By Point6 Ambassador Savannah Cummins
Being on Denali (the highest peak in N. America) was an unforgettable experience, despite all the suffering involved! The weather window never opened to allow me to summit, but I still spent 26 days on the mountain supporting my friend Katie Bono, while she cashed in on all the training and preparation she put in to set the women’s speed record. It was my first time on a big mountain. From carrying 130lbs of gear at once, to rain, snow, wind, -30 degree temps, and an emergency evacuation for our friend, I learned quite a bit and found a new appreciation for the few things that made glacier life better.
Things that made glacier living a lil more luxurious (not in order)
I brought 4 pairs of Point6 socks with me. I had two lighter pairs, one heavier pair and one pair to hang out in the tent/at camp. By doing this I was able to avoid stinky feet, and frostbite! Socks are lightweight compared to a lot of other clothing items, and having the best (Point6) really made all the difference
I carried a -40 degree sleeping bag, a Zlite Thermarest and a NeoAir Xtherm Max with me. I think most people go with a -20 degree bag however I was pretty aware of how cold I sleep so the extra weight was worth it. I brought two sleeping pads for the extra insulation, this is common with snow camping, highly recommended!
In the middle of the night when it’s nearly -20 degrees I never wanted to get out of the tent! Most days were spent moving fast, which meant little time to hydrate. While we’d make dinner I’d usually spend that time to hydrate (not recommended but what happens) which meant I’d have to pee in the middle of the night, often more than once. Also, during storms it’s much easier to motivate to drink water when you know you don’t have to go outside and get blasted by snow and wind.
We spent about 10 days zipped inside our tents hiding from bad weather on the mountain. Only 36% of climbers reached the summit this year, an extremely low success rate for the mountain which is usually closer to 50%. Most of my self entertainment was attached to my phone where I played a lot of solitaire and listened to countless podcasts and exhausted my music playlist. I’d say my phone kept me pretty sane!
I used at least one baby wipe each day. For me, these are the most important self hygiene item to have! The weight is obviously not ideal, and they freeze so you have to sleep with them, but it was totally worth it!
Lessons I learned about glacier living
I wish I had brought a wider variety of food with me. After a few days I was sick of dried fruit, nuts, and bars. It’s tough to imagine what you’d like to eat every day for 28 days, but next time I’ll bring a more diverse selection for the sake of my palate!
The weather in the mountains changes quickly, we’d listen to a weather report every night and would make a tentative plan for the following day but that would often need to be refined as the dawn of the new day was upon us due to the constant and rapid changes in weather.
Blisters, adjusting your pack and sled, getting really hungry/thirsty, sweating one minute and freezing the next, sunscreen re application, sunglasses/goggles fogging up ect. EVERYTHING takes longer than unexpected and it’s always worth the time to stop and make things more comfortable.
I didn’t really think the sun would be as intense as it was, but it turns out nearly 24 hours of daylight reflecting off of snow can quickly damage your skin! There were multiple days where I forgot to put on sunscreen and really felt it the next day!
5.Train Harder before and during
I don’t think I’ve ever felt 100% mentally and physically ready and prepared for a trip. But with that said, after every trip I gain a new perspective on things I could have done differently to mentally and physically prepare. For this trip, I wish I would have trained carrying a heavy pack more often than I did, and during my days stuck in the tent due to bad weather, I wish I would have motivated for extra core workouts to stay warm and continue my active lifestyle so I would have come back with a 6 pack...maybe on the next trip!