The descent out to the north side of Denali is always much more arduous than descending the West Buttress, and this year, the conditions are more challenging than in recent memory. The team checked in early this morning while lead guide Chris Kerrick was in the process of lowering climbers down one of many very steep, icy sections that they had to negotiate throughout the day.
The team made good time through the Upper Harper Glacier and to the prominent Browne’s Tower. They then committed to negotiating the steep Karstens Ridge that is the technical crux of the route. It was on this stretch that their progress slowed way down, as the logistics necessary to lower four climbers down steep terrain just takes a lot of time to safely prepare. By the time they settled into the small, but pretty well protected area at about 12,800′ known as Corral Camp, they had been on the move for over 28 hours. Needless to say, they were all totally knackered and ready for a well-earned sleep in their tents.
The team is tired, but have only one more long day to reach the relatively easy terrain of the lower Muldrow Glacier. They have plenty of food and fuel and the weather looks good, so they will continue to just take their time making their way down the immense, 18,000′ north side of Denali.
Tomorrow, they will pass through some more challenging terrain, particularly the infamous “Hill of Cracks,” a section of the Harper Glacier that is renowned for being heavily crevassed and can take some time to negotiate. Below this, they will pass through a jumbled mass of ice known as the Great Icefall, taking one of the lines of compression that affords the easiest passage. They are doing great, but are still only part way through this massive undertaking of descending the biggest vertical relief in the world.
Sleep well team!