Denali Climbing Season Finally Wraps Up
Contact: Maureen McLaughlin, 907-733-9103
Mt. McKinley is once again a lonely place. Signaling the unofficial end of the Denali climbing season, the last of the mountaineers have flown back to Talkeetna, along with the final remnants of the Kahiltna Basecamp.
Camp infrastructure and supplies were flown off on July 26, 2007, several weeks later than planned due to prolonged weather delays. Both park management and staff were excited to work with the Black Hawk (H-60’s) 1st, 207th Aviation unit out of Ft. Richardson in Anchorage in the final camp removal. The U.S. Army High Altitude Rescue Team (Chinook CH-47’s) out of Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks typically assists in the camp removal, but throughout this season, as in 2005, the HART team was deployed to Iraq.
Mountaineers are permitted to climb Mt. McKinley and other Alaska Range peaks at any time of the year, although weather and unstable glacier conditions typically dictate a climbing season from late April to mid-July. This season 1,218 mountaineers attempted various routes on Mt. McKinley, with a slightly less-than-average 47% reaching the summit. Only one individual achieved the summit of Mt. Foraker this year, winter soloist Masatoshi Kuriaki, who reached the top on March 10. Since April, 20 more mountaineers attempted the 17,400-foot peak, although no additional summits were recorded.
Five climbers lost their lives this season in Denali National Park and Preserve. They were Lara-Karena Kellogg, who died rappelling Mt. Wake on April 23; Andre Callari and Brian Postlethwait, who died in an avalanche on Mt. Barrille on May 15; and Mizuki Takahashi and Brian Massey, who suffered a fatal fall near Denali Pass on Mt. McKinley on May 17. Denali mountaineering staff responded to an additional sixteen search and rescue incidents, including two crevasse falls, three knee injuries, and eleven assorted medical emergencies. Such ailments included high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), cardiac problems, kidney stones, and snowblindness.
A new record was set for the oldest individual to summit Mt. McKinley. Michio Kumamoto of Tokorozawa, Japan celebrated his 76th birthday on June 17 while climbing Denali with three companions, the youngest of whom was 61 years old. The team summitted June 29, and spent a night camped at 18,500-feet when one of their teammates was struck with snowblindness. While his teammate was ultimately evacuated from the mountain due to his vision condition and HAPE, Kumamoto and his other two teammates assisted with the rescue, and descended the mountain unassisted.
Denali National Park and Preserve staff extends their sincere condolences to the families and friends of the climbers who lost their lives this season, and likewise extends their great appreciation to those climbers, guides, volunteers, and outside agencies who help make the mountains a safer place.