To the friends and family of the May 6th Denali expedition:
I am writing our final dispatch from my home in Anchorage, Alaska. Our climbing team is off the mountain and safe. I wanted to send a big thank you to all who supported the climbers while they were away from home. Despite not reaching the summit, time spent in the mountains is always a privilege. We are all grateful for having the opportunity to share three weeks in the Alaska Range.
The May 6th team was physically fit and mentally prepared for the challenge. The attitude of the trip was light-hearted and fun. Our whole team has a positive attitude and contagious work ethic. I am proud of the style in which we climbed.
Our team’s last camp was at 14,200’ or “advanced base camp”. This camp feels like a small climbers’ village, filled with people waiting for fair weather to advance up the mountain. From this camp looking up and to the North you can see the headwall and the “16 ridge” that leads to high camp. To the south you can see Mt Hunter and Mt Foraker. With good visibility, you can see many of the peaks of the central Alaska range and even down to the foothills where the grass is green.
With only a handful of days left on our trip and a small window to potentially summit, we attempted to move to 17,200’ camp. This day was particularly warm and on our ascent we encountered rock fall below the headwall. Rock fall can occur any time of the day but we often see it more frequently in the heat of the day when ice bonds disintegrate or in the evening when liquid water freezes and expands. This particular hazard sends chills down any climbers’ spine because of the potential for serious consequences. After identifying this hazard ahead, we turned around and descended back to 14 camp immediately. With few days left on the trip and a large storm system on the horizon, the team decided to descend the mountain to base camp. We packed up our tents and departed camp around 11pm. By 11am we were hearing the sounds of Talkeetna Air Taxi’s planes landing at basecamp.
The team is disappointed that we did not have our chance at the summit, but we are invigorated by the scale and challenge that climbing Denali presents. For three weeks we lived on the Kahiltna glacier and abided by the rules of the great mountain. We are thankful for safe passage.
–Lead Guide, Brian Kramp