Mountain Trip Guide Steven Van Sickle checked in from our May 17th team’s frosty perch at 17,200 feet (5240 m) at the top of Denali’s West Buttress. The team is doing well and spent part of the day fortifying the snow walls around their tents. Blustery weather has prevented another summit bid, but they still have plenty of time.
Using specially designed snow saws and shovels, they mined blocks of firm snow from the surrounding snow surface. When the weather looks favorable, climbers will still build a wall of blocks around their tents, but when it really gets gusty, they will add a second (or third!) layer of snow blocks. Cutting blocks at 5000 meters is hard work, but it is necessary. Plus, it gives the climbers something to do outside, which is good for the mind and for acclimatizing.
The forecast is for improved weather this weekend for fingers crossed!