Lead Guide Eli Potter called in a nice post from Camp 1 at 7,800 feet (2377 m) at the juncture of the Kahiltna Glacier and the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna. The team worked hard today, carrying heavy packs and pulling laden sleds five miles (8 km) up the glacier. They were graced with a beautiful day, with clear blue skies and fantastic views of the iconic mountains below which they traveled.
Team Zahid is one of the earliest expeditions on the mountain this season, so Eli had to do some route finding as the team negotiated through and around fields of large crevasses. They rolled into a flat section of glacier immediately below a steep 1000′ (300 m) hill known as “Ski Hill,” where they set up their Camp 1. Not long after, a few other groups that had followed Eli’s track set their camps up right next to Team Zahid. This is Eli’s 10th trip up Denali and his 43rd expedition in Alaska, so apparently the other teams decided to follow his lead.
The plan for tomorrow is to awaken early and “make a carry” or have a “carry day.” Both mean that the crew will essentially pack up half of their “stuff,” food, fuel, extra clothes, etc and carry it up to, or near to, their next camp. Eli plans to carry supplies to about 10,000 feet (3048 m). They will dig a deep hole in the snow and bury their loads under a good meter of snow, to protect it from the very creative and tenacious ravens that have learned to associate climbers with food. After marking their “cache,” they will descend back to Camp 1 to spend another night.
This system is often referred to as “double carrying” and it benefits the team in a couple of ways – first, it makes it a bit easier to transport the huge amount of supplies necessary to climb an arcitc, high altitude mountain like Denali. Secondly, it helps the climbers acclimatize, as they get a taste of a new altitude one day, but then sleep at their previous elevation. During sleep, respiration rate decreases and climbers can be more susceptible to getting altitude sickness. By pushing high, but sleeping low, they can ease into each new elevation a bit more easily than if they just pushed up to each new camp in a “single carry.”