Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 11: Move up to Camp III (14,200ft)

Yes! We were able to pull two in a row and move up to Camp III—the famed “14k Camp”—today. The weather was better than yesterday and we had almost too much sun. It can really get hot! It took us a long time to make it up to Camp III, but we finally made it in late afternoon and were able to socialize with three other Mountain Trip teams at that camp, including the Wounded Warriors expedition.

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Building camp at 14k

Camp III is the most famous camp on Denali because most teams spend several days (including a few rest days) there, and thus it becomes a social camp. It’s also where teams can get stuck for long periods of time due to bad weather. Luckily, even when the weather’s bad it is usually not so severe that you are forced to remain in your tent. Thus, even during bad weather the camp maintains its social reputation.

This is all contingent upon oneself being social, however. I was the most social of my team (though, as mountaineering teams go, we were a pretty social bunch). I continued to be particularly close with the June 15th Mountain Trip team, but also branched out and socialized with some really great guys on an RMI trip on the same schedule as us. One of their climbers, Nelson, is my age and is also going to Princeton (albeit a year before me)! He is a very nice guy, and very fun to talk to. It’s amazing that we were able to meet randomly on the mountain. I’m hoping he starts an outdoors/climbing club at Princeton that I can join when I get there.

The Wounded Warriors were not very friendly to me (in fact, they were downright rude and homophobic), but I continue to respect and admire them for their efforts and understand that they were not in such a great place mentally (they had just found out that they would not be able to continue up the mountain). It’s an unfortunate reality that mountaineering isn’t the most accepting of sports for gay people; it’s a pretty butch sport. That said, the comments that these guys made about me are the exception, not the rule. In fact, every other person I have met on a mountain has been incredibly positive and supportive of my mission. So, in a way, my interaction with the Wounded Warriors is a good reminder of the real world and how we still have a ways to go before gay people are accepted and embraced by everyone. 

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