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On the eleventh day, we started to ascend to the final high camp. We left very late, slowly melted the ice, boiled water, had breakfast, warmed up in the sun, and watched as a long line of climbers made their way up the slope to the last high camp. Everyone was waiting for this weather window and decided to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, with climate change, weather windows are becoming fewer and shorter, causing a large influx of people trying to climb during the only possible window of favorable weather.

We calmly packed one tent for all three of us, along with our climbing gear and food, enjoying the last warm rays of the sun. It would likely be much colder at the top.

The road was more difficult than it first appeared: a steep snow slope in the sun and heat, followed by an icy vertical wall where we needed to use fixed ropes. Climbing up this ice on ascenders was fun though.

A very strong wind blew on the ridge, and it suddenly became cold, preventing us from taking a long break. The weather quickly deteriorated, obscuring the beauty around us. This part of the expedition is said to offer the most breathtaking panoramas. Maybe we’ll get lucky on the way back.

The path along the ridge, a narrow strip of snow between rocks and ice, seemed endless, especially in the fog. Walking here was difficult and dangerous. One wrong step could mean falling into the abyss. Fatigue from climbing and mountain altitude was taking its toll—I could no longer move quickly and needed breaks. The last meters to the camp felt torturous.

When we reached the high camp, Joseph and I fell exhausted onto our backpacks. Chris pitched the tent by himself. I always wonder where he gets such strength and endurance.

After resting in the tent a bit, I felt better. The sun came out again, and I started helping Chris melt snow for water and prepare the tent for bed. It was much colder in this camp, and boiling water took hours due to the ice.

We went to bed very late. The plan for tomorrow: to summit the top of Denali.

On the twelfth day, we woke up and looked out of the tent: it was sunny, but the clouds in the sky indicated a strong wind. We began to slowly prepare for the summit when we noticed something was wrong. Of the many dozens of people who climbed yesterday, none were heading up the mountain. Only two teams stood on the so-called autobahn, moving very slowly upward, and one team barely moved at all. One member of this team even turned back. The clouds showed the wind was raging above. After talking with others in the camp, we realized it was better to wait another day and ascend tomorrow when the wind subsides. Moreover, going with everyone else tomorrow is safer.

This meant another day of inconvenience and poor sleep in a cramped tent with the three of us. However, we made the right decision to wait another day and go up with the other teams. It’s much safer this way.

Tomorrow is our only opportunity to go up since the weather was supposed to worsen again the day after tomorrow. I was worried about missing this day of good weather but trusted the more experienced teams with access to the latest weather data.

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