Mt. McKinley: Hahn and Team Don Crampons Instead of Snowshoes

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Ben Liken, Sean Collon | July 04, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,000'

July 3, 2014 - 11:19 p.m. PT

The forecasts had us optimistic that today would work out well for a carry to 13,500 ft.  At seven AM though, it didn’t seem that Denali’s clouds had read the forecast.  It was socked in above, below and to the West of us.  Even so, there was a mass exodus from 11,000’ camp underway.  The five other guided groups that we’ve been playing leap-frog with for the past week were all busting down their camps and getting early starts at moving up.  By the time we’d finished breakfast, we had the place pretty much to ourselves (to our knowledge, no other climbers have come onto the mountain behind us).  The weather, although a little murky and more threatening than we’d expected, seemed stable enough for our mission.  We put crampons on our boots today instead of snowshoes, an ice axe in our hands instead of two ski poles, and we elected to give our sleds the day off, loading all food and gear for the carry onto our backs.  At just after 9 AM we started up the steep “Motorcycle Hill” above camp.  We made steady progress onto “Squirrel Hill” and then into the “Polo Field” laid out below the end of the West Buttress.  By the time we reached Windy Corner at 13,300 we were thankful for the cloudcover which was keeping things just cool enough for comfortable climbing.  And significantly, Windy Corner wasn’t windy.  We cruised up and around it to our intended cache site at 13,500 ft.  Digging a raven-proof cache occupied us for long enough that the clouds began to clear while we were at it.  This meant we were treated to some spectacular views during our descent.  With lightened packs, we got down without difficulty.  The route was in fabulous condition due to so much recent snow.  We haven’t crossed an open crevasse since leaving basecamp whereas in other years we might well have stepped over a hundred at this stage of the climb.  The forecasted fair weather arrived and made our afternoon and evening resting back at 11,000 camp sunny and easy.

Best Regards
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI Team ascending from 11,000 ft on Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: RMI Collection Climbers approaching Windy Corner, Mt. McKinley, Alaska.  Photo: Brent Okita

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Happy 4th to JT, SS and the rest of the team! Thanks for taking us all on this incredible journey with you. Wishing you clear skies and safe travels. Sending all our love, KK&J

Posted by: Kelly T on 7/4/2014 at 1:26 pm

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