June 20, 2019
Door to door – it takes 21 days, we did it in 2 weeks
Elevation – 6194alt
Route – Normal route
After only a week of rest and relaxation from the Everest expedition, during which I enjoyed my family and loved ones in New Jersey and New York, we headed for the fifth summit of the seven of my project.
We arrived at Base Camp, and then began one of the most difficult expeditions. We waited until the sun went down and started climbing to the first camp. Both AMS groups started the expedition. The path to the first camp was not very difficult (we had to cross the Kahiltna Glacier), at least that’s how it seemed to me after spending a lot of time on the mountain and at high altitude.
When we arrived at camp 1, the snow was down to our knees and soft. Our sweaty bodies were immediately chilled. We started removing the snow and pitching our tents. One for me and Dad, and one for Dan (the guide). Immediately upon entering the tent, we fell asleep.
The next day was hot, the snow was soft, and we waited for the night to continue to Camp 2. At the evening, after getting ready, we put on the snowshoes and started the climb to Camp 2, which was more difficult as the terrain was steeper and higher. We decided to make it in one push.
When we arrived at Camp 2, we were hot and tired. It took me 5 minutes to put on my parka. I was very cold. We were late with setting up camp, and after an hour and a half we pitched the tents and that night I slept with all the layers I had with me… The climb to camp 3 was the same.
At camp 3 we spent two nights for acclimatization. We had heard that Denali Camp 4 was heavily “populated” by climbers from all over the world trying to climb Denali’s summit. Also, the base of the national park supervisors was located there. We met many climbers and shared personal experiences, and on the next day we tried to climb to camp 4.
The route from camp 4 to camp 5 featured fixed lines. After crossing 40% of the route, we decided to go back and rest for a day at Camp 4, as our bodies had accumulated fatigue, and we were burnt out by previous expeditions, namely the Everest expedition, which we had finished almost 2 weeks ago, and this expedition was now only increasing the burden on us…
We went back and rested, slept well, and woke up early the next day and headed for camp 5. The climb was very difficult, we were tired, crossed the fixed lines and reached a ridge. The weather was variable, sometimes good, sometimes not, but we still kept climbing.
We finally approached the camp and made it. There we met some friends with whom we had climbed earlier summits. We set up camp, relaxed, and started discussing the Summit Day. The weather was not good, so we stayed for 3 days waiting for the winds to stop.
On June 20 we began our climb to the highest peak of North America, one of the coldest mountains in the world. The weather was still not very good, but we kept going. We climbed for 2 hours without a break, with our heavy backpacks and parkas, we crossed the traverse and reached some cliffs. We sat down to rest and saw two climbers returning to camp, who advised us not to continue as the winds behind the cliffs made climbing impossible. We discussed with each other and with the guide and made the decision to keep climbing and maybe the winds would stop by the time we arrived. And indeed, the winds were a little calmer, and a little milder. The climb was not over, we were near the summit, but we had some climbing left to do. We finally got close enough to the summit to see it.
It was very cold and when we got to the top I got down on my knees… I don’t know whether I bowed to the summit, or I was extremely tired, or I wanted to convince myself that it was real…
We had no time to waste on the summit because the weather was getting worse. The joy and beauty of the view from the summit had to be left behind. We started the descent, motivated and willful. We were the first to arrive at the camp. As we were getting into our tents, other groups made it to camp. That night we slept very well, filled with energy, and before sunrise we began our descent to Camp 4, where we rested until 5 pm. We packed out tents and food and kept going down. The goal was to get to base camp. We had a long descent, I was tired, and my feet were dripping blood from the sores torn by the long walking and the overweight backpack. As we approached base camp, I could barely walk; I was looking at groups that had just begun the expedition, and saying to myself, “They have no idea what awaits them. We made it to base camp around 3pm, pulled out our sleeping bags and laid them out in the snow. We didn’t pitch the tents because we were tired, and the next day we hoped to return to Talkeetna. Best sleep I’ve ever had. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, I saw the blue sky and the sun that had just been risen on the horizon. Dan told us to get ready because the expedition was over…
It was time to go back to our loved ones…