The VetEx Women’s Denali Team’s second training took place in Leadville, Colorado March 30th – April 1st, 2018. This training was intended to be much more intense and realistic than the first training in January where we met each other, slept in a hostel and attempted the Angel of Shavano in Salida. The Leadville training itinerary consisted of 3 nights of winter camping, rope team training, and hopes of summiting Homestake Peak at 13,209’.
Friday morning the team arrived at the grocery store armed with a list of meals and a breakdown of their ingredients. Our first test: distribute the list and shop as a team. We tackled it with ease and next we broke down all the meals by day. We consolidated cars and headed up to Crane Park Trailhead. There we were briefed by VetEx Co-founder and Leader Nick Watson on what to expect for the next 3 days and nights. He told us that we will be continually tested, and from there, he and the other VetEx leaders would determine the best fit for the final team to represent the organization take on Denali in 2019. We received team gear, packed up, rigged our sleds and begun on the 5 or so mile snowshoe to the base of Slide Lake. By the time we arrived, we were exhausted but still had to rally to set up camp for the night. We set up camp, made a quick Mountainhouse Meal and went straight to bed.
The next morning we made breakfast and got a pleasant tutorial on how to use a wag bag (i.e. how to properly shit in the woods) then broke down camp. We packed up our gear completely, attached our sleds to our packs and roped up as teams. This was our first attempt at snowshoeing roped up with all our gear. We circled the lake a few times and then settled on a new spot to set up camp. This would be our first time assembling camp with no instruction. We worked as two teams, one setting up each Hilleberg tent and the other digging out our kitchen tent. Once complete, we sat and ate dinner while our Team Leader, Candice Creecy explained what to expect on Denali. She explained the different types of cold weather injuries, how to spot them, how to treat them and what to do in case of a medical emergency. As we settled in for the night it began to snow, which made for a great night’s rest because we were nice and warm equipped with Thermarest sleeping pads and bags.
We woke up to about a foot of fresh powder, ate breakfast, and roped up excited for the possibility of summiting Homestake. The winds were high and we were warned by our leaders that summiting may not have been in the cards that day. Eager to make the attempt, we marched on. Once out of the shelter of tree line we were quickly struck by the reality of constant 20 mph winds with gusts 30-50 mph. The team never wavered and we triumphantly reached the summit. Once off the peak, we ate lunch and listened again to the realities of what we would face in Alaska. We made it back to camp and practiced belaying as a team on fixed ropes.
Monday morning the team was jolted awake by jarring winds. Our Hilleberg tents shook violently but held strong. Our start time back to the trailhead had to be pushed back due to the winds. Once finally packed up, the remaining team members headed roped up with sleds and packs for our final test of wills. We were warned that going downhill with sleds would be frustrating and boy was it. However, to a testament of our amazing team members, we made it to the trailhead egos unscathed. We unpacked and returned all of our sponsored gear. The long weekend was over, we all felt a sense of pride and relief. Being outside amongst fellow veterans is a joy that VetEx makes possible. Next challenge: Mount Baker. Bring it on!