This June, slouched on foam pads in a trench dug in the snow atop Alaskaâ€™s Ruth Glacier, some 12 miles from Denali, the highest summit in North America, eight of us are sitting around drinking PBR. From time to time, we all look eastward across the ice to the near vertical rock face of a mountain ingloriously called the Stump. Somewhere up there, three of this countryâ€™s finest climbers â€” Alex Honnold, Renan Ozturk, and Freddie Wilkinson â€” are making their way up a new route. They are only a few miles away, but they might as well have stepped offÂ the edge of the earth, made invisible by the scale of the mountains that line both sides of this glacier: two unbroken rows of dark granite soaring 5,000 feet above. Itâ€™s essentially a Grand Canyon filled with ice. Sometime late tonight or early the next morning, the climbers will rappel off the rocks, clip back into their skis, and trudge back to camp through the perpetual daylight of the Alaskan early summer. That is the hope any- way. In the meantime, our group â€” two support members from the climbersâ€™ team; three staffers from the North Face, the company underwriting this expedition; and two guides from Alpine Ascents â€” crack another cold one in the warm Alaskan sun.Â
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