Climber Julia Zhou called in an update from the June 4 West Buttress team, who made their way up the lower Kahiltna to Camp One! While the move does not have a lot of vertical rise, the journey from Base Camp to Camp One weaves through large crevasse fields. The team also carried the heaviest packs of the entire expedition, as they carried all of their gear, food and supplies for the next 21 days on the route. Packs on the first move are upwards of 60 pounds, with another 50 pounds pulled behind them in sleds.
The team got their first practice moving as a rope team, and Julia noted that they moved quickly and efficiently. Today, they will likely set off towards Denali Pass, up Ski Hill a couple thousand feet above Camp One, to set their first cache of food and gear that they won’t need for a few days. They will set several of these caches on the way up the route, to make carries lighter and to maximize acclimatization as they move higher on the route. Each cache is buried deeply in the snow and then marked with both a wand and GPS coordinates, so that they can discover it later on, after they’ve made the move up to Camp Two at 11,200′. This style of caching and “backcarrying” to retrieve each cache is utilized in expedition climbing for big, high altitude mountains around the world, in both Alaska and the Himalaya.