Next Five Days: To Camp Five

May 20, Day 6: 17 degrees in the tent at dawn. A clear blue day, even though pressure continues low. I have a 29.42 in mercury for sea level equivalent. We carried to Camp 3 at 15500, just below the more normal 16100 flat area of the Football Field. This was perhaps the best day of ski mountaineering I have ever had. The weather was perfect, we had to go through a Logan_15.gifl with interesting but Logan_16.gif route-finding problems. There was one belay at a tricky Logan_17.gif crossing. K., while leading and on belay, broke through a little here, but then we found the right way across. Naturally we wondered if this crossing would get worse in a week or two, but in fact the cold weather and snow made it much easier later.

15500 is a new elevation record for me (though not the others). Two members of the Quebec party are there. And from here, looking between Mts. Vancouver and St. Elias, I saw the ocean. And Karsten was there too. He told us that Rudi Sudrich's claim was only the W summit.

The descent involved some synchronized telemarking while roped. Susie suggested that positions 1 and 3 turn one way while 2 and 4 turn the other. That worked well when we managed it. All of us have slight headaches.

The descent down the steep part was great, both for the amazing seracs on either side of our route, and the Logan_18.gif we got to Logan_19.gif in. The slope above Camp 2 is about 43 degrees, perfect for skiing, but also a slope that allowed us to skin up fairly easily in the morning.

In the evening Katie and I walked to the edge of the flat terrain S of King Col. This offered stupendous views including a look at the Logan summit, Mts. St Elias and Vancouver, and the huge icefields below. And, most impressive, this vantage point gave a good view of a large part of the S Face of Logan, including parts of the Hummingbird Ridge. A beautiful end to a great day...and the weather looked good (despite the low barometer that continued).

Stats: 2100' climb in 5 hours. 1 hour down.

May 21, Day 7: Final carry to Camp 3. The barometer is taking a nose dive and there is no visibility, but we are familiar with the route and there is no wind, so we decide to carry up. Now we are leaving trash and other small bits of stuff in a cache at each camp. I volunteer to lead, but that doesn't last long. I had placed my skins on my skis the previous night, and now they are not sticking at all. A third of the way up the steep slope out of camp one of the skins comes off. So I must boot it up, carrying my skis. Leslie says she has a spare pair of half-skins I can use, but when we get to a flat spot for a rest, they turn out to not be in her pack. Thus I must resort to the tried-and-true duct tape method, which I know will last for several hours.

Now Katie is leading and the white out is pretty total. There are occasional wands, but mostly we are relying on our memory from the ski down yesterday. At one point Katie punched through badly into a giant crevasse and my rope discipline in position two was not as taut as it should have been. The bridge broke away, with a loud noise, in front of thebinding of her ski so she did not fall. She just backed away very slowly and we found the right way across. She was quite terrified by this, but showed good leadership in not showing it.

We continued up in these difficult conditions and finally spotted the welcome sight of some tents at Camp 3. This all took 6 hours. We were somewhat cold, but some snuggling and resting of feet against stomachs got us back to good spirits. K and I assured S and L that we would not again travel in total whiteout conditions like that.

ASIDE ON GENDER: The fact that our group consisted of three beautiful and sensuous young ladies and one short, balding, older guy certainly elicited comments from people. I am reminded of the scene at the end of "Annie Hall" in which the Diane Keaton character leaves Woody Allen for the short, balding Wallace Shawn fellow. At base camp at the end of the trip I noticed a couple of guys looking at the girls, looking at me, and smirking in wonderment. Well, the girls were strong and enthusiastic and a pleasure to be around. Perhaps females perspire less than any case our camp and team were clean, clean-smelling, and (almost) always in good spirits.

At this point I wrote in my journal that things have gone very well, the team is pulling together, and I estimate a 70% chance of reaching the summit. I also wrote that even if we don't summit, the trip so far has proved worthwhile, mostly because of the superb icefall views between Camp 1 and Camp 3.

Our resting pulses are all about 72-80. My respiration rate was 13, with the others a little higher.

May 22, Day 8: Tough morning. The weather looked ok at 8 am, after a very cold night. We decide to try a carry to Camp 4, although Susie is not feeling well. At 10 a.m. I heard a funny sound from the stove. We race to look at it and see flames leaping up. There was a leak at the O-ring, probably caused by frost when we changed bottles. No harm done. We finally start up at noon, but now there is no visibility and wind and snow. After a short climb we decide to turn back to camp and take a rest day. Katie also has a headache, so resting seems fine, especially considering the hard work of the previous day. Leslie accidentally poked her ax through the bottom of our tent, but it was easy to repair the small hole.

May 23, Day 9: The weather seems only slightly better, but it looks okay to travel. We had a fine carry to Camp 4 in steadily improving weather. This was only 1600' of climb to 17000'. The camp is crowded, so we will have to build some walls. But we would also like to carry some of the stuff farther, up to Prospector Col at 18400'. We see teams heading up there and it looks easy. So Katie and Leslie volunteer to do that while Susie and I build walls and a latrine for tomorrow. Katie decides to forego the switchback that is set, and heads straight up. S. and I work hard on the walls with a borrowed saw. At one point I wondered if the col everyone was going to was really P. Col. I took an inconclusive compass reading. But I was too hasty: of course, it was correct, and I was fooled by its being around a corner.

The other teams: The CNIB team with Ross, who is blind, led by Jay and two others. Karsten and Alex are the photographers of that group, but Alex is not feeling well, so they will not go over the col. Incidentally, on day 8, our hard day in whiteout conditions, Karsten and Alex traveled from 3 to 4 but did not make it and set up camp a few hundred feet below camp 4. Ross had summitted Denali several years ago. Incidentally, there seems no question that summitting the true Logan summit is more difficult than summitting Denali.

The Montreal, Quebec, team: 6, from a shop called YETI.

The weather station team: Jennifer Olson, Larry Dolecki, and Mike.

Susie and I return to Camp 3 in 23 minutes, and start melting and boiling water. Leslie and Katie return at 7 pm in full parka gear, reporting very cold weather at the col. Our cooking mission is not going well. Indeed, several hours later we have hardly made any progress. We finally decide that the stove is clogged and eat a lukewarm dinner. The next morning we switch stoves and that makes a big difference.

We learned from the Quebecers that temps at Camp 3 were at least -31 F. This blew me away: I had no idea things were that cold. We will later learn that temps at the highest camp, at the other side of P. Col, got down to -40.

I recall Chic Scott saying that one could perhaps move from Camp 3 all the way over P. Col in one day, bypassing Camp 4. It is true that the distance is not great. But loads and strength vary from party to party. Only a strong party traveling light and starting early could do that.

May 24, Day 10: Clearest dawn so far and breathtaking views from Camp 3 to King Peak and Mt. St. Elias. We have an easy carry -- 3.5 hours -- to Camp 4. At one point we were buzzed by a white bird (seagull?). Alex helped take a Logan_20.gif of our group with the Moonstone banner. My feet get cold on these days, but they warm up a bit when we rest. I wonder if the pressure of the heavy pack can have an impact on this issue. Yes, I just heard confirmation from a veteran (Gerry Roach) that heavy packs can cause cold feet.

Katie invites the three others at Camp 4 in for dinner (angel hair pasta with a good sauce), but by the time dinner is ready, there is one taker, Karsten. One problem might be that we never changed time zones: we have stuck with Anchorage time, while everyone else is working with the correct Pacific time; the change-line is at the US-Canada border, which we flew over. In any case, 5 in the tent was fine. 7 would not have worked.

At this camp we socialized quite a bit. Alex Taylor, video man for the CNIB group and veteran of a recent Antarctic expedition, introduced me to Ross, whom he was taking on a walk around the compound for exercise. And Alex gave me four of his bamboo tent stakes (which had visited the Antarctic). We had been using the little metal North Face tent stakes, crossing two of them for anchors. This worked, but it was very tedious to install and remove them. A simple thin pole about two feet long is better.

May 25, Day 11: A hard day over Logan_21.gif. We do have some weather prediction news, and it seems to be that today would be a good summit day, but it might not last. Still, the weather is so good that we have to go up and over. We started at noon (Anchorage time; 1 p.m. local time). The trip up wasn't too bad and afforded some great photo ops looking back on King Peak and Mt St. Elias. The descent on the other side was on hard windpack that was challenging but skiable. We saw a few wands and then placed our own. We traversed high, seeing the camp of the CNIB team somewhat lower than us and the weather station team higher, at Russell Col. At this point Susie's toes became quite cold and there was a little dissension as we were not yet at the flat area around the next corner where we planned to camp. But we had to stop, and so we camped below Russell Col at 17500'. This day was the summit day for Ross's group, and they made it to within 70 feet of the top of the W Summit. That is quite a reasonable achievement on a very cold day, and, of course, with no vision for one member. Ross lost the sight of one eye a long time ago, and apparently the other one went in some sort of sympathetic response. This must be somewhat unusual because, after all, there are plenty of one-eyed people around. Indeed, one of Katie's partners on Denali had one eye.

The French team had left their skis at P. Col, and were using only crampons at this point. They were camped around the corner where we had wanted to be.

Weather at night was very cold and windy; not high winds, but given that the air temp is 40 below, one really needs no wind to be comfortable.

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