Meet the Team! The June 1st West Buttress Denali Expedition

We are excited to welcome and introduce our 11th Denali team of the season: the June 1st West Buttress Team!

This team consists of:

  • Climber Caroline Leon
  • Climber Sophie Bayat
  • Lead Guide Eli Potter
  • Assistant Guide Bailey Mischenko

We will be following along as our first expedition team of the year begins their journey to ascend the snow and ice-covered slopes of Denali in a quest to stand atop the highest summit in North America at 20,310 feet (6,190 meters). Denali, which is Athabaskan for “The Great One”, rises a full 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) above its surrounding landscape. Thats 5,000 feet more than the elevation relief of Mt Everest!

The adventure of climbing Denali begins the moment you step on the plane, because simply getting to Alaska is an adventure in and of itself! Once our team arrives in Anchorage they begin the process of fine-tuning their equipment list, paying attention to every little detail to ensure the highest chance of success while on the mountain, and then packing up all of their food and gear into duffels, backpacks, and food bags. From Anchorage, the team will drive north to the small town of Talkeetna, the launching point for nearly all expeditions into the Alaska Range and Denali National Park. Then, the “hurry up and wait” begins, as climbers wait for a weather window that will allow the excellent pilots at Talkeetna Air Taxi to ferry them into Kahiltna Base Camp on their classic de Havilland DHC-3 planes, affectionately known as “Otters”.

Photo courtesy of our guide, Matthew Koenig.

Our team will climb Denali via the classic West Buttress Route which will ascend over 13,000 feet from Basecamp on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to the sky-scraping 20,310 foot (6,190 meter) summit. The West Buttress will lead the team through heavily glaciated terrain from Basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier at 7,200′, to Camp One at 7,800′, Camp Two at 11,200′, Camp Three at 14,200′, High Camp at 17,200′, to (conditions permitting) the 20,310′ summit. To get a better understanding of the route, check out our interactive map on!

Throughout the team’s expedition, please keep in mind the adage of “no news is good news!” in terms of the updates from the field. There are some days when certain circumstances, like poor satellite phone reception (this happens frequently at Camp 2 at 11,200′, as it is situated in a high-alpine basin with massive peaks on all sides), fatigue from a particularly long day, or no change in their situation due to weather, will prevent teams from calling in an update. Friends and family are encouraged to leave comments for their loved ones on this expedition, but keep in mind that they will not be able to see posts or comments until they return to Talkeetna after the end of their expedition.

Interested in more information about conditions and happenings on Denali? Be sure to also check out the Denali National Park’s Denali Dispatches Blog where they post weekly Field Reports.



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    • Hi Bailey, thinking about you up there. Have been following the weather. Looks like you may get snow tomorrow. Watched a great documentary called “Dirtbag” about Fred Becky, a driven, accomplished climber. We’ll have to watch it together.

      Love You,

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