Clouds live outside.
Clouds don't belong in indoor pictures. This was taken on stage just before read more
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.
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.
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.
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.
"You don't climb up Denali, you camp up it" - 2-Sleep Mike.
What does that mean? This mountain is not climbed quickly. We had to take our time, working up from camp to camp. Shuttling gear, food and fuel to higher camps while giving our bodies time to acclimatize. Furthermore, camping on a glacier, especially in Alaska is no easy task. Snow camping has some great advantages. There are no bugs to swat. Everywhere is a fridge, so you can bring better food. You also have to stay warm, learn to sleep on snow and get comfortable using the bathroom in windy blizzard conditions. Learning to not just survive, but thrive in the Alaskan backcountry was the most important lesson we learned.
This is not a post on "How to climb Denali." While I was climbing, I journaled each day. I wrote about the experience, what we did each day, what we ate each day and how it felt to be isolated and focused solely on one goal. Many hours were spent in our tents, waiting for the weather to clear or resting from a big move. I also took a lot of photos. A lot.
Our group had 6 climbers and 3 guides. We chose Alaska Mountaineering School as our guide service and I have to say I was super impressed. "2-Sleep Mike" Mike Gardner was our lead guide, along with Clark Henarie and Peggy Fluvin. All three of them are legit bad-asses. The other folks on my trip included Dave "Rhude Dog" Rhude (my tentmate,) Canada Mike, Brad "Doctor Strange" Cobb, Brian "California" Giangardella, and Sam Sidiqi.
Here's the tale of us climbing "The Great One."
Inspired by The Rye Baker by Stanley Ginsberg, my interest grew in learning how to handle this grain. Rye is a temperamental mistress, she forces you to work at her pace. If you mix up the temperature or pH, then she will reward you with a brick instead of bread.
Once my wife got sick of all the rye bread I was baking, she asked for an oatmeal loaf. I made a few of those, and then started looking for an oatmeal rye combo. The internet provided nothing. So, I set to developing my own recipe.
To keep it simple, I had 3 goals: