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kmehrtens

Best Time to Climb the West Buttress

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I know that this is a loaded question but I'm going to ask, is there a "better" time to climb Denali via the West Buttress with the most success rate?

 

I know that the weather plays a lot in to this and it can not be controlled but I am looking for others opinion of when they climbed it and if they were successful or if weather pushed them back down the hill.

 

When or if there is a good weather window?

 

 

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Well I am not an expert but here is what I found when doing the same research. The short answer is June has the most summits (but that isn't really a percentage gauge because June also has the most people on the mountain). The weather can vary from year to year and many people say there aren't trends. However, from reading through several books and reading reports I think the following is mostly true. May tends to be colder and windier, but usually better snow conditions particularly lower on the mountain. June is warmer with more stable days which can lead to crevasse issues (also LOTS more people).

 

I personally landed on the glacier May 10th and felt that we picked a good time to be on the mountain. We were before most of the crowds (14K camp was only 10 tents when we arrived, but over 100 when we left). However there were a lot of other people who came at similar times to us and didn't make it. The key to our success was nobody in our group had a time deadline. We could have stayed on the mountain 28-30 days if we needed to. We didn't take that much food and fuel but nobody had flights that early (and you can collect about as much food and fuel at 14K as you want). We were stuck at 14K camp for 8 days due to weather and there were a LOT of other teams that went down. In fact when we checked out at the ranger station the summit percentage was only 9% for the first 180 people!!

 

One other tip I will say regarding weather at 14K camp. Try to have a person at home that can forecast your weather (and knows what to look for). This was definitely the biggest reason for our success. The NPS weather report was pretty much like this every day at 14K camp:

Day 1: High winds with chance of snow (2-4 inches, winds to 35-40mph)

Day 2: Windy with snow (1-3 inches, winds to 30-35mph)

Day 3: Windy but starting to clear.

Day 4: Clear weather with low winds.

 

Unfortunately that Day 4 forecast always stayed Day 4. Everyday it was tantalizing you with a predicted stable weather coming up in 4 days. We had somebody back home who was a climber and knew weather, and he spent time everyday to look through all the models and read reports. Then he would either text or call us to give us an update. We summited based on a 48hr weather window he told us about and very few people did the same as the NPS weather board didn't forecast that at all.

 

Good luck with the climb!! Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions, I would be happy to share what I can.

Edited by mthorman

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Memorial day weekend is when we started and I thought we picked a good time. In addition to what other people said, a nice thing about that time frame was there were enough people ahead of us schedule wise that there was a nice boot pack for parts of the route and we were able to roll into at least a semi-established camp almost every time. Words cannot describe how happy I was to not have to dig a campsite out at 17.

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