Denali West Buttress Traverse
Our Denali Traverse climb starts on the south side of North America’s highest peak, ascends the West Buttress route to the summit of Denali, and then descends the spectacular Karstens Ridge down to the Muldrow Glacier on the remote and wild north side of the mountain.
This is a fantastic way for very fit climbers to have an experience that generally less than 20 climbers a year receive. Any ascent of Denali is a huge accomplishment, but climbers who descend out to the north are in for a very special treat. Descending through the Great and Lower Icefalls, climbers eventually gain McGonagall Pass and cross the expansive McKinley River before hiking across the tundra out to the fabled Wonder Lake. All in all, you will descend over 18,000′ from the summit, one of the biggest vertical descents on the planet!
The walk out to Wonder Lake from the Muldrow Glacier covers about 25 miles of rolling terrain and can be done in one or two days. There is something special about climbing out of the white and grey landscape of the snowy mountain and into the fragrant, green tundra and thick air! Your senses are re-awakened by the colors and the smells of life. There are several river crossings that may be difficult or, at the very least, exciting.
Climbers who have done the traverse often comment that the descent was at least as memorable as, and often more challenging than, reaching the summit. This is a very, very physically challenging endeavor, which is significantly harder than climbing up and down the West Buttress, so an extra level of fitness is definitely required. The descent can also be much more mentally taxing than the ascent, and it is not uncommon to experience 20+ hour days as you push through to areas where we can camp. Climbers should be prepared for numerous uncertainties, including the potential for unavoidable terrain hazards as they down-climb and hike through the infrequently traveled north side of Denali.