We’re still preparing ourselves for a safe one-day summit from 14,200 foot camp. We could push it and just go for it, but in a group of seven the odds are someone could get sick up there, and pass from mere discomfort to life threatening illness.
So today we climbed the classic West Buttress ridge to the 17,200 foot camp, where a lot of people stay for their summit push. Sleeping over there is still an option for me, but the boys really don’t need to do that once they’re acclimated to that height so I’ll try to follow the plan.
The West Buttress route from 16,000 to 17,200 is quite the classic. You walk ridges literally two feet wide, with cliffy terrain dropping down to distant glaciers on both sides. The guides maintain a bunch of fixed lines and anchors so you can be as safe as you desire, but it’s exciting enough no matter how much or how little of their gear you end up using. We all pretty much third classed up the thing, then Louie and I roped up and did some running belays for the descent as I felt a bit dizzy from the altitude.
The climb and return took seven hours. None of us had any great problem with the altitude, but we were nonetheless quite tired when we got back to camp here at 14,200 feet. Recovery time for some of the boys was mere hours — proof is at 10:00 PM they did a few laps on the ski hill behind camp. Strong work.
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.