American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

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

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Denali National Park and Preserve, Summary. The 2000 climbing season at Denali National Park and Preserve was one of the most tragic and one of the most memorable seasons in recent history. The terrible plane crash that happened on June 19 stunned the Denali National Park staff, the town of Talkeetna, the state of Alaska, and the entire National Park Service. The crash killed mountaineering ranger Cale Shaffer, volunteer patrol members Brian Reagan and Adam Kolff, and pilot Don Bowers. This catastrophic accident happened during the height of the season, requiring the South District staff to continue working during this heartbreaking time.

It was the last season for Annie Duquette, who, after ten years as Kahiltna Base Camp manager, and Denali’s unofficial ambassador to pilots, climbers, and visitors, finally decided to retire.

For the second year in a row, there were no fatalities on Denali, although well-known climber Seth Shaw was killed on the Ruth Glacier when an ice serac collapsed on him.

It was the first year that the National Park Service initiated a comprehensive trash and human-waste management program on Denali. Also, the mountaineering orientation program was revised with a greater emphasis on sanitation and resource management. It was the first year of modifying the NPS mountain patrol schedules to have two rangers at the 14,200-foot camp. This enabled the rangers to have increased presence and to better monitor the mountain at both the 17,200-foot high camp and the 14,200-foot camp.

There were three winter attempts on Denali, each unique because of the routes attempted: the American Direct, the West Rib, and the Muldrow Glacier. The winter on Denali turned back all of the attempts, but a pair of Canadian climbers on the West Rib reached the 19,500-foot level before descending because of the severe cold.

The 322 expeditions that attempted Denali this year met with milder weather conditions overall than last season, allowing more opportunities to attempt the summit from high camp. Of the 1,209 climbers, the weather permitted 52 percent to reach the summit, as compared to 43 percent last year.

International climbers comprised 40 percent, or 470, of the total number of climbers on Mt. McKinley this year. Climbers came from 41 different countries. The top five countries represented were the United States (739), Canada (62), United Kingdom (55), France (38), and Spain (33).

This year, the average age of mountaineers on Denali was 34. Women climbers made up ten percent of the total number, with 43 percent reaching the summit. Guided climbers comprised almost 18 percent of total climbers.

As in most years past, climbs made in the milder month of June were more successful in reaching the summit than those in May. Of those parties that both started and finished their climbs in June, 60 percent reached the top; the comparative statistic for May was 37 percent.

In 2001, our goal will be to instill a stronger climber commitment to “Leave No Trace” ethics.

Denali National Park

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