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North America, United States, Alaska, McKinley, Traverse of Southwest Face

McKinley, Traverse of Southwest Face. On May 15, after reaching the summit of Denali via the Cassin Ridge, Bill Pierson, Antoly Bukneev, Joel Butler, Tim Maryon, Greg Smith and I opted to return to our high camp at 17,700 feet on the Cassin and attempt to traverse to the West Rib and eventually the West Buttress for our descent. Previous traverses had been accomplished much higher, but to have done that would have been similar to carrying our loads over the summit. We broke camp at one P.M. and arrived at the West Rib at 10:30 P.M. While the climbing was never difficult, it did require belays the entire way on slopes angled from 40° to 60°. Parties attempting this traverse are advised to keep in mind that this should not be a consideration for a weak party in trouble. It was more belayed pitches than the Cassin itself. The route is also subject to slough avalanches and due to continuous exposure, it is a nerve-racking endeavor. All anchors were established with our axes and an occasional sling over a rock. The route comes out at 16,300 feet on the West Rib. From there, a short hike down easier slopes brings you to the 14,300-foot camp on the West Buttress.

Michael Covington