Hiking through the twilight of the Alaskan night, both the June 23 and 24 Teams are almost back at the airstrip. They dropped down from the 17,200′ Camp and retrieved their caches left at each of the three camps they passed. The teams have made good progress on their descent, hiking through the night to avoid the effects of the warm summer sun on the glacier surface.
One of the ironies of descending the West Buttress route is that you drop down over 13,000 vertical feet from the summit, hiking down, down, down, until you reach the juncture of the main body of the Kahiltna and the Southeast Fork. At this point, you have to hike up about 600′ to reach Base Camp! This stretch is known as Heartbreak Hill, and even for climbers still surfing the elation of having stood on top of North America just days before, it is a tough grind.
They should be in camp in about an hour, and the weather looks great for flying. The first planes launch at around 08:00 Alaska Time, so the teams should be in Talkeetna for lunch!