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diepj

[TR] Denali - West Buttress 5/28/2016

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Trip: Denali - West Buttress

 

Date: 5/28/2016

 

Trip Report:

Not too much of a report but I thought I'd share some pics. We did the West Butt which has been reported on extensively and is really about as straight-forward as you can get for an expedition climb. It was a great trip and a great way to break into the game. If you're looking for resources here are a few things I relied on quite a bit in planning for the trip:

 

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1127222/TR_Denali_West_Buttress_With_a

http://www.climber.org/reports/2005/1519.html.

 

I can't hope to compete with the level of beta in those TR's (Thanks especially to lukeh!) but let me know if you're dying for an opinion or had questions about how we did it.

 

We were on the mountain 20 days and spent over half of that at 14k waiting for a good break in the weather. The most (only?) interesting climbing is the ridge between the top of the fixed lines and the camp at 17k. At least in the expedition style you have reason to do it several times.

 

Overall the climb is basically just a ton of work. But once you get up high the views are worth the price of admission.

 

Enjoy the pics!

 

Gear

Denali-Gear1.jpg

 

Flying In

Denali-1942.jpg

 

The Ruth

Denali-5691.jpg

 

Snow Flutes

Denali-5711.jpg

 

Climbers on the Kahiltna

Denali-5721.jpg

 

Landed at Basecamp

Denali-5730.jpg

 

Lower Kahiltna

Denali-5755.jpg

 

Camped on the Kahiltna

Denali-1995.jpg

 

Camped at 11k

Denali-7819.jpg

 

Top of Motorcycle Hill

Denali-7823.jpg

 

Windy Corner

Denali-7832.jpg

 

Windy Corner

Denali-7834.jpg

 

14k Camp and Headwall

Denali-7844.jpg

 

Edge of the World Shot

Denali-9642.jpg

 

Edge of the World Shot

Denali-2113.jpg

 

Lower Kahiltna and the Northeast Fork

Denali-9666.jpg

 

Hunter

Denali-9646.jpg

 

Climbing the Fixed Lines

Denali-9715.jpg

 

Hunter, 14k Camp from the Ridge

Denali-9574.jpg

 

View from the Ridge

Denali-9577.jpg

 

Foraker and the West Buttress

Denali-9580.jpg

 

View from the Ridge

Denali-9609.jpg

 

14k Camp from the Ridge

Denali-9610.jpg

 

Nearing Washburn's Thumb

Denali-9726.jpg

 

Heading for Denali Pass

Denali-9729.jpg

 

Summit Ridge

Denali-9742.jpg

 

Summit Ridge

Denali-9747.jpg

 

On the Top!!

Denali-9752.jpg

 

Approach Notes:

TAT

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Wow, these pics are spectacular! You shouldn't minimize the effort. Any Denali summit qualifies as badass!!

 

I hope I can put a trip like that together someday!

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How did the hooped hilleberg tent do up there? I've heard that snow can accumulate on the roof of tents built in that style, causing them to sag and potentially break. Was that an issue?

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Pucker - Thanks, I don't really mean to minimize the effort. Like I said it was a ton of work, even the planning and preparing involved was intense. It was a great experience, but the story of this route just isn't particularly riveting to other climbers - but I do recommend it!

 

Cas - The Hilleberg was incredible. I would not hesitate to fully recommend it. If the snow really piles up it can get a little saggy. There was one night where we were lazy and should have got out to shovel but we didn't, the fabric was sagging quite a bit but it didn't seem like it was straining the poles too badly. I'm sure at some point you could collapse it... Really the best practice is going to be to keep it somewhat shoveled out and I think that goes for any tent. You don't want to suffocate either.

 

We had the Nammatj 2GT, which is a black label. There are some other red label tents (Nallo and Kaitum) which have lighter fabric and thinner poles but I wouldn't take one of them.

 

Wind performance was great. We had gusts over 80 one night at 14 and had no issues. Of course we were dug in really well but that needs to be true of any camp in those conditions.

 

The 2 worked perfectly for 2 people; snug but not too small. I would not recommend upsizing to a 3 like with many other tents. I also would HIGHLY recommend the GT model with the extended vestibule. The pound and a half penalty is well worth it, and still way lighter than a lot of other tents. For a team of two without a cook tent it was awesome. We met another group of 4 with 2 of these tents and they never bothered to even set up their 'mid. You can dig out a foot well, a pit to stand in, a stair out, and still have tons of room for storage, cooking, etc.

 

A dome style tent would be relatively more bomber in the wind and heavy snow. IMO the Hilleberg is still plenty bomber and has some strong advantages. There are as many of these tents as any other you will see up there too.

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Climbed it last year. Was back up in Alaska a month ago doing the tourist thing this time. Seeing Denali, talking with some climbers in passing, and seeing your recent pics kind of make me "miss the misery".

 

Congrats!

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Excellent pics. Like Pucker said, don't sell yourself short. It's a big mountain and a proud accomplishment!

 

Nice duffel bag. Are you related to a former NFL player? ;)

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Thanks!

 

Not related but we're treated like family and love him like a brother. The #1 factor in our success.

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Cool! As a climber and a Patriots fan I recognized the name.

 

I climbed Denali three years ago with my wife for our honeymoon. Least romantic honeymoon ever... at times our three person Trango tent didn't seem big enough for the two of us. But it was an amazing trip that I look back fondly upon. Your pictures bring back good memories, thanks for posting!

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Nice man - congrats! Very cool if my TR was helpful. I both miss the mountain and was traumatized by it - and I was lucky enough to only be there 14 days.

 

I always like to refer to Jon Krakauer's experience when thinking of downplaying the route:

 

"The West Buttress of McKinley, it is often said, has all the technical challenges of a long walk in the snow. That is more or less true, but it's also true that if you should, say, trip on a bootlace at the wrong moment during that walk, you will probably die. From 16,000 feet to 17,000 feet, for instance, the route follows the crest of a knife-edge ridge that presents a two-thousand-foot drop on one side and a three-thousand-foot drop on the other. Furthermore, even the flattest, most benign-looking terrain can be riddled with hidden crevasses, many of which are big enough to swallow a Greyhound bus, no problem.

 

I figured the West Buttress to be a farmer's route; I mean, how challenging could a climb that succumbed to three hundred freds and hackers a year possibly be? Plenty challenging for the likes of me, it transpired. I was continually miserable, and frequently on the brink of disaster. My tent was starting to shred even in the relative calm at 14,300. The unceasing cold caused my lips and fingers to crack and bleed; my feet were always numb. At night, even wearing every article of clothing I had, it was impossible to stave off violent shivering attacks. Condensed breath would build up an inch of frost on the inside of my tent, creating an ongoing indoor blizzard as the gossamer nylon walls rattled in the wind. Anything not stowed inside my sleeping bag-camera, sunscreen, water bottles, stove-would freeze into a useless, brittle brick. My stove did in fact self-destruct from the cold early in the trip; had a kind soul named Brian Sullivan not taken pity on me and lent me his spare, I would-as Dick Danger so eloquently put it-have been in deep shit.

Mountains"

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Wow, awesome pictures! Beautiful, thank you.

 

And those are some legit conga lines.

 

Congrats on the climb and on the weather too. Very cool.

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Cool! As a climber and a Patriots fan I recognized the name.

 

I climbed Denali three years ago with my wife for our honeymoon. Least romantic honeymoon ever... at times our three person Trango tent didn't seem big enough for the two of us. But it was an amazing trip that I look back fondly upon. Your pictures bring back good memories, thanks for posting!

 

Hahahaha thats awesome. Doing Bowron Lakes for a honeymoon like my wife and I did is nothing compared to this!

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I agree 100% with Krakauer, it is a deadly serious mountain no doubt. I guess so much has been written about that route that I just didn't think I had a lot to add to the narrative that would be interesting to the informed climber. But everyone is entertained for a few minutes by pics!

 

The conga lines were definitely legit. Its a blessing and a curse. We more or less avoided them and never suffered much delay. Our strategy was to be early... ...but not first. A couple guide strings an hour out front is perfect since they will lay in the booter and you'll catch them right when they take a break at the base of the lines... The beauty of Denali is that early is still 10 am when the sun hits your tent!

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Our strategy was to be early... ...but not first. The beauty of Denali is that early is still 10 am when the sun hits your tent!

 

Based on the advice of a very experienced friend we choose to travel in the evening/early AM hours. Far less people, cooler temps (we started 6/1). Less slop/mush on the lower glacier. To each their own, but if I go back, I'd follow that approach again.

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On 7/7/2016 at 12:53 AM, bellows said:

Cool! As a climber and a Patriots fan I recognized the name.

 

I climbed Denali three years ago with my wife for our honeymoon. Least romantic honeymoon ever... at times our three person Trango tent didn't seem big enough for the two of us. But it was an amazing trip that I look back fondly upon. Your pictures bring back good memories, thanks for posting!

Thats one hell of a way to spend a honey moon! Epic!

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Thanks for the bump Brandon, I had missed it this fall. Caused me to look at the pics for the first time in a while and remind me that life it too short not to make a few more of these happen. Just do it!

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a place well worth the hype, especially when you go there w/ just yer bestest buddy :)

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