Annual summary 2012 reports
•Busiest summit days
May 27 - 56
June 2 - 45
June 18 - 41
June 16 - 28
•Summits by month
May - 174
June - 280
July - 44
•Average trip length - 17.1 days
•Average trip length with a summit - 17.5 days
•Average climber age - 38.7 years
•A record-breaking 162 women attempted Denali in 2012, com-prising 13.2% of all climbers. A total of 60 female climbers reached the summit, for a com-bined summit rate of 37%.
•In addition to our typical international visitor base, Denali welcomed climbers from such faraway lands as Oman, Tanzania, Macedonia, Israel, Guatemala, Cayman Islands, Serbia, and Thailand.
•Of the 34 patients that required or requested some level of NPS medical intervention, 9 cases (26% of total) fell into the ‘Medical Other’ category
•Altitude / AMS: 23%
•Medical, cardiac: 6%
•Medical, other: 26%
•Cold injury: 24%
•Fatal Climbing Fall
On May 18, a climber fell to his death from 16,200 feet on the West Buttress. According to a witness report, the unroped climber jumped after his tumbling backpack and then could not arrest his fall. The Park’s helicopter transported rangers to the accident site to confirm the death and complete a body recovery.
Fatal Skiing Fall
A climber died from traumatic injuries incurred in a 2,000-foot fall during a ski descent of the Orient Express Couloir on May 23. NPS personnel recovered his body from a crevasse at 15,850 feet, which was then flown off the mountain via helicopter
•Avalanche, with Fatalities
An avalanche at Motorcycle Hill (11,200-feet) on the West Buttress during the early morning hours of June 14 claimed the lives of four climbers. One additional teammate survived the avalanche and was able to climb out of the crevasse in which the five-person rope team had landed. The four deceased climbers were buried under heavily compacted ice and snow debris, and were unable to be recovered safely.
Denali Expedition Basics by Alan Arnette
Q: Which route is most popular?
A: The West Buttress is the most popular. The other routes including Cassin Ridge, West Rib & South Buttress are extremely technical and subject to avalanches. 98% of all Denali climbers use the West Buttress route.
Q: How long will it take?
A: 2 weeks on the mountain plus another few days to get onto and out of the mountain so allow at least 3 weeks. However, it is very common to be stuck for another week somewhere on Denali with bad weather.
Q: How much does a standard climb cost with and without a guide?
A: The costs can range from $6500 to $8000 depending on who you use. Comment: I cannot understand these prices on Denali and feel there is a significant lack of competition that has lead to this situation. If you do everything yourself cut the highest cost in half or more and should cost no more than $2000 assuming you have the basic gear. See my Guide page for more details.
Q: Do I need a permit to climb?
A: Yes. All climbers must register and pay a $350 fee as of the 2012 season to the National Park Service at the park headquarters in Talkeetna. This can be done online. There is a limit of 1500 climbers, guided or unguided, each season which has never been exceeded.
Q: Are there local guides for Denali?
A: The NPS has approved 6 companies to guide e.g. (charge a fee) on Denali: Alaska Mountaineering School, Alpine Ascents International, American Alpine Institute, Mountain Trip International, N.O.L.S. and Rainier Mountaineering Inc. The NPS requires a 3:1 climber to guide ratio. Anyone caught 'guiding' are removed and fined according to Rangers. Due these regulations almost all the companies charge the same price, run the exact same program and have the same conservative attitude. There have been several deaths over the past few years on commercial trips as well as private ones.
Q: Do I really need a guide for Denali?
A: It all depends on your skills and experience. The monopoly on Denali has created a suspect environment for most commercial outfits causing them to be very conservative. Most commercial Guides are good people but given they run multiple climbs each year (as many as 3 or 4 climbs per guide), they act burned out and appear to have little motivation to go to the summit, especially late in the season. Another issue with the companies who have a NPS concession is that they squeeze as many trip as possible (around 11 back to back) into the three month climbing season. As a result there is virtually no time for weather delays. So once your time runs out, regardless of the weather, it is time to go and your climb is over. With the crazy weather patterns in recent years on high mountains this is becoming a huge issue resulting in many climbers missing summits due to schedules and financial considerations by the operators.
If you want a guided trip I suggest selecting a company who runs only one or two climbs each season through getting a permit from one of the authorized guides. The guides will more fresher and maybe more motivated. However, make sure they use their own guides and do not simply subcontract back to the permit owner which takes you back to the original issue.
If you can go without a commercial guide, you would probably have a more positive experience. But you need to have the skills and qualified partners. Denali is dangerous and you can die. There are usually a lot of climbers on Denali so you would probably not be alone but easily could be. In harsh weather (white-outs) or in a medical emergency, you will be on your own so consider your skill level carefully. Also crevasse danger is real and always present on the lower glacier area so crevasse rescue skills must be second nature to everyone on the team. Climbing alone or in too small of a team is never a good idea.
Q: How do you get on an expedition to climb Denali?
A: Most reputable guides ask for your climbing resume and require some climbing experience. Ideally they want to see climbs of Rainier or Colorado or California 14ers. But most anyone can get on a Denali commercial expedition these days without many questions and that is a real problem. The guide services all run the same basic formula on the West Butt route and are very conservative with weather, safety and risks.
Q: What is involved if I plan my own climb?
A: Basically everything: permits, travel, hotels, food, gear, routes, communications, emergency contentions - everything. You can save a lot of money this way, well over half the list price, but as I said before, consider your skills in the event that something goes wrong - are you self sufficient? What are your medical skills? HAPE and HACE are really possibilities on Denali - do you have the proper medicine and training to deal with it? And a hundred more questions. The Rangers will strongly discourage solo climbs. You must bring a two-way radio and a sat phone in my opinion and have the frequency or number of the local rescue resources already programmed in. For help with meals and logistics, An excellent resource is from Tim Hult after his 2005 climb. He created a somewhat exhaustive guide to climbing Denali on your own. for commercial trips, see my guide page for more information.
Information given by Denali National Parc
The National Park Service strongly recommends against solo travel.
Even the most cautious and experienced climber is unable to determine the location or strength of the many snow bridges that must be crossed. A solo climber has virtually no self-rescue ability in the event of a crevasse fall, illness, or a serious accident, and thus creates an undue risk to a search and rescue party.
Solo travelers are required to submit a lengthy supplemental solo registration form upon registration that asks for details on equipment carried, plans for self-evacuation, and other emergency information.
A Denali expedition can provide a tremendous mountaineering challenge, but it is not without risks. For many climbers joining a guided expedition can provide for a safer and more functional trip than they could construct on their own. Over the past several decades, an increasing number of climbers seek the benefits of a guided expedition, including:
•Expert advice on equipment and training
•Less logistical planning and effort
•Experienced team leaders with a primary responsibility of safety
•Ability to join a group of climbers with similar goals and experience
•A guide's knowledge and experience can provide many people with the best possible chance of having a successful experience on Denali
Only the six guide services listed below have been authorized by Denali National Park to lead commercial expeditions on Denali. Unauthorized guiding is an illegal activity. Law enforcement rangers will prosecute illegal guides and illegally guided team members which can include both fines and time in jail.
The six authorized guide services are:
Alaska Mountaineering School
P.O. Box 566
Talkeetna, AK 99676
Phone: (907) 733-1016
Alpine Ascents International
109 W. Mercer St.
Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: (206) 378-1927
American Alpine Institute
1515 12th Street
Bellingham, WA 98825
Phone: (360) 671-1505
Mountain Trip International, LLC
P.O. Box 3325
Telluride, Colorado 81435
Phone: (970) 369-1153
National Outdoor leadership School (N.O.L.S.)
P.O. Box 981
Palmer, AK 99645
Phone: (907) 745-4047
Rainier Mountaineering, Incorporated (RMI)
P.O. Box Q
Ashford, WA 98304
Phone: (360) 569-2227