In a recent blog post titled “Troubling Trends,” the National Park Service paints a picture of a dangerous climbing scene on Alaska’s Denali with overexcited and ill-prepared people trudging for the top, putting themselves and rescuers in harm’s way. Possibly motivated by recent deaths on the mountain, though accidents happen to even the most skilled climbers. Many serious injuries also occurred, including a man who, unroped, tumbled 1,000 feet trying to ascend to the 18,200-foot Denali Pass below the summit.
According to Alaska Public Radio, of the first month of the climbing season on Denali (May to early June), “there have been more search and rescue calls than in some entire years.”
The park service notes that lots of climbers are accustomed to 14,000-feet of elevation, and arrive at the 14 camp, situated at 14,000 feet, and try to make the 20,310-foot summit in one long push, a seriously bad idea in the Arctic.
“However, it also seems that many of the attempts to go to the summit from 14 camp in a single push are often a spur of the moment strategy that develops when an expedition has been pinned down by weather and is running out of time. In other words, it’s borne out of desperation, impatience, and summit fever.”
“The NPS policy is to only respond to immediate threats to life, limb, or eyesight. Anything that we deem falls outside these categories, we will leave you to figure out on your own, and this year we have already turned down rescue requests that don’t meet these criteria.”
Crowds have flocked to Denali’s West Buttress this spring, with Covid having canceled last year’s climbing plans for many, and, simply, a big push worldwide to get out and have adventures.
Photo: NPS /Jeff Pflueger