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Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure

Denali 2012 - part 2

By Scott Swalling | 22, Aug, 2012

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Heksa snug at 14200 camp.

So we had turned in for the night and would get a peaceful nights sleep, today we would break camp and move as much as the 3 of us could carry to 9600 and wait for the others.  There was discussion of pushing onto 11000 and descending the next day to meet Dan and Will at 9600 and retrieve the cache, but we thought this might put too much ground between us and them and we had the best part of the kit and food and if the weather turned it could get a bit painful for Dan and Will.

Nick, Alex and I ate, packed and broke camp and headed for 9600, the weather had started to turn after we had been waiting for the sun to sink a bit lower.  As we started off the wind had picked up and the snow started to fall.  We were about to experience some Denali weather.  We pushed on and made it to the camp, dug out the cache and got the tents up fast and ate.  The weather got increasingly bad and more snow and spindrift was picked up by the wind.

Change in the weather

We quickly turned in and assumed that Will and Dan would do the same down at 9400, bit it would turn out they only made 7800 in the bad weather.  The next morning I woke, the wind was all but gone and the sun was out.  Fearing the worst the night before I put a shovel in my tent and I needed it, see below.

Kangri after a bit of digging.

Soon after I was out Nick and Alwx heard from Dan and Will and that they had only made 7800 and bundle into the tiny BD tent and spent a trying 17hrs in it, total respect guys.  We waited for them to join us which would be a while as they were tired from their over night and the massive effort of heading down with Franca.

As they arrived we got them fed and watered and discussed if moving to 11,000 was worth it.  We decided against this to let them fully recover and head up the next day.  So we spent the day eating drinking and relaxing a bit.  We also met Ty and Aaron for the first time at the camp and would move up the mountain with them pretty much to 14200.

The next day we moved to 11,000 not without some sled and pole issues (I broke one, disciplining my sled).  Whilst we had started off quite comfortably the hill below 11,000 camp needs to be traversed a little and this is where it all went a bit wrong for a bit.  Alex had a sense of humour fail, I managed not to, but did manage to snap a pole re-inacting Basil Fawlty hitting his car with the branch, and could only summon an "Oh bugger" when I did it, Dan was upset as he had just stopped videoing just before this.  Sorry Dan.

Soon, we where into the meat of the climb and pushed on at a casual pace, Dan and I being the tortoise to everyone's hare.  At 11,000 we struck camp in a lovely split level site with great views, ate and got to bed.

View from 11000 Camp

The next day we rested, sorted gear for the haul to 14200 the next morning and I think this proved to be a good idea and it was good to see the team making decisions together and discussing our options, that had been limited by our fool-hardiness in our catering (something that will be given greater attention to detail next time).

The next morning working in the following teams Nick and Will, Dan, Alex and myself we headed off for a haul to 14200.  At about Squirrel Point I started to feel rather ill and let Dan and Alex know.  This meant we had to move slower and that I might have to turned back if it got any worse.  The guys kept and eye on me and after about 3.5hrs we arrived at 14200 and found the others and they had found a good campsite.

Camp site 1 at 14200, headwall in the background.

We dropped our gear, sorted the site a bit and rested for a little and started down, I was still not great and was still feeling rubbish after Windy Corner, it was not until nearing the top of Motorcycle Hill, well below Squirrel Point I felt better again.

Back at camp we sorted stuff for the move the next day and went about the normal end of day duties.

The next we moved to 14200, tired and in need of rest, we sorted the camp the best we chose ate, melted ice for water bottles and the 5 of us piled into the Heksa and fell asleep, cocooned in our down bags and the heat within the tent.

The move to 14200.

The next day we milled around the campsite, dug the snow walls a bit higher and enjoyed the views.  We also welcomed Ty and Aaron to 14200 and chatted to other climbers and watched the precession up and down the fixed lines and the massively high winds batter the summit ridge and everything down to Washburn's Thumb.

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