Cold night last night here at 14,200 feet on Denali, about 10 below zero by my reckoning. That was about the limit of my sleeping bag, even with my parka thrown over the top. Then the sun comes up and you roast, as we did today while doing an acclimation climb up the ‘Headwall’ section of the West Buttress to 16,200 feet. The Headwall is known as the steepest section of the classic route, with one bulge that hits just over 45 degrees. It’s usually too icy to ski, and normally equipped with fixed ropes for a few hundred vertical feet.
Unfortunately we got caught in a traffic jam on the fixed lines and took two hours to do what normally would have taken 1/2 hour. It appeared to be too icy to forego the fixed lines without two ice tools each. Even so, once at the top the boys turned around and skied it, while I opted for a quick boot descent back to the base of the fixed lines, then skied from there. Once the first couple of guys skied there was a lot of blue ice showing, so using the ropes was probably a good decision.
The guys are feeling good and planning on more adventures tomorrow. I’m opting for a rest day to make sure I don’t weaken when the big day comes. That said, way back in the beginnings of WildSnow Denali I shared with many individuals that I’d be happy just to get to the 14,200 foot camp and blog the trip from there. Well, now I’ve been past that goal so the rest is gravy — though skiing from the summit with Louie is of course still the ultimate goal.
Big event of this evening was when our food begging yielded a harvest of popcorn and butter (for variety and more calories we’ve been getting food from groups who are done with their expeditions and headed down.)
Thanks everyone for visiting WildSnow and checking out our Denali adventures. If I do take a rest day tomorrow, I’ll file a few more posts.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.