Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 5: Cache at 10,300ft

Resting on our way up Ski Hill.
Today was the first day that we actually used our “cache-move” expedition style itinerary. This means that, unlike the move to Camp I, which we did in one single push, from now on we would carry up half of our gear and leave it a cache close to the next camp and then move up the following day. In addition to reducing the weight we are carrying each day, this also helps with acclimatization.

So we woke up early again—2am this time—and packed up half our gear (our summit stuff, most of our snack food, our crampons, et al.) and carried up to 10,300ft. The route begins with an ascent of Ski Hill, which rises right out of camp. (This hill gets its name due to its popularity with the skiers on the mountain. A lot of climbers bring their skis to climb up and ski down Denali.) The route then ascends over several other smaller hills before making a sharp right at Kahiltna Pass. We dug a big pit in the ice there and left all of gear in it. We then returned to Camp I, which took significantly less time but was pretty tough on the legs.

The rest of the day was unscheduled. I decided to take a snow bath because a) I was starting to get and feel dirty, b) I had sweated a lot on the way down from the cache and c) it was a freakin’ hot day. I stripped into my skivvies and scrubbed my skin with ice. It was cold…but the ice had a scratchy quality before it melted that made it almost feel like I was exfoliating. Imagine that…exfoliating on Denali!

My Denali snow bath!

Each day is difficult for a different reason. The first day (Base Camp to Camp I) isn’t especially steep, but you’ve got so much weight on your back and in your sled that it’s still very hard. In contrast to that, this cache day was much lighter weight-wise, but much, much steeper. Ski Hill was our first taste of the steepness that will only continue to increase as we progress up the mountain. Bring it on! The weather looks great still, but we’ve had some ominous forecasts so we’re very keen to move up to Camp II tomorrow. 

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