Thursday, July 11, 2013

AC Denali Post 28: In the balance....

We talked to Anders relatively early today, which we had anticipated this would mean bad news.  However, what's actually happening is just a bit more complicated:

1.  The snow conditions, to nobody's surprise were judged to be just too unstable to move this morning. There are two real problem areas: firstly the slopes above ABC that lead to the base of the Headwall (if you saw the earlier video of the avalanche at ABC you get a sense of what the issue is) and secondly, a place called the Autobahn, which is the steep slope leading up from the High Camp (17,200) to Denali Pass (18,200).  The avalanche risk in these two sections were freezing teams in place at both ABC and HC.

2.  Food and fuel are an issue for Anders' team now.  They have just one day left.  However, up at their cache at 16,200 they have five days worth.  Also, down below they have caches at 11,000 and also at Base Camp.  So they need to move, either or up or down and they need to do it soon.

3.  While the snow conditions were not condusive to safe climbing, the weather was very favorable today--at least so far, when we talked to Anders around noon his time.  It was a beautifully clear day and there were no clouds above them.  The sun was blasting the snow, which is what we need to set the snow up and diminish the avalanche risk.  They are hopeful that a full day of this will set the snow enough that they can climb up tomorrow and then buy themselves a several day window to go for the summit.

4. Remarkably, two "crazy Russian dudes" were actually climbing up the slopes below the fixed ropes and everyone was watching with great interest as this will certainly give a good indication about the stability of the snow fields above ABC.  To that end, Dave and another guide were also heading out to do some probing and testing to get a better sense of the avalanche risk.  Everyone is hoping that tomorrow will yield stable enough conditions to go upward.

5.  Two of Anders' teammates are heading down due to distress with the altitude.  Conveniently, they are heading down with the RMI team that summited a few days ago.  One of the guides will go as well.  As a result, Anders team will be reduced to 3 guides and 5 climbers--when they climb (either up or down) tomorrow, they will be in 4-person ropes.

Anders, was a bit more optimistic today.  We are hoping he awakes to good news tomorrow....

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