerous reasons behind the decision, including an unsettled weather forecast and team dynamics. Lastly, the National Park Service began breaking down and flying out their camp from 14,200 feet. They planned to break down their camp later in July, but with the incoming stormy weather in the forecast, they sped up their extraction date and broke down camp yesterday.

Expeditions are complex. The decisions that are required to keep a team on track are myriad and sometimes agonizingly difficult. Each climber’s mindset is a factor in decision making, as is each climber’s confidence in the team. Seeing the NPS pack up left the team understandably feeling less supported than if they had a team of park rangers in camp. The June 21st team had a climber depart early due to a medical issue and was facing some challenging weather in the coming days. Interpersonal challenges presented the team with a challenge that was new to us organizationally, which looked like it might stop the team’s upward process. Collaborating with another Mountain Trip team that went to the summit yesterday, we sorted out a solution for the team to continue upwards.

Ultimately, after assessing their options, the decision was made to descend. This is a bitterly disappointing outcome for the team, but understandable given the number of factors that informed their decision. The climbers worked hard to get as far up the mountain as they did, and we commend them for their efforts.

Last night at about 10 pm Alaska time, the team roped up and departed 14 Camp. They made their way down glacier, stopping at their two previous camps to collect gear and trash that they had cached. They arrived at Base Camp at 8 am this morning, but soft snow conditions at 7,200 feet necessitated them hiking up the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to a higher elevation where they are currently awaiting our partners at Talkeetna Air Taxi to fly them back to Talkeetna.

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    • Hi Cathy,
      We’re so sorry! The post for the June 21st team got stuck in “Drafts” and didn’t publish. It is live now. The team was able to fly off on July 5th in the afternoon.
      Again – I’m very sorry we didn’t get their last update out.
      All the best,
      Todd Rutledge

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