At the base of the fixed lines is a bergschrund
Going over the bergstrund at the base of the fixed lines
The view of Foraker from the top of the fixed lines is great.
Cache spot at 16.2k - Foraker in background
A few before we got here an unroped climber died by falling off to the right and down to the Peters glacier. He was in a party of 3 but unroped and was running after his pack which was sliding away. Our group was more careful, being roped up, and anchoring our packs to our ice axes.
We returned to camp that night as the weather changed – clouded up and started to snow. The first week had been perfectly sunny and we were due for a change.
Snowy on the descent back to 14k camp
The next day was a rest day and we took a trip to the Edge of the World. The Edge is a 10 minute walk to the edge of the plateau where we can look down 3-4 kft to the glacier below. Unfortunately it was cloudy and the views were not that great.
Can you see Foraker back there?
The next day we moved to high camp in marginal weather. Cloudy with light snow at times. There were quite a few groups in camp and no one else was moving up that day.
At cache at top of fixed lines
Below Washburn's Thumb - route goes left around it
Nearing High Camp
It was cloudy without much visibility. Fortunately there wasn’t much wind. We picked up our summit supplies and 3 days of group food from the cache. A big advantage of Mountain Trip is that they have a permanent cache at high camp of tents, stoves, and fuel which they allow the NPS to use as necessary. So we did not carry these things to high camp. To be honest this did feel a little bit too easy, but I don’t think carrying 5-10 more lbs. would have been a big deal for me – I was feeling good.
As we rounded the corner to high camp things were very different. The wind was blowing at 30-40 mph and with an air temp of -5 F or so the wind chill was below -30 F. We got on our puffy pants and summit parka and face protection. We spent the next 3+ hours furiously cutting snow blocks to fortify our tents. The tent poles were cold and the internal shock cord was not working well. We got the tents up and we got inside to get out of the wind. Unbelievably about 30 minutes later the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the wind stopped. Our second guide from Mountain Trip remarked that this was the first “mini-epic” she has seen getting into high camp. In retrospect it was a good experience to learn how to handle some bad weather. The tough camp set-up made up some for the light carry into camp.
The next day was a rest day and we mostly hung out. The weather was pretty decent, sunny in the AM but clouded up some in the afternoon with some snow. In the morning went to the edge of camp and got awesome views below.
Hunter from 17k camp
Foraker from 17k camp
Fixed lines from 17k camp
The next day (Sun May 27th) was summit day. We left around 9:15 AM and it was sunny.
The route goes up the Autobahn to Denali Pass. The Autobahn is 30-35 degrees and is protected by running belays using fixed pickets. The Autobahn is in the shade as the sun comes up over the pass and there is most likely place for fingers and toes to be cold. The Autobahn is serious ground and not good for taking photos. Once on the Autobahn we kept at it and got to Denali pass around noon.
Heading up the Autobahn
Shortly after leaving camp, the one climber of our group (a woman from the UK) who didn’t summit decided to turn around. She felt unsure if she could make it up and down safely so it was a good decision on her part.
At Denali pass we had a good rest stop with food and water. I felt a little bonked since had been going nearly 3 hrs without food (I stop every hour to eat). After a few snacks I felt much better. Above Denali Pass is zebra rocks – photogenic rocks of white and black – and there is a steep section protected by running belays with fixed pickets around the left side of the rocks.
The next rest stop about 1 hr up was at 18.9k ft. Above that the route flattened and climbed gradually up past Archdeacon’s tower and to the edge of the Football field.
Rest Stop near Archdeacon's Tower
Football field with Pig Hill and summit above
The Football is the flat section in the photo above. Above the Football field rises Pig Hill which gains the summit ridge. From the top of Pig Hill it is ¼ mile left to the top of North America.
On Summit ridge
It was close to 6 pm and the sunny day had given way to some clouds. Still the summit ridge was spectacular.
We reached the top just about 6 pm. It was fairly warm – shirts unzipped, no large summit parka or mitts.
We took photos and even did a satellite phone call to Mountain trip in Ouray. We probably stayed up there for 30 min or so. Though it was not that early at 6:30 pm we were the first group to reach the top that day. On the way down there were several groups coming up. The uphill traffic has the right of way so we waited for perhaps 20-30 minutes in one spot to let them pass.
Summit ridge - photo by John Race copyrighted
Summit ridge and Foraker below
Coming down from the Football field
Descending by Zebra Rocks - copyright by John Race
17k high camp from Autobahn - copyright by John Race
Descending the Autobahn - copyright by John Race
We made it back to Denali pass in an hr or more and then safely down the Autobahn to camp. We got to camp around 11 pm. The sun doesn’t set until 1 AM or so enjoyed the sunset while eating and drinking. I probably went to bed around 1:30 AM.
1 AM sunset at high camp
Please continue with part 3 - the descent