Monday, May 24, 2010

A Mountaineer's History of Denali/Mt. McKinley

Mike Hekkers sent me this great information on the pioneering of the West Buttress route now being employed by our UAS ODS climbers.

Brad Washburn's famous photo of the upper West Buttress route that he pioneered in 1951. At the time it took his expedition 3 months to scout and map the route to the summit. His wife Barbara was the first woman to summit Denali in 1947 as detailed in The Accidental Adventurer: The First Woman to Climb Mt. McKinley.

Washburn's aerial photographs and color contour maps are still excellent references for mountain topography and routes. He and David Roberts produced a beautiful coffee table book about his numerous expeditions Mount McKinley: The Conquest of Denali.

Genet Basin at 14,200' is named after Ray Genet, aka "The Pirate", who was on the first successful winter climb of Denali in February of 1967 as featured in the chilling book Minus 148 Degrees: The First Winter Ascent of Mt. McKinley by Art Davidson. Amazingly Genet had no mountaineering experience prior to the trip but later became a famous guide!

The Route: The busy 14,200' camp includes a climbing rangers camp and is also an advanced base camp for climbers attempting other upper mountain routes including the West Rib. The headwall above 14,200' climbs to 16,000' on the ridge top of the West Buttress which leads to the High Camp at 17,200'. The route continues diagonally up to Denali Pass at 18,000' at which point the route joins the less popular "old standard" routes from the north side Muldrow Glacier/Karsten's Ridge. The slopes are low gradient past the "Archdeacon's Tower" and "The Football Field", the flat spot just below the summit at 19,200'. The last couple hours on the last headwall and summit ridge offer 360 degree views of greater Alaska.

To be continued...

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