Mountain Trip guide Brian Muller called in for an update for the June 19 West Buttress team, from Camp 1 on the route at 7,800′.
After a bit of rest and a review of glacier travel technique, the team departed Base Camp at 2 am, during the “darkest” and “coldest” part of the evening–in theory. With daytime temperatures rising well over freezing with few clouds to lessen the powerful sun, the glacier and its snow bridges are melting at an accelerated rate.
Additionally, the Northern Hemisphere just reached the summer solstice, or longest day of the year, two days ago. In central Alaska, this means that the sun essentially never sets, but rather skims the horizon. For a few days out of the year this far north, it never truly gets dark.
While the hot conditions aren’t ideal for moving across the lower glacier, they are preferable to the relentless storms that have persisted in the range throughout the majority of the season.
The team will continue moving on a night schedule, waking up at 2 am once again to lay their first cache up above Ski Hill, a relatively steep, sustained pitch above camp that would be both exceedingly strenuous and dangerous in the heat of the day. Once the team reaches Camp 2 at 11,200′, the night schedule will likely no longer be necessary.