Ascent of Denali on 2021-05-30

Climber: Nick Magill

Date:Sunday, May 30, 2021
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:20310 ft / 6190 m

Ascent Trip Report

On the lower glacier we had great weather. Low winds and high cloud cover brought in high temperatures. Saw a red fox hanging out on the upper Kahiltna Glacier just past camp 1, probably lost. By the time we got to 11 camp the wind was picking up and visibility was poor. After waiting a day at 11 camp we moved through the storm to 14 camp around windy corner, which although windy with gusts between 30 and 40 was not terribly cold. At 14 camp we had a couple days of snow accumulation followed by a high pressure wind system that blew all of the snow off the fixed lines. Blue ice was the theme of the remainder of the trip.

Having pushed up to 14 camp through the storm we were the only team that moved to 17 camp when the weather got good for one day, the other teams used the opportunity to move to 14 camp or to move from 17 to the summit and back to 14. Unfortunately the good weather did not hold another day and we got nothing but wind for the next 6 days. We even had one day with 2ft of snow drifting into our ice block complex. The sixth day was the worst, wind gusts upwards of 70mph that knocked down parts of our 3 foot thick wind wall and ambient temps hanging around -30F. But only one broken tent after all was said and done.

Being the only team in that wind system at 17 for 6 days gave us the summit to ourselves when the weather became decent on day 7. We witnessed an unarrested fall from the Autobahn the first day we arrived so we took spades and pickets with us and made the traverse a bit safer for the next groups. Interestingly on the way down the Autobahn we experienced the magnitude 6.1 earthquake originating near Talkeetna. Seemed like the glacier absorbed most of the vibrations so we kept our footing but the sound and feel of ice cracking underneath was crazy.

By the time we got back to 17 after summiting, the camp was a city. Looked like all the other groups had spent the last 6 days hanging out at 14 and had just moved up to join the fun. Needless to say the following day was the best weather day of the trip, and it looked like 50-100 people were lined up the Autobahn to summit. Perfect sun, no wind, not too cold. But we took the opportunity to make our way down and enjoy the descent towards the beer that awaited us at the airstrip.
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The final ridge to the summit (2021-05-30). Photo by Nick Magill.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:23110 ft / 7043 m
    Extra Gain:5000 ft / 1524 m
    Round-Trip Distance:33.2 mi / 53.4 km
    Route:West Buttress
    Trailhead:7200 ft / 2194 m
    Grade/Class:Grade 2
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Tent Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Frigid, Extremely Windy, White-out
Everything from no-shirt-no-problem to no exposed skin for 15 seconds or more
Ascent Statistics
    Time:18 Days 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Days 

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