|14,500 feet on Mt. Fairweather|
|Mt. Fairweather is "A"|
|FlyDrake.com, he is the man with the plan there in Haines|
|Every bad weather day had a couple hours of blue where we could soak up some UV.|
|The Carpe Ridge from 4,600' to 11,000'. The remaining 4,000' is out of view from this angle.|
Experience has taught me that if the sky is blue in Alaska, and you're not climbing, you are behind already. I was antsy. Should we start climbing right now? Forget setting up the basecamp, lets start climbing! Janelle and Jed were the voices of reason, and we set up camp, packed our climbing packs and tried to sleep. 24 hours prior, Jed was on a beach in Florida, now we were 8 hours away from climbing a 15,000'+ mountain.
|Pacific Ocean is only 13 miles away.|
|Dont like a hold? Just throw it out of the way.|
1. Lift foot out of previous hole, step forward.
2. Shift weight to higher foot slowly, staying on the surface.
3. Have time to think half of this thought, "hey I think its getting firmer"
4. Break through up to shin, knee, hip, waist.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 a billizon times, up 3,000 vertical feet
|Basecamp is the little black dot, center in the shade on the lower glaicer|
There was another steep rock band with some fun challenges, both low angle ice and some proper rock climbing. We moved quickly though these sections as it was such a welcome relief from the breakable crust.
The following morning, we were up again early. Dark clouds had moved in over the tops of the mountains in the distance. We could not see our summit yet, but figured it too was cloud capped. Maybe they would blow off? We had only brought three days of food with us, so we went for it, hoping the skies would clear.
|Full whiteout conditions. Waiting for things to clear at 14,200' on our first go.|
Through the clouds I caught glimpses of both. Wanting to avoid them I lead the team far to the left, NW, of the Carpe Ridge to a solid, but steep snow ramp. This took forever. The snow was knee deep or worse. 98% of the time the visibility was less than 100 feet. 2% of the time the clouds would shift just enough to get a view of what lay ahead, and that keep us moving forward. We climbed a 60-65 degree snow/ice slope to gain the ridge again. Swinging my tools into the slope I thought, "this isn't going to be very fun to descend. Too hard to down solo and not hard enough for V-threads."
|Above high camp. This route has tons of this steepness (35-45 degrees).|
At 14,300' we encountered the ice "Nose". We would have to stop and belay. The wind was blasting us. Huddled in a semi filled in crevasse, squinting at each other, knowing each others thoughts. It was grim. Jed took the lead and climbed up around the corner to see if the terrain would mellow out. We knew that belaying was going to make us too cold. The terrain did not mellow, and belaying would be needed. The nail in the coffin. We descended back down a couple hundred feet to a little wind pocket eddy. The air temp wasn't that bad out of the wind, so we sat on our packs for an hour, hoping for improved conditions.
I started thinking about how to get down. Our tracks were getting filled in. It would be difficult to backtrack. We gave it one more attempt up to the Nose, but it was futile.
Walking back down was just as epic. We couldn't see anything in front of us. I had to walk like a drunk blind person, feeling my way inch by inch. Using my hiking pole to see if the next step was up down or flat. Nerve racking.
|Iconic knife edge snow ridge at about 11,000'|
At 12,000 feet we exited the cloud cap, and it was actually a nice day from that elevation and below. We went from "full on survival mode" to "casual day in the mountain" simply by being able to see.
We went back to our high camp and slept. The following day we descended the remaining 5,600', through more waist deep breakable crust, to our basecamp. At one of the rappels Janelle asked me, "do you want to try this again?" I said, "you can't ask me that now! I need a couple days to forget about these horrible snow conditions."
The following day was nice, yet there was still a cloud cap on all the mountains above 13,00'. After that, the high pressure moved out to make way for the infamously bad weather this area is known for.
|Tent bound for 11 days. Rummy 500 became rummy 5000.|
Unlike a nursing home, we had a finite amount of food...oh, and we were not forced to drink cranberry juice.
Everyday there was at least an hour or so to get out and walk around. I skied "crop circles" into the fresh snow around our camp, breaking trail in an ever growing circle, lap after lap until it looked like a circular plowed bean field. Then it would snow, effectively shaking my giant etch-a-sketch, and I would do it again, making a fun new shape.
|You are looking at a big mountain south of Mt. Fairweather. [In real life it is not black and white, I made it look like that using my computer.]|
|The man, the machine, thee Jed Porter.|
|Heading down with the Pacific coast running endlessly in both directions.|
|Summit oxygen deprivation at 15,325'|
[to see the video of this climb, which happens to be my current personal favorite, please visit our website: www.smileysproject.com, or click play below. Play it big, its better!]
Check out our facebook page as well.
Here is Jed's trip report. He is an entertaining writer.