American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Mounts Foraker and Hunter, Ascents, and McKinley, Ascent and Traverse

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

Mounts Foraker and Hunter, Ascents, and McKinley, Ascent and Traverse. We started skiing from the Park Highway close to Talkeetna (milepost 131?) on April 18, following skidoo trails (which misled us), the Tokositna River, and the Kanicula and Kahiltna glaciers. It took ten days to reach our base camp. We had problems with route finding. One morning there were grizzly bear tracks around the tent, and a ski broke while we were crossing a crevasse near Mt. Hunter. Our extra gear and food were flown to McKinley Base Camp by airplane.

From May 2-9, we climbed Foraker (17,400') via the Sultana Ridge; the weather was nice, but cold and windy (the route was very exposed to wind). From May 14-22, we climbed the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter (14,573'), a nice route, and more technical. We experienced bad weather, were out of food for three days, and had a storm for the descent from the summit. There were many avalanches on the ridge; it was difficult to down climb without visibility.

We then tried the West Buttress and the upper West Rib of McKinley (20,320') from May 25-June 23. On June 2, Marie-Diane developed pulmonary edema on the second night at the 17,200-foot camp. With the help of two rangers, we brought her down to 14,200 feet. On June 5,1 soloed the upper West Rib in 14 hours from the 14,200-foot camp. After one week of rest, Marie-Diane was ready to climb again. We participated in a rescue on the headwall with the park rangers on June 10. On June 23, we tried to summit together but Marie-Diane again became sick. We continued over Denali Pass, where she again developed pulmonary edema. Since this is an isolated area, we had to descend without help. As we descended the Muldrow Glacier route, Marie-Diane continued to have problems with altitude sickness, and was weak. Low on the Muldrow Glacier she fell into and became wedged in a narrow crevasse, breaking two teeth and cutting her chin to the bone. She was covered with blood; it was scary walking in grizzly bear country in the tundra, since her infection smelled strongly. After, we had problems crossing the rivers. We both fell and had to swim in the McKinley River, but Marie- Diane, who is light, got carried away (probably more than a mile) by the current. The river was so cold that she suffered from hypothermia. It was by far the scariest part of our trip. Despite all of these problems, Denali was a wonderful experience we will never forget.

Sacha Friedlin and Marie-Diane Cyr, Canada

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