Winter Acent Of Denali

I’ve always loved climbing but aside from some scary but recreational rock climbing and some serious, and sometimes scary, back country climbing on skis I’ve never had the opportunity to do any “real” mountain climbing.  And by “real” I mean something in the 20,000 foot plus range. The thought of spending a month or more assaulting a mountain, climbing higher and higher, establishing camps and hoping for good weather for a final summit push fascinates me.  It’s one of the few dreams I’ve yet to achieve and I’m not sure I ever will because once I started back country skiing the thought of putting in all that time and effort climbing a mountain and then just turning around and walking down again didn’t make any sense to me.  I mean if I’m going to go to all that trouble to get to the top of a mountain it sure as hell will be because I’m going to get some epic skiing on the way down.  Here’s a couple of photos from past trips.


All that being said I’m still fascinated with high mountain climbing and epic stories of survival.  That’s why I got Super Girl (my daughter Claire) one of my favorite books for Christmas. “Epic”  Super Girl has always been an adventurer and just started climbing this year in college. I’m sure she will love this book as much as I did.IMG_7230

What got me started on this post is the fact that Lonnie Durpe guy is attempting to make the first solo ascent of Denali in January.  I went to school with Lonnie and was on the gymnastics team with him.

At 20,320 feet, Denali (aka Mount McKinley) in Alaska is North America’s highest mountain. Denali’s high latitude (bordering the Arctic), along with its unpredictable weather and vast crevasse fields, makes it a challenging summer climb even by Himalayan standards. During winter, it proves even more formidable, with winds often exceeding 100 miles per hour, temperatures plummeting below -50º F, and sunlight averaging a mere 6 hours. Only 16 people in nine expeditions (4 solo, 5 team) have ever reached the summit in winter. Of those 16 climbers, 6 died. Only 1 team of 3 Russian climbers summited in January, the darkest and coldest time on the mountain, and for some literally the dead of winter.

One of the stories in EPIC is about a winter attempt of Denali where three men are trapped by hurricane force winds in a tiny snow/ice cave just short of the summit for 5 days as their food and fuel for melting ice for drinking runs out.  It’s a great story of human endurance but it didn’t sound sound like it was any fun at all.  Anyway you can follow Lonnie’s progress here    or here

I think this is Lonnie’s third attempt, having been stopped just short of the summit and forced to hunker down in a snow cave until his supplies ran out the last two times by high winds.  Good luck Lonnie, you’re going to need it.

2 Replies to “Winter Acent Of Denali”

  1. My wife works with a guy who summited Denali in the winter, Charlie Sassara. He and his climbing partner fell on the descent. He lived and his partner didn’t, they never found his body, just some small pieces that came off as he cartwheeled down the mountain.

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