Robert Lentz called in a very nice and detailed update from the team’s first camp on the West Buttress. They are camped at 7,800′ on the Kahiltna Glacier. The Kahiltna is a huge glacier, that runs almost 40 miles from north to south, starting at a saddle between the West Buttress of Denali and a ridge that leads up to Mt. Capps and continues south to include Kahiltna Dome, and eventually, the 17,500′ Mount Foraker, the second highest peak in the Alaska Range. The saddle is known as Kahlitna Pass and today, the team carried a load of supplies and extra clothes up to Kahiltna Pass where they buried it all in a deep “cache.”
Caching is a technique that the team will use up and down the mountain. It enables the crew to carry a quantity of their food, fuel and supplies up to (or near) their next camp and deposit it in a secure location. They bury deeply so that ravens cannot did down and get into their food. Ravens have been known to dig several feet down to access climbers’ cookies!
Carrying high and then descending to sleep at the team’s lower camp is a proven technique to help climbers acclimatize to high altitudes. Climb high and sleep low is the adage used by climbers to describe this technique. It gives the climbers a taste of the higher altitude, to which their bodies start to adapt, but then eases the stress on their system by sleeping lower. We often call this, “Making a carry.” You’ll come to hear this term throughout the expedition.
The team carried loads up to about 10,200′ where they dug a deep (almost 2 meter) pit in the snow. The supplies were placed in the pit and covered with a meter of snow. The guides marked the cache with bamboo wands (garden stakes) some of which are close to ten feet tall, to guard against the potential for many, many feet of snow to fall at any time. It took them about five hours to reach the cache site and another our and a half to descend back to 7,800′.