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MOUNT RAINIER & MOUNT McKINLEY EXPEDITION
[Richmond, Va.] The following log begins 22 June 1985 at 11:14 a.m. packing up.
I am now on the Piedmont flight to Washington, having checked three bags—I don’t know wherethe little string bag is—by and large, though, I feel pretty well organized.
I’m now at Seattle airport. I met Sam in Minneapolis, flew in and saw Mt. Rainier in gorgeoussplendor—absolutely startling view of Mt. Rainier in clear weather on the port side of the airplane.
Incredibly, we have managed to jam four bags a piece—that’s almost 20 bags—5 backpacks—in alittle Buick Century stationwagon.
It is now 9:57 on 24 June. I’m at the Paradise Lodge. God, the pace of this place is incredible—themental strain! We’re now at Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. I’m walking over the ice, looking in a northeasterlydirection. In a southeasterly direction I can see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood—which is in Oregon—andMt. St. Helens. It’s incredible to me, we hiked up 5,000 ft. from Paradise Lodge to the ice fieldfrom which we will make a summit dash beginning at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning. It’s now 9:23p.m. on 24 June ‘85. I’ve found that the greatest strain of this is not physical but mental. It’s tryingto remember everything and recall what’s in what bag and where everything is so that you’ll beprepared. And actually, so far, my experience has been that I am better prepared than I fear I am.
The morning before last when we were trying to pack in the motel, I felt terrified because Icouldn’t figure where to put everything in my pack. I was trying to figure out how to be preparedfor really cold weather.
Here I am, standing on a windy ledge, probably 15 degrees, maybe 20—it will probably be 10degrees on top with 40 mile per hour winds but I know I have my polypro underwear and stuff andI’m going to put it on before I get in my bag. Coming to the last pitch Sam really got tired.
Yesterday the guide took off at incredible speed. We were with packs and we were going out to dosome crevasse training and we started uphill. I’ve got to go to bed—it’s getting so late. I’ll tellthese tales later.
It’s now approximately 3:30 a.m. on the 25th of June and I’m looking out at the very crack ofdawn, looking up in the sky. The temperature is probably 12 degrees. I’m walking on a very hardsnow pack. I can see Cassiopeia. The wind is blowing pretty hard. God, it’s an incredible viewbecause the sun is just beginning to light the northern horizon. There is a very definite dawn overthere. Would you believe 3:30 from 10,000 feet! [In the Rainier summit crater] Well, here we are. hum hum. The time is 10:42 on 25 June. We’rehere on the summit of Mt. Rainier, we’re one tired bunch. don’t know if this recorder is working.
[On 14,410 ft. Columbia Crest across summit crater] We pressed on across to the actual summitside of Mt. Rainier. balmy and my mouth is all cold. We’ve taken pictures. We are all tired andspent.
The previous words were recorded on the summit and it is now the following morning down atCamp Muir—a misnomer for a camp—it’s unlikely you can get as much as a cup of water hereunless you melt your own snow, but it’s a snow field at the 10,000 foot level where everyonegathers prior to the summit attempt if they’re using the route of Disappointment Cleaver, which wetook yesterday. My comments at the summit were brief partly because I was spent and partlybecause I wasn’t sure that tape recorder was working. We rose at 3:00 a.m. yesterday and got off at5:00, climbed basically to the summit from Camp Muir. approximately 4,400 feet. We’d climbed5,000 feet the day before from Paradise. At 5:00 we took off and hiked for approximately onehour. our general hike times were about one hour. and after one hour we’d climbed about 1000feet which we all felt was a pretty impressive rate of climb.
There were several traverses underneath areas were avalanches were inevitable. they’d happensooner or later. In addition, there were places we had to go across where warmth would haveresulted in rocks falling and we could see where the rocks had fallen the previous day or in dayspast. And one of our reasons for an early departure was to try and reach the summit early enoughand begin the descent prior to the sun’s melting the snow and making it easier for either snowslides or rock falls to occur.
At the beginning of the hike there was a pair of climbers who had left a half-hour or more beforeus, and we began to catch up with them in an area involving a lot of rock scree that was difficult towalk through. also the rocks were very unstable. The climbers yelled “Rocks!”. Indeed, therewere some coming down, productive of a great amount of adrenaline in my case as I sat there tiedin and seeing the rocks falling and knowing there was no way I could get out of the way if anysignificant amount of rocks began to come.
In the beginning I was not aware of the altitude change except to note that I was tired. Thetemperature was probably 15 degrees and at the beginning there was not much in the way of wind,but the wind began to build as we got higher. We walked across some pretty impressive crevasses.
I wish I’d taken some pictures. I was afraid my camera wouldn’t work. I should have tried itanyway - wish I had. But when you walk across a crevasse. there was none that involved morethan a couple of feet from one lip to the next. We knew that the lips were stable because therewere footprints of other climbers who had gone before us, so we had at least some assurance thatthey were stable. When you look down into the abyss of the crevasse and realize what you arewalking across and how unstable it really is, it can be a genuinely soul-throbbing experience.
I think we had about four or five rests on the way to the summit, and the time the altitude reallybegan to affect me was about 13,000 feet. At that point the wind really picked up - it must havegotten to about 40 miles per hour - not so much that we were in fear of being blown off or blowndown, we were just buffeted heavily by the wind which required a lot of energy just to overcome -or it seemed so.
The sun was out and very bright all the way. Without our sun goggles on even for an hour or two Ithink we would have been in great peril because I don’t think our eyes would have lasted, orcertainly mine wouldn’t, being sensitive to sun anyway.
It was as if there were no oxygen up there. There was plenty of air but no oxygen. The air wasevidenced by the heavy blowing and the buffeting by the winds. And then as we approached thesummit, Jeff Detweiler and his client from California who had preceded us came down. We hadpassed the group that had knocked some rocks down, and I don’t think they ever made it to thesummit. They looked very discouraged and dejected, I think, as we went by. They had to “heaveto” and let us pass.
But little by little we made our way on up beyond the 13,500 – l4,000 foot mark. We rested about600 feet beneath the lip which is a crater on Rainier; and at about, I would guess, 10:30 we heavedabout the lip on what I think is the eastern side of the crater. We went on over and down into thecrater and gave each other a few slaps on the back. But mostly we just lay down on the groundtotally exhausted, and I recorded the little bit that was on this tape earlier.
Larry, as we sat there said, “Well, crossing this lip represents completion of the climb of Rainier,but there is another peak over on the other side of the crater that’s a little higher than this one.”And then we looked at our map and decided that it was about a third of a mile across and maybe200 feet higher. And somewhere from within our group came the will to cross and climb that finalpeak, even though it was not necessary for the record books. It certainly wasn’t my idea. I wouldhave been perfectly happy, I think. although I’m very glad we did it, I would have been perfectlyhappy at that point to take comfort and satisfaction from the technicality of having obtained thesummit rather than actually having set foot on the absolute highest point. But I think it was Stuartor Matt who said, “Well, we might go on across and get up that final peak.” The next thing I knewLarry had picked up his ice axe and Larry and I were going across and then Sam and then Matthewand Stuart. And pretty soon we were standing on top of the highest point (Columbia Crest, 14,400feet) maybe twenty-five or thirty minutes later. There I took some pictures of Sam and Sam withhis camera took some pictures of me looking - the background was Mt. St. Helens which has beensmoking the whole time we have been climbing, and we have been hearing that there is a chance ofan eruption.
Now we are getting ready to pack up our gear and glissade and hike on down the 5,000 feet ofdescent to Paradise. We’ve had three days in a row now of vigorous, vigorous indeed, athleticendeavor, and I am very sore. But I guess the only time I felt really washed out was in that last bidfor the summit.
It’s now 1:53 a.m. 27 June, Thursday and we’re at the same motel in Seattle that we stayed at enroute. Today we came down from Camp Muir. It was 56 minutes to Pebble Rocks and then another56 minutes to Paradise at a pace that I think would be hard to duplicate if there wasn’t (packed)snow. We were really moving down fast or kind of semi-skiing. So that was a hard two hours’ andwe all feel thoroughly tired…. It’s now almost 2:30 in the morning. We’ve got to make an 8:35a.m. flight, and I ‘m just about ready to turn in. I should have no trouble getting plenty of sleep orrather going to sleep—I won’t be able to get plenty. but.
Driving down out of Rainier National Park. I began. my adrenaline really began pumping. It’s avery “high” time. There is something compellingly powerful about pitting your all against amountain. I just finished going over my gear. It’s now 3:14 a.m. on 27 June. Thursday. we’vegot to get up at 6:00 a.m. to catch the plane. Shutting down.
It’s now 5:18 p.m. on 27 June, Thursday, and I’m standing in the back yard of the Talkeetna Motelwhere we are spending the night. We raced this morning to the Seattle airport with our zillion bagsand managed to get them all on the flight. incredibly. I guess we’ve got 20 or 25 bags. Anywaywe made it all through and we got to the airport and lo and behold John O’Hara and MichaelSheehan were awaiting us. Michael offered to drive us all the way to Talkeetna in his van, whichwas really nice of him. But then I paged Tom Waite and Eric Simonson appeared. Jeff Detweiler isgetting flown up some time tonight, apparently, and we will be set and ready to go out tomorrowmorning in theory if not in practice. I’m about ready to sort gear, and Sam and everybody has goneover to help Eric get the food. I’m trying to resort my stuff which I really. probably shouldn’t dobecause it’s not going to do me much good. I have let that become a painful meditation. and Iherewith cease on that. I’m not going to know. there’s no way I can know what’s going to workon the mountain because I have never been on the mountain. just have to listen to what the guidesays, and if he says what I’ve got is right I’ll say “O.K., I’ll take what you say.” I think I’ll have toaccept the fact that it’s simply a matter of following instructions.
We are now on the Kahiltna Glacier (about 6,900 ft.). The time is 11:38 a.m. on the 28th of June,Friday. Cliff Hudson and his son, Jay, flew us in. One of Cliff’s words of warning was that we hadbest stay roped up in view of the fact that two people have already died this year as the result offalling into crevasses. just as a result of not being roped up. One was the leader of a (German)party. Looking approximately east, judging from the sun angle, I can see the summit of McKinley.
I said to Sam that it doesn’t look too far away. He commented that I should be sure to put that ontape. We hear falling snow. right now. (avalanche).
I slept perfectly abysmally last night (in Talkeetna) as I tried to think through my gear whichseemed to me to be terribly disorganized, and I concluded as I wrestled with the problems that Iwas probably mentally unfit for this trip. I didn’t take a sleeping pill last night or the night beforeand neither night did I get much sleep at all. I think one of the problems is just being wired. Larrysays he’s really wired too.
(At rest stop) Well, we hooked up our gear and put it on sleds and roped up and headed down thehill a ways where we turn right to go up this vast. I would guess you’d call it the West Buttressamphitheater, maybe, with Mt. Foraker on one side.
(Trudging) It’s now twenty minutes after the last recording. Stuart just stepped into a crevasse. Hedid not fall through, fortunately. It may be a much bigger crevasse, and we all have to walk over it.
(We spent the night at Camp I, 6,860 ft.) (Trudging) Well, it is now the next morning. Saturday (June 29) and I am trudging up a hillpulling a sled and toting a pack. We’re on two roped heading up the hill. McKinley’s summit isvery much in evidence. This seems too easy somehow. I’m packing maybe a seventy-pound packand pulling a sled with probably the same weight on it. It’s a little windy and maybe 25 or 30degrees. maybe a little colder than that. But this is just gorgeous! How could this be fun?(laughing) This is just great right now. first rays of sun are just peaking over. It’s about 6:00 a.m. we got up at four. like to travel in the cool of the day and then Eric like to. I just let myrope get caught under my sled which will foul Matt up ahead. The problem that I have is trying tohold back and not go too fast. Because if I go too fast then there is slack in the rope, and if he fallsinto a crevasse I can’t arrest his fall. By the same token, if I fall into a crevasse I’ve got anothertwenty feet or so to fall before I get caught. Here comes that sun. The burn is pretty incredible andit really will fry you up here. It’s probably worse than the desert or the beach. In any event thingsare going awfully well! (Saturday, June 29, Camp II, 7,900 ft.) Well, it’s now 6:00 in the evening. same day. We reachedcamp after a four mile hike up the Kahiltna Glacier. And as it worked out we got up at 4:00.
started hiking at about a quarter to seven. and it took us four and a quarter hours to get to wherewe have camped. It has gotten a lot warmer and now it’s raining. During most of today’s climb wehave been able to see an awful lot of the West Buttress route. It was explained to me by JeffDetweiler that to go to Windy Corner from where we were this morning is equivalent to goingfrom Pebble Rocks on Rainier up to the summit (of Mt. Rainier). Eric is really anxious to get donewith the sledding part of this. He indicated that he really wants to get up. which we will, I guess,tomorrow or the next day. beyond the place where you can pull sleds because the slope just getstoo darn steep. It’s already getting pretty steep. He just says he’d rather double carry, using packs,than sled. He’s about the most incredibly, in my opinion, marvelous, “easy does it” guideimaginable. He doesn’t get rattled over anything. He believes that the way to climb this mountainis to take it real slow and easy and take really good care of yourself and. then you’ll get there. Hiscomments about other climbers that have run into difficulty generally reflect his disapproval of thefact that they push themselves too hard. When I think back about the difference between the waywe’re doing this mountain and the way we did Rainier. there’s quite a dramatic difference. Part ofit, though is the style of mountaineering. Rainier is an alpine-style mountain, or at least it’scertainly climbed that way, and this is an expedition-style mountain. Alpine style means go lightand go fast. Expedition-style means take what you need and take your time.
An interesting aside about Ray Genet. Eric met Ray in Katmandu in September of 1979 just beforeGenet died on Everest. He was going up Everest to the summit. Apparently he was behind, takingthe leader’s wife, Anne Marie Schmatz. Eric’s feeling was that Genet was trying to take care of herand make sure she got to the summit, and his decision to do so probably killed him. One of Eric’scomments was that “that’s what you get for trying to guide on Everest.” In any event, in Octoberof that year, ‘79, Genet and Anne Marie Schmatz made the summit, were coming down, wereforced to bivouac. Her body is still there. Genet’s has never been found. Eric’s comment was,“Isn’t that marvelous, to hit the top and keep on going!” (At Camp II, 7,900 ft.) It is 8:25 a.m. on Sunday 30 June. Yesterday it rained like crazy. Eric saidthat’s the first time that’s ever happened. I took out the tent door here and I see it’s beginning tobreak up and the sun is coming through. I really slept like a log last night. did not take a sleepingpill which makes me feel fine. I just feel really good this morning. My face is really blistered, lipsand cheek on the left side from the sun. Don’t know what the answer to that is except time and stayout of the sun.
It’s now 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. Several of the ridges on McKinley have become very clear in thislight. I got some really good pictures which show the Cassin and the West Rib and one just beyondthe Cassin that’s very clear and that should be apparent in some photographs I’ve taken. one inparticular with Sam in the foreground. Eric has decided that we will break to double load mode of transportation. full sleds only for a couple of hours with light packs, return and spend the night inour tents, having left the sleds, just taking pack loads. The wind seems to be picking up a little bit.
and incredible avalanche that we can see right now (audible sound of avalanche).
(At Camp II, 7,900 ft.) It’s now 9:38 a.m. on the first of July. That was an avalanche we werewatching yesterday. After we got through packing up our gear, we loaded everything that was inour packs, practically, plus all the food and headed up over two fairly steep ascents pulling a sled.
steep for sled pulling anyway. and carrying loaded packs. It took us, I would guess, two and ahalf hours or three hours of hauling. We dug a deep hole and buried everything making a cacheand put wands on top of it after covering the gear with snow. A lot of stuff bags, it seemed to me,were covered with that snow and I was concerned that if it rained it might get them wet. Eric didn’tthink that was too likely. Anyway, we headed on down. It took us 38 minutes on snowshoes. Wehad gone out on snowshoes and we came back on snowshoes. 38 minutes on snowshoes to makeit back to camp coming downhill using ski poles and snowshoes and lightly loaded packs with thesleds stuffed down inside the packs. The sun was as bright as it could be, and I pulled the sleevesup on my polypro lightweight undershirt with a turtleneck so that I’d get some sun on my arms.
also it was hot. The sun was really beating down on us going up and I pulled the sleeves downwhen I got to the top. So I guess I have two and a half hours of sun on my arms, and they feel likethey are fried. The interesting thing is that they were burned as much from the bottom as they werefrom the top. The sun on this snow reflects up almost as brightly as it shines down. A climberpassing the other day said that the place he had been burned the worst was on the inside of hisearlobes! My nose has begun to peel. the smile mark on the left hand side of my face is probablythe worst burned of all. it’s pretty puffy, and I’ve had some blisters on my lips.
In any event yesterday we got off at 6:00 or 7:00 and got back to camp certainly by noon. Wewatched it get colder and colder, and it looks like we’re going to have a good packing day today totake the rest of the gear up. which isn’t very much. we don’t have much to take up, but as youcan hear from listening it’s raining, and this is the Alaska that I remember. This reminds me of theeleven days on the ridge (in ’72) when it rained solidly and Christopher and Virginia and I were inour tent listening to a tape recorder and singing “Bobbie McGee” and Tom and Judy Harvey andSteve and Chris Mahay. everyone was suffering like mad. but we made it through.
So here we are in Camp II at 7,900 feet. We stashed our gear at 9,400 feet. and I expect Camp IIIwill be higher than the cache. We want to get up and around the corner up there. Camp I, I believe,was at 6,860. or something like that. I will double check that for the record. I’ve discovered amethod of taking a picture through the lens of my goggles which produces an interesting effect. Itcertainly brings out the sky versus the clouds more brilliantly. to the eye it does. I don’t knowhow it’s going to work on film. I’ve been reading “To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway.
We’ve torn it up into pieces so that each person can read it. Matthew is reading it. I’ve read thefirst 74 pages and finished my first tear section, so I’ve got to get up and go get another sectionfrom Matthew.
Sam and I have had two games of chess. He won number one and I won number two. We are tiedin the great chess tournament of the McKinley expedition.
I’ve been taking careful care of the blisters on my feet. I’ve got them on both ankle bones on myright ankle and the left heel and they are healing up well. By and large I’ve felt really good. I thinkthe thing that’s been the key to my feeling better made a very wise decision three nights ago totake that sleeping pill. Somehow I had all this nervous energy and I just couldn’t get to sleep. It’slike battle fatigue. I think it was really a wise decision.
(Camp II, 7,900 ft.) Well, it’s now 11:41 a.m. on Monday the first of July. It seems to be getting alittle bit colder. The snow is beginning to mix in with the rain and maybe in a while it will clear up.
Sam and Larry had erected a tarp. a quasi tarp. over the cooking area. I wore my Goretex andwe served up cereal and coffee and cocoa to Jeff and Eric and Stuart and Matt who stayed in theirtents. At this point I don’t know when Eric is going to decide to move out. With the wisdom ofhindsight it would have been better to take everything up yesterday rather than ferry back. Wecould have done it.
(We ended up taking a full rest day at Camp II.) (Camp II, 7,900 ft.) It’s now 4:22 a.m. on Tuesday the second and we have already struck camp.
we’re about to have breakfast. Our packs are packed, and we are probably going to head back up tothe place where we cached everything. We’re in whiteout conditions. We saw some clear sky at3:00 a.m. If we’d waited ‘til 4:00 it would have been clouded over again.
(Camp III, 11,200 ft.) It’s now later. The progression was that we went on through a whiteout. wetook off even though it was snowing and raining a little bit. We were confronted with whiteoutconditions as we took our light load back up to where we had cached all our equipment. I notedthat an awful lot of the stuff that I had had in stuff bags had gotten soaking wet. Anyway weloaded all of that gear up and having departed from 7,900 feet we are now making camp (CampIII) at about 11,400. We’ve risen 3,500 feet today and we will camp here again tomorrow night foracclimatization purposes. I don’t quite know how to pinpoint where we are on the map. Fromwhere we are we go up a very steep incline. I guess we will abandon the sleds. The sleds are nolonger useful. It was a real backbreaker pulling them up on this last haul. We hiked for a solid, Iguess, eight hours and feel genuinely tired. or at least I do. We can no longer see the summit ofMcKinley. When we arrived at this little bowl. which is a bowl from which we have to proceedup a steep grade in an approximately. in an easterly direction. At the top of that grade. it lookslike it is about a quarter of a mile long. we turn a sharp right and then head up toward WindyCorner, I understand. When we got here my guesstimate is that it was about 15 degrees andblowing at about thirty miles an hour. Sam and I put up tents and Stuart and Matthew dug an icecave. or snow cave. which I am a little leery of because it could cave in. My hands were reallycold. It seems like a really hostile environment but subsequently we have really tamed it. We’veput up the Everest tents. both of these Jansport tents were on the Mt. Everest expedition. We arewalking on two ropes. It’s Eric, Larry, Sam & Stuart. on the second rope Jeff, myself andMatthew. I was mentioning that the weather was pretty abusive when we first got here, but sincethen the temperature has risen to. I don’t know. the sun’s really baking down. Clouds are justswarming out of a pass and occasionally blow up here, but the inside of the tent Sam and I figure is65 or 70 degrees because of the sun’s heat.
(At Camp III, 11,200 ft.) It is now July 3rd, early in the morning. about 8:30, actually. We wentto bed and got a full 12 hours sleep, or darn close to it last night which really felt great. I got up to“relieve” myself. It’s snowing. temperature maybe 20 degrees. I’ve got on long johns, my downbooties, neoprene overboots and my pile jacket. God! What gorgeous country this is! It’s also verycold, so I’m going to head back to the tent. The wind’s blowing pretty hard. Eric says we canhandle a carry today in spite of the fact that the weather’s not that great. I can’t even see my tent at this point. I don’t know where it is. there it is! This is just gorgeous country. this wholeexperience is just great! I really want to get out and do some winter camping with the kids.
Christopher, George and Jimmy, who are not really “kids” so much anymore. But they shouldexperience this.
It’s now 5:00 in the afternoon on July 3rd. I’m back at Camp III and I’m in the tent. and you canhear the snow/rain coming down. Eric was ambivalent about our taking off given the way theweather is, and we finally ended up leaving at 12:15 p.m. correction, 12:45. We worecrampons. were packing personal gear plus food that could be stashed up higher, and I waspulling a sled with a couple gallons of fuel on it. We used crampons going up the initial pitch,which is very steep, and as we climbed the wind got stronger and the snow blew harder. Wereached the top of the pitch in about an hour, I guess, maybe a little bit less than that. We finallyturned right and headed up another pitch ending up caching our gear under a massive graniteboulder. It looked like igneous rock. first piece of rock I’ve gotten close to on this mountain. Thesnow was really blowing. we were in blizzard conditions. The temperature was maybe 20-25, notvery cold. winds maybe 30-35 miles an hour. The incredible thing about this kind ofmountaineering is that weather can change so extremely rapidly. You can be baking in the sun oneminute and be hit by a blowing, snowing blizzard twenty minutes later. In any event, as we weredumping the stuff in the cache Eric really wanted to get out of there. He wanted to get down. Wewere a thousand feet above our camp which we figure now is at 11,200 feet, so we were about12,200 at the cache. We headed down on snowshoes. I think it took us 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get upthere. We went on snowshoes to the last pitch. which was the first pitch going up and on whichwe had used crampons. and again, we used crampons going down. Eric commented that this isone of the most problematical expeditions he has been on from a weather standpoint. We havecertainly had a terrific variety. We have had conditions that threaten hypothermia, but we haven’thad anything where we have been in severe danger of frostbite. on McKinley, anyway. I’m a littleconcerned having awakened this morning with a headache and I’ve had one most of the day. Erichas asked me to keep him apprised of that because that could indicate. well, he thinks that’s areally important symptom of altitude sickness. If you get over ‘em that means you’reacclimatizing. If you don’t, you’re not. He says it’s not a good idea to take bad headaches higher.
(At Camp III) It’s now the fourth of July. an absolutely gorgeous, crystal. not crystal clear butjust a gorgeous morning. I’m standing over here by the “relief” station, as we shall term it. Wemoved our tents after we got back. We did not, however, move the relief station, and I realize thatthe reason that the tents were moved. or rather, Larry’s and Eric’s tents. was because the tentshad been pitched directly under an absolutely incredible avalanche wall, and I’m standing under itright now looking up at it. I must be looking up at a. I would guess a seventy degree angle at asnow bank that could come tearing down at me. Except I don’t think it will because it’s cold thismorning. It’s 14 according to Larry’s thermometer and that’s been reading high. It read 20yesterday morning. And with the temperature low I don’t think the wall’s going to go. and withthe sun not on the wall. But if it did go I would have to run. very fast! The sun is over the WestButtress which is clearly visible here. I’m looking now at Stuart and Matthew’s incredible snowcave that they built, which has been our place of eating for the last two days. The tents were movedyesterday by Eric and Jeff. Also Larry moved his tent. Sam and I had pitched ours in a place thatwas safe. It looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous day. I have the feeling that at the end of this daywe’re all going to know what to be tired is because our current plan is to go given good weather,which it seems to me we have, from 11 to 14 thousand and sleep at 14 picking up our gear cachedyesterday at twelve. From an altitude acclimatization consideration we will be violating the rule of“climb high, sleep low”. We’ll be going to 14 and sleeping at 14. Normally, when you carry a loadup you carry to the higher altitude and then sleep at the lower altitude. But I feel fine this morning.
I don’t have any headache. everything seems to be in great shape so I would presume that I amacclimatizing well.
It’s now 2:45 p.m. on four July, Independence Day. We reached our cache in about two hours flatand went on above to a plateau just before the pitch up to Windy Corner, and from where we sitright here looking in a northerly and westerly direction the whole vista from about. I would guessSouthwest to Northeast is available for view. We are way above the clouds. maybe 1,500 feetabove the clouds, and I can see no mountains peaking up as high as we are. I cannot see the groundbelow, but the sky above is a deep, deep blue. The view from here, in short, is, to use a muchoverexpressed term on this expedition, “awesome.” But it expresses it well.
It’s now 7:25 p.m. on Independence Day and we are. we’ve climbed beyond Windy Corner.
We’re at 13,500 feet where we have decided to make camp (Camp IV). I can really feel thealtitude here. so can Sam. so can everybody. We really are noticing it now. I mean. there justseems to be no nourishment in what there is to breathe. One of my most frequent sensations is thefeeling that I have run a hundred yards and have forgotten to breathe for 30 seconds, and then allof a sudden I really have an incredible need to get some air, and when I breathe it’s hard to makeup for the oxygen debt.
We started out this morning at ten degrees. It got warmer as we hiked and the sun came out. We’renow standing in probably one of the most inhospitable places on the face of the earth at certaintimes, and yet at this particular instant it’s lovely. I’m looking at Mt. Foraker. in a west bysouthwest direction, I would guess. I have taken my shirt off. I have darn well got my headcovered where I’ve been burned to death, but I took my polypropelene shirt off and I’m standinghere shirtless looking all around. I can see up the West Buttress. I see where we are supposed togo pitch camp, and see where I think the 17,000 foot camp is. It’s in a little notch up there at thehead of what appears to be a slide which reminds me of the “Orient Express.” Looking at the cloudcover below I would estimate that the cloud cover is at about ten thousand feet, and we arecertainly a good 3,500 above what I can see. I can see for mile, and miles, and miles. It’s just thatthere’s nothing to see but clouds, except for things like Mount Foraker which stands out veryboldly here. Foraker, if I remember correctly, is 17,000 feet, so I see where my level is relative toForaker. Curiously, the altitude seems to be having more effect on me since we got up here than itdid on the way up. I noticed it certainly, but now that I’m here. with Sam and me putting up thetent poles in the tent. just seemed like and excruciatingly difficult job.
Slightly to the west of due north of here the headwall goes up very abruptly. That’s not the WestButtress, I suspect. I am not sure what it is, but I will find out at some point when I get a chance tocheck a map. When we laid our tents out I was very careful to lay our tent as far away from whatappeared to me to be an avalanche line as I could get. Down below there are very obviouscrevasses in this glacier which we think is still part of the Kahiltna Glacier.
[At Camp IV, 13,500 ft.] It’s now July 5th. Last night the sun disappeared behind a corner of themountain at 8:24 p.m. and within a half an hour the temperature had dropped certainly 30 degrees.
It was “shirtsleeve” or “no-shirt-at-all” warm when the sun was shining on us, and then when I gotup at 3:00 a.m. I’d estimate that the temperature was around zero. Larry’s thermometer, which wasinside his pack, registered 4 during the night, but I don’t think it got down as low as the actualtemperature was. So once again we have another example of how the temperature. weatherconditions… can be extraordinarily extreme from one minute to the next. When I woke up at 3:00 a.m. I had a throbbing headache. got up. looked at Foraker, took a picture of it. tried to do someheavy duty hyperventilating, although I am not persuaded that that necessarily does much good. Ithink the thing that helps the most is just spending time.
This morning we headed down with empty packs and sleds to the 12,200 foot level where we had alot of gear stashed [the cache beneath the granite boulder]. It took us one hour to get down thereand pack up our stuff and two hours to pack our way back up. We are planning to lie low for two,or three, or four hours maybe, and have dinner and then pack it up to 14,000 feet with a supply ofstuff and then come back down here and spend the night.
Last night Sam commented that during that final traverse into camp (IV) just above Windy Cornerhe was really at the point where he was counting steps. He was trying to figure out if he couldmake the next forty or the next fifty. or whatever. That was a rough time for me too. though Iseem to recall that coming into Camp III was worse than coming into this camp, Camp IV, and ifwe’d had to push that much further, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.
There’s another party on the mountain here. Genet Expeditions. led by a guy named HarryJohnson, I think, and they are traveling Alpine style, which means they pack everything all at once,and they kill themselves. and they try to make a lot of altitude fairly fast. They are moving upfrom 11,000 to 14,000 with a full load. Eric says he has seen that done before and watchedpulmonary edema develop. He has really urged us to be careful to watch for symptoms ofmountain sickness or altitude sickness. Feeling the altitude is normally reflected in a severeheadache plus the recognition of breathlessness and, boy, I’ve certainly had both of thosesymptoms! But a hacking cough followed by raspy respiration and congested lungs is a sign ofpulmonary edema, and. I don’t know how you know you’re getting cerebral edema. I probablyought to do my homework, but I’m just going to tell Eric what I feel and trust that his judgement isgood. I am sure it will be. He’s an impeccable guide, I’d say.
(At Camp V, 14,200 ft.) It’s now 6 July at 7:42 p.m. We are getting down to the nitty gritty here.
Last night we packed about 700 feet up from our 13,500 foot campsite up to a new one at 14,200feet (Camp V) about, which is a gorgeous bowl that looks out at both Mt. Hunter and Mt.
Foraker. plus an incredible view of the West Buttress and the chute that has been termed “TheOrient Express”. Looking in, I guess, a northerly direction is the ascent from here. 2,000 feet. Weuse the Jumar ascenders at the top where there are fixed ropes, but according to Eric it’s about afive hour haul up that 2,000 foot, very steep pitch. There is a bergeschrund about two-thirds of theway up. That’s where the glacier breaks off. Today we saw some people sliding down that.justliterally sliding down that section without ropes.which I find genuinely terrifying.
This morning we got off at about noon and it took us about two hours to pack up to here where wedug up the stuff that we had cached last night and just lay around in the sun. The temperature thismorning, we all estimated, was about zero, though Jeff thought it was below zero. It’s incrediblebecause I had been shirtless in the afternoon, and then it went to zero last night. We packed up tohere, and the sun was so bright that Eric, Jeff and Matt put on bathing suits and walked around.
got scorched. The temperature in the sun according to Larry’s thermometer was 115. Right now, Iguess, the temperature’s probably dropped. the sun’s beginning to head for the hills, and when itgoes behind that chunk of the Buttress. I guess that’s a portion of the Buttress. the temperaturewill very rapidly drop, and I imagine it will go down to zero again, anyway. Eric figures we loseabout four degrees of temperature for each thousand feet of ascent, so, between here and thesummit it should drop off another sixteen degrees or so. From an acclimatization standpoint. lastnight I woke up at 3:00 a.m. but I felt great! I felt just fine. I did sleep rather fitfully after that but Ihave gotten tons of sleep on this trip. I slept some this afternoon. I woke up this morning andchecked my pulse. it was 62. Yesterday during the day it was hard for me to get it below 90.
Clearly the altitude has had its effect, because I can tell even in dictating here that I am shorter ofbreath than I would be at sea level.
The push at the moment. we are anxious to climb 2,000 feet in order to get the use of a snow cave(at 16,200 ft.). Eric doesn’t think this good weather is going to last but so much longer. Theweather forecast from Anchorage suggests that about Sunday, which is tomorrow, things shouldstart clouding up. For it to stay like this would be marvelous, but it’s not likely, judging from myexperience with Alaskan weather. So we probably ought to expect a storm, and maybe we willhave to hole up for a day, or two, or three, or whatever, waiting for a good summit day. But we’llpress on, probably the day after tomorrow, from 16,000 feet to 17,000 feet, and from 17,000 feetwe will make our assault on the summit, which normally is a fourteen-hour day. We did pass agroup last night that had made it on the fourth of July. They seemed to be euphoric and ecstatic.
said that the summit had been windless and that it had taken them, I believe, eighteen hours onsummit day to go from camp to the summit and back. Of course, they had spent three days, heexplained, in a snow cave waiting for a storm to clear.
(At Camp VI, 16,200 feet) Well, the time now is 7:36 p.m. We are at 16,000 feet, about, and it’sSunday, the 7th of Janu. July. Today was certainly one of the toughest days I’ve had on thismountain and expect I will have in the future. I hope! We had decided to “put the pedal to themetal” in our conference about what to do. actually Eric had, yesterday. And the plan was we’dget up at 4:30 a.m. s et the alarms for 4:40. get up as soon as possible and get off heading upthat 2,000 foot climb from where we were going to where we are now. (verbal slip due tomalfunctioning brain). and I don’t know what the names of them are. But this is right up at thetop of the buttress. we’re at sixteen something.and one more day and we will get to seventeenand from there we can shoot for the summit. In any event we did get off at about seven or shortlythereafter with packs. We’re not taking any sleds so that means we had to pack everything upprecisely right and discard all the stuff we didn’t need so that we wouldn’t carry too much weight.
I culled over everything in the afternoon. I found that terribly stressful because I just haven’t hadenough experience knowing well enough what I will need under these kinds of conditions.
We could see the full expanse of where we were going today. from the bottom to the top. Well,off we went. (getting off at 7:10 a.m. ahead of the Genet Expeditions group). and we went upthe first pitch and took a little rest, and Eric figured it would take us five hours. And then we got tothe fixed lines. the only part of this climb where you really have to have fixed lines to get up. Weneeded Junar ascenders to tie in. Never having used a Junar ascender before, I had gotten Eric toput the necessary stirrup or strap on it to hook into my harness. I hooked in and snapped onto therope and began heading on up. My left leg went right spank into a crevasse and I was caught by theJunar ascender and the fixed rope. Anyway, on we pushed, and there was a Genet Expeditionsgroup. very practiced. I think they had cached a lot of gear up here. They came smoking up thattrail trying to get by us, it seemed to me. though, perhaps not. They started after us but caught upenroute.
In any event I don’t know when I have been so tired and so frustrated. We made it to the top. Mypack had seemed to be off balance all the time. It was very hard to do a French step or a rest stepor anything. When we got here Eric had found two snow caves and I am rendering this reportlooking out of a snow cave. It’s ten degrees in here. I guess the ceiling is about three and a half feethigh and I’m about to climb into my sleeping bag. I also have a throbbing headache from thechange in altitude which is to be expected. Eric seems to be a little bit concerned about myacclimatization, and he suggested that I take some codeine tonight for the headache and see if it isstill there in the morning, and if it isn’t. that’s good! (Eric also gave me a Diamox tablet atdinner.) (At Camp VI) Well, it’s now the afternoon, (Monday, July &) and we are at 16,200 feet. We aretaking a rest day today. And we have spent a lot of time talking to the folks in the Genet party. Iguess what I have come to note is that everybody goes through a lot of the same experiences, and Iwas talking to this gal named Holly Parker in this group. I think it’s Harry Johnson who is theguide. There’s a party of about eight. plus the couple that’s been sort of following along seems tohave joined up with this group. They are in kind of rough shape, and what I conclude is that thefolks in the Genet group are probably not as well fixed as we are even though. from a distancewhen you see a group climbing it seems they are doing just fine. But they’ve been suffering from. Ithink I’ve been suffering more than anyone else from the altitude, and I’ve suffered also, I think,from an absence of knowledge of how I would respond to going to heights higher than I’ve everbeen before, because I have never been as high as I am at this instant before now. But I was talkingwith Dave and a guy named Scott von Eschen. he went to Dartmouth, he’s now in the investmentbanking world in mergers and acquisitions at Morgan, Stanley. He’s in the Genet group. We weretalking about emotional highs and low and he said it was absolutely incredible. It’s so different, hesaid he’s done triathalons and marathons, he says, but there’s something about a mountain like thisand the conditions that you run into where. how one’s going to get out of the situation one is in isso less predictable. There’s always a hot shower and a hot bath at the end of a marathon. you’renot going to freeze. But there is no easy way to get warm here. It’s just not as predictable.
The view from where I’m standing is absolutely incredible. From this campsite… right now thereare. one, two, three, four, five tents which is the Genet party plus a couple that joined the Genetparty. And then there are the snow caves which we are inhabiting. As I look out in a westerlydirection or northwesterly direction I see cloud, just a huge thick cloudbank at 10,000 feet, and Ican see for miles and miles and mile and miles but I can’t see anything but clouds. Foraker andHunter, both of them stick their heads above the clouds but they seem so much lower than they dida couple of days ago. The people in the Genet party had a thermometer out this morning that said itwas 15 below. was the low point. In our cave it has been a consistent 10 above. I would guess thetemperature now is about fifteen above. It’s still plenty cold an a little windy. But it’s just agorgeous day.
Last night I woke up at 2:00 a.m. As I was going to bed. turning into my sleeping bag in that icecave, one of the things that I was plagued with was a sense of claustrophobia because I couldn’tbreath. Eric told me that this would be my worst night on the mountain from an acclimatizationstandpoint and, by golly, he was absolutely right. But a lot of this is psychological. You canrationally say, “I’m not going to expire at 16,000 feet in a snow cave,” but when you get there andyou recognize you can’t breath and you can’t sit up because there isn’t room, it’s very easy to feelclaustrophobic. And I finally borrowed Sam’s book that had been given to him by his mother in1961 called “The Practice of the Presence of God.” And I read through that. Even that’s hard to dobecause your hands get cold at ten. It’s hard to read a book. And there’s no light in the cave exceptwhat manages to filter through the snow and a little through the entrance. But that was a source ofgreat help to me and I recognize the validity of the program of AA and, I mean, that’s where theultimate sense of peace comes from, for me. I miss the meetings. I could’ve sure used a meetinglast night because my head was really going bananas, and I think at about, just before I went tosleep if someone had said, “There’s Cliff Hudson’s plane right out there on the strip. Would youlike a flight back to Talkeetna?”, I might have just jumped right on board. And the hardest part wasthat last night I didn’t feel very comfortable about sharing with Sam and Larry how screwy I felt,whereas today it’s been easy to walk around and talk to the people in the Genet group and talk toLarry and Sam. Everybody was willing to acknowledge that one of the most characteristic aspectsof this life in the high mountains is the very high highs and the very low lows, and somehow youhave got to have the wherewithal within to recognize that the rough times will pass.
It’s now just about dinner time (July 8) at the 16,200 foot Camp VI. The time is 6:47 p.m. We’llprobably take off in the morning. We’ve spent a rest day here. As always, I think Eric’s instinctivecalls have been good. I certainly feel a lot better than I felt yesterday. It’s also been a lot of funtoday to talk to the Genet Expeditions party led by Harry Johnson who has purchased GenetExpeditions from Kathy Sullivan, Genet’s common law wife, I guess. Everybody found yesterdayto be a singularly tough day and no one, it seemed, to whom I talked found it any less than themost difficult day since we have been on the mountain. Holly Parker. I think, is her name, a galfrom down near Alyeska, was talking about how she just couldn’t. she didn’t have anything elseto reach down for. She almost burst into tears in the middle of the climb, but she knew she couldn’tstop, and she couldn’t go any slower, and she certainly couldn’t go any faster. and I must say Ifelt exactly the same way.
As I mentioned briefly on the other tape, there was a three man team that came up behind the threeman rope team led by Jeff of which I was the middle man and Matthew was the end man. And theywere passing us on the left, and I thought, “Gods, they just must be much better climbers.” It turnsout that was Harry Johnson and two others that were sprinting, in effect, toward the 16,200 footlevel with very light loads. So now I don’t feel so badly about that at all since they were travelinglight. I hadn’t realized that they had cached a lot of stuff and they were going to sprint up andsecure a camping area and then head back down for their equipment. As it turned out Eric (firstrope: Eric, Larry, Sam & Stuart) got up here before anyone else did, and I think one of thecontentions is that he secured the snow caves ahead of the other party. I think they were lookingforward to getting one of the snow caves to cook in. Actually today not having a snow cave is agreat benefit, because I think camping in a tent is very nice. I’m impressed by these North Facetents designed by Buckminster Fuller that are here.
Tomorrow we are planning to take off at about, maybe, 9 or 10 or 11 and haul for about threehours up to the 17,200 foot level. We’ll be carrying full loads again, so we’ll no doubt be tired atthe end. But it will probably not be as hard a day as yesterday. I hope. All of us are noting thebreathlessness. Sam was talking to me earlier about how he really is short of breath no matter whathe does or however far he walks, but it has seemed to me that when I get on the trail and I’ve got aload on my back I can generally keep going, particularly if the weather is good. Somehow badweather makes it harder. Bad weather and high wind makes it hard for me to put out. Anotherthing I notice is that when I am putting out a maximum for me, which doesn’t mean moving veryfast with a seventy or eighty pound load at this altitude, anything that obstructs my breathing is aterrific impediment. Like just the little strap on my Goretex shell occasionally flies in front of mymouth. it’s only a little piece of tape, but just the feeling that there is anything that cuts down onmy access to air becomes a real nuisance that’s psychologically impairing, in a way.
I took a nap. I put on my down pants which means I’ve now got expedition-weight polypro,Moonstone pile pants, Goretex shell and down pants, in that order from inside to out. I’ve also goton my Koflac boots. I do not have on the overboots. and on top I’ve got a sweater, the downpants bib, and my Wilderness Experience parka, which is certainly ample clothing in addition tothe Helly Hanson shelled insulated mitts. I was very comfortable and warm out here, and then Iwent into the cave, put on my down pants, lay down on my sleeping bag and went to sleep andwoke up with cold feet and feeling generally chilly. I think that’s because ice caves are colder thanbeing outdoors in the sunshine. Ice caves are cozy in severe storms, and I think they are fine at sealevel where you can probably put a couple of candles in there and warm them way up. But up hereI would feel uncomfortable putting any kind of a burning flame in the cave for fear that carbonmonoxide develop and the little bit of oxygen that’s there get used up. They’re not very pleasantbecause they’re cold and the humidity is 100%. So nothing dries out. everything’s kind of damp.
We’ve had a beautiful day up to now, but the clouds are beginning to move in and obscure theincredible view. and maybe they’ll bring some weather with them, but it might be just theweather breaking up. and it might be a good omen for what’s coming for tomorrow.
Tim, from Pittsburgh, took a nap at the same time that I did and woke up with a severe headache. Ithink I’m doing pretty well from an acclimatization standpoint. (Thanks largely to the Diamox, Isuspect.) (At Camp VI, 16,200 ft.) It’s now 9:30 p.m. (July 8) I’m about to turn in. I think Sam and Larryhave already turned in. I spent a lot of time talking to Eric about guiding. the six concessions inDenali Park and the fact that RMI owns one and we were also talking about the fact that he’s beenselected as “climbing leader” for the ‘87 Everest Expedition organized out of Arkansas, and he isgoing to go for that. That could be a major thing for him.
The wind is blowing pretty hard. It’s probably eight degrees. ten degrees. I’m going to turn in andtalk about all this tomorrow. I feel a lot better. a million-fold better than I did last night. I stilldon’t like the idea of climbing into an ice cave. But I think I’ll make it through the night, and theway I see it now, tomorrow’s going to be the last hard day of full pack climbing, because we willget up to the camp that, hopefully, we will shoot for the summit from. That will be a full load day,but after that it’s downhill. We talked a light load to the summit. It will be a long day, just pray forgood weather. We’ll take a light load, if we do it, to the North Peak and then it’s all downhill. Wehike from the 17,000 foot camp all the way down to 14,000, pick up stuff, maybe go on downfurther to 11,500. well, we could get out of here by the 15th, we figure. We could summit by theday after tomorrow, the 10th or the 11th.
It’s now 7:00 p.m. on July 9th, Tuesday, and we are at 17,200 feet, Camp VII, “high camp.” Whenwe woke up this morning (at Camp VI), I went out and checked. the temperature was two degreesand the wind was blowing really hard. Sam during the night got up and, fortunately, shoveled outthe entrance to our cave. we had absolutely been buried in the snow, and when I got up first thingthis morning, we had been buried almost again. not quite. and I shoveled us out which took tenor fifteen minutes and I went over to the other cave and they were buried. But they seem to havevery little regard or at least Matthew and Stuart don’t seem to worry too much about beingasphyxiated. Nonetheless I dug them out and went in and we had breakfast.
We notice that the Genet party looked pretty well decimated because their cooking area inparticular was in disarray. the snow had drifted all over their pots and pans and they were all intheir tents. Nobody had gotten up.
We went back and packed up, ready to move out, put goggles on, warm gear and headed out up theroute to high camp which was the most spectacular climbing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Wehad unbelievable exposure. Starting off, going up that pitch, after five steps I felt so out of breath Iwas afraid I couldn’t take another step.
The order of the ropes was changed this morning. The first rope was Eric followed by me,followed by Sam, followed by Larry. Second rope was Jeff, followed by Matthew, followed byStuart. We climbed a ridge that gives phenomenal exposure, showing Mt. Hunter which seems likeit’s way below now, Foraker, but specifically we could look down to Camp IV and V, we couldreally see the whole route that we had come up from the Kahiltna Glacier on. We could see justabout all of our campsites. The one that was particularly apparent was 14,200 (Camp V). No oneseems to be following us up the mountain at the moment with the exception of the Genet Expedition group led by Harry Johnson, but it doesn’t look to me as if he’s going to make it uphere today. I think they probably stayed back.
It’s now 9:56 p.m. at the high camp, Camp VII. You can’t see the summit from here, but the sky iscertainly going through some radical shifts and changes. Looking in the summit direction, it’sabsolutely clear. there are some cirrus clouds. The wind is blowing but it’s been dying down quitea bit. I’ve all of a sudden started feeling just great, really up for the march to the summit. Sam andLarry both have gotten bad headaches and Eric has given them Diamox and suggested that Samtake some codeine which he has done and he is down asleep in the tent. He and I have gotten to puta tent up. as far as I’m concerned I’d just as soon never spend another night in a snow cave at tendegrees and 98% relative humidity. I was asking Eric what would happen. we were talking aboutthe tents we are using and how they were at Camp II on Mt. Everest which is close to being as highas we are right now, and I was asking what would happen if someone were brought up to thisaltitude without acclimatizing as we have done, and he says that probably they would be deadwithin 48 hours. In thinking about this trip I guess one of the pervasive messages that comes fromeverybody that climbs is that the highs and lows are extreme. I know that when we started out thismorning from 16,200 after about ten steps I couldn’t breathe, there was just no air, I wasexhausted, I felt like I couldn’t do a thing. Later checking with Sam, he said it was exactly thesame way and at the first rest stop he had apologized for letting the rope go taut because, he said,he just couldn’t go any faster. Before we started out, Eric. first time he’s ever raised his voice asfar as I know. I was trying to get my stuff together. I put my mittens on, and the wind wasblowing like crazy. temperature was zero. and I hadn’t buckled the waistband to my pack. andhe said, “Peter, buckle the buckle to your pack before you put your mittens on! Think! Get ittogether!”. you know, and I couldn’t get it together. it’s really hard to get it together up here.
You can’t think straight ‘cause there’s no oxygen, and. although at times one thinks one is, onehas to be suspect of one’s judgement.
Well, I think I’ve got together the things that if we go to the summit tomorrow I want to take. thebanners, George’s pocket knife which he wanted me to take to the summit. I might even try toscratch his name on it on the summit. I have got to get a roll of film in the camera. I think I havegotten good photographs.
We are up here among the rocks and the rocks are very granitic. some look very old and somelook metamorphosed. I kind of like being among rocks as opposed to just snow and ice, which wasthe case way down below on the glacier. There’s something solid about rocks.
Well, I am going to turn in because I am beginning to freeze. it’s probably five or ten degrees. Idon’t know. maybe it’s as cold as zero. The sun is not shining, and as soon as the sun goes behinda cloud or behind part of the mountain the temperature drops very fast.
It’s interesting to note some of the other things we have talked about. Larry suffered from aseverely sunburned tongue just from leaving his mouth open. The gal down below talked abouthaving sunburned gums from the way she smiles and keeps her mouth open. My lips have blisteredand my left cheek has scabbed over, the scab has fallen off, my nose has peeled, and the troublewith “Sunblock 15” is that it freezes. You have to put the stuff on when it’s zero degrees andthere’s no way to keep all the stuff warm that you have to keep warm. You have to keep yourwater bottle in your sleeping bag, and your boot liners in your sleeping bag, and your sunblock inyour sleeping bag. your wet clothes in your sleeping bag to try to dry them out. a lot of hardthings to do. and most of the time they don’t get done. or a lot of the time they don’t, but thingsseem to work out pretty well anyway.
Reading Sam’s little book on the presence of God really helped me, and I have been having hymnsrunning through my head a lot as we’ve been coming up here, specifically that one “AlmightyFather strong to save who’s arm hath bound the restless wave.” I’ve thought about a verse thatwould apply to climbers.
Well, it’s incredible to just have that one big objective of hitting the summit. you know. it’sgoing to be great. I’m really looking forward to it. I hope we got tomorrow and I pray for sunshineand no wind. I don’t care if it’s cold, but, oh., if only we could have some sunshine and not toomuch wind.
Note to the log: It is 9:59 a.m. It would appear that we have a summit day on 10 July. anycomments Starting out. First rope with Eric, followed by Stuart, followed by myself and then Larry.
(While climbing) It is now 3:52 p.m. We’re just below the final pitch trying to get up to thesummit and I don’t ever want to forget how much this hurts. We’re, I’d guess about 19,800, maybe19,900. Maybe we’re right at the 20,000 foot mark. The thing is it doesn’t do you much good torest any more when you get up this high because you’re beyond your acclimatization limit. I’mgoing to save. some tape. for crossing . the summit. if I can.
Now we’re. only. maybe. five minutes. from the summit. (Heavy panting) The sound of the ice axe on the snow (very pronounced here) I hope I will not forget either.
Sobering though. that many pent (pant) have lost their lives trying to gain this summit. Sobering.
even more. that even more men have lost their lives trying to get down.
(At the base of the summit cone where we left our packs:) (Eric) “Yeah, that’s what I want to know. Where the F*@% are we?” (Eric) “Keep coming, Peter, come over here.” (Some 20 minutes of climbing later) We are ten feet or so from the summit, and I am unsnappingon the advice of Eric. or trying to. (pant), and we will walk the final ten without belay. There itis!. there it is! the top of the cotton picking North American continent! (Peter) “Let Larry go first. Did you get.” (Eric), “I’ll just fire away. I’ve got 24 pictures on here.” (Peter) “How many have you got on there?” (Peter) “Great! I just want to get. Oh, God! .Ahhh! Ahhh! (Stuart) “Tenzing!” (exclaimed when Peter held his ice axe in the air for the photograph) (Peter) “I need a banner! Have you got your banner?” (Peter) “Oh, I’ve got to get my banner too.: (Peter to Larry) “Well, one side of your dream is complete!” (Larry) “Yeah! This one goes with the Bermuda Race. Terrific! Oh, this is wonderful!” (Stuart) “I’m the tallest person in North America right now!” (Stuart) “I tell you, when we got to the top of this cone here, I looked over at the summit. Ithought the summit was, you know, eight miles away. Didn’t it look like eight miles away?’’ It is now 5:51 p.m. (a few hours after the flight back from Kahiltna Base) on the 12th, Friday, andwe’re back in Talkeetna, but I want to report on all the things that happened subsequent to ourhaving attained the summit. On the way back down the mountain upon urinating it appeared thatmy urine had blood in it. This absolutely shocked Eric and Larry. We thought there might be somerelationship between that and the Diamox I had taken and the contention was that probably I wasseverely dehydrated and that I probably ought to be flown off the mountain as soon as possible.
We proceeded on down to the 17,200 foot camp, Camp VII. I climbed into my sleeping bag havingtaken one spill on the way down. I was really weak. The spill consisted of. we were traversingabove the 17,200 foot Camp VII, maybe three quarters of a mile along the trail toward Denali Pass.
My crampons tangled with my neoprene overboots and I went down the side, but didn’t have anyfear. I just did what I had to do with the ice axe and self-arrested. But at the same time that I selfarrested, Larry was in front of me and Eric was behind and both their ropes went taut and both ofthem were in position, particularly Eric who was just absolutely dug in, ready for me to fall and hecould have caught anything. I think Larry could have too. Anyway, I kicked out snow steps just bethrowing my feel out and slamming them into the side of the mountain and managed to dig myway back up to the trail and I was absolutely breathless by the time I got to the trail again. Maybe a quarter of a mile further down when it leveled out and we got past the crevasses, Larry said Ishould take my pack off and he and Stuart and the others would relieve me of some of the load.
And they did. I carried practically an empty pack back the last quarter of a mile and then climbedinto my sleeping bag. It was cold. Maybe, I guess it was ten degrees or something like that. fiveor ten. The party that went on to the top following us that we passed -- the Genet group en route tohigh camp. we were on en route to high camp, they were en route to the summit. we’d gotten tothe summit at five o’clock, they got to the summit about 1:00 a.m. and it was twenty belowaccording to their thermometer when they reached the summit.
We ended up in effect not turning in until after midnight and the plan was to get off to a leisurelystart in the early afternoon. And we ended up getting off, carrying full loads, from the 17,200 footCamp VII at about 1:30 p.m. (July 11). We just sailed down the mountain and I felt enormouslyrevitalized by the increased supply of oxygen as we moved down.
We got to the 16,200 foot camp which was Camp VI for us, the snow caves, in I think it was 38minutes after walking through an absolutely gorgeous section of very steep, marvelously exposedportion of the West Buttress. I let Eric use the camera and I think we probably got some good shotsout of that.
We then proceeded down the fixed ropes which were almost as devastatingly difficult on the waydown as they had been on the way up. I remember on the way up I was just about ready to toss inthe sponge, but on the way down it wasn’t so much a question of breathlessness as it was balanceand the snow conditions. we were going through what seemed like corn snow. Well it was morepowdery than corn, I guess, because it was cold enough to be thoroughly frozen. But obviouslyanother 16 or 18 inches of snow, it seems to me, had fallen, maybe not quite that much, since wehad come up.
We paused for a while at the 14,000, I believe it was 14,200 camp where we had cached a lot ofsupplies on the way up. We dug up our sleds and then we reallocated the weight between our sledand our packs plus we picked up a whole lot of gear. We ran into another RMI expedition headingup the mountain and Jeff and Eric had a long chat with the guide. We tried to give them as much ofour gear as we could so we wouldn’t have to take it down. They only took one sled full of fuel andfood.
After a couple of hours’ stop, I guess, maybe an hour and a half, and some hot drinks and lunchand whatever, we headed on down really making marvelously good time. We just smoked on downpast our old campsites until we got down below 10,000 feet and then we even considered going allthe way down to Kahiltna Base that night. We figured we could make it by two or three a.m. Butthen we decided to turn in. I guess it was roughly about 9,600(?) feet in an area that was justabove our second camp. We were walking without snowshoes or crampons after the 14,200 campwhich was Camp V. We proceeded own, we started off with Eric in front, me second, Stuart thirdand Larry last. On the second rope was Jeff, followed by Sam and Matthew. We descended justunder 10,000 feet total for the day, ending up between our original Camp II and Camp III. Westopped when the snow began to get soft as we got to lower altitudes and the temperature went up.
The next morning I awoke at 7:00 a.m.,. got up and tried to get a cup of coffee together, spent anhour getting the ice melted and trying to get everything together and then we headed on down,leaving at 9:30 a.m., arriving at the Kahiltna base after a very hard push at roughly 1:00 p.m.
Doug Geeting of the Talkeetna Air Taxi flew in. He had seen us coming down and thought wewere the Genet group and he flew in to fly us off and upon discovering that we weren’t the Genetgroup, went ahead and took Larry and Sam and very soon after they had departed, within abouthalf an hour, Lowell Thomas, Jr. flew in in his turbo-charged plane (Heliocourier) and took Stuartand me to the FAA strip where Cliff Hudson met us.
Matthew and Jeff were brought in later on in the afternoon. There was some concern as we flewout that the weather was closing in and maybe they wouldn’t be able to get out that day.
We had a marvelous dinner at the Teepee and we ended up sitting up in the Teepee bar talking toHolly Parker and Scott von Eschen and Dick the doctor and Tim the U.S. Air climber whoseaddress I have. I was advised by the doc that I might have a lesion in my bladder and that probablyI should get it checked if any problems persist.
(Sound of bagpipes in Talkeetna Moose Festival parade) I woke up early Saturday morning, got out in time to record the parade which you heard a littlewhile ago. There I met Chris Mahay with her three boys. Larry and Sam and Eric made plans tohead south.

Source: http://www.rosegill.com/Peter/McKinley/PeterOnMcKinley.pdf

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