McKinley: Day Nineteen - Summit!

Posted by: Seth Waterfall | May 20, 2007
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 20,320'

SUMMIT DAY!!! And how sweet it was! Let’s start from the beginning of the day. 12:00a.m. Lucia has been snoring for a few hours. I’m wide-awake listening to the wind blow the tent around and stressing about summiting. I guess that’s the difference between someone on their first climb here and someone on their 11th.

4:00 a.m. The wind still blows, I still stress… Lucia snores.

5:00 a.m. Still windy. I resign myself to the fate of not climbing Denali. I’m OK with it, it was fun, I learned a ton, and everyone had a good time. Sometimes the mountain just won’t let you climb. It’s OK. Lucia is still sound asleep.

6:45 a.m. I hear rustling coming from Lucia’s side of the tent. I’m wondering what he’s up to, as the night before when I had suggested that we start the stoves at seven he said, “it’s too cold then, we’ll start them at 8.” Then I notice the wind, actually the lack of wind is what I notice. Lucia pokes his head out the vestibule and pulls it back in quickly. “Dude, it’s really nice outside. Let’s go!” So we get up and put our boots on.

Lucia starts the stoves. We fill our water bottles and have instant grits and hot drinks for breakfast. After packing our last minute things we’re off. It’s just after nine o’clock.

It takes us two about 2 hours to climb to Denali Pass. There are a few other groups out today. The nice weather has brought everyone out. We take a break with two of them just below Zebra Rocks.

We then ascend the ridge to the ‘football field’. The weather is still holding, but it’s noticeably colder here above 19,000 feet. There are a few clouds wisping over the summit and we anticipate high winds on the summit ridge. We climb Pig Hill to the summit ridge and are rewarded with a spectacular view down to the Kahiltna. We then proceed along the steep ridge to the summit. It’s 5:30 in the evening and we’re standing on the roof of North America on a calm, clear day.

After a few rounds of congratulating and picture taking (Andy brought three different banners to get photos with) we enjoy the last few moments of ‘top time’ and descend to the football field. Then, we descended to Denali Pass in very warm conditions. As the sun dropped low in the sky we climbed down back to camp.

At camp we were greeted by the second RMI trip of the season led by Mike Walter and Tyler Jones. It was doubly great to see those guys as they had 3 pots of water waiting for us.

All in all it was an eleven-hour summit day. We were very happy to crawl into our tents and get some well-deserved shut-eye.

Climbers on the summit ridge Looking North from the summit

On The Map

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