May 18 Team Backcarries to Windy Corner

The May 18 team employed another active rest day today. They descended about 20 minutes or so from camp down to their cache at Windy Corner, dug it up, and walked about an hour back up to camp and are now fully supplied at 14,200′ (4328m).

Today the team will practice using their ascenders and how to use a running belay. Ascenders are used on the fixed lines above Camp 3. About 1,000′ above Camp 3, two 600′ ropes drop down to a bergschrund. One rope is for going up, and one is for going down. Every several meters, these ropes are anchored deeply into the snow and ice by park rangers to be used by climbers all season. An ascender will be attached to each climbers harness using a sling, typically. The ascender is then attached to the fixed line, it is a progress capture device. Meaning, it will glide up the rope, but when pulled backwards, its teeth bite into the rope and do not allow descent (unless manually released on purpose). This adds protection to each climber as they ascend this ~50* slope (the slope angle changes depending on ice and snow conditions) up to the ridge at 16,200′ (4937m).

Past High Camp, on summit day, the team will encounter fixed protection in the form of snow pickets (these are also used in the approach to the fixed lines from Camp 3). A snow picket is made of aluminum, roughly 2 feet long (give or take), with a sling attached and a carabiner attached to the sling. This picket is then hammered into the snow at a perpendicular orientation to the slope, and also angled to a certain degree depending on the angle of the slope. The team will clip their rope into this carabiner, but as each climber approaches the picket, they must pass their knot safely through this carabiner which requires a special technique that the team will practice in camp.

Soon the team will put in a cache at 16,200′ (4937m)!

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