May 22 West Buttress team — Descending from 14-Camp

Climber Scott Wheeler called in for the May 22 Denali West Buttress team, who made the difficult decision to turn back from High Camp at 17,500′ and abandon their summit bid due to bad and worsening weather up high. They have now been on the mountain for over 19 days, most of which they have spent at 14,200′ and above.

They are currently camped back at 14-Camp, and hope to descend tonight, through the night when the temperatures are coldest, back to Base Camp at 7,200′. This time of year, as the glacier warms during the day, snow bridges over deep crevasses in the glacier become fragile, making nighttime the safest time to travel at lower elevations. While the journey is essentially all downhill, the trip to Base Camp still can be quite strenuous, losing 7,000′ of elevation. The last push uphill into Base Camp, nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill” can be one of the most mentally, if not physically, challenging sections of the expedition.

Once they have returned to Base Camp, they hope that the weather will be clear enough for a Talkeetna Air Taxi ski plane to pick them up from the range and fly them back to summertime in Talkeetna, where they left nearly three weeks ago.

Although they did not make the summit, we would like to congratulate the team on their perseverance and mental toughness through some of the worst storm cycles we’ve seen during a Denali season. And while the weather may have blocked them from the summit of the Great One this time, it will still be there if they ever choose to return to the Alaska Range.

Here’s Scott:

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  1. Amazing — all of you – so proud and looking forward to hearing stories soon (particularly answers to my myriad questions about mermaids!) love you much and prayers for a safe descent – Laurie and David

  2. We add our love along with amazement at what you have accomplished. God bless you and keep you. God make his face shine upon you (even when the sun doesn’t shine on you) and be gracious to you and give you peace. With so much love and admiration for our son and grandchildren, we look forward to hearing your stories.

  3. From the tiny snippets we hear each night of your harrowing adventure, we can only conclude that this three-week span will be indelibly marked in your life stories. What this team has been through together sounds absolutely amazing. We are so proud of all of you for your efforts on this incredible journey. Continue to stay safe. Prayers and respect for you all.

  4. Congrats to the Wheeler team- huge kudos for the stamina and fortitude you have all shown on this great adventure and making it to high camp. Prayers to a safe return to base camp.
    Love, the Souders

  5. Wheelers, I read this and the last report with a mixture of pride and disappointment. Pride in what your family attempted and accomplished — not only Denali, but the 49 other peaks you have conquered. And disappointment in having to turn back because of the weather. Tina said I sounded more disappointed than you, because I guess i was living a little through you as I waited for each report. Both Tina and I did hear “not this year’ in Scott’s report!
    Great memories, great family!
    Grace and peace,

  6. The Woodinville Wheelers have been praying for you daily. We are so proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished! Praying for continued safety and we cannot wait to hear all about!
    We love you!
    – Kamrin and Craig

  7. Team Wheeler you are an inspiration! We have been following you on your climb every day. Your ambitious preparation for the thrilling experience of your Denali climb must leave you with a deep sense of accomplishment. Despite the physical strains, you always had Jake’s technical skills with the Ice Axe! Travel safely down to basecamp!
    Bob and Barb

  8. Wheelers- Fantastic effort on such an extreme excursion. The best part of each day was receiving your updates and recordings! Safe descent. Mark

  9. I agree that you are a fantastic team. It was so wonderful to hear these daily reports – and we feel your disappointment with the weather just as you do. Three weeks on Denali in the unexpectedly cold, windy and snowy conditions (blizzard?) was quite and accomplishment. Thanks for sharing with us all. Save travels down. Lin

  10. Hello Scott and the Wheeler family. Tim and I are happy to hear of your amazing perseverance and fitness. Way to go!
    They have been having some severe weather this year and we’re very impressed with your accomplishment. Sorry that we couldn’t connect. We flew over today and landed on the Pika Glacier with Talkeetna Air Taxi.
    We’re taking the bus into Wonder Lake tomorrow but sounds like a rainy day.
    Have a great summer!
    It was a lot of fun to track your progress.
    We’re Wheeler fans.
    David Christie and Tim Davis

  11. We are so incredibly proud of your accomplishment and perseverance! I’m sorry for the severe weather but WOW three weeks on Denali is so amazing!! Again, so proud of your stamina and happy all are safe.

    Jenny Giller

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