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North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Denali National Park and Preserve Mountaineering Summary, 1995

Denali National Park and Preserve Mountaineering Summary, 1995. Weather during the 1995 climbing season was stormy with high winds and few summit days. The marginal weather conditions prevented many expeditions from reaching the summit and was a large factor in several accidents. The season concluded with a total of six fatalities and involved 12 separate major mountaineering rescues in the Alaska Range. There was a decrease in the number of international climbers this year. In 1994 they represented 45 percent of the total number of climbers attempting Mount McKinley. In 1995, their numbers dropped to 38 percent of the total. Increased investigation and enforcement of illegal guiding regulations were more than likely the contributing factors to this decline.

New Regulations: Climbers were charged $150 per person to climb Mount McKinley or Mount Foraker. The $150 Mountaineering Special Use Fee covered unlimited climbing on these two mountains for the entire season. In addition, a 60-day preregistration requirement was begun in 1995. Late worldwide notice of the requirement made compliance difficult for some expeditions in 1995. The requirement was temporarily withdrawn for the 1995 season but was republished in the Federal Register on September 13, 1995. The National Park Service required preregistration for the 1996 climbing season.

Safety: Travel during marginal weather played major roles in accidents that led to injuries and deaths this season. Expeditions need to be prepared to wait out unstable weather. Schedules, deadlines, and impatience are antagonists in making wrong decisions. The present-day climbing style is much faster paced than the early expeditions on Mount McKinley. In 1995, the average round-trip ascent took 19 days. Overcrowding at the popular camps on the West Buttress route continues to be a serious issue. Denali Pass was the scene of yet another fatality this season. While descending, two climbers who were roped together fell from near the top of the pass, resulting in one death and a rescue. This scenario has repeatedly caused deaths and rescues over the years. Denali Pass is the scene of the second most number of accidents on the mountain (behind the Orient Express). Mountaineers must use extreme caution when traversing this section of steep ice. An evaluation of the accidents indicates that climbers generally fall while descending. Climbers are usually roped together and choose not to use running belays or protection. Fatigued climbers are often affected by hypoxia and symptoms of acute mountain sickness and simply slip or misstep, pulling their partner down with them. Experienced climbers and guides on Denali either fix rope or place running protection for several rope-lengths in this area to safeguard against a fall. (For a complete record of North American accidents and an examination of their causes, refer to Accidents in North American Mountaineering, Jed Williamson, Editor, The American Alpine Club Press.)

Statistics: A total of 1,220 climbers, representing 298 expeditions, attempted 11 different routes on Mount McKinley in 1995. Thirty-eight percent (475) were international climbers from 38 countries. The United States had the highest number of climbers (771), followed by England (53), Japan (53), Austria (37), France (27) and Russia (27). Twenty-four climbers attempted solo ascents on Mount McKinley, with nine of those successfully reaching the summit (38 percent). There was one unsuccessful winter solo attempt on Mount Foraker, which ended with near death and a loss of tent and personal gear. This climber was unable to travel from basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier due to high winds. One unsuccessful winter solo attempt was made at circumnavigating Mount McKinley and Mount Foraker. This winter trip ended after only two days of travel in high winds, extreme cold and dangerous ice conditions on rivers.



Attempts

Summits



Mountain or Route

Expeditions

Climbers

Expeditions

Climbers



MOUNT MCKINLEY Cassin

13

30

9

18



Clod Face

1

1

0

0



Messner Couloir

1

2

1

2



Muldrow Glacier

5

27

2

19



Northwest Buttress

2

4

1

2



Northwest Face

1

2

0

0



South Buttress

4

15

2

5



West Buttress

230

968

116

388



West Buttress Trav.

5

41

4

36



West Rib

33

118

16

43



Upper West Rib

3

12

3

9



Total

298

1220

154

523





Attempts

Summits



Mountain or Route

Expeditions

Climbers

Expeditions

Climbers



FORAKER











Archangel Ridge

1

3

0

0



Infinite Spur

2

4

0

0



Sultana Ridge

4

10

2

5



Southeast Ridge

2

8

1

5



Total

9

25

3

10



MOUNT HUNTER

13

33







MOUNT HUNTINGTON

3

7







MOUNT DAN BEARD

1

6







MOUNT SILVERTHORNE

2

3







MOOSES TOOTH

2

14







PEAK 11,300’

1

2







Because registration is voluntary for peaks other than Mount McKinley and Mount Foraker, these numbers do not represent the total number of groups and climbers making attempts on these mountains.

J.D.Swed, South District Ranger, Denali National Park and Preserve