Climber Scott Wheeler called in for the May 22 Denali West Buttress team, who made the difficult decision to turn back from High Camp at 17,500′ and abandon their summit bid due to bad and worsening weather up high. They have now been on the mountain for over 19 days, most of which they have spent at 14,200′ and above.
They are currently camped back at 14-Camp, and hope to descend tonight, through the night when the temperatures are coldest, back to Base Camp at 7,200′. This time of year, as the glacier warms during the day, snow bridges over deep crevasses in the glacier become fragile, making nighttime the safest time to travel at lower elevations. While the journey is essentially all downhill, the trip to Base Camp still can be quite strenuous, losing 7,000′ of elevation. The last push uphill into Base Camp, nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill” can be one of the most mentally, if not physically, challenging sections of the expedition.
Once they have returned to Base Camp, they hope that the weather will be clear enough for a Talkeetna Air Taxi ski plane to pick them up from the range and fly them back to summertime in Talkeetna, where they left nearly three weeks ago.
Although they did not make the summit, we would like to congratulate the team on their perseverance and mental toughness through some of the worst storm cycles we’ve seen during a Denali season. And while the weather may have blocked them from the summit of the Great One this time, it will still be there if they ever choose to return to the Alaska Range.