Lead Guide Eli Potter called n from a really pretty Camp 2 at 11,200′ (3413 m) on the West Buttress route of Denali. The team slept in a bit, due to cool temperatures and thick snow and fog, only leaving Camp 1 at about 11:00 in the morning. Snow had covered most of their tracks from the previous day, so the ascent up Ski Hill, which climbs to about 9500′ (2890 m) was challenging.
Eli was able to find the old trail off and on, using what he called “Braille technique,” feeling for the firmness of the old trail with each step in the new snow, and adjusting your course when you plunge into deep, soft snow. It is a nuanced, yet effective technique that was aided by a number of wands that the team had left to mark the route. Wands are bamboo garden stakes that are 2-4″ long, often marked with a tab of duct tape at one end to aid in visibility.
Once they arrived at yesterday’s cache at 10,000′, they were on their own, and had to break trail through deep snow for another 1100′ (335m) until they arrived at Camp 2. Fortunately, they climbed above the thick layer of cloud that had been their whole world for much of the day, and the views of nearby Kahiltna Dome and Mount Foraker to the south were breathtaking.