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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Climbing Mt. McKinley (Denali) in May, 2005 - Part 1

The Indians of the area had many names for the mountain, but it was the white man who chose one Indian name that sounded "cool". The official name is Mount McKinley, the "cool" name is Denali.
It is the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet and it absorbs the brutal lash of the northern polar storms for standing so mighty. It is said to be a training ground for Everest because the northern latitudes yield thinner air and more fiercely cold storms than the equivilent Himalayan altitudes. Many climbers die on Denali. There are 3000' drops where climbers hurtle to their demise at incredible speeds. Some crevasses are so deep that no attempts are made at body recovery.

Why would anyone want to go there?

After having been there I am unsure of the true answer. I do know that the experience changed me and that today my answer would be different than in early 2005.

In late 2004 a friend of mine named Duane threw out the idea of the climb. He has been to Everest and other Himilayan peaks and thought that we could pull off the Denali expedition on our own, no guides needed. Soon there were six of us, meeting weekly on the phone and in person. We plotted, planned, argued and trained. We knew that by the end of February we had to commit, buy our gear, climbing permits and plane tickets. We chose to ascend in early May 2005 in order to minimize crevasse danger, knowing full well that temperatures could be insanely cold.

At that time we had Duane and his father, Dick, and Jimmy and his son Kerisi and his best friend Andy.

L to R:          Dick, Andy, Jimmy, Duane and Kerisi at the Talkeetna Inn, Talkeetna, Alaska

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