Nick Aiello called in on behalf of the June 19th team, who have patiently been awaiting an opportunity to move up to their last camp of the West Buttress route. Today, they took advantage of clear skies and moved up the 3,000′ of elevation to establish themselves at High Camp!
Today’s move was one of the toughest days of the entire expedition, and the team was fortunate to have a nice day for their efforts. They climbed up roughly 1,400′ of moderately steep (and steepening) snow slopes to gain the base of The Headwall, an icy stretch that is the steepest of the route. The Headwall ascends an additional 600′ and the climbers scaled this with the help of ropes affixed to the surface, to which they clipped themselves as protection against a slip.
Above The Headwall is my favorite part of the route. The ridge to High Camp is spectacular, with huge air on either side and big exposure at times. They climbed in and out of rocky sections, and along the crest of knife edged snow ridges. There is another steep section as the route passes a huge boulder perched on ridge, known as Washburn’s Thumb, after the pioneer climber and photographer Bradford Washburn, who orchestrated the first ascent of the West Buttress route in 1951.
Arriving at camp, their work was far from done, as they then set about fortifying sites for their tents. This involved cutting blocks of snow from the wind scoured surface of the camp and stacking them in such a fashion so as to make walls around their tents. High Camp can be one of the winder places for climbers attempting a mountain renowned for high wind, so they had to finish their fortifications before diving into their sleeping bags for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
Here is Nick!