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Ascent of Denali on 2000-06-23

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Date:Friday, June 23, 2000
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Denali
    Location:USA-Alaska
    Elevation:20310 ft / 6190 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was the first and only climb I have ever made that brought tears to my eyes once I reached the summit. My team was privileged to be on the summit when the first Mexican citizen to ever climb Denali solo summitted. He dropped to his knees and waled loudly for several minutes. It was very emotional. Honestly, I have climbed peaks that are far more difficult, but they did not involve the long length of time and the extreme amount of planning. My team consisted of 3 other experienced climbers and we practiced together once a month for one year prior to the ascent. We spent time planning meals, equipment and, most importantly, in field practicing belay and multiple rescue situations. We even practiced setting up camp in an imaginary wind storm. As it turned out we were very lucky. We had good weather on every single climbing day, except one. All the bad weather we experienced was on scheduled rest days anyway. The one day that did force us to remain in our tents instead of climbing was our scheduled summit day. We woke to a temperature of minus 30 degrees F and the wind was blowing 40 miles/hour creating a wind chill of minus 70 degrees F! We could throw a pan of water into the air and it would come down solid!! Amazingly, the temperatures in the tents was 10 degrees F. It felt like summer compared to the outside air. The next day we were not optimistic about good summit conditions, but we woke to 10 degrees F with just a 10 mile/hour wind. We didn't even have to zip up our parkas on the summit where it was the same weather conditions as the 17,000 foot base camp. We left our base camp at 10:00 AM and returned at midnight. Fortunately, it never gets dark that time of year and the sun is only down for about an hour each day. I admit summit day was rough, but the hardest day was from 14,000 foot camp to high camp at 17,000 feet. That was a long rough 3000 foot day with a heavy load and up the steep head wall in the beginning to the long East Buttress. Making camp after that long trek was cold, uncomfortable and tiring. Our entire climb required 17 days - 15 days up and only 2 days down. It is possible to climb Denali much more quickly, but not without the risk of the several respiratory conditions that can actually be fatal in a very short period of time. In closing, although the success rate of summitting Denali is only around 50%, it is generally not due to climber inexperience or difficulty of the route. It is primarily due to dangerous weather conditions which can keep you in your tent for several days in a row. My team got a small taste of that weather at 17,000 feet, but fortunately it only lasted for 24 hours. Most teams are not that lucky. I advise you climb this mountain to enjoy the scenery and be safe. If conditions permit and you do have the opportunity to summit, let that be "icing to the cake." Good Luck!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Tent Camp



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