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: 2003

Denali National Park and Preserve, summary. Life is still fragile in the rangeæour human vulnerability became painfully evident again this year when three brothers perished on Mt. Foraker in an apparent avalanche, and one soloist fell to his death from Denali Pass on Mt. McKinley.

National Park Service mountaineering patrols were kept busy with numerous search- and-rescue incidents. As always, the patrol volunteers and the military pararescuemen were an important asset, working with the rangers in assisting other climbers in distress and providing resource protection.

On a preseason patrol in March, all nine Denali mountaineering rangers climbed Mt. Silverthrone and skied over Anderson Pass and out the West Fork Glacier. This past season also marked the first ranger patrol since 1932 to successfully climb Denali from the north side of the Alaska Range. A foursome ascended via the Muldrow Glacier route, traversing over and down to the 14,200' ranger camp on the West Buttress route. In other patrol firsts, one ranger patrol spent over two weeks at the 17,200' high camp at the end of the season, setting a new standard for high-altitude camping.

Clean Mountain Cans (CMCs) were used extensively above the 14,200' ranger camp to deal with solid human waste. Also in the resource-management realm, preprinted tags were used for the first time to uniformly identify all caches in terms of expedition names, dates, and permit numbers.

The weather was unseasonably warm, with early May temperatures approaching overnight lows of 34°F, causing crevasses to open in early June on the 7,200' Kahiltna Glacier.

Of 1,232 climbers attempting Mt. McKinley (1,093 via the West Buttress), 645 (52%) reached the summit. Of 36 attempting Mt. Foraker, 7 (19%) reached the top. The average trip length for an expedition on Mt. McKinley was 17.7 days, and the average age of a Denali climber was 36. The total of 110 women represented 9% of the climbers.

Guided clients accounted for 20% of climbers on Mt. McKinley. Guided expeditions as a whole (including clients and guides) accounted for 31%.

Also on Denali, two Russian paraplegic climbers, Grigoriy Tsarkov and Igor Ushakov, reached the summit in June via the West Buttress, making direct variations up the rescue gully and from 17,200' to 18,800'. The route was prepared with fixed line by the other nine team members, and then Tsarkov and Ushakov used their mechanical ascending ski sleds to ascend with their arms.

A total of 224 summitings were made during May, 391 in June, and 30 in July. The busiest days on the summit of Denali were June 13th (56 climbers) and June 16th (49). There were only five days in June when climbers did not reach the top.

Climbers came from 38 nations, with the most coming from the United States (754), Japan (56), United Kingdom (47), Canada (43), France (39), Germany (38), and Korea (36).

Denali National Park

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