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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Denali National Park

Denali National Park: Climbing Season Starts Deadly
The climbing season in Alaska’s Denali National Park started with an unusually high number of fatal accidents. Six mountaineers have died in the first month alone.
Two expert mountaineers from Washington State fell when climbing downhill from Mount Denali (Mt. McKinley) which is with 6,194 m (that’s 20,320 feet) North America’s highest mountain. Both mountaineers died.
Another pair of climbers died after falling from Denali’s West Rib, a demanding route.
Did you know?
The first ascent on the Denali was in 1913 by Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Harry Karstens, and Robert Tatum.
Two things – besides technical difficulties of every climb – make Mt. Denali and other high mountains in the Alaska Range more dangerous. Firstly the far north location and secondly the fact that two weather system smashes into the mountain range. This can result not only in extraordinary extreme temperatures but also in unpredictable and quickly changing weather situations, causing heavy snowfall, avalanches, white outs and storms.
In addition, climbers face a heightened risk of high altitude sickness. This is due to the high latitude of Mount Denali which results in even lower pressure on the summit. As a comparison a mountain of the same height but located at the equator would have almost 50% more oxygen available than at sea level.
Let’s hope this year’s season doesn’t turn into another record season like in 1992 when 13 (!) climbers died in the mountains of Denali National Park that year.