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63° 07' N, 151° 01' W
At 20,320' (6190M), Denali is the highest mountain on the North American continent.
BY ANY OTHER NAME
Denali (The High One) is the Native American word for North America's
highest peak. It was renamed Mount McKinley for William McKinley, a nominee for president, by gold prospector, William Dickey.
"When later asked why he named the mountain after McKinley, Dickey
replied that the verbal bludgeoning he had received from free silver
partisans had inspired him to retaliate with the name of the
from "Mt. McKinley: The Pioneer Climbs" by Terris Moore
The difference in the barometric pressure at northern latitudes affects acclimatization on Denali and other high arctic mountains. Denali's latitude is 63° while the latitude of Everest is 27°. On a typical summit day in May, the Denali climber will be at the equivalent of 22,000' (6900M) when compared to climbing in the Himalaya in May. This phenomenon of lower barometric pressure at higher elevations is caused by the troposphere being thinner at the poles.
"The highest point near the Arctic Circle... Denali is buffeted by storms from the Gulf of
Alaska and from the Bering Sea. In few mountain locales of the world does the weather change so
precipitously and dramatically. A balmy day of glacier travel can rapidly deteriorate into a day of
survival-snow-cave digging. The intense cold is, of course, another unique feature of Denali, comparable only
to the Antarctic ranges. The Himalaya is tropical by comparison. On the South Col of Mount Everest (26,200
feet) in late October, the lowest temperature we recorded in 1981 was 17° below zero. On Denali, this
would be a rather warm night at only 14,300 feet in May and June. Temperatures between the high camp and
the summit even in the middle of the summer, are routinely 20° to 40° below and even lower at night.
This combination of extreme weather and temperature pummels the unprepared."
Peter Hackett, M.D. from the preface to "Surviving Denali" by Jonathan Waterman
IF BOBBY HAD FIVE PITONS
Bradford Washburn has estimated that above 18,000' (5500M) on Denali a person is reduced to roughly 50% of their mental capacity. During the winter climb of 1967, the three members stranded at 18,200' Denali Pass for six days required approximately twice as much time to answer a series of subtraction problems as they did at 7000' on the Kahiltna Glacier.
"With five people crammed in the tent, morale decreased rapidly. There was no interest in cooking meals and
by the next day no one was even interested in melting drinking water. We found ourselves very apathetic...not
caring whether or not we got enough to drink or eat or if our gear was wet... we just lay there and waited with
little or no sleep... by morning the cold had taken its toll... Jerry Lewis and I had numb feet, and I had numb
from the diary of Joseph Wilcox, leader of a 1967 Denali party
"Hurricane-force winds, familiar to Mount McKinley's arctic latitude, slowed to a rough gale during the night,
then quit toward morning. After five days of living in fear of flying off the Cassin Ridge in our two-man tent,
Jeff Duenwald and I prepared to retreat 5,000' down the ridge to the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna
Glacier... We didn't panic, nor did we consider being rescued by the National Park Service. As Himalayan veterans, Duenwald and I climbed with a singular attitude: that responsibility begins and ends with the climber. We began our descent... My only regret was that we had not taken Mount McKinley as seriously as it's higher, but warmer cousins in Asia."
John Roskelly, 1993, about his 1981 climb
JUST TO SURVIVE
"We had climbed rope but simultaneously, front-pointing forever into a revived storm and relentless wind.
Everything was cold, even our souls. Frostbite was waiting to jump at the slightest sign of weakness, but both
of us played our own winning game with it. McKinley's climate is tough. We were drawing heavily on all our
Himalayan experience just to survive, and it was a respectful pair that finally stood on the summit ridge. It
took a few hours to dig a miserable little hole, but free from wind and spindrift, and there we spent and an
equally miserable night. We had climbed the mountain too quickly to acclimatize and now we were suffering!"
Dougal Haston on his climb with Doug Scott, 1977, "American Alpine Journal"
"The fact that the West Buttress route is not technically difficult should not obscure the need to plan for
extreme survival situations. Of course, some climbers manage to get up and down in perfectly nice, but rare
period of weather; when back home, they encourage others to climb this 'easy walkup' of a mountain. Little
do they realize that it was only by sheer luck they weren't trying to keep their tent up in the middle of the night
in a 60mph wind at 40° below zero, with boots on and ice axe ready in case the tent suddenly
imploded. Because of the non-technical reputation of the popular West Buttress route, it is a terribly
Peter H. Hackett, M.D., from "Surviving Denali" by Jonathan Waterman
EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOWUse pit latrines where they are provided. At other locations:
Dig a shallow hole in the snow or use a plastic bucket.
Line the hole or bucket with a biodegradable sack.
Stake the corners of the bag open with wands and use a snow block to cover the top when not in use. A
little attention to prevent overfilling will make the process of disposal much easier.
Use this bag as the latrine for all members of the expedition while at camp.
Develop a separate urinal spot and mark with a wand.
When you move camp or the bag fills, simply tie it off and toss it into a deep crevasse. If no crevasses
are available, the bag should be carried until a suitable crevasse is found. The wastes are usually frozen
and will ride well on a sled. On steep technical routes, the bag can be tossed away from the climbing
route or feces can be deposited on snow blocks and shoveled off the route.
Crevasse ONLY human waste. All other trash must be carried off.
Denali National Park human waste and sanitation guidelines: