Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Extreme Camping

This past spring Rob Smith and I spent five weeks in the Alaska Range. We arrived in Talkeetna with ambitious plans: in a perfect world, we'd warm up on the French Route on the north buttress of Mt. Hunter before moving on to the Slovak Route on the south face of Denali. I knew the world isn't perfect though, and would have been ecstatic had we gotten up just one of these. In retrospect, even that seemingly realistic outlook now appears wildly optimistic, as we didn't manage so much as to stand at the base of either wall.

Still, it'd be wrong to say that the trip had been a waste of time. At the risk of rationalizing failure, it'd be sad if my sole measure of success in climbing was whether I'd sent this or that "hard" route. During the five weeks I spent in the land of eternal daylight (as is Alaska in late May and June), I had some fantastic experiences. I got to know Rob, with whom I'd only spent a few days ice climbing before. We lived through some of the worst weather I'd ever experienced at the 14k camp on Denali. We shared that camp with Tom and Uisdean, two irreverent Brits. When the storm cleared, Tom and I did yoga in the middle of camp. On a sunny day, all four of us hiked up the West Buttress to Denali's summit. We had fun, we came back safe, we came back better friends. What's so bad about that?

A few weeks ago I made a rough video of my Alaskan experience for the annual Cognac and Cheese party that some friends have put on for well over a decade now to celebrate the end of the long days of summer. If you want to see what a camping trip to Denali's like, click on.

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