Denali Expedition: King & Team Summit!
Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 11:09 PM PT
Well, we did it and several entities tried to tell us it wouldn’t happen! Last night the weather forecast failed to mention the building high pressure and instead called for mostly cloudy skies, snow and light wind. We got up at 5 am and there were clouds over the summit and blowing snow. At 7 am the upper mountain was blue bird with a few clouds out to the North. We got the Team going and then the 17 Camp traffic jam merging onto the Autobahn formed right in front of our eyes. It’s like driving down the highway and you’re thinking, “damn I am making great time” then 30-car pile up in the blink of an eye. We pumped the brakes and saw an opening, waited about 15 minutes in the sun and 15 in the shadow of Denali. A guided group had an issue and there were three ropes pulled over so we swooped into the HOV lane only to experience an average commute to Denali Pass.
From the pass we ascended towards Zebra Rocks, a steep rocky ridge that is comprised of white granite and a black rock, it’s name escapes me due to altitude, sun, exertion and a little CO from the stoves. After topping out in the mellower terrain above Zebra we meandered towards the Football Field with views of the Farthing Horn and Arch Deacon’s Tower formations. The group had put in a big effort and there were a few who thought they had reached their high point, only problem was that it was more mental then physical. We rolled through the small hills into the Football Field for a warm break just below Pig Hill. Once up Pig Hill we were in the cold wind on the Southside of the summit ridge as we rounded the Denali Horn. A short stint brought to the Northside of the corniced ridge and we were in calm air and warm. We topped out at 4:15pm and enjoyed amazing views of the lower glaciers and really all of North America cause there was nothing on terra firma higher than us.
It’s been a great expedition and the summit on a great day is just icing on a 20,320’ cake. Tomorrow we descend to 14 Camp and from there the weather and fatigued legs will dictate when we hit the airstrip. There’s still a lot of terrain to cover and we have to collect all our cached gear, food, trash and human waste. The full packs and sleds to the airstrip will be a rite of passage for the Team, they don’t know yet but their hearts are going to break on the last hill into the airstrip but beers and burgers heal all of Denali’s aches and pains. Thanks for following along, this isn’t the last post but we might not get to another one until we hit Kahiltna Glacier Regional airport…no fake prestige airline clubs just some buried treats in the snow for an amazing group of climbers who have been an absolute pleasure to spend the last 16 days with.
RMI Guide Mike King & Team