OK folks, the team is reunited and on the move!
Jacob called in last night and reported that he, Zvika, James Josh and Chase all carried a load of supplies up and around the infamous Windy Corner at roughly 13,500′ (4115m). Though technically an “early season” expedition, the team encountered very warm temperatures and Jacob said he was traveling in a t-shirt and no gloves along the gradually rising plain we call the Polo Field from about 13,000′ until it rises to meet Windy Corner.
The team moved up and out of the east end of the basin they were camped in and ascended the first somewhat steep section of the route, known affectionately as Motorcycle Hill. This rises about 800′ and links up with a more traditionally wind-affected series of even steeper hills collectively called Squirrel Hill. This is the start of the portion of the route when climbers feel like they are really climbing. They wore crampons and carried their ice axes at the ready, lest the slip and pull the rope team off Squirrel Hill and off the 2000′ precipice that drops to the Lower Peters Glacier.
The top of Squirrel Hill passes by the craggy West Buttress proper, which rises in gray and orange granite, interlaced with white couloirs (French for snow gully) of snow and blue ice runnels. It is a spectacular setting in which to travel, but the team needed to pay attention to the numerous crevasses that bisect the Polo Field, all of which were more prominent that “normal,” due to the very low snow year.
Zach and Ben caught back up with the rest of the team yesterday afternoon and today they are all headed up and around Windy Corner to make camp in the huge Genet Basin, otherwise known as the 14 Camp.
14 Camp has been described in one book about a climber’s ascent as “an icy ledge.” I suppose if a ledge can be 800m across than it is an apt description. I’d call it a broad basin, flanked by ice faces to the northwest and iconic couloirs leading up to almost the summit to the northeast. The climbers can see right up the next 2,000′ of their route, which is the steepest, making for some exciting conversation and anticipation. I’ve never seen the basin without dozens of other tents set up, so the broad, white canvas in front of the team as they walk into the heart of the basin will be a real treat.
Hopefully, we will have another podcast tonight, now that the team and the sat phone are all reunited. Stay tuned…