Monday, July 8, 2013

AC Denali Post 23--Very Exciting Day!

Just off the phone.  Anders at 14,000 feet on Denali, Judy in Stone Harbor, and me in Delaware.

Anders was stoked!  They were successful in making their carry and cache to 16,200 today--this is a huge deal because it puts them potentially within two days of summiting....that's not the plan but they have definitely created a bit more flexibility in their schedule with the last 4 days of successful, and very demanding climbing.

The climb up from ABC to the base of the Headwall took 90 minutes or so.  Then they were on the fixed ropes for the 600 feet of vertical climb up the 55 degree slope.  This took close to two hours as it involved front-pointing their crampons into a thin veneer of snow over blue ice at places.  They used the pick of their ice axe and the ascender with their arms and slowly, and very carefully worked their way up.  At the points where the fixed rope was anchored to the Headwall they had to first unclip the upper carabiner and then reclip it above the anchor point.  Then move the the lower carabiner above the anchor and reclip....all while gripping the ice with the front-points of their crampons and holding on the fixed rope ascender with their free hand...they had to do this 20 times or so...clearly a no F-up zone!

Despite the dire weather forecast, the day was brillantly clear and blue and with the radiation from the sun, Anders described the conditions as 95 degrees...he was climbing in just his base underlayer and a softshell--the later to protect against the winds that blew from time to time.  The views were unbelievable and Anders described it as the most exciting climbing he has ever done.

Once atop the Headwall, they soon reached their cache point and after refeuling headed back down.  The descent down the Headwall was in Anders' words scary.  Contrary to my anticipation they actually descended most of it face forward/sideways.  They wrapped the rope around their uphill arm and created a friction belay and slowly eased themselves down the quadruple black diamond slope with their crampons digging in sideways.  Several times it was too near vertical to do so and they had to turn and face the wall and basically proceed looking down the Headwall past their body and feet--not such an intimidating view for the first few feet but beyond your feet--yikes!

But they did it!

Anders was tired and he sounded dehydrated to me.   But also very wired and upbeat.  He says he feels perfectly adapted to the altitude and feels very strong.  Clearly, his many hard hours of preparation are paying big dividends now!

Whew!  What to think as parents?  So happy for and proud of him.  Trying not to think of the peril--even though they are clearly managing it well....

Looking ahead, Dave will most likely call for a rest day tomorrow.  It looks like there might be several days ahead with a potential summit window--perhaps Thursday (11th) to Saturday (13th).  At this point, I'm guessing that their cache at 16K is just there for emergency purposes in case they get stuck up at High Camp at 17K.  My guess is the optimal plan is to rest tomorrow and then move to High Camp and to try to summit the next day (Thursday).  This is just a guess, given the wacky weather on this mountain, but it looks like they are close and they may very well get a real shot at the top.

Some pics for your enjoyment:


michael stricklin said...

Great progress and break in the hawkish weather. Descending definitely the trickier scenario given the accomplishments of the day

Kara Christofferson said...

Anders, you're the man. this is so cool. hi mom and dad! great blogging!