Our guide Kyle Bates called in today from 14,200′. The team has been capitalizing on pretty amazing weather and pushed a load of supplies up the steepest part of the route today. They loaded up at camp and climbed about 1,400′ up moderate snow slopes to the base of a section known as The Headwall.
The Headwall starts out at about 45 degrees and mellows somewhat as you get higher. The 600′ vertical rise is protected by ropes affixed into the ice by anchors at semi-regular intervals. Each climber clips a mechanical ascender (fancy climbing rope clamp) onto one of the ropes. The ascender is attached to the climber’s harness and will lock off when weighted. This affords an extra measure of protection against a slip on the steep terrain. The climbers are still roped together, which gives them a redundant measure of protection.
The Headwall is somewhat grueling, but the team made good work of it. At the top of the steep slope the climbers gained the ridge that leads to high camp at 17,200′. This ridge is exciting and fun to climb, as climbers weave in and out of gray granitic rocks and follow narrow, knife edged snow along its crest. Today, they only climbed a couple hundred feet of the ridge, as they wanted to put their cache of supplies in at a relatively flat spot at 16,400′. After caching, they descended the other fixed line and dropped into the 14,200′ camp for the night.
Here is Kyle: