He has been to the summit of Everest 6 times, more than any other Westerner. This summer, he is a volunteer patrol member for Denali National Park Service and will rescue climbers in need of help. Colby Coombs—expedition leader Colby has been a guide on Denali for many years. Howard Donner—medical doctor Howard is a high-altitude physician who is volunteering for the National Park Service to help climbers who need immediate medical attention at 14, feet.
Denali's West Buttress: A Climber's Guide to Mt. McKinley's Classic Route
John Grunsfeld—astronaut and mountain climber John helped assemble the Mir spacecraft, repair the Hubble space telescope, and has spent more than 38 days in space. On Earth, he has never been above 17, feet and has never been to the summit of Denali. Peter Hackett—medical doctor Peter is world authority on high altitude medicine and physiology. Training guides are experienced climbers with a guiding background; they are hand-selected so that they can advance their career with AMS.
A Climber's Guide to Mt. McKinley's Classic Route
Anyone working for AMS has been carefully screened for their climbing ability, work ethic, trustworthiness, and passion for teaching. All incoming guides become part of an ongoing internal training program and are referred to AMS through a network of mountain professionals.
For a mountain like Denali, climbing in traditional expedition style, by leap-frogging supplies and building fortified camps, is the best way for most people to reach the summit. The frequent storms on the West Buttress require patience, a flexible schedule, and enough on-mountain resources. This climb is a marathon, not a sprint. We plan on 22 days for this trip, which in most cases is more than enough time. Occasionally persistent storms require that we extend the expedition.
Denali`s West Buttress - A Climber`s Guide to Mt. McKinley`s Classic Route
Please notify AMS if you need a ride. Store all equipment at AMS. Most of the lodging in Talkeetna is within easy walking distance.
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Distance: 60 miles, elevation gain: 6, ft. Arriving at basecamp is awe-inspiring, with Mt. Hunter rising above at 7, ft. This is the biggest elevation gain of the entire trip, and everyone will feel it. It is best to rest and get to bed early in preparation for an early start when snow conditions are firmer. Move to 7, ft: Camp 1; distance: 5. The first day is always big, as backpacks settle in and we get accustomed to traveling roped.
We gain very little elevation over a long distance. We camp close to Ski Hill in a compression zone and enjoy the last sheltered camp on the mountain. Carry to 9, ft, Kahiltna Pass; distance: 5 miles RT , elevation gain: 1, ft.
Climbing Denali: The West Buttress Route - Backpacker
Walk back to camp with empty packs, which is a stroll with beautiful views that span 30 miles down-glacier. Move to 11, ft, Camp 2; distance: 4 miles, elevation gain: 3, ft. This is a big day, and we will all know we are climbing a mountain when we arrive at camp. Back carry to 9, ft. Carry to 13, ft, around Windy Corner; distance: 3.
Windy Corner is a large guard gate to the Upper Mountain. The gate opens and closes with the fickle weather. Performing a carry allows us to stick our noses in it even if we are not sure. We can always bury the cache sooner and turn back to camp if the weather worsens. Move to 14, ft, Camp 3; distance: 2. Rolling into 14, ft feels like we are leaving the lower mountain behind and entering a new environment.
When you look out you are at the same level Mt. Back carry 13, ft cache; distance: 2 miles RT , elevation gain: ft. We earn a leisurely pancake and bacon breakfast with real maple syrup——then another restful back carry. Carry to 16, ft; distance: 2 miles RT , elevation gain: 2, ft. Move to 17, ft, Camp 4; distance: 1. We will build another bomber camp and know we will sleep soundly. Most teams need a rest day after moving from 14, ft.
Plenty of possible summit days, 20, ft; distance: 5 miles RT , elevation gain: 3, ft. We must push ourselves on this to hour summit day, harder than any other day, while maintaining our priority of getting back to camp without incident.
Patience required. Return to 14, ft; distance: 1. Our bodies will feel wrecked, but going downhill makes it manageable. Return to base camp, 7, ft; distance: We sleep in and have a two-hour brunch. After a relaxing day, complete with naps, we pack up and descend as evening approaches.