Denali Custom Expedition: Hahn & Team Return to Talkeetna, Celebrate Great Climb
Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 1:11 AM PT
The longest day. The weather remained stable and perfect… to a scary extent. Some of us lay awake last night at 14,000 just listening to the violent detonations of rock hitting ice and snow at terminal velocity. The high temps were to blame and those high temperatures were part and parcel of the prolonged good weather that allowed us to summit. For those monitoring the rockfall, it was a relief that wake-up time was at 11 PM. Best to be up and busy eating and packing then to be hearing rock and imagining worst case scenarios for a team passing Windy Corner ridiculously close up under the cliffs. We were walking at 12:30 AM and soon got to see the battlefields where car-sized chunks of granite had left deep tracks and impact craters on either side of the “trail”. Sure enough, in the zone where rockfall danger demanded our fullest attention, the track began to go over crevasse after crevasse and crappy bridge after crappy bridge. We struggled (as every one does) the then, surprisingly, the route got better. We were pleased to find things frozen up and easy travel far below the point where we’d been told to expect freezing.
Once at 11,000’ the nature of travel changed. We traded crampons for snowshoes and ice axes for ski poles. The morning/evening light was brilliant on Denali. Conditions on the lower glacier were way better than we expected. We just kept trudging as the light changed and found ourselves walking up Heartbreak Hill starting at 9:30 AM. It was 11:30 before we were at the “upper strip” on the SE Fork with all of our Basecamp caches relocated from the lower strip. Our pickup arrived just after 3 PM. We loaded and lifted off and flew into smoke as the pilots pointed their Otters toward Talkeetna. We got out of the planes in down jackets… immediately appreciating that the ambient temp at TKA was over 90 degrees F. Afternoon was then spent drying gear and reconnecting to the world. We met for a celebratory dinner at the West Rib and discussed our good fortune. Day 19 was a long one, but also a very good one.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn