Denali 2007 (Attempt)
West Buttress Route
May 11 - June 3, 2007
Climbing Mt McKinley or Denali as it is commonly known has been a goal of mine for many years. The first climbing book I ever read was Minus 148F the classic account of the mountain's first winter ascent. Reading about being stuck in a snow cave high on the mountain during a fierce storm drew me in to this incredible mountain. I began collecting other books on the mountain to try to get to know it better. To the Top of the Continent was the next Denali book I read about the explorer Dr Frederick Cook's circumnavigation of the mountain in 1903 and his disputed first ascent summit claim from his 1906 expedition. This summit claim was later proved false not only from his sketchy description of the route he took, but also from his summit photo which looks nothing like the true summit.
This false claim so infuriated the local Alaskans that in 1910 four "Sourdoughs" - gold miners who had no mountaineering experience- decided to settle the issue by climbing the mountain. To prove their ascent they carried with them a 20 foot spruce pole to leave on the summit. The only problem with their amazing climb was that they climbed the north peak which is only 19,470ft. The first true ascent of the mountain was in 1913 by the Hudson Stuck Expedition.
These are just a few of the stories that increased my fascination with this bigger than life mountain.
While Kim, Scott and I weren't able to summit, we were able to spend nearly three weeks getting to know the mountain by it's glaciers, ridges, storms and a few hidden crevasses we were unfortunate enough to fall into.
Our highpoint was below Denali Pass at 17,600ft. We spent four days and three nights at the 17,200' high camp before deciding that the weather wasn't going to allow us to summit in the time frame we had. In the end our gear, our food, our health, our energy, and most importantly our teamwork held together just fine. It was the one thing we couldn't control, the weather, that ultimately blocked our progress. I am encouraged by the successes we did enjoy and am thankful for a safe trip. And as one climber said, "if you all come back from an expedition as friends, then you are successful". So we did succeed in that regard. As for standing on the summit, that will have to wait until next May.
To our friends who were interested in joining us on the expedition but weren't able to make it due to broken legs, buying houses, and work committments: block out May/June of 2008!
I hope you enjoy the pictures below. Most are self explanatory, but I will include some commentary from my journal.