Climbing Denali - Day 11

Matthew Stein on Jul 23, 2021 8:32:00 AM

Move day. Holy shit that was hard.

Climbing Denali - Day 10

Matthew Stein on Jul 22, 2021 8:49:00 AM

Mutiny on the mountain.

This was the coldest morning yet. The wind was still howling, but the direction was supposed to have shifted.

2-sleep Mike delivered thermoses for hot drinks and collected bowls for breakfast. He told us to sit tight and stay warm. When he delivered breakfast (hot granola and a pop tart) he said we could start organizing our stuff to pack up. The winds were blowing in the right direction.

I threw all my gear to pack into my tent bag. This time I would wait until out tent was broken down so I could pack more efficiently. We were told to wait in our tents until the sun crested the face of the West Buttress so it would warm up. I packed my inflatable sleeping pad and sleeping bag and sat on my foam pad.

Even in my tent I was still cold. Thick socks, boot liners, down booties, heavy weight long johns, shell pants, puffy pants, lightweight base layer top, puffy vest, down jacket and parka, ski gloves and my warm hat. Inside my tent and I'm still cold. It must have been low single digits inside. Ice crystals falling from the tent ceiling didn't melt. My finger tips hurt from the cold, so I tucked them in my arm pits, inside my jacket, gloves and all. I wanted to get out my book but it was too cold to turn the pages.

At 10:30 we heard camp rumors of a mutiny. One of the guided trips had their climbers break camp and they were sitting in their packs. Apparently the climbers gave their guides an ultimatum. 'Either we start climbing now, or we're going to leave and go back down to the airstrip.'

In case you're not sure, that's a very bad idea.

Climbing Denali - Day 9

Matthew Stein on Jul 21, 2021 12:05:05 PM

Blizzard day. The wind gusted, then it stopped, and I heard silence. That's when I knew our tent was buried in snow.

Not totally buried, but the drifts went well halfway up the sides. I woke at 6, not wanting to get up quite yet. The winds died down, but that was no guarantee we would be clear to proceed up to our next camp.

Slowly I pulled in more clothes into my sleeping bag. First my puffy vest, then my down booties. With those pre-warmed and donned, I pulled on my shell pants and got ready to leave the tent. My gloves spent the night rolled up in my boot liners to be already warm in the morning. I grabbed my camera and set out to see what camp looked like.

Half buried tents, drifts piled up, snow blowing horizontally, 11 camp was a winter wonderland. With no sign of Santa anywhere, I instead saw our guides starting to unbury their tent and our sharps pile. We chatted, I shot some pictures. It wasn't looking good for us to leave camp. The snow wasn't a problem, we can deal with snow. It was still the prevailing winds from the Southwest. They remained a headwind atop squirrel hill and the rest of the way to windy corner.

I secured my camera back in the tent and removed some of the drifted snow from around our tent fly. Then I climbed back in and gave Rhude Dog a weather update.

Hot drinks came shortly there after. Then the team got up to clean up our campsite. Walking paths to and from the tents and latrine were cleared first. Then we dug out around our tents. It's important to have air flow between the tent and the fly to keep it dry (and oxygenated) inside the tents.

Breakfast was hash browns with cheese and bacon. I helped deliver bowls to tents then hung around with the guides waiting for mine. We talked about the weather, how it was looking for today. Clark was reading about some alpinist adventures and Peggy was doing push-ups while 2-sleep Mike cooked.

As I topped my hash browns off with hot sauce I saw it was getting a little low. Halfway gone and we're not halfway through the trip yet. I floated the idea of trading with the other AMS team that was down to 3 guides and 2 climbers. 2-sleep Mike looked interested.

After breakfast everyone got up to help clean up the tents and camp. We could tell from the spindrift atop squirrel hill it was a low chance of us leaving camp today. Our new neighbors who arrived yesterday geared up for their back carry day to retrieve their cache.

2-sleep Mike and California stood around talking about gear. California works for Arc'teryx and Mike is a sponsored athlete by them. Mike is working with their designers on some custom pieces for his needs and they're hoping to turn them into a new line. We had a fascinating discussion about the major gear manufacturers, what's going on with their athlete teams and how the industry is always changing.

Feeling the need to move, I did some yoga on the packed snow between our tents. Definitely the most clothes I've ever worn to do yoga. Down booties, over boots, mid weight long johns, goretex shell pants, light weight base layer top, puffy vest, down jacket, hat, gloves and glacier glasses. It was good to stretch after spending so much time in tents and sleeping bags.

I climbed back into my tent, played around with my camera and ate some lunch. Half a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, some fruit snacks, cheese, peanut butter stuffed pretzel bites, and a few dried apricots. Then I read, took a nap, woke up and read some more.

By 3pm I was baking in the tent. In long johns and socks I couldn't stand to even wear a shirt anymore. We fully opened tent flaps and vented the vestibules. That sun is Strong!

For dinner we ate Mac and cheese with chicken.

In hopes of going to sleep more easily and comfortably, I staged things a little differently. Warm socks and long johns, no down booties. My puffy vest and hat hung from the laundry line above my head. I unzipped my sleeping bag from the bottom 2/3rds of the way up and most of the way down from the top. Now I could have a knee sticking out to vent some heat from my legs. By 8:30 it was cool enough inside to put my base layer top back on. After 9:15 the sun dipped below the ridge and it was cool enough to tuck my leg back in. I finished reading for the evening about 10 and slipped on my puffy vest for the night. Ear plugs and eye mask meant I was tucked in for the night. I read the first 400 pages of The Lies of Locke Lamora in just two days. Time for bed.

Climbing Denali - Day 8

Matthew Stein on Jul 13, 2021 9:44:09 PM


Climbing Denali - Day 7

Matthew Stein on Jul 9, 2021 4:08:21 PM

Looking like another rest day.

Woke up about 4:30 to the sound of no wind at all. I started thinking we might be able to move up today. A few minutes later it starts shaking and I can hear the snow pelting our tent. No such luck. I went back to sleep

Peggy faked us out delivering thermoses for hot drinks to the back vestibule of our tent. By the time we figured that out, they were luke warm drinks.

I shot a video 'Cribs, Denali tent edition' to record a tour.

Climbing Denali - Day 6

Matthew Stein on Jul 6, 2021 9:43:14 PM

Wind howled, whipping at our tent. My breath iced over on the edge of my sleeping bag. Occasionally it would drop or flake off onto my beard or on my face. I struggled to decide if I should open the tent flap to see if the tent fly was fully closed. Finally I snuck an arm out to take a peak. Yes, the fly was closed, and our boots were covered in spindrift snow. I went back to sleep

We slept in until about 7, late for this trip. 2-sleep Mike came over to give us water for hot drinks and an update. The wind was too strong for us to try to put in a cache today.

The next goal was to push past windy corner and drop the cache there. This wind and cold was too much. We'd hang out in our tents and see how the next few hours went.

Climbing Denali - Day 5

Matthew Stein on Jun 30, 2021 3:19:00 PM

Snow fell from the inside of our tent onto my face to wake me up. Condensation from our breath formed ice crystals on the walls and ceiling of the tent. When the wind shook everything, the ice rained down onto me. It's hard to sleep with ice falling on your face.

Climbing Denali - Day 4

Matthew Stein on Jun 29, 2021 9:45:00 AM

Today we woke at 3am for our move to 11 camp. We broke down our tents, packed up everything and stepped off just before 6.

Breakfast was goatmeal. Oatmeal with some crunchy granola bars mixed in. If I write a camping cookbook, that one's going in it. The texture variation helps make it a little more interesting.

Climbing Denali - Day 3

Matthew Stein on Jun 27, 2021 10:52:44 PM

At 3:45am the guides delivered hot water to our tents. It was quite cold before the sun was up but I was warm enough in my sleeping bag. I was starting to learn the dance of getting dressed slowly as I worked my way out of the sleeping bag so I didn't get too cold. Pre-warming items inside my bag before putting them on worked very well. 

Climbing Denali - Day 2

Matthew Stein on Jun 25, 2021 6:38:21 PM

Today was the biggest move day.
All our stuff added up to 75 lb packs and 60 lb sleds. We had 5.6 miles to go, single carrying up to 7800 ft camp. This is what I trained for. 
2-Sleep Mike told us he was going to set his alarm for 4, so I woke up at 4am too. That was a mistake. I got out of my tent and sauntered over to the guides tent to see what was going on. They were surprised to see me up. They got up earlier than us to start melting snow and heating water for hot drinks and breakfast. Mike said he would wake us in about an hour, so I went back to bed.