Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The West Butt

The first morning 

As I write this, sitting at sea level thinking back to my high point at almost 6000 Meters a lot could be said, and more can be left for the Mountain.  My goal for this trip was to learn the Mountain, make it as high as I could and once learning about the recent weather, keep all my fingers and toes.

We flew in as a crew 6, working as two independent team after sitting for a day in Talkeetna.  Brian and Nina as one, Tim, Matt, Jared and myself as the later.  My original partner, Bryan could not make the trip to a family emergency in which he made the right choice to stay home with them.  

 The team headed to 10,500

We flew in, loaded our sleds and started off up the mountain following Brian and Nina.  I didn’t think we would see them again until their descent from the summit in a few days time, but I was wrong. Nina is not build for hauling a sled, she is “not a Horse”.  How can you blame her, it was hard.

The long lines on Motorcycle hill 

Anywise, we kept up with them until the 14K camp, by then just a ½ day behind to pick up our cash back at 13.2K and the to take a rest day before heading up onto the real part of the mountain.  At 14K Matt decided to head home, just 5 days into the trip and Tim followed.  Now down to 4…

14K camp looking out at Mt. Foraker

The weather forecast was good, too good.  Jared had to go up, I had to rest and Brian and Nina were to head up in the am.  Like I said, Jared just had to go up.  We were left with two-two man tents with three people wanting to ascend the mountain in the am with no real reason to do so.  Jared and Nina went up, and Brian wasn’t going to let me solo above 14K feet (a place/altitude I have never been before) and we waited together at 14K

The headwall above 14K camp and the fixed lines

Nina took Jared up, and they made it to 17K camp.  They witnessed a fall above the fixed lines which resulted in the death of a German climber.  Nina helped the Rangers to the extent that she could and they continued up the 16K ridge to camp.  They woke up to high winds and shattered nerves. Jared decided to descend back to 14K camp and Nina took him down once the winds abated.    

Brian and I waited an extra day for them to descend, instead of us headed up then swapping tents with them at 17K/14K camp.  They descended by mid afternoon and Jared then insisted that he must get off the mountain asap and head home as early and as safe as possible. Brain decided after conversation to take him down in the am and Nina and I decided to head up.

Looking down to 14K camp from 17K.  The little dots are over 100 people and their tents.

We parted ways in the am (now down to 2...) and headed up to the fixed lines and the best part of the whole route, the 16K ridge. We made it from 14K to 17K in 5 hours, even getting stuck behind slower climbers on the lines to the col. 

Our Marmot tent with door open at 17K 

I arrived to camp exhausted, Nina was good to go and we set up camp, she made water and we crashed for the evening.  We woke to not so good weather and waited another day to attempt the top.  On our 10th day on the mountain, we headed for the summit with Mica and Phil (two guys we met two days before at 14K) and about 30+ other guided and ‘indy climbers.  I made it in 4-5 hours or so in to just below the football field at almost 6K meters where I quit and Nina tied in with Mica and Phil. 

Arriving at 17K camp.  It was a bit colder up there

No pics of the summit attempt for me, left the camera in the pack.  It was cold, a bit windy and the visibility sucked to when I turned around and headed back down.  Not much to see really.

Nina made the top (AWESOME!!!!!) and became the first Serbian Woman to do so. I made a personal high point and was happy with my effort.  All goals but the summit achieved.   I continued down back to 17K alone, and fell asleep once back at the tent.  Nina arrived later and we brewed up then rested for the night.
Nina descending on the 16K ridge

We got up and left camp around 11am to head down.  We made it all the way back to basecamp at 7K in 12 hours pulling ridiculously big sleds and carrying a big pack…ugh…NEVER AGAIN! It was physically hard and in the end mentally hard when I started to piss blood one hour out  from basecamp.  Lucky we were close to the end and water was close. 

We crashed in Fabrizio’s tent for the evening and got on a plane back to town by 10am the next Morning.   A few more nights in Talkeetna drinking, eating and wandering around town brought Brian and I to Anchorage early to fly back to the lower 48, leaving Nina to still…yes as I write this still stilling in town waiting the weather to fly back in…5 days ago...

Talkeetna Air Taxi with the North Buttress of Hunter 

Untill next season.


  1. Jon,
    Beautiful, fantastic pic's, you had a great time and you kept all your fingers and toes!!!

    Love ya,
    Mom and Dad!!

  2. Looks like an epic trip! Can't wait to hear about it in the fall - that is, unless you're planning a trip to the Tetons, in which case I certainly hope I'll hear about it during the summertime. FYI, I've linked your blog up on mine under the "shit I read section" ;) long as you don't mind.

  3. Yeh Jon J. Your safe and home and it sounds like you had a good learning experience. Nina sounds like a tough gurl.

  4. Nina is Tough, we are heading up to DT in July, I'll let you all know when.

    Em, I'll be there the 6th through the 19th ish. we will have to get out!