It sounded like Jesse Wright on the satellite phone, relaying the news that our May 27th team packed up camp on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier and made the ~5 mile trek to the site of their first camp on the West Buttress route of Denali. Conditions were mixed, with difficult visibility at times due to snow and wind. Breaks in the cloud cover made for some really pretty light filtering through to the glacier and surrounding peaks, but after they got themselves established at camp, it sounds like the snow and wind settled in on the crew.
The day began by breaking down their Base Camp. They divvied up all the group gear and food into individual loads, which were packed, along with each climber’s personal kit, into their backpacks and sleds. Anything not necessary for the climb was collected and buried in a deep pit they had dug in the snow, making a “cache” for when they return to Base Camp. They will dig several more such caches as they climb the mountain. By burying their supplies under a meter or more of snow, they protect valuables (like cookies!) from the tenacious ravens that have learned that climbers = FOOD!
They actually descended about 600′ as they left BC until the tributary glacier met the main body of the Kahiltna. From that point, it was about four miles and 1200′ of elevation gain winding their way alongside a couple of mild icefalls until they arrived at the base of a long, moderately steep slope in the glacier. They established camp at the base of that hill, where the glacial ice is compacted from having flowed downhill and slowed (essentially squishing the ice) at the flatter bottom of the slope.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, they will carry loads made up of roughly half their total supplies up that aforementioned slope and further up the Kahiltna to about 10,000′, where they will once again dig a deep hole for another cache. After adequately burying their cookies and kit, they’ll drop back down to Camp 1 at about 7,800′ for the night.