Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 18, 2012
The morning brought another beautiful day.  Few clouds and the sun shinning. After having breakfast, we set aside another cache with extra food and equipment.  What I had not realized when packing the day before is that I had not left a lot of food for Adam and I to eat for dinner and breakfast.  It was enough but Adam wanted hot Chocolate, which I had packed. Ops, looks like he will have to go without for one morning.   
With the remainder of our gear, we headed up Motorcycle hill and up to Windy Corner.  The trek was slightly easier today as we had acclimatized slightly to the higher elevation and because our bodies were coming more conditioned.  
At Windy Corner, again there was hardly any wind at all making for a nice climb to our cache.  Just before arriving at the cache is where we saw the helicopter.  It was circling around Basin Camp ahead of us and then took off into the distance.  Helicopters on mountains are not usually a good sign.  We found out later that this was the first rescue and death of the season on Mt. McKinley.  With no communication to the outside world, we knew people would be worried but there was nothing we could do.  

The cache, we dug up and after loading it on the sleigh that we had left with it the day before, we headed the short distance uphill to Basin Camp (14,200ft/4,300m).  Even though the distance was only just over a kilometer, with all our heavy equipment, it took a long time and was exhausting.  Adam pulled the sleigh and I pulled Adam and the sleigh.  By time we arrived at Basin Camp, we were tired and very glad to make camp.  
We were lucky and were able to find a sight that was partly built.  It was getting late so team work came into play. Adam started the stove while I set up the tent.  It worked well for us, we each had our part to play and helped each other out when we could to get the tasks that needed to be done done.  Before long we were curled up inside the tent and stove in the vestibule boiling water.     

May 19, 2012
It is recommended that everyone rest for at least one day at basin camp. For this reason, basin camp is the largest of the camps with people building Igloos and large walls of snow with their free time.  There was a small hike that we did called the hike to the edge of the world. It is a 15 min walk to a cliff that on a good day you can see Talkeetna. We were told that cell phones would work from here and we tried to get a message out.  Unfortunately, even though the phone detected a AT&T tower it would not connect. By the end of the day we were feeling good so we planed to go up the next day.

May 20, 2012
After our rest day in Basin Camp, we decided to do a single carry with as little as we could get by with to high camp or Camp 4 (17,200ft/5,200m).  We took only the essentials.  Tent, sleeping bag and mat, food and fuel for four days, high elevation down gear, a small first aid kit, few personal items and extra socks and whatever we were wearing to climb that day.  It was still a lot of weight but we thought that it was worth doing a single carry since we felt good and the weather was still beautiful.
The climb from Basin Camp is steep.  First a 1,200ft/370m steep climb then a 800ft/240m section known as the Headwall.  The Headwall is roped with fixed lines, making it safer and easier to scale. Using an accendor unit, we climbed the steep section to the top of the fixed lines.  Many climbers had made caches at this section however we continued on.  From the top of the fixed lines, you climb a bit before coming up onto a ridge line.  The ridge weaves in and around rocks and some section were quite intimidating.  A small ridge with drop offs on either side.  My heart pounded in a few sections and I had to focus hard to make sure I did not lose my balance or catch my crampon on a pant leg and fall.  It was a beautiful view from the ridge but I was sure glad to finally see Camp 4 and make camp.  It was a tiring, long day, the temperature was getting colder and I was starting to feel the altitude with a headache.  I was happy to set up camp and curl into my warm sleeping bag for a good nights sleep.  

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