Denali Prep – Efficiency and Maintenance
We’ve all heard the trendy sexy alpine aphorism “light and fast.” I suspect it is popular in certain, very cool coffee shops in places like Boulder, Colorado, where aspiring hardmen and women converse over their non-fat, goat milk chai, “Dude–we fired that route because we were so light and fast!” Or, “Yeah, brah, the only way we sent that was ’cause we were so light and fast!”
Hmmm… Sometimes light and fast can mean cold and miserable (or worse).
What it does not mean on Denali is quickly walking or trotting up the trail. It does not mean skimping on layers that you might need if things go badly and you have to sit for hours with a sick team mate. It does not mean moving up to the next camp straight away, because you made good time climbing up from the camp below.
“Light and fast” on the West Buttress means having your personal kit streamlined in a manner that you have exactly what you need, and little more. It also means being as efficient as possible at specific junctures along the way.
You will quickly learn that heaps of time is spent just standing around, waiting for the team to be ready to move as a group. With some foresight and practice, you can make yourself “fast” and help minimize your contribution to this phenomenon. On the mornings that you are about to move camp, start organizing your kit inside your tent as soon as you wake up. Your goal on those mornings is to get you personal kit out of the tent and into your pack and sled. You’ll need to achieve that goal without holding up the very lengthy process of melting snow for water bottles and warming water for hot drinks. Coordinate with your tent mates, so you can pack efficiently, without bumping into each other inside your nylon home away from home. With a little forethought and some communication, you’ll be the first one at the ropes, ready to clip in and start the day’s work.
Another opportunity for personal efficiency is on the steeper uphill sections of the route. Maintaining a slow and steady pace is the equivalent of being “fast” and will get you to the top feeling much better than someone employing the “jack-rabbit pace” of moving at a quick pace for 20 steps and then stopping to catch his breath.