Ive been training solid in preparation for this very next Expedition into the coldest and remotely isolated mountain in the world.
“The High One” this may will present a very different test to my body & mind at 20,237 feet (6,168 m) above sea level.From my start at base camp, i will climb 13,000 vertical feet to the summit — one of the greatest vertical reliefs and prominences of any mountain in the world. But Firstly ill pull all my gear food tent & equipment needed to survive by sledge pull to the heart of the Alaskan range where i will set up my base camp. My chosen route is The mighty West Rib ascending a direct line up the south face of the mountain to the summit ridge. It is a true climber’s route on Mt Denali / Mc Kinley, At some 20,237ft (6,168), the base to peak rise “18,000 feet (5,500 m)” is considered the largest of any mountain situated entirely above sea level in the world. If conditions allow me i will enter via the Northeast Fork & Kahiltna glacier where an amazing 9,000-foot ridge climb awaits above for me “The complete Rib” and heres where i will face the most dangerous portion of the climb with respect to objective hazards & tough climbing angles. Most choose to do the West Rib Cutoff, which ascends the standard West Buttress route until 14,000 feet, but ive chosen to attempt the direct line.
It is often said that the greatest challenge of Denali is not the climbing, but the weather. Denali is a sub-Arctic mountain while most of the world’s highest mountains are near the equator. Denali is located in the middle of the southern Alaskan mainland 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle at 63° North Latitude. This is 35° further north than MT Everest; this is the same latitude as northern Hudson Bay and central Scandinavia. Denali’s northern location results in a climate around its summit that presents one of the most severe year-round averages of any spot on earth. The weather on Denali will dictate my every move and it is fickle and unpredictable. It forces me to be flexible and patient and sometimes spontaneous. Weather is the one thing we cannot change, but like on Mt Everest all i can be is patient and be prepared for that window of opportunity if and when it arrives.
High altitude, extreme weather, and active glaciation combine to make Denali one of the most difficult and severe mountains in the world to climb. Given an Alaskan Grade IV, the West Rib is several degrees harder than the West Buttress. The approach to the base of the route up the northeast fork presents many hazards and will only be done after thoroughly scouting and determining risks can be minimized and managed. If the northeast fork is in bad shape, i will re-route to the West Buttress and rejoin the West Rib at the 16,300′. Summit day is a 3000-3700′ day depending on where High Camp is chosen. It is a true climber’s route on Mt Denali / Mc Kinley.
“This method of approaching McKinley directly from the south is so continually steep and difficult, and so exposed to the full force of the southwesterly storms that none but the most uniformly experienced and powerful team of climbers should even think of attempting it.”
— Bradford Washburn, Mountain World