I spoke with Laura Duncan a bit ago, and she related the team’s rapid descent from high camp, in order to catch one of the first flights off the glacier this morning. The team asked to just keep going, rather than break the descent up into a couple of days, as we generally do these days.
Laura described the hike down from 11,200′ as surreal and majestic, as the low light of Alaskan nighttime reflected off snow crystals on the glacier and lit up the surrounding peaks in hues of orange and then pink. The team dropped out of high camp and stopped briefly at 14,200′ to collect the tiems that they had cached there prior to their ascent. They loaded up and continued down, stopping again at 11,200′ for some food, before continuing on down the glacier.
Arriving at Base Camp around 6 am this morning, they had just thrown bags down on sleeping pads for some rest when lead guide Jacob Schmitz came rushing up, telling everyone to pack p, grab the ropes and head up to the upper airstrip, about a mile up the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna. Wearily, the team rallied and as they crested the final hill to the upper airstrip, the first ski planes came sliding in, with just enough room for our team!
With the extremely warm temperatures of recent days, the pilots decided to use a landing strip that is some 500′ higher in elevation than the one they have been using thus far this season. The extra hike feels several times longer than it actually is, especially after a long descent, but the team was ecstatic to arrive in Talkeetna in time for a big breakfast this morning!
We’ll try to round up some images and get some of the team to write a recap of their experience in the coming days, but they are all headed to Anchorage right now, breathing the thick, humid air of the lowlands. Great job to all the climbers!!!