Mountain Trip guide Blake Gordon called in for the June 9 Denali West Buttress team, who reached Camp One at 7,800′ on the route after trekking through the Alaskan night, their path up the glacier illuminated by the midnight sun. As we approach the summer solstice, more and more daylight with prevail over the Alaska Range. It’s a strange phenomenon to wake up at 2 am in nearly full daylight, but one that the climbers will experience often over the next several weeks.
The first move to Camp One is a strenuous day, as the team carries their heaviest loads of the entire expedition, everything they will need for the next 21 days. Packs often weigh upwards of 80 pounds, and climbers pull another 20 to 40 pounds behind them on sleds, sometimes while breaking trail through fresh snow. Combine all of that with walking on a rope team through the night and the need to be vigilant for crevasses and snow bridges, and you’re certainly not in for an easy hike.
Today, June 12, the team will begin the process of lightening their load by separating all of the gear, food and supplies that they won’t need until they progress higher on the route. This technique, of separating supplies the will be necessary for later on and further up the route is a cornerstone of expedition-style climbing. Once the team moves camp up to 11,200′, they will have a “back carry” day, which means that they will trek back down the route and retrieve the supplies that they buried beneath the snow on the glacier.