Denali lived up to every expectation. The first word that springs to mind is COLD. Bloody frickin cold. After the freezing temperatures came stunning scenery. It was beautiful, mind blowing. The most unimaginable beauty I have ever seen. Finally it was hard work. All of it was hard work even the rest / weather days.
So to summarise: COLD. STUNNING. HARD WORK.
This May saw the coldest temperatures for decades and the rangers compared them more like early April conditions. You’d think this would make the crevasses safer - for those who don’t know what crevasses are, they are deep cracks in the glacier that move everyday. They can be tiny slits in the ground or they can be as big as a house and as deep at 70ft. They are not so dangerous when you can see them (although they are incredibly intimidating to look down into the abyss) but the danger falls when snow covers them up.
Now on Denali we were always walking over them. You have to as there are so many you’d get no where if you didn’t. But you walk over them in the hope that the snow bridges that have formed are thick enough to hold your weight. You could see a safe place to cross that looked like a decent snow bridge from first look but actually be only a few centimetres of snow and if you step on it, you fall straight down. Thats why we rope up and have crevasse rescue ingrained into our head. If one or two or three fall in, the other can set up a standard pulley system to get them out.
The temperature was cold from the get go except from when in the midday sun.
On the first day we each carried loads of about 200lbs. This is more than the average person but we took extra food and fuel in order to wait out any storm that came our way and boy were we right to take that extra weight!
It was hard going with that load but the training I'd done really prepared me for it. I felt so ready for taking on Denali. I never felt out of control of a situation neither did I feel it was too much. This is a testament to my training and our small little team of four. Looking back the conditions we faced were brutal.
To give you a taster, once we got to 14,200ft camp we were stuck in our tent for two weeks solid because of temperatures of -40C and a hard hitting storm making it too dangerous to go up or down. After two weeks of inactivity and when it warmed up to a balmy -35C we ascended up the mountain.
I'll go more into detail on the different aspects of the expedition over the next month but here are some photos to start.