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Unepic Denali-2019

发表于 2019-11-19 08:28:12 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Unepic Denali-2019 via West Buttress

About Denali: is the
highest mountain peak of North America (6,190m), one of the famous "Seven Summits".
Climbing team: PanShiBo, Vera.
Support: independent (no porters, no guides, no pills).
Route: West Buttress (standard).
Time on the mountain: 22 days.

Two of us climbed Denali via standard route West Buttress. It took us 22 days after two years of research, training and preparations, two major accidents, one first degree frostbite, one rescue, a few surgeries and seven-days hospitalization at VGH trauma unit. We trained camping at -20°C, climbing at 100km/h winds, ascending fixed lines on very steep snow. On top of that, tons of our expedition gear (down parkas, sleeping bags, backpacks, etc.) were once stolen (in daylight!) from our car parked in a US state park, so thanks to it, we got brand new modern replacement - our original gear was in fact outdated.

After such an epic prepping, the entire expedition was "uneventful": none of us had altitude effects (used no altitude pills), frostbites or bad falls - major reasons for failing the summit, needless to say the climbing season 2019 had enough of each of them. We had a very good appetite every day and even gained weight - no kidding!

Day 1 - Talkeetna -> Base Camp -> First camp at 2,308 m
Day 2 - Move camp to 2,858 m
Day 3 - Move camp to 3,084 m
Day 4 - Rest day at 3,084m
Day 5 - Move to 11K camp (3,389 m)
Day 6 - Caching at 4,026m (before Windy Corner)
Day 7 - Move camp to 4,295m (14K camp)
Day 8 - Rest day
Day 9 - Retrieve cache from Windy Corner
Day 10 - 14K camp
Day 11 - 14K camp, first walk to the base of headwall
Day 12 - 14K camp, second walk to the base of headwall
Day 13 - 14K camp, caching at 16K ridge
Day 14 - 14K camp, bracing for the storm
Day 15 - 14K camp, stormy weather
Day 16 - 14K camp, storm is over
Day 17 - Move to 5,218m (17K camp or High Camp)
Day 18 - Retrieve cache from 16K ridge
Day 19 - SUMMIT (6,190m) !!!
Day 20 - Descending to 4,996m (16K ridge)
Day 21 - Descending to 4,295m (14K camp)
Day 22 - Descending to 2,149m (Base Camp)
 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-19 09:40:50 | 显示全部楼层
Day 1 - Talkeetna -> Base Camp -> Camp 1 at 2,308 m
May 12, 2019

After landing at the Base Camp checked in with Lisa (camp manager for 20 consequtive years), left cache (the food will taste so good on return!) and moved 8.3 km to our first camp, at location: N63.02578 W151.18675 at 2,308 m.
Base Camp temperature: -8°C, wind ~10 km/h.

At the airport, ready to board.

That's what we have been waiting for!

Base Camp. Caching food for return ( a very good idea! )

Packing our stuff on expedition sleds.

Bye-bye Base Camp, see you in 3 weeks!

First leg is rather flat (every next leg of the entire route will be harder than previous).

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-19 16:30:38 | 显示全部楼层
Day 2 - Move camp to 2,858 m
May 13, 2019

Our first full day on the mountain. "..No mountaineers have reported reaching the summit of either Denali or Mount Foraker..." - from Denali Dispatches.

Packed and moved camp 3.7 km higher up to 2,858 m. Park radio reports cold weather. "Really cold" - descending climbers say. I remember in ranger station seeing a pair of climbers who managed to reach and return from 17K camp - that's when no rangers were even at 14K camp! Frostibitten fingers.

Our current milestone is reaching "official" 11K camp. We know that rangers had been stuck there for quite a few days because of bad weather. At the same time, an injured climber was waiting for the rescue at Windy Corner, temps drop below -20°C. Climbers also report icy Windy Corner: "We protected. Used both ice screws and snow pickets...".

Later in the day we heard a rescue helicopter flew towards Windy Corner. Read more here: Injured Climber Rescued From Windy Corner.

Weather was good in the morning, then turned into a whiteout, so not reaching 10K we set our second camp at N63.05773 W151.18215 ( 2,858 m)

Our first camp at 2,866m

Getting ready to leave.

First long hill, pulling up 260lb load.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-19 18:43:10 | 显示全部楼层
Day 3 - Move camp to 3,084 m
May 14, 2019

Moved camp to 3,084 m at N63.07449 W151.17067. Summit temperature below -30°C, windy.

At camp 2

Our kitchen - we always cooked inside tent's vestibule.

Our (2nd) camp at 2,866m

A climbing team on the move

Leaving camp 2

Making platform for our camp

Our (3rd) camp at 3,084m

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-20 06:57:57 | 显示全部楼层
Day 4 - Camp 3 rest day
May 15, 2019

Well-deserved rest day at (3rd camp) 3,084m. Summits so far: 0. Summit temperatures: below -30°C.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-21 07:29:37 | 显示全部楼层
Day 5 - Move to "11K Camp"
May 16, 2019

Moved camp to 3,363 m. This is our 4th and the first official camp, a.k.a. "11K", coordinates: N63.07441 W151.14500.

A group of six climbers (from Sweden) passed us descending from 11K - say after staying two weeks there couldn't move past Windy Corner, bad conditions and bad weather. Call it quits.

11K was a bit busy - so we had to set our tent a bit closer to a potentially dangerous runout. Our new neigbours, who arrived after us, were a young couple from Austria - we will often accidentally bump into eachother later on during our expedition, and also fly same airtaxi back to Talkeetna, and even after that, bump again in the TAT shelter. This couple brought 3-person tent, despite more weight, because it is "more comfortable". Their tent is same as ours, only for three persons. It would be their second (successfull) trip to Denali.

11K camp is the last point on the West Buttress route where you can just"snowshoe" to, roped up for the glacier travel of course. After that it's getting a lot harder, all the way to 14K camp: steep Motorcycle Hill followed by icy slanted exposed Squirrel Hill (sleds will skid uncomfortably), then dangerous Windy Corner traverse and crevasse-ridden Genet Basin. Dropping into hidden crevasses is expected, and we did so a few times. As rangers say, just making it from 11K to the 14K (next) camp is already a challenge on Denali. True enough - confirmed. Getting to bed we debated, should we keep pulling the same two expedition sleds, or only one or none: we faced making hard decision. We certainly will be leaving our snowshoes and switching to crampons.

Our 3rd camp.

Commercial team returns from caching.

Ready to move.

Arriving at 11K camp

Making kitchen

This photo was taken at midnight - in summer it is never dark on Denali! Nobody brings headlights.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-22 07:01:38 | 显示全部楼层
Day 6 - Caching at Windy Corner
May 17, 2019

Moved our first cache to  4,026m (N63.06770 W151.10820) just before Windy Corner. Meanwhile weather turned bad - whiteout and wind, the reason didn't dare to traverse (which was a very wise decision), cached in the rocks. Staying at 11K camp.

From Vera's expedition Notes:
Windy Corner
  • Elevation ~4100m /13500ft
  • Frequently 100~160km/hr gusts
  • At least 3 lives were claimed there so far
  • Tremendous exposure
  • The slope “steep and icy, calling for running protection especially with sleds”
  • Rockfall and snow avalanches

Windy Corner 会是我们Denali路上的第一个挑战,这一点我们在Talkeetna已经意识到了。5月9号下午1点我们准时走进Ranger station,参加事先预定好的1:30的orientation,从staff之间断断续续的谈话中,(后来在dispatches里也读到了)得知二人team的一位登山者在Windy Corner受伤的消息:5月8号,6m fall,可能肋骨受伤,因为天气原因无法营救...

我们最早的计划是15号进山,因为排不到orientation的时间,所以才提前到10号。结果天助我们,10号、11号都不能飞。就在这不能飞的两天里,我们每天都会去ranger station上网、探听消息、期待遇上下山的人好问些情况,etc. 我们知道了受伤的人还在Windy Corner,ranger们都无法上到14K,回来的都是没有summit的,换句话说,能到17K就已经很了不起了。一个二人team回来,不知是不是母子(年龄很像这样的关系),我问他们走到哪里,“17k”. 我接着问有什么要特别注意的,男孩子说,too cold,然后举起戴着mitten的双手,说frostbite... 原来是这阻止了他们前进的脚步。


言归正传。Windy Corner的事故以及连续几天的无法救援,一直牵动着我们的心。它到底是什么样子,我们能否handle?这些问题萦绕在脑子里挥之不去,也很难想象出答案,在面对它之前就只能这么被它困扰着。就带着这些疑虑,我们在12号周日的上午,带着264lb的装备和食物,飞到了大本营。

经过途中四晚的露营,Day5,5月16号,我们到达了第一个里程碑:11k 营地(海拔3400米),从这里到下一个里程碑14k,就要经过令我紧张的Windy Corner。在11k的营地,我找到ranger的帐篷,问Windy Corner在哪里、情况怎样,他说在11k是看不见的,指着Motorcycle Hill,告诉我大概的方向,说traverse有200m,icy,他们昨天去cache就没有用sled,只用了背包。下山的人也说了,用ice screw/snow pickets保护。

我们该怎么办,sled?no sled?从11k,要经过Motorcycle Hill,接着更陡的Squirrel Hill到Windy Corner的base,最后上到Windy Corner。我拉着sled到11k已经觉得坡很难上了,这坡度更大的,恐怕难以胜任,而且这里是crampons和snowshoes的分界点,从这里开始,不再有人穿雪鞋,一夜雪后,新break的trail 上不再有平滑的sled的道,而是一脚一脚的冰爪印。但是我们的东西很多,一次背包cache也不够,最后博士决定他拉一个sled,我用背包,去cache。能不能过Windy Corner,见机行事,尽量走远点,实在不行,随便在哪儿都能cache,埋下去就行。(后来才知道,不是哪里都有雪的)

Windy Corner 第一次
5月17号,Day 6,-15C,“Cache with sled, go as far as we can.”

sled很重,我的背包也尽量加载来努力减轻博士的负担。一个坡上了,嗯,不错;Squirrel的也上了,这就到了Windy Corner的base,往上看,蓝天一片,可是我们上了一半时,突然大风,气温骤降,赶快上滑雪镜,两层手套还是冷,从Motorcycle Hill的顶上,冰面就越来越多,雪变得稀薄(后来分析觉得是风太大,雪留不住),硬着头皮一步步跟着,风越来越大,已经whiteout了,此刻传来最想听到的声音,伟大的决定:博士说,就用tarp盖住,在此cache吧!

我们眼前的就是Windy Corner,被称为“lower crux of West Buttress”,西面稍平坦,只见乱石块,没法挖雪洞埋cache。正常情况下是cache到它的另一边,但我们根本看不到路在哪里,今儿个是肯定不能过去了。我放下背包,如遇大赦,赶快拿出goretex jacket,wow,立马不同!再套上自制的大护手套,一下子就不冷了,把东西尽量裹进tarp,从旁边石缝里刮些浮雪盖上,再压些石头,插上竹竿,team label也压在石头下(太冷,粘不住),终于cache好了。


晚上在帐篷里讨论明天是背包还是sled,因为move camp,帐篷、睡袋什么的,都不轻,可我觉得sled不安全,也很难。


Daily check of our blood oxyden.

11K camp

Ready to move our 1st cache

With Motorcycle Hill with West Buttress at the back

At the bottom of Squirrel Hill

11K camp as seen from Motorcycle Hill

Whiteout is when you only can see the rope.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-23 07:09:18 | 显示全部楼层
Day 7 - Move to 4,295 m ("14K" camp)
May 18, 2019
One week already on the mountain!

Moved to 4,295m (N63.06982 W151.08088): a.k.a. 14K camp. That's our 5th camp on the expedition. Passed icy and dangerous Windy Corner. Temperature -21°C in the evening, dropping to -22.4°C at 03:00 a.m.. Just above Squirrel Hill we met two young Canadian climbers on the way down: no summit - one got AMS at 14K camp, call it quits.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-24 13:48:28 | 显示全部楼层
Day 8 - Rest day
May 19, 2019

Rest day at 4,295m (14K camp). Temperature below -20°C. Vera keeps busy building snow wall around our camp. Weather is very good so we really should have gone to retrieve our cache (while the good weather lasts), but after yesterday's Windy Corner traverse we need to calm down a little.

From Rangers:
Route Conditions

Windy Corner still in challenging shape -- icy and exposed. Lots of crevasse falls and self-rescue at 13,200 feet.  

Upper mountain in good shape. Snowy. Fixed lines are out and in good shape. Rangers say the bergschrund's two steps are pretty straightforward to negotiate this year.

Rumors abound that the first (and only) two summits of the year were recorded by two young Alaskans, but we won't count them here until the climbers come by and check back at the ranger station.

Mt. Hunter (4,442 m) as seen from 14K camp

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-25 07:04:43 | 显示全部楼层
Day 9 - 14K camp, retrieve cache from Windy Corner
May 20, 2019

Retrieved our cache from Windy Corner - carried it twice in the backpacks. Very strong winds.
17K camp to summit temperatures: -35°C

Ranger Update
NPS 14K Patrol #1 (Preston)  Patrol #1 was the only team at high camp yesterday, and in light of a poor weather forecast, they descended to 14 camp today in snow and wind.  No teams (NPS or otherwise) are currently above 14,200 feet.

Footage: A climbing team approaching Windy Corner traverse

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-26 07:59:30 | 显示全部楼层
Day 10 - 14K camp, very windy
May 21, 2019

Windy. Vera conitnues making snow wall. Temperature: -20°C. We both agreed to stay here at 14K (4,295m) until it warms up (and it will).

Ranger Update
..Patrol #1 is glad they descended to 14 camp yesterday, as it is howling enough there today. High camp would have been brutal, and all are relieved that no teams are up high.  ..

..Melis and crew spent the day building windwalls around the NPS tents to protect from the current wind event.  The team, along with patrol #1, assisted a helicopter evacuation from 14K last evening of a climber-skier who suffered a dislocated hip...

PHOTO: Climbing team returns home from 14K camp, no summit. Mt. Foraker (5,304 m) on left, base of the Denali West Buttress on right.
 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-27 07:46:26 | 显示全部楼层
Day 11 - 14K camp
May 22, 2019

Getting warmer: the coldest 24hr temperature was only -15.9°C at 23:00.
Today we first time walked up towards headwall, for better acclimatization and scoute the approach. Not bad.
Ranger Update
Frank's patrol flew out of the range, attending a patient who collapsed at 9,800 feet, thus ending an eventful first patrol of the season.
Our altitude progress.

Our tent at 14K with Foraker at the back

14K camp is the best on the West Buttress route, for many reasons.

The snow wall, made by Vera

Commercial expedition at 14K

A shot with Mongolian 2p team client (speaking Chinese a bit)

The best views are from 14K camp

In the upper left corner, the icy headwall is seen - a few people gave up before even trying.

14K camp from the base of Headwall

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-28 06:57:20 | 显示全部楼层
Day 12 - 14K camp
May 23, 2019

Another day at 14K camp. Today we went up towards the headwall once again.

After having been twelve days on the mountain already, we now can tell how cold it is just by touching sunscreen in a 100ml plastic container - it is below -20°C if sunscreen is frozen solid. If it can be used, it's no colder than -15°C. Today the 24hr coldest was - 14.9°C at 04:00 a.m.

Our home

This was worth inspecting: our neighbor from Australia (their 2nd time here - 1st being unsuccessful) demonstrates their huge steel(!) kettle - saying it is more practical.

Storm warning for Saturday (today is Thursday). With -30°C on the summit.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-29 08:14:22 | 显示全部楼层
Day 13 - caching on 16K ridge
May 24, 2019

24hr min temperature at 14K camp: -16.1°C at 9:00

Today we carried the 2nd and last cache (seven days worth of fuel and food) above headwall (4,988m) with tomorrow's plan to move camp to 5,218m, a.k.a. 17K or "High Camp" - the last camp on the West Buttress route.

Fixed lines were a bit steeper, longer and icier than we had expected. Climbed with jumar and Microtraxion as ratchet (1:1). MT lets you stop and rest anytime you want. Besides, you don't need to use ice axe to climb. In the first pitch (there are 12 total) it worked as we trained back home, but after passing first anchor it stopped working - the fixed line was too low on the ground. I solved the problem nicely with 30cm prusik loop.

About this prusik loop. The day before we reviewed all climbing gear that we would need for fixed lines and decided to leave everything else at the camp. I didn't expect rappelling, so prusiks were to stay. However, Vera suggested to bring them as well, "just in case", so we carried prusiks too. We didn't rappel, but that prusik saved my day. Vera's intuition worked again and it will again work on the summit day..

On the way up we passed two young guys . Next day we saw them at 14K leaving. "Went to 17K. Gave up: no strength. Will come next year".

360° shot at 14K camp

Getting on headwall's fixed line.

Our cache

At 16K ridge, Foraker at the back


Hunter and 14K camp below

 楼主| 发表于 2019-11-30 19:16:55 | 显示全部楼层
Day 14 - 14K camp, bracing for the storm
May 25, 2019

Today exactly two weeks on the mountain!

The morning was calm and clear. As planned yesterday, we started packing for moving our camp to 5,220m (17K). But just in case, we went to see the rangers.

"Snow storm is coming late afternoon" - they insisted. "It will last three days." Looking at the calm blue skies it was hard to believe in such synopsis, but we decided to play it safe and stay. Good decision it was: the storm was for real. Noon time it slowly started cloudy, at 13:00 all white out and then...

Some folks either didn't know about this forecast or just ignored it. One of them were Mongolians. They set off to 17K camp, but didn't make it very far because of the wind. So they set up their tent just above fixed lines on 16K ridge, but the wind blew off one of the snow blocks and hit the tent so hard that it ripped it. They descended fixed lines in storm and spent the night in ranger's station. Later Zhula said to us: "Cold is OK. But fear to die is not so." Who knew, that six days later we will have to spend a night on the exactly same spot with our own broken tent!

The "Austrian Superman" and his wife also went up, trying to climb to the top from 14K in one(!) day. On Denali pass they had to accept the reality and gave up. As he said to us later: "We had some navigation problems on return". They were on skis and in such wind, descended Rescue gully. Superman indeed.

PHOTO: Storm is coming. At 14K camp with 16K ridge at the back.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-12-1 17:53:19 | 显示全部楼层
Day 15 - 14K camp, stormy weather
May 26, 2019

First full day of snowstorm at 14K camp. Exactly as per forecast. Lucky us didn't trust InReach ("all clear") and trusted NPS rangers ("heavy snow and wind").

That horrible sound that the wind makes at 16K ridge, much like a passenger jet landing nearby. Nonstop: all night and day. Zero activity outside: nobody moves in, out or around. Inside our tent is dry and comfortable. Sometimes wind gusts hit the tent hard, but it stands firm.

Weather forecast for 17K: -30°C, winds up to 60 mph. Staying put.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-12-2 08:32:50 | 显示全部楼层
Day 16 - 14K camp, storm is over
May 27, 2019

Our last day at 14K camp, hard to believe we already spent here 10 days! Storm tapered off, blue skies, no wind. Packed our stuff, sealed sled for conservation. Tomorrow leave for 17K - will be climbing headwall and then 16K ridge with all expedition camping and climbing gear to 5,218m.

Ranger Update
Patrol #3 had a busy weekend at 14K, hosting over 200 climbers in camp during the recent snow and wind storm. The general vibe around camp is that teams are feeling pinned and anxious for good weather to ascend to high camp. The patrol assessed a handful of minor ailments/injuries at the medical tent, plus they tended to one climber with moderate frostbite to 9 fingers following a long summit day push.  The rangers and volunteers also dealt with a couple climbers who needed a place to stay after their tent was damaged by snow walls that collapsed under strong winds on the 16K ridge.

American climbers, the one on left is who got 9 fingers frostbite (mentioned above) - will be evacuated tomorrow by helicopter. No summit.

Summit weather forecast is looking good (but can't call it fantastic): low winds (albeit below -30°C). Fingers crsossed it holds: we need weather not only for the ascend, but for the descend too. At least three good days.

Tomorrow will be tough: 920 meters up with all camping gear..the highest altitude gain in a day on this expedition, to where it is only 50% of sea-level oxygen.

Last day at 14K. We leave behind our sled and stuff we don't need on 17K.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-12-3 06:57:46 | 显示全部楼层
Have you ever been curious how tough Denali expedition is? You can easily get an approximate idea: go on a 21-days diet (normal duration of West Buttress trip), every day limit your food consumption to 85% of your daily calorie need. No interruptions. No excuses. No fights with your spouse. So you should loose 8lb (170g of body fat every day) with a smile at the end of the last day.
 楼主| 发表于 2019-12-3 13:58:59 | 显示全部楼层
Day 17 - Move to 17K camp
May 28, 2019

Big day! Moved to 17K camp at 5,218 m, our 6th camp so far. There are no more camps above us, only the summit. So climbing with 50lb expedition packs is over!

From our guide book: "..merely being at 17,200 feet is already a hazard.."

Bye-bye 14K camp!

Icy headwall, 12 pitches to go. Right fixed rope is for the ascent, left one for the descent.

Exiting headwall on 16K ridge, ~5,000 meters. Running belay from now on.

Arriving at High Camp, 5,218m

Digging platform for our tent.

 楼主| 发表于 2019-12-4 19:22:02 | 显示全部楼层
Day 18- 17K camp, retrieve cache from 16K
May 29,2019

Today retrieved cache from 16K ridge. Weather for tomorrow: snow begins at 17:00. We debate - Vera wants to go to the top right now (!) or we can get stuck with bad weather here, which is true. Our neighbours, a young couple from Anchorage,  just came back from successful climb. Their advice: for the summit put all clothes that you have - you won't feel hot. Bring all carabiners - Autobahn's fixed pros missing lots of them. One fixed pro section is longer than 30m. The last part, Pig Hill, was the hardest - "no air".

We decide to attempt the summit tomorrow early morning. Our alarm clock is set for 02:30 a.m. Our blood oxygen is 50%.

PHOTO: 16K ridge, with Foraker at the back.

17K camp (5,218m)

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