The May 22nd team called in from their new home at Camp 3, located in a huge basin at 14,200′ on Denali. I believe Martin called in today’s post (please correct me if I am wrong!).
The team moved up today and Martin shared some insights about the joys of pulling sleds in gusty wind! Sleds are like your best friend and worst enemy – they enable you to move a lot more kit than you could by only loading your backpack, but they tug at you and often try to pull you off your feet at times, especially on traverses, when they slide down along side you as you attempt to cross the side of a hill.
The route up from 11,200′ Camp climbs a 1000′ hill called Motorcycle Hill. This is the first real big ascent of the West Buttress route, and generally the first time climbers don crampons for better purchase on the steep slope.
Above Motorcycle Hill, the climbers encountered another steep slope known as Squirrel Hill. This stretch is often wind swept and so the surface is often very firm. Crampons really help make it possible to negotiate such terrain. Higher still, the route follows a long, gradual slope alongside a small glacier and right along the base of the West Buttress proper. Steep rock ridges and white couloirs (snow gullies) drop down from thousands of feet above the climbers heads. One such ridge is known as Windy Corner, as climbers must pass around it to gain access to the upper part of their route. Winds passing a long the immense south face of the mountain scream around Windy Corner, at times making it virtually impassable.
The team jumped on a decent day to move their camp up to Camp 3. 14,200′ is a good elevation at which to build acclimatization for the upper mountain. The team has been pushing hard for seven straight days, but now they will slow down a bit, letting their bodies adjust to the thin air and preparing for the even thinner air of the upper mountain.