The June 23 Team spent yesterday watching wind load snow onto the steep, rising traverse above high camp known as the Autobahn. They had hoped for a calm day, with sunny skies, so that the snow that had fallen on the Autobahn would have an opportunity to settle and stabilize. At such cold latitudes, it takes snow longer to settle than it does in warmer temperatures. The winds of yesterday served to exacerbate the hazard, and the team has determined that they just don’t have sufficient time or reserves to wait for the wind-loaded slopes to stabilize. They are looking at a two day descent, and are scheduled to fly out no later than Monday, so they have chosen to capitalize on the clear day below them to begin their descent.
As one of our guides wrote in a recent post, Denali can be fickle. Our team was hammered by rough weather lower on the mountain and missed a brief window that opened to allow them to move up, which translated to arriving at high camp just in time for a significant snowstorm that increased avalanche hazards beyond what our guides felt was acceptable. The climbers are healthy and that defines success in our mind, so we’d like to extend a hearty congratulations to each climber for his and her hard efforts over the course of the past 19 days. We’ll post an update when they arrive at Base Camp, which will probably be at some point on Sunday.