Saturday, July 13, 2013

AC Denali Post 30: Is it still on?

As you might imagine, those of us Christoffersons residing on the East Coast spent our day yesterday living our lives but most often thinking of the fortunes of Anders.  We knew that yesterday was the decision point--did they assess the conditions in such a way to decide to head down the mountain or did they decide to keep their slim summit hopes alive by climbing up, retrieving their cache at 16,200 and pushing onward to the High Camp at 17,000?

We kept our phones by our sides all day.  The weather was not helpful here as it rained torrentially for much of the day--there were less things to distract us.  We went to the movies at one point only to find everything but "Pacific Rim" sold out--which, we'll admit we went to (spoiler alert: the good guys win in the end).  We returned home and had a late dinner and waited for the call.  By 9 p.m. our time it was now past when Anders had called us by every other day so far....and still no call.

RC had planned to do a little local sprint triathlon the next day so he climbed in bed around 10...still no call.  By 11 Judy did the same and still no call.  By 12 we had resigned ourselves to the realization that maybe Anders had been too busy to call and now had determined that it was just too late to call.  However, around 12:30 a.m. EST the call came--we of course were both still awake.  We had a brief conversation with Anders and this is what he told us:

- They made the call to proceed up the mountain and were successful in reaching 17,000 and had just established their High Camp!

- They left about 10:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. EST) and climbed for 9 hours to do so.

- The snow field above 14,000 and the Headwall were very stable and they saw no loose snow anywhere.

- The snow was very deep and this made the task of ascending quite challenging.

- At 16,200 they located their cache and replinished their now diminished food and fuel supplies

- Above the cache point they encountered the most spectacular climbing of the Denali West Buttress Route.  The weather was beautiful and the views unsurpassed.

- They climbed along a "knife edge" with dizzying exposure on both sides.  A unrestrained fall would lead to a much unwanted and very rapid 2000 foot descent.

- Anders described it as the most electrifying climbing of his life and the pictures below will hopefully capture a bit of what he means.

- They reached the High Camp, feeling quite knackered but very satisfied with the work and accomplishments of the day.

- A took an hour or so to establish High Camp, which they are sharing with but one other team--Denali is becoming a lonelier place this late in the season.

Anders had to end the call quickly as they needed to unpack and organize their gear for the challenges ahead.  Dinner was to be made and critical rest was needed.

So they are now in position at High Camp for a summit bid.  This, if it happens, will take place today, Saturday the 13th or tomorrow.  There are at least three factors they'll need to consider in evaluating if and when they go:

1. Are the snow conditions (especially on the Autobahn leading up to Denali Pass) safe enough to allow a summit attempt?

2. Do the weather conditions present a "window" that allows safe climbing?

3. Is the climbing team sufficiently recovered from the efforts of July 12th to have the physical reserves necessary for an attempt at the summit?

It does look like the weather may cooperate over the next day or two and give them a bit of flexibility.  If that is the case then waiting a day would allow welcome recovery and allow the snow, at this higher altitude to set a bit more.

We are relieved about the outcomes of the day but continue to think about all that lies ahead.  Of course, we'll spend our day waiting once again to hear from Anders.  Most other things are on the back burner for the time being....RC elected to skip his triathlon as his heart wasn't in it and Judy will always have her phone with her as we await the next update....

Here are some pictures of the day's activities:

This first three pictures illustrate the exposure that they faced on the ridge above their cache point:

These next to pictures are from the top of the ridge up towards the High Camp:

 The next pictures show the steep climb above the ridge and on up to High Camp:

Finally, after nine hours they reached High Camp:

 And finally a look upward towards Denali Pass and the Autobahn that awaits them....


Sandy said...

Living my ordinary life and watching your extraordinary adventure. So proud and scared for you all at the same time. I love you Anders.

kels said...

These pictures are great. Thanks for all the updates, Mr. and Mrs. C! I've been enjoying following the adventure from Lesotho. Best to everyone and luck and safety to Ders as they make their summit attempt!