Lead Guide Sebastian Grau called in after the team pushed though strong headwind to reach the site of their Camp 1 on this West Rib of Denali expedition. Regardless of how you climb the Rib (alpine or expedition style), you have to head up the broad Kahiltna Glacier. The Kahiltna is the longest glacier in the Alaska Range and it drops about 9,000′ over the 44 miles of its length. The team is camped at 7,800′ (2377 m), about 2500′ below the start of the glacier.
Camp is located at the junction of the Kahiltna and one of it’s larger tributary glaciers, the Northeast Fork. This glacier provides access to many of the classic and tough routes that climb the mountain from the south, such as the Cassin Ridge and the West Rib. The plan for our team is to push higher on the West Buttress to build acclimatization and then drop back to the site of Camp 1 to make a quick push up the Northeast Fork and climb the route in “alpine style,” that is to say, ascend the route from bottom to top without making multiple laps on the route, stocking higher camps before pushing up to those camps. That latter model is often called “expedition style.” On a technical route like the Rib, where camps are often exposed, many climbers prefer to climb in alpine style, as it minimizes the time on the route and therefore the rime during which they are exposed on the route.