Climber Scott Wheeler called in an update on the May 22 Denali West Buttress team, who have progressed up to 14,200′ on the route and set up camp. The team has been fortunate enough to spend the last few days climbing in relatively warm (around 32 degrees Fahrenheit) weather, with clear skies and sunshine.
They have retrieved their cache below camp and hope to head above 14-Camp within the next couple of days to lay a cache of food and supplies below High Camp at 17,200′. All teams, upon reaching 14-Camp, are required to spend at least one extra day to allow their bodies a bit of time to acclimatize to the thinner air, in hopes of preventing altitude sickness and other more serious conditions. Above 14,000′, everything seems much harder, from setting up camp to carrying a heavy pack through deep snow (which is already very difficult to begin with).
Above 14-Camp, the route also gets significantly exposed and more technical. The team will have to ascend fixed lines, or a safety rope that has been anchored into the snow along the route to mitigate the risk of climbing the steepest sections. The upper mountain also sees more wind, lower temperatures and more volatile weather than the lower section of the route.
Hopefully, the current high pressure system will hold on for at least a few more days.
Here’s Scott with the dispatch (and a shoutout to family members and loved ones who are not joining him on the mountain):