Friday, May 27th, 2011
2011 Climbing Season On Denali


Another tragedy on Denali will make the news headlines today: A rope team of four descending from Denali Pass to High Camp fell at around 18,000 feet. Two climbers are dead, two others are injured. This brings the total of climbers who have died so far this season in the Alaska Range to seven, four of them on Denali’s West Buttress between 17,800 and 18,500 feet. The most recent accidents on Denali have one thing in common: they all happened on the descent. The descent from Denali Pass to High Camp is notoriously dangerous. I remember during my first expedition on Denali veteran guide Vern Tejas stopping his clients and other private parties before the traverse and reminding them of the dangers of the descent. My climbing partner and I were roped up and ran a running-belay using snow pickets to get back safely to High Camp. The causes of the falls may never be known, but it’s likely a combination of hypoxia, fatigue, and climbers simply letting their guards down, as the tents at High Camp seem so close. In addition, glare ice and little snow have been reported up high on the mountain this year, which make getting …

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