Moving gear up to Camp 1 in the heat of the day ( for some strange reason)

All of my longer ski trips in the past have been traverse style, carrying as little as possible for survival and moving camp pretty much daily.  Our team is used to “fast and light” missions in the mountains, so the multi-day siege tactics that the mountains around here require was going to take some getting used to.  There was no complaints on the morning of day 3, with the comfort of the “dome” facilitating a great lie in.  By the time we crawled out of the funk of our sleeping bags and packed up the first load of gear for Camp 1, the almost ever-present spring sun had passed its zenith in the Yukon sky, and we foolishly set off under 70+ pound loads.  As straight a track as possible was layed out over the  very low angle 10 km’s from ABC to Camp 1, and it took almost five hours of slow roasting before we dumped the gear at the base of the bump.

Dave stripped down to his hair pants for the mid-day slog.

Greg with his finger on the summit of Steele.

After the food had been cached, one of the satellite tents pitched, and essential safety gear repacked, we continued our acclimatization by tackling the first crux of the route, a short steep pitch through a couple of barely visible slots to gain the rambling ridge that would lead us to the top of the 14000 foot bump.  A couple of the team members where struggling in the thin air, and we stopped at 3700m (just over 12000′), made a cache of crampons, ice axes, and helmets, and headed for ABC.  The descent down the ridge was in marginal skiing conditions, icy and sastrugi-ed (firm ridge of snow created by wind), definitely not what we are used to.  That seemingly endless slog up the glacier took a mere 45 mins to descend with a slow glide and a bit of poling. 

Day 4 we wised up and enjoyed a relaxing day eating as much as possible, lounging in the “dome” (keeping out of the intense light that had crushed us yesterday), and discussing possible scenario’s for an ascent of Steele, and possibly Lucania, which was starting to feel real far away.  The extended daylight allowed for a 5:30 pm departure, and we knocked almost 2 hours off our previous day’s time in the cooler temps, despite being laden with similar sized loads.  Tonight we sleep at 12000′, and rise early for try for the summit.  The weather has been great so far, calm and clear, although the intense solar radiation has given a lot of what looked like great ski lines on the day we flew in a decidedly blue sheen now. We will see what tomorrow brings…

Approaching Camp 1 on the evening of day 4.

Me in the tent at Camp 1, looking (and feeling) pretty punched.

When we woke at 4:20 am, the winds where up much stronger than days previous, and  we hustled out of camp an hour later, bundled up against the bite of it.  When we gained the ridge past the first crux, this view of the moon rapidly setting over the king of Canada, Mt Logan, made the trip for me.  Unbelievable.

Although the weather has been relatively clear, the 14000′ bump was often capped in cloud, and this morning was no exception. We battled the winds up to our previous high point, collected our gear, and pushed on to the top in poor visibility.  A quick huddle in the guides tarp while we discussed the options, and we dropped the gear again, and turned back for Camp 1.  I was elated to have reached 4300m, the highest elevation above sea level I have been!  Today’s marginal weather and the fact that the team was still feeling the effects of  the altitude made pushing further out of the question.  Maybe tomorrow?  Never before have I invested such time and energy for a single summit.

Day 6 dawned with less winds, but the visibility held little promise.  A bit frustrated with our seeming lack of progress (at least compared to what we are accustomed to), we headed back up the bump, all a little weary of travelling this same ground yet again.  Darek was developing a persistent cough, and every step was excruciating for Joey, as his boot liners had been working against him, making his feet look something like raw meat.


 The team made it over the bump amidst the drifting clouds and changing light, stashing the technical gear yet again in the col between the bump and the true ridge of Steele, which seemed reluctant to show its face today.  We caught a few glimpses as we climbed back up to the bump, and it looked pretty feasible, although the upper pitches were definitely an interesting blue hue.  The debate was on: do ski’s go beyond what looks like the crux of the route, a short triangle face blocking the ridge and also looking blue and steep in the few glimpses we have had of it.  Maybe we will see tomorrow, if we can get that far… 

Darek heading back up the bump, N face of Steele in background.