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Denali – First Portuguese Women to Summit (Part 1)

Monday, June 17 2019

Day 1 

I arrived in Anchorage in the evening and checked into the hotel. 

I arrived with a very heavy heart. My mother in law, Bonnie, has been diagnosed as ‘failure to thrive’ and moved to a hospice room for the family to say goodbye. I’m not there. I need to be. I want to be.

She passed away Monday June 17th, my day two of this trip; Day 1 of this climb. Heavy sigh.

I feel so conflicted, because I know Steve is dealing with it by himself and I know he is stressed. I pray for him.

In the morning, I met my 3 guides and did my gear check. 

I was feeling a little sick – I ate some vegetarian tacos at the hotel’s restaurant and they did not agree with me at all.  In the middle of the night I managed to throw up, and then start hydrating myself. I can’t be sick for my first day – this is Denali and I feel enough pressure as it is.

 

Tuesday, June 18 2019

Day 2

We fly to basecamp.  This was after an approximately 2 or 3 hour drive from Anchorage to Talkheeta.  Then we take an Air Taxi. It was a short flight, just 20 minutes., with amazing scenery.

Once we arrive, we take all our gear off the runway and set up our first ‘camp’. 

Kaylee gives me my first lesson, with Jason giving his stamp of approval and further suggestions, on how to set-up our tent in our first ‘camp”.   

As we enjoy dinner, sitting on the snow, I marvel on how much snow there is – and take a few deep breaths and silently pray to God that He guide me and ask Him to have my back, because I am scared about what is ahead of me. Every so often you hear avalanches in the distance.  I have butterflies in my stomach, as stories and previous videos I watched in YouTube about climbing Denali weigh heavy in my mind. Not to mentioned the anxiety I am feeling about wanting and needing to Summit, so I can become the first Portuguese/Canadian woman to Summit Denali.

I remind myself – this is Denali. I am on the ‘big leagues’ mountain. I never imagined in my wildest dream I would here. But I am. I am here.

After our tents are made, we take some supplies out to sleep, since we are going to move during the night when the snow is more cold and compact… It’s mushy right now… packing snow.

Then it started snowing.

Hmmmmm……what does that mean …..

 

Wednesday, June 19 2019

Day 3

 We woke up early, 2 am and got ready to start hiking. Kaylee was like a tornado! Within seconds, she had her sleeping bag in its pack and she was ready to head out. All the while I was trying to stuff my mammoth sleeping bag in the compression bag. I step out and she has her harness on.

Yes, she is a supposed to be a guide in training, climbing to make my climb easier, but I am surprised and very impressed. That was fast!

I was thrown off a little by how fast things were moving. I felt agitated. I needed the bathroom and there was someone in the green bucket. I waited.

When we finally got going, pulling the sled was not that challenging, but stepping over a crack (crevasse) that would be wider when we return, was a little unsettling.

We made it to camp one in 4 hours and 30 minutes. Jason our lead guide said it was good time. I am glad.  It was 8:30am local time. 

After tents are up, there was nothing else to do, but lay down and try to sleep or just rest. These forced rests are the not so easy part of climbing. I texted Steve and the kids and felt better.

Steve is making funeral arrangements and it’s hard. 

Part of me wishes I was there to help, but I know I would not be able to in terms of arrangements. Seems they have it covered, even though Steve says everyone seems angry and upset at the moment. I know that’s normal in these difficult circumstances.

Suddenly, the sun came out and we got a great view of Denali.  Wow! It’s a very impressive and majestic mountain. In fact, it’s a giant! 

Then a cloud goes over the sun; the temperature drops considerably. 

As we climb, there is nothing much to do other than count numbers in your head and think. Here life seems surreal, easy. But in the back of my mind is a mild, gnawing tension about what my family is going through without me.

But I’m here to climb the highest mountain in the northern hemisphere.  I need to concentrate. The plan is to move to camp 2 tomorrow, same time – leave around 2 am.

 

Thursday, June 20 2019 

Day 4 

We did not move to camp 2 as we woke up as planned at 2 am, and Kaylee tells us she had been feeling sick all night and had thrown up a couple of times.

I knew it was our dinner from last night – it had been the pre-made salad we had bought at our last grocery/supply stop we made before arriving in Talkheeta – it had mayonnaise -I had passed on mine.

She says we will have to go slowly and well … slow to me is good! She tells her colleagues and the decision was made to stay put and let her sleep and feel better. Reaching a higher camp not feeling well, will drain her and limit her ability to acclimatize and be strong enough to summit. And we may need to turn around.

I hate just waiting around and doing nothing, but there is nothing we can do. I trust Jesus has a reason for it. 

I advise the kids and Steve, even though he has his hands full. Today is his Mom’s viewing and I know it’s taking a toll on him. Tomorrow is the funeral and I wish I could be there to support him.

Again, I make myself concentrate on the mountain. When the sun is out, it’s hot. Sun and snow is like sand and sun. I had to understand how to use the solar panel, since it has a built in battery. it cannot take a lot of heat.

Sebastian and his client, Aparna, the Indian lady that is trying to climb Denali for the 3rd time, arrived in camp.  She has done all the mountains, including Everest and she did the North side. I’m in awe!

 

Friday, June 21 2019

Day 5

This is my official day 5. Seems longer – the climb portion.

I don’t know why. It was a long day. It started with getting up at 1:00am… actually I was up a little earlier. Days and nights are stretched and shortened. It’s difficult …

We packed everything and backpacks and with sleds loaded, about two hours later, we started climbing towards camp 2.

Some teams take caches to about 11,000 feet and then go back to camp one, then the following day go up to camp two with a lesser load. We climbed with our complete loads and honestly I am glad, I was not looking forward to going up and down the steep hill, when it really was unnecessary.

We are doing this tomorrow – moving to the next camp, We plan to take a cache, leave it and then the following day, move up to camp 3 , at 14,000 feet. Then the following day come down to where we cached and pick up the rest of our supplies. Apparently it’s good for acclimatization.

But It’s hard work!

Overall, today was a hard day. It was also Mrs. Beattie’s funeral and I am really sad that I was not there for Steve. I miss him.

Camp 2 is set in a small plateau and we are not allowed to walk very far, because there is a huge crevasse (Crack as they call it). 

It is colder here, even with the sun shining full blast. 

It is very pretty! We are surrounded by smaller peaks with Denali imposing itself in one corner. It’s a breathtaking sight.

The white of the snow and blue skies make it extra magical.

 

Saturday, June 22 2019

Day 6

Ryan, our assistant guide and Kaylee went up to camp 14, which is how everyone refers to it, but really it’s camp 3. They took a cache, which should be called stash instead. It holds some of our supplies and keeps them ‘stashed ‘ so that we don’t have to carry them all at once. I thought I was supposed to go, but then only Kaylee and Ryan went. I stay behind to go over some skills with Jason my lead guide.

After breakfast, I put my crampons on and harness, got my ice axe, and we went through a couple of basics: foot work on crampons, proper ice arrest, how to hold the ice axe, and we were done. The repetition of basic but necessary skills calms me.

So many people here are attempting it for the 2nd and 3rd time.  I really hope I can do this!

I have been silently praying to Jesus, but I need to pray out loud and beg him for his hand holding and good weather!

 

Tuesday, June 25 2019

Day 9

We are at the 14,000 ft. camp and the weather has been ok, but colder.

We had moved Sunday up here and when the inReach froze, I had a panic attack because I could no longer communicate with the kids and Steve. It was hard.

It was a tough push up motorcycle hill, then squirrel hill and on windy corner, we had to put our helmets on, I think this time it did not go sideways. My helmet tends to sit on me sideways. Thank you Lord!

If you are asking yourself what do all these names of the hills mean or who gave the names, I don’t have the answer. I asked a few people and no one really seemed to know. Its not like there are motorcycles or squirrels up here!

Anyways, on windy corner (which this name I can understand), Jason said we could not stop at all, as it is always windy. Hummm, there is a small ledge on the snow to walk on, but I barely thought about it. There was no wind. None. And that was unusual.  Why? My theory is of course that Jesus is next to me holding my hand; is guiding me and taking care of the weather? He Rocks! 

When we finally got to camp 2, or as they call it, 14,000… it was cloudy and the clouds kept rolling by me. To be high in the sky with clouds rolling past you is an experience that is indescribable. You are in the heavens – above the clouds…To my great surprise I meet the Thai lady here that I saw in Vinson. She was climbing with another Mountain Trip team. It was only her and a German male climber. It is a small world.

I am happy I am doing a private trip, since they are sharing a tent. The group that started when we did, Kristen’s, also share a tent with male/female combination. I don’t know if I agree with it. I certainly know I would not feel ok sharing a tent with a stranger of the opposite sex. 

Once the battery from the inReach died, I was able to restart it and charge it. I had BEGGED Jesus during my hike for a couple of hours. I think I got on His nerves and He just gave in.

Yesterday we went to get the cache back after windy corner and came back to camp. Today it was a rest day.  It was nice spending the morning relaxing, since I had time to change clothes and just relax. I learned that relaxing is part of acclimatization, an important mountaineering life lesson. ☺

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