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Denali - West Buttress Expedition

Mt. McKinley: Hahn & Team Descend to 14K Camp

Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Back at 14K.  A couple of long, hard, exhilarating days have come and gone.  When we left 14,200’ two days ago, we were happy to even have a chance at getting to 17,200’.  It wasn’t certain that we’d get there with the leftovers from that two-foot snowstorm.  And as we moved up, we were aware that teams were coming down from 17,200’ because of avalanche conditions between there and the summit.  But we had a perfect day for moving up and we weren’t used to perfect days on this trip… we took advantage.  The going was a little slow, what with trail-breaking, but it was better than we expected to find.  We were able to walk on avalanche debris for a good portion of the approach to the fixed ropes.  The climb up along the crest of the buttress was spectacular and difficult with our big packs, but all handled it well.  It took 8.5 hours to reach camp at 17,200’.  When we got there we were overwhelmed at the generosity of the teams who’d been waiting there for days.  They gave us water and helped to build our tents… And most importantly, they pointed out that recent winds had virtually eliminated the avalanche hazard on the route to Denali Pass.  They were going for the top in the morning and we were invited.  It was just a matter of whether we could get camp up, dinner down, and people in sleeping bags fast enough that the team would be rested for a try on the top.  The next day dawned cloudless and windless and our teams were all enthusiastic about a chance to climb.  We took off at 10:20 AM just behind Rob Galler with AMS and Dennis with AAI.  We’d discussed things extensively and were determined that the last guided parties of the season would work together to achieve this unexpected summit.  Rob did a lot of the hard work breaking trail on the steep slopes to Denali Pass.  We took over a little past the Football Field to make a route up to and along the summit ridge.  Throughout the day, it seemed nearly unbelievable that on a storm-plagued trip, we’d get such a perfect opportunity for the top.  The wind never blew and we were comfortable the entire day… no freezing hands, faces or feet.  We hit the summit at 6:40 PM and stayed there for an hour, taking pictures, shaking hands and marveling at our good fortune.  A few thousand careful steps later, we pulled into high camp at 11:30 PM.

Everyone worked to get some dinner down before turning in.  The guides were up for hours more, melting snow and filling water bottles.  It seemed a great gift that the good weather continued into this morning.  It is always rough packing up at 17K after a summit day, but it was made immeasurably easier by the calm, sunny morning.  We set out at 1:00 PM and climbed ever so carefully down the narrow ridge crest and the steep fixed ropes with our giant packs.  It was quite hot by the time we reached 14,200’ and it seemed a good idea to set camp rather than chancing rockfall around Windy Corner.  Tomorrow will be another big day as we’ll try to make it to 8000’, putting ourselves in position to go out the lower glacier early the following morning.  Probably too much to ask, to get another nice day, but we’ll ask anyway.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

On The Map

Comments (2)

Awesome adventure Super Dave, thank you so much for taking my brother to the top. I can’t even begin to imagine how outstanding the view was from atop Denali, with still winds and clear skies, oh my! Dave, please tell my brother he now qualifies as a Sourdough, no more Cheechako.

Posted by: Johnny Stevens on


Congratulations to you and the rest of your team for a succcessful and hard earned summit climb. Sounds like the weather conditions were perfect and the views from the the highest peak in North America were spectacular. Hope you took a lot of pictures. Best wishes for a safe descent and look forward to seeing you and hearing some interesting stories about the climb.

Mom & Dad

Posted by: Wayne Adaska on

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