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Thoughts on 17k Camp on Denali

Original Post
Chris Miemiec · · Sturbridge, MA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5

So I am going to Denali with a team this May and was wondering what other folks have done when it comes establishing a camp at 17k.  Some people I have talked to have mentioned that 17k camp is miserable and, if you can, to just go for the summit from 14k camp, after you have acclimatized.  I wanted to hear from some folks that have done it and get some feedback.  Is 17k camp worth the additional shuttle of gear or would it be smart to just stash a light emergency cache there for emergencies on your summit push from 14k camp and bring it down with you from summit day?

Nick B · · Anchorage, AK · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 61

So as a preface I have not climbed Denali, but I will be out there climbing in mid May as well!  Everything I have read suggests that doing 14 to summit is a pretty intense deal and not many people are successful doing it each year.   If your team is composed of badasses you might consider it, but be careful of high altitude illness. Someone who has been there can likely offer more info, but that is what my forum searches have gleaned.  Good luck, maybe we will see ya out there! 

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,187

6k is a big day at altitude. Especially if you follow the W. Butt route which meanders. Many go up the Orient Express as it is more direct. If I were to go from the 14k camp I would just go up the W. Rib Cut off as it is the most direct. Many will shuttle gear from the 14k camp to a cache at 16k as part of their acclimation. Then pick up that gear cache on the way to 17k. That makes the hump to 17k a bit more reasonable. We did not find the 17k camp to be miserable but then again we only spent the night there on our way down (we came from 16k on the Cassin Ridge).

That said I would not carry gear to cache at 17k as part of a summit bid. I would want that in place already so to go as light as possible.

Greg Shea · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 10

If you're going to be doing the west butt then you have the luxury of a pre broken trail just bring a bunch of fuel and lots of puffy shit, have a few shovels if it gets nasty just snuggle up for a day and have some Ramen and tea

MyFeetHurt · · Glenwood, CO · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 25

I took one look at the headwall from 14 and decided I wasn't going up that thing twice. So, I carried everything in a single push to 17, I think that is a good middle ground option. The col at 16 is a potentially dangerous place to wander around and chop snow for a cache unroped. It's not bad, but always only a couple steps back to the steeps and not fun if the weather is bad.

ChrisMurphy · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

I too would recommend the W. Rib cutoff if you decide to give the summit a go straight from 14K

trailridge · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 20

If you smoke pot. Bring it with you to 17. Helps with the altitude symptoms. The other drugs especially the dexo steriod should be only used in emergency. Otherwise I think it is cheating. 

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 185

i spent two nights at 17 (one before and one after summit) and it wasnt too bad. we cached gear near washburns thumb then returned to 14. When we were ready to make the move, we carried the necessities and grabbed our cache. This worked well in my opinion. Gave us some time to acclimatize above 14k, made our loads on the fixed lines and half of 16 ridge lighter, etc. 

If you go for it in a single push from 14 and something goes wrong, the retreat back to your camp is significantly longer.

abandon moderation · · Tahoe · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 118

Basically what everyone else is saying: If you go for it from 14k, you better be feeling real strong and be well acclimatized.

Personally I spent only one night at 17k then went to the summit and and had a pretty brutal day for not being properly acclimatized. But, sometimes the weather windows are only one day.

The slog from 14k to 17k does suck, but I would probably only skip 17k if I got up there and found I was moving quite fast or if I was running low on time. If you're fast enough to be running past everyone on the way up it could work out.

ABB · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 0

We didn't want to haul the kit and kaboodle to 17 (lazy) and sure as heck didn't want to get pinned at the wind-raked 17 camp for any length of time so we avoided it and whipped ourselves into excellent shape and went from 14.2 up the Express to the top and down the W Butt in a manageable 17 hrs. No bad-assery here. Fitness=speed=safety. The ability to continually move (quickly w/ light packs) under trying conditions is not to be underestimated. Many people on Denali who are in insufficient shape and take solace in dragging the safety of the kitchen sink have problems or turn the venture into a grind.

Colin Simon · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 355

I've done it from 14k multiple times in the same trip; I think a good rule is if you can't get to 17k from 14k in three hours, you're probably going to struggle to make it to the summit straight from 14.

Also, willingness to not use any of the fixed lines will really speed you up. If you need them, use them of course, but it really slows you down. In particular you should be confident doing the Autobahn ropeless if you want to skip 17k.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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