American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, McKinley, Southwest Face Traverse and Other Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

McKinley, Southwest Face Traverse and Other Routes. Not liking snow conditions for a snowboard/ski descent, Dirk Collins and I opted for a traverse which took us from our camp at 14,300 feet on the West Buttress over the West Rib at 16,500 feet across the southwest face to a big couloir leading to the Cassin Ridge, which we followed to reach the summit of Denali. We descended the West Buttress to complete our climb in 17 hours. The difficulties were few because the snow was in great shape. We used a 100-foot rope on the crevassed section of the southwest face and climbed unroped the rest, which was snow and ice up to 60° with a few mixed sections in between. In still perfect weather, I joined Mark Wilford for a route up the southeast face to the West Buttress Direct route. The route was of the highest quality with excellent golden granite. The snow and ice were not more than 55°; we had one 5.8 rock pitch. We simul-climbed the 2000-foot mixed route. A couple of days later, Jeff Applebee and I climbed a mixed route to the right of the “Rescue Gully.” Other than one section of very loose rock, it was a good route which tops out on the 17,000-foot camp on the West Buttress. With the weather holding, Applebee and I dropped down onto the Peters Glacier via Kahiltna Pass. We were away early from camp on the Peters Glacier, starting up the 1991 Collins-Powers-Walter route. The bergschrund at 9000 feet was difficult to cross and for a few hundred feet we were hit by spindrift avalanches. The 2000 feet of 55° ice were a real calf pumper. After 24 hours, we reached a bivouac site, from which the next morning we traversed to the right and made that variant to reach our camp at 14,300 feet.

Stephen Koch

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.