Final Trip Dispatch From Joe Butler

What an interesting and peculiar trip. First, this trip was a bit of a dream trip for me. Three returning climbers that I have had a lot of fun with over the years and a returning guide who was on the last couple trips with me. Days before the trip start date, Joda my co-worker, broke his arm while skiing. We all hope he is recovering well and he was sorely missed!! As we shuffled guides around we continued our trip packing. As it worked out, Danny Donovan was able to step in and fill Joda’s spot.

Finally our meet date, May 12, 2016. Bob and crew looked fit and everyone was excited to get to the mountain. We had another great day the following day when we drove to Talkeetna and were able to fly right on to the Kahiltna, same day!! Paul Roderick (TAT owner and legendary bush pilot) was out pilot—-pretty sweet start!! Progress up to Camp 2 at 11K feet was all according to schedule, but then……..we were able to pick up our cache no problem the next day. The following day produced some high winds on the polo field and at Windy Corner so we decided to stay put. Two climbers made the tough decision to return to Base Camp because they were feeling ill. Danny lead them back to BC, and flew out of the field with them.

Meanwhile back at 11 Camp, Kyle and Jayci were able to carry a load of equipment and supplies up to Windy Corner to help the team advance. Looking good. The next handful of days proved to be quite a strong storm. Over a foot of snow fell and in combination with high winds created snowdrifts. It was quite a task at times to get from the tent to the kitchen, let alone try to use the bathroom! Every day the weather was very windy and I live by a Billmeier saying “you never fight your way into a bar, you only fight your way out” so we stayed another day…and another…and…another… After a few days in this holding pattern, we re-evaluated our overall schedule and decided that we were low on days and needed to retreat. I have done this trip many times and I have never been stuck at that camp for so long. The National Weather Service started naming bad weather systems this year and, although I can’t remember the name, I know the weather system that pinned us down had a name for sure.

When we decided to retreat we were informed that there was another storm bearing down on the range, and it was named after retired Denali ranger John Evans. Thankfully we beat the next front and we were able to jump right into a plane at BC, no waiting around. The next front blew in five days of poor weather and boy were we glad to make it out before that baby settled in!! While we didn’t reach our objective, I was thankful to spend time with some great people and working for the best company on the mountain.  As always, I would rope up with any of you for any adventure you dream up. Thanks for a great trip!

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