Having landed at LAX just this morning after a red eye from ANC, I'm still processing all the fun--and it WAS fun in an extreme, masochistic (read: I-can-go-two-whole-weeks-without-a-shower!!) sense (and yes, I did actually "wash" my hair with Arm's hand sanitizer and a liter of water one day). I'm contemplating whether to write up a sort of sole-female, novice day-by-day account or whether to leave it in executive summary form. For now, will opt for the latter.
BTW, for those who were fooled, the previous two posts were ghostwritten by a certain jokester we'll call "Chris," but the facts are almost completely accurate. We did have a marginally functioning sat phone complete with 3 lb. (?) solar panel but no Blackberry, Gooseberry, or Dingleberry... two plus weeks without internet--oh my!
Our team public affairs director and eternal optimist, Mats the Swede, is in the process of posting a day-by-day summary on the northeastern US hiking website Views From the Top. (Click on Trip Reports, then "Team Dom Denali Attempt Day by Day.")
As previously mentioned by my ghostwriter, we lucked out and were able to fly onto the Kahiltna glacier late on Thursday, May 22, and over the next week and a half gradually made our way up the mountain to a high camp of 17,200 ft., where we spent three restless nights, punctuated by the panic-provoking sensation of trying to breathe with plastic bags over our heads. This lovely piece of real estate was preceded by 10,000 vertical feet of sled hauling, fixed rope ascending, eye-popping/leg-vibrating, multi-thousand foot sure death-inducing dropoffs, subzero temps, waaay too many hours in the tents, mastering the pee bottle, and getting to answer the call of nature with the aid of Clean Mountain Cans. Damn, but THAT was fun! The guys were chivalrous enough to never demand that *I* carry the contents to the nearest crevasse. Eww. (Why yes, as a matter of fact, I CAN "be" female when it is of personal benefit.)
On Monday, June 2, all eight of us started for the summit. One of our unfortunate compatriots who was suffering from altitude sickness turned back at 18,200 feet as did our fearless team leader who opted to accompany him. (He'd already summitted in 2004.) Another of our members decided to take off solo; he did summit. The remaining five, of whom finishing as a team was paramount, stuck together, maintaining the pace of the slowest member. Alas, the weather turned on us before we could achieve our goal--it was nasty indeed, w/~30-40 mph (?) blowing snow and subzero temps--necessitating our turning back at the 19,900 foot level, approximately 400 feet below the summit. The trek back "home" bordered on Epic, with none less than five self/group roped arrests on the infamous Denali Pass/Autobahn/most deadly section of the route requiring about three hours to traverse a mile. Needless to say, it was a night *I* will not soon forget.
Although we still had a few days to spare, we unanimously agreed to get the flog off the mountain and retreat to the outpost of Talkeetna to eat real food, drink beer, and hang out with like-minded fringe elements of society. If you are ever in the neighborhood, don't miss the historic Fairview!! :-) With heavy hearts, our Alaskan escape from reality was over all too soon as we retired to Anchorage and our respective flights home.
Here are a couple of shots, with more to follow...
My tentmates-turned-bros, team leader Frodo and snow melter extraordinaire (and soon-to-be new dad!) Lloyd: