Words by Kaitln Farrington, Photos by Seth Holton
Everyday I think about how much I wanted everyone I know to see the views I saw on Denali… and I had 26 days to think about it. I’ll never forget looking up as I heard a plane going overhead and saying, “Wow, that planes flying so low.” Really we were just really f*cking high!
I look back on my first day on the glacier. We flew in sometime in the afternoon to Base Camp and made our way to Camp 1. It was about a 5 mile skin, which got me really aquatinted with the weight I was carrying. As we were creeping on Camp 1, you couldn’t see tents yet, but there was this hill ahead and my heart melted. I was thinking, “Hell no can I make it up that, I’m carrying 110 LBS behind me, F*CK NO,” than I saw the tents! That night, I went to bed thinking, “What did I get myself into? Am I gonna even make it up this mountain? Am i gonna make it through the first day? I don’t wanna be the one to slow the crew down!” With all those thoughts racing, I fell asleep and had a dream… I was back in Salt Lake City and it had only been a week since I left. All my friends were asking how it was, why was I back so fast? And all I could say was, “I wish I tried harder.” So the next morning I woke up and that was that, I was gonna make it up this damn mountain!
Everyday my mind was completely blown away by the whole experience! It was simple: sleep, eat, hike, snowboard, eat, weather, journal, sleep then wake up and do it all over again. Each day we would get a little higher until we got to 14,000 ft where we made home for a little over 2 weeks. We had a 2 meter dome tent which was the cook/hangout den that attracted all the others on the mountain. Seems everyone was wondering what the snowboard TNF Dome tent was up to. A ranger told us he was walking back to his camp one evening as we did a powder lap and overheard a client say, “Wow, those guys get to have FUN everyday!” He was right; we were up there to have a good time and enjoy every last bit of our time on that mountain! Everybody seemed to be on that mountain just to summit and that was it. For our group, it was more like Lucas brought us all together to share with friends how special this mountain was to him. Maybe when he was first up there in 2011 he felt how I did. I just wished everybody could see this!
Summit day was something else…the struggle was more real the higher I got. There were 2 times that I wanted to turn back and just give up but the group kept me going. One time, Lucas yelled at me to get my ass up that mountain and he wasn’t letting me turn around. Then not that much further up on Summit Ridge I wanted to turn back again because of winds. I really didn’t know if I was gonna be able to make it down safely. The boys roped me up and I just remember looking down at my feet clipping and unclipping until we stood on the top of Denali at 20,310 ft. When I first saw our summit photo I thought, “Wow, I cant believe theres a smile on my face… !” It really was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life and I have some accomplishments! 😉
We summited on our 20th day on the glacier; that left us with 6 days of soaking in every last bit of being up there and all the work we put into getting our asses up there. People would comment, “You guys are running outta time to summit. Don’t you have to leave soon?” They thought we were crazy just for hanging out up there. We thought they were crazy for wanting to leave so fast!
Our night down was one for the books. We spent the whole day packing up camp, trying to give all our left over food and gas to others around camp. Then around 11pm, started making our way down off Denali from 14,000 ft to Base Camp. We finished off our last supply of party goods and snowboarded off into the sunset! At that time of year the sun never fully sets so we got the golden hour light for our whole ride. We snowboarded down about 6,000 ft with our sleds behind us getting further and further from what felt like the top of the world. The ride down was full of happiness as we were all reflecting on what was the most amazing 26 days of our lives… so far!