Our guide Yoshiko Miyazaki-Back called in a nicely detailed post; however, the satellite connection did not cooperate all that much. We promise that this was not an attempt to protect company secrets, because Yoshiko listed three days worth of delicious dishes that were served to our team, fare quite unlike what is typically found on expeditions…
The team had been waiting for winds to lessen on the upper mountain before moving up to high camp. Last week saw incredibly warm temperatures and the National Park Service stopped allowing their patrols to go up the Headwall, as there had been some rockfall hazards along that section of the route. Our guides spent several days observing the patterns of when rockfall took place on the Headwall and determined that, with an early start, they could make it up without encountering that objective hazard. Their experience-based decision making proved to be correct.
It was very cold when the team started up out of the 14,200′ camp. Teams typically climb out of camp in the shade of early morning, but try to climb the Headwall while in the warmth of the sun. The June 9th team left sufficiently early so they could climb the Headwall in the shade, which resulted in any potential tumbling rocks remaining frozen in place. They didn’t see any rockfall and made their way up to high camp in good time, arriving quite early in the afternoon.
The Headwall is the steepest section of the West Buttress. It is an icy face that climbs up out of the western side of the large basin of the 14,200′ camp and splits the rocks that ring the basin on most sides. This icy ramp allows access to a ridge that leads up to the 17,200′ high camp. The Headwall is strung up and down with two long lengths of rope, called fixed lines, because they are affixed into the ice bed. Climbers attach mechanical ascenders (rope clamps) to a fixed line for protection against a slip. This 600′ stretch of route is tiresome and can be grueling, but it is also exciting and fun.
Here is Yoshiko!