The entire team made it to high camp today, and they are happily tucked into their tents with hand warmers and hot water bottles. They earned their rest tonight- the move from 14 to 17.2 camp is a hard one, but everyone performed marvelously.
They first climbed up about 1,400′ of snow slopes to reach the bottom of an icy face known as the Headwall. This 600′ stretch is protected by the use of fixed lines, or ropes affixed to anchors every 60-80′ or so. The climbers clip themselves into the fixed lines with mechanical ascenders or “jumars,” which act like rope clamps, enabling upward travel, but clamping down on the line if the climber should slip. They are also roped together, with a guide at the top of the rope, orchestrating the upward progress and keeping a watchful eye on those below.
From the top of the fixed lines at 16,200′, they climbed up the stunningly beautiful ridge to the site of their high camp at 17,200′. This involves negotiating rocky sections, some more fixed lines, and some knife-edged ridge walking. Many climbers consider this stretch of the route to offer the most enjoyable climbing of the entire West Buttress. The views are expanding and you truly feel “up there!”
The move to high camp is also often described as the hardest day of the trip. It can easily rival summit day, and so we almost always plan for a rest and acclimatization day for the following day. Great job team in getting up to high camp!!!