In the light of a fatality of a private climber (non-Mountain Trip) near High Camp and worsening weather (high winds, white out, blowing snow), Mountain Trip lead guide Eli Potter, guides Jason Denley and Carly Cain, and the climbers of the May 29 team have made the difficult decision to abandon their summit attempt. It is never the easy decision to turn around from the summit, within 3,000 vertical feet, after following the route for 19 days–but often, it is the right one. In a season plagued by difficult weather up high, everyone coming back home to climb again another day is always the highest priority.
The team has reached what is called their “up-down day,” or the last day in their expedition time where they have a shot at the summit, or they have to make the choice to turn back. This amount of time is determined both by the amount of food they are carrying, as well as when the climbers have booked their flights back home from Anchorage.
This season has been the most challenging in terms of weather that we at Mountain Trip can recall in the past two decades. The conditions up high have been frigid, with extremely high winds becoming the norm, and blowing snow and low visibility occurring more often than not. On the lower glacier, it has been unseasonably warm, with rain and sun weakening snow bridges that are already weak after a low-snow winter. To date for this season, less than 30 percent of climbers that have attempted the mountain have attained the 20,310′ summit.
Within 6 to 10 hours of descent, over 10,000′ vertical feet of loss, the team will arrive back at Denali Base Camp, and hopes to fly back out to Talkeetna within the next couple of days. The team has now spent nearly three weeks on the glacier, no small feat in itself, enduring extreme conditions from excessive sun and heat to frigid below-zero temperatures.
As always, the mountain will remain, and perhaps the climbers can return sometime in the future. Eli reiterated that everyone on the team is in good heath and good spirits.
Here’s Eli with the update: