May 22 Denali West Buttress Expedition at Camp 1, to cache up Ski Hill

Mountain Trip guide Brett Baekey called in with an update on the May 22 West Buttress Team from the snowy Kahiltna Glacier. Despite the storm, the team was able to make good progress from Base Camp up to Camp 1 at 7,800′ shortly after arriving the night before.

Since Camp 1 and Base Camp often fall below the cloudline and are spared the worst of the wind and blowing snow on the mountain, the team was still able to move along the route while other teams higher on the mountain have been hunkered down in camp for several days. While they weren’t hit with the worst of the storm, the team still had to complete a nearly six-mile hike through fresh snow with upwards of 80 pounds of gear–certainly no easy task. The teams travel across the glacier on rope teams at all times, in groups of three or four, stopping once every hour or two to refuel with water and snacks.

After arriving at Camp 1, they got to work quickly doing the various chores to set up camp: probing their camp area for crevasses, flattening out their tent platforms, digging out seats and a counter for the kitchen tent, setting up and anchoring their tents, and finally, firing up the stoves to boil snow into potable water for food and hot drinks. Setting up and breaking camp becomes a large part of life on the glacier, as weather permitting, teams are moving along the route every one or two days.

While the storm may persist through tomorrow, the team is low enough on the route and in relatively low consequence terrain, so they will be able to carry supplies up Ski Hill, which begins directly above Camp 1.

Ski Hill, which features approximately 1,600′ of elevation gain, can be a very strenuous hike, especially when carrying gear into thinner air, through fresh snow on the route. The team will then cache these supplies (generally extra food and gear that they wont need until higher up on the mountain) by burying them beneath the snow for retrieval later on. This effort enables them to feel much lighter on the ascent up to Camp 2 with the remainder of their gear.

Weather permitting, the team will attempt to continue upward to Camp 2 within the next few days. Best of luck to the team as they continue upward towards the highest point in North America.

Here’s Brett with the update (and a shout out to his family):

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  1. Congrats Wheeler team making it to camp -1- hang in there through the weather and good luck getting some more altitude in the coming days weather permitting. Lots of love to everyone from the Souders

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