Denali

Elevation: 6194 m (20320 ft)
Location: Alaska; N 63° 4′; W 151° 0′

Distinction: Highest mountain of the United States and of the North-American Continent (one of the Seven Summits).

First Ascent: June 7, 1913 by Walter Harper, Henry Karstens, Hudson Stuck, Robert Tatum [Source: peakbagger.com]

Denali as seen from the end of the National Park road

Back to Peaks page.

Denali Expedition 2009 with American Alpine Institute (AAI)

Photos: My Denali Album (Picasa)

Bill Lyden’s Denali expedition album

Denali Tracking on SpotAdventures:

Denali expedition

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Videos:

Morning at Camp 1 getting ready for carry with Denali summit ridge 3000m above in crystal-clear sky

Descending to Camp 1 on Kahiltna glacier after carry:

Ridge Climbing at 5200m between fixed ropes of headwall and high camp at 5300m:

Last morning at Basecamp after camping next to airstrip, waiting to fly out to Talkeetna:

Additional Notes:

Sunday June 7 – Day 1
Fly in from Talkeetna to Base Camp (2100m) by about 6:30p; setup camps.

Monday June 8 – Day 2
Move up with all gear to Camp 1 (2300m) along the Kahiltna glacier. Weather supposed to deteriorate tonight, but we still had sun in evening to set up camp. Met several folks coming through camp who did summit yesterday.

Tuesday June 9 – Day 3
Carry food and high altitude gear to cache at 3000m. Clear day, no clouds in the sky. 1014mb. Hot during ascent, nice and sunny upon return after 8 hrs.

Wednesday June 10 – Day 4
Today we move up to Camp 2 (3300m); 7.5 hrs moving up slowly. Set up tent at camp 2, very hot, sunny and no wind. 1010mb.

Thursday June 11 – Day 5
Backcarry of cached food and gear from 3000m up to Camp 2 at 3300m. Rest day. Good and plentiful food. Sleep at 30C+ in the tent. Try to stay out of the sun, brutally hot radiation. (unfortunately my tentmate is sick and coughing a lot…)Weather is supposed to deteriorate for the next two days, then clear again over the weekend. Concerned to see barometer continue to fall down to 1005mb.Talking to friends in camp, incl. two Austrians Wolfgang and Guenther as well as three Americans Al, Dan and Paul.

Friday June 12 – Day 6
Plan to carry food and fuel to near next camp at 4000m (past “windy corner”). Barometer sank to 1001mb! After normalization that is 1011mb. Cached food and fuel after windy corner. Descended to camp 2 again, unexpectedly hot.

Saturday June 13 – Day 7
Moved up to camp 3 (4350 m). Hardest day of expedition so far. 1000 m vertical gain, break down and setup tents, 5 hrs 20 min. Very heavy backpack and pulling sled on steep terrain. Rest of group came up 2 hrs 30 min later! After windy corner again unbearably hot. Cloudy, just a few glimpses of headwall and steep terrain up to next camp. Barometer stays at 1011 mb all day. Forecast is for high pressure building over the next 2-3 days.

Sunday June 14 – Day 8
Still unusually mild for Denali, only -5C in tent overnight. Slept on & off until 10:30am. Group brunch in cook tent. Good view of ascent route and fixed ropes on headwall – very impressive! Backcarry from cache past windy corner. Mostly restday.

Monday June 15 – Day 9
Temp at -10C overnight in tent. Barometric pressure at 1012 mb. Rest day at camp 3 (4350m). There was an option to carry and cache to the top of the fixed lines today, but the guides decided to make today a rest day. Somewhat frustrating as there is nothing to do, I feel rested and strong, the weather is good and many other teams are moving up higher. Not only does one abdicate decision making to the guides, but you’re essentially stuck at camp with nowhere to go! Some sobering developments yesterday when they lowered an incapacitated climber down the headwall (HAPE) – this climber is fine again today. Also, just a few days ago two climbers tripped in a steep coulour and fell to their death while some folks from camp 3 were watching. (This was a case for two body bags!) Reminders that this is a serious mountain!

Tuesday June 16 – Day 10
Temp -10C in tent overnight; 1009 mb; wake up at 5:15am for early breakfast and 7:00am departure up the face and headwall to cache food on top of the fixed ropes. Temp -20C in morning which made for a chilly start, but better than to sweat up the hill in the afternoon heat! Great views from the ridge and no problem ascending the fixed ropes. One team member (Richard) had to turn around with guide Kurt, though. After return around 2:00pm rest during afternoon. (almost a rest day)

Wednesday June 17 – Day 11
Temp -6C in tent, light snow evening and overnight, 1007mb; Rest day which is challenging in it’s own way as your metabolism and mental state of mind is wired for high activity and you’re forced to lay around in the tent all day! Talked to the two Austrians Wolfgang Fasching and Guenther Weixlbaumer who returned from the summit (Tuesday) and stayed in camp 3 tonight due to clouds and snowfall; they now have 6 of their Seven Summits. Makes me wonder again how much faster I could have done Denali outside of the expedition…

Thursday June 18 – Day 12
Wake-up at 5:00am. Plan is to move up to Camp 4. However, during breakfast at 5:30 we learn that one of the guides (Lee) is sick and can’t go any higher today! This means the entire group isn’t going anywhere today or anytime soon! Change of plans – likely we’ll be stuck in camp 3 for several more days :-( (Perhaps this brings a shot at better weather for the top?) Serious thoughts about the suitability of a 12 member expedition for me on this mountain… Guide Kurt descends late evening with sick guide Lee and client Richard. Temp = -20C, around -10C in tent overnight.

Friday June 19 – Day 13
Another rest day at Camp 3. The sun hits the tents at 9:30 and immediately warms them up by 20 C. Due to the closing weather window I decide in the afternoon to leave the group behind and go up to Camp 4 (17.000). Weather is still good up here (1011mb), but low pressure is supposed to arrive over the next two days. Thunderclouds North of mountain. I dig out the guides tent from the AAI cache and set it up for the night. The guides called the Park Rangers so they tracked me down and I can’t continue by myself.

Saturday June 20 – Day 14
Temp -23C in tent overnight! Barometer down to 1006mb. Plan to descend again to camp 3 (14.000) with 3 guys from Nevada (Al Tattersall, Dan, Paul) and then rejoin the AAI team. We set out late (14:00) but make it down in 2.5 hrs. Headguide Forest isn’t mad or anything, but suggests that I descend with another group. So I don’t know what to do. On one hand I’m burnt out a bit, on the other hand Denali is so close, and coming back at a later time would be a huge additional effort… I decide to go down with the Nevada group early the next morning.

Sunday June 21 – Day 15 (Fathersday)
Wake-up at 3:30am and ready to move down with Nevada team by 4:30. (Unfortunately 1hr delay and waiting in -20C cold and wind… Start to move down the moutain, first to camp 11.000, then the normal route down South… Walked all the way out to Kahiltna airstrips in 11.5 hrs, arrived at 4:30pm. Unfortunately the weather is too bad to fly so we have to camp one more night right at the airstrip near base camp. The Nevada team has two tents and let me share one tent for the night. We all sleep like babies for 9 hrs straight.

Monday June 22 – Day 16
We wake up to almost a foot of fresh snow. After digging out the tents we await our flights out. We are all asked to prepare the runway by walking on the fresh snow and are happy to see the planes land. Flight out to Talkeetna. Return of rental gear and check-in at Hostel for a shower and to dry off my gear and clothing. Huge breakfast with the three friends from the Nevada team.

[End of expedition.]

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