Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber

      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

      We have upgraded to new forum software as of late last year, and it makes everything here so much better!  It is now much easier to do pretty much anything, including write Trip Reports, sell gear, schedule climbing related events, and more. There is a new reputation system that allows for positive contributors to be recognized,  it is possible to tag content with identifiers, drag and drop in images, and it is much easier to embed multimedia content from Youtube, Vimeo, and more.  In all, the site is much more user friendly, bug free, and feature rich!   Whether you're a new user or a grizzled cascadeclimbers.com veteran, we think you'll love the new forums. Enjoy!
Sign in to follow this  
Bigtree

Denali climbing season?

Recommended Posts

Am thinking about climbing Denali next year via west buttress to celebrate my 45th year on earth. Will likely rely on the guiding services of AAI based out of Bellingham given my past positive experience with them years ago; however, I'm slightly mystified that their "season" is May 4 - July 5th which seems awfully short (ref. http://www.mtnguide.com/ProgramDetail.asp?program=9 ). Does anyone know if this is the norm with guiding services up there or is there something else in play? Surely the route is quite doable throughout July and August, no?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All the guides services are off by early July. The crevasses start to get nasty in late June... the latest the peak has been climbed was late July by a crazy Russian who later came back to climb it in late December - thus holding both the latest summer ascent record and the earliest winter ascent record.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Bigtree. The climbing season on Denali is dictated by a number of factors, weather and glacier conditions being the two most relevant. Prior to early May, most of the mountain is still very much in "winter" condition and the summit is often poking into the jetstream, making high camp and the summit very uncomfortable, if not deadly places to be. In general, the weather tends to be a little better at lower elevations in May than in June, but the winds on average are higher. Wind is a huge factor, perhaps the biggest, in one's ability to summit on any high and cold peak.

 

In June, the temps warm up a bit, but precipitation/visibility are larger issues. I think the ideal time to plan an expedition to Denali is shooting for a departure in late may or early June. According to the Park service stats, June is the busiest month on Denali and June 15th is day on which the most people reach the summit. A summit day of 6/15 means that those folks would have started around the last week in May. The first teams to hit Denali usually start showing up in mid-April. The Park service base camp usually goes in towards the end of April (29th last year).

 

The downside of going when weather and conditions are forecasted to be at their best, is that the mountain will be at it's busiest. Denali is a busy place. Knowing that ahead of time and setting expectations accordingly seems to diffuse the disappointment of most hoping for solitude. I think it is a super fun place to be and enjoy seeing lots of teams in action, making decisions, sharing food and stories along the way. Having good company and some international flavor adds a lot to the experience. Dealing with trashed campsites and bad attitude's certainly doesn't.

 

Later into the season, glacier conditions, particularly on the lower Kahiltna, start to become much more problematic. The big factor here isn't necessarily climber's ability to negotiate and deal with such things, but more that the pilots become less able and willing to land at base camp and pick you up. Not too many folks are super keen on the 50+ mile walk down the glacier and back to the road!

 

So, effectively, the climbing season is from May through the second week in July.

 

Hope this helps a bit. I sent you a PM regarding the Alpine Institute's Denali program.

 

Coley

 

denaliplume.jpg

 

A rough day to be on the summit.

Edited by Climzalot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, Vin Hoeman climbed Mount McKinley in August in the late 1960s, so he has the latest summer ascent.

 

However, significant warming has occurred since that time and you will have a tough time finding an aircraft to land on the Kahiltna Glacier after early July.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Early May is bitter cold on the hill. By early July, the planes can no longer land in some spots due to the glaciers opening up. Hence the season advertised...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read a story about some folks doing an ascent up there in the early days. The plane was one of the first to use skiis. They landed on the glacier and when they came to a stop, the plane sunk intothe snow. They had to dig and jack and frantically work the plane around to a spot where it could get a start. It had a lot of trouble getting its speed up and droppedoff the end of a glacier and out of sight. It finally pulled up and circled and informed the climbers they were now on their own.

It was a long hike out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was returning to N Kahiltna Base, we were hiking up the

N Kahiltna and came over a rise to see a plane upside down and pointing uphill after an obvious flip.

When we got up to the landing strip, we found out that it happened the day before in soft conditions.

We were next in line when we got up there. One of the people who was in the plane when it flipped sat next to me.

She was tense. The thumps as we bounced off the snow were REALLY hard. I was glad it was before noon. That was early June.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As well, last I understood, the Park Service restricts the maximum altitude a plane can land on the glacier at - when the snow recedes above that limit they can no longer land.

 

I talked to a friend of mine who ended up walking out in late July. Came out after a week of hiking and he and his partner were down to their last gummy bear.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The NPS restriction on landing zones isn't based on altitude, but rather the National Park boundary. The landing zone on the SE Fork of the Kahiltna (Denali Base Camp) is just outside of the Park. Once you turn the corner at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill and starting heading up the main fork of the Kahiltna you are in the Park and planes can't legally land there unless asked to do for official business. The NPS Llama has largely negated the need for any fixed wing landings in the Park for rescue purposes.

 

The only thing that shuts down the landing sites is snow/glacier conditions. Cracks start opening up at BC even in May some years. The landing site often slides up the glacier a bit even as the typical season progresses.

 

On the first ascent of the W. Buttress, Washburn and the crew were dropped off at the base of Ski Hill (7800'), well within the Park and near where most people make camp 1 these days. I know there have been a few landings at 14K as well, but I couldn't tell you when and by who. Impressive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know there have been a few landings at 14K as well, but I couldn't tell you when and by who. Impressive.

 

The Late Don Sheldon landed a few times at 14k for rescues.

Its described in good detail in "Wager with the Wind" his biography. ( an excellent read for early Alaska range flying...)

 

not sure if anyone else has landed there since...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a photo of a Pavehawk just after it touched down on the summit of Mount Hunter. From time to time the military holds "trainings" in the Alaska Range where helo pilots practice their high altitude landing skills. Strange site and experience after a few days of solitude on a peak like Hunter.

 

 

helo_hunter.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×