by Geir Mjosund 12/01/2015
Denali, 6194 m, or Mount McKinley was previously the official name of the mountain, is located in the state Alaska and is part of the Alaska Range. It is the highest peak in North America and is one of “The Seven Summits“. Denali is known for its beauty, its alternating weather and at times harsh cold conditions. The trip requires local leaders from one of the operators that are allowed to guide tours at Denali.
Denali is the original name of the mountain and was used by the natives – Athabascan – meaning “The high / The High One.” The mountain also had a period the official name Mount McKinley, but since 1980 has officially been named again Denali.
The mountain is located in the state of Alaska and is part of the Alaska Range. There are many routes to the summit – some are extremely technical, while others are significantly easier. We will use the most common route called West Buttress in 2016 or 2017 and is the lightest and safest route to the top. That said, Denali is known to be one of the hardest available high mountains in the world – great height, sometimes extreme weather, steep ice slopes and slippery traverses. Lots of snow can also make conditions heavy, but if we are lucky, we walk up and down in blazing sunshine and blue skies!
We go the West Buttress in known expedition style – slowly and with the establishment of camps along the way. This is a marathon – not a sprint! We will establish and use 2-3 camper heading up to Kahiltna Glacier, which is approximately at 3350 m. From there up it will be rougher terrain and we put on our crampons. ABC – Advanced Base Camp – is approximately at 4330 m and is relatively well protected from wind and weather. From ABC we see the amazing Mt. Hunter & Mt. Foraker. After a few nights of acclimatization, rest and a day up to approx. 4990 m, we go to new heights. At altitudes between 4700 m – 4950 m, we must negotiate steep slopes with gradient of 40-45 degrees. Here hangs the fixed rope that we use and connect us into. At 5000m we establish a new camp. After some acclimatization here, we move up to High Camp, located approximately 5245 m. This is the place we do the summit attempt from. Summit day usually takes 10 to 14 hours. We need to be prepared to wait at least 5 days on the way up. The road down from High Camp to Base Camp usually takes 2 days.
Reaching the top of Denali is a great achievement and can only be achieved by careful preparation and with a great degree of humility. It is also of utmost importance, clean safety, making the trip in cooperation with a local operator and follow the advice and strategies that are specific for the expedition. We start the preparations in Europe already this year.