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 Denali Expedition and News Index


Trip Report: Ray Yeritsian: West Rib Denali Summit 2003

Trip Report: The first stage: The ascent of Mt. McKinley

Trip reports, send us yours...

There are certain mountains which need no explanation as to "why climb." Denali is such a mountain as its natural magnetism constantly draws climbers to the great Alaska Range. This type of ascent is one which touches the psyche of all alpinists and those who have undertaken this challenge have been rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As Everest is to the Tibetans, Denali is inseparable from indigenous Alaskan lore. Every native who saw Denali towering over their horizon, named it accordingly, the great one or the high one.

When Dr. Bradford Washburn pioneered the West Buttress route, he heralded in a new era of Denali ascents and offered climbers a unique approach to the summit. His 1951 landing on the Kahiltna glacier, literally opened the Denali (via the west Buttress) climb to intermediate mountaineers. The West Buttress route remains, by far, the most successfully climbed route on the mountain.

Denali is often considered America's most classic climb. No other region offers such breathtaking and diverse views each day of the ascent. The flight to the glacier is a trip in itself, as one is quickly taken aback by the extent and immediate overwhelming views of the Alaska Range. The summit views from Denali are unparalleled, unveiling austere vistas of the Alaska Range, Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter and Mt. Huntington. The North Face of Denali rises nearly 18,000 feet an elevation gain unsurpassed anywhere in the world. At a northern latitude of 63, it is the most northerly of any big mountain over 20,000ft.

A BRIEF HISTORY: Denali has always been revered by native Athabascans who inhabit this northern region. The first climbing attempt was made by the Sourdough Expedition (William Taylor and Pete Anderson) utilizing the Muldrow Glacier. They summitted the north peak (19,740ft) in 1910. About three years later, in 1913, the true summit was attempted via the Karstens Ridge. A team comprised of Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, Robert Tatum, Walter Harper and Harry Karstens successfully conquered the south peak. It was Harper, a native Athabascan, who first stood atop America. Between 1913 and 1950, there were very few ascents of Denali. The landmark achievement, which opened Denali to a larger group of climbers, was Bradford Washburn's 1951 summit of the West Buttress. Washburn's team, using a plane with skis to access the Kahiltna glacier, pioneered the most popular route on the mountain.

ALPINE ASCENTS INTERNATIONAL Denali 2001

 

 




 

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