FAIRBANKS — The summit has been conquered.
The Denali Centennial Team of Dana Wright, Ken Karstens, Ray Schuenemann, Dan Hopkins, Sam Alexander and four Alaska Mountaineering School guides reached Mount McKinley’s South Peak on Friday afternoon, said Bobbi Kaylor, of AMS.
“The team is enjoying the view and their success before heading back to high camp on the Upper Harper Glacier,” Kaylor relayed to the Denali team’s Facebook page. “Congratulations to the team for a job well done! They are all happy and healthy.”
The Denali Centennial team includes descendants of the 1913 Stuck/Karstens expedition, which first successfully summited Denali. Wright is the relative of Walter Harper, the first to set foot on 20,300-foot Denali summit. Karstens and Schuenemann are great-grandsons of Harry Karstens. Dan Hopkins is a relative of Episcopal Archdeacon Hudson Stuck. Alexander represents two Alaska Native teen boys who helped with the 1913 climb. Dustin English, Hunter Dahlberg, Paige Brady, Elliot Caddy are the four AMS guides.
On June 8, the Denali team hiked to the mountain from Wonder Lake, which is at about 2,000 foot elevation, and crossed the McKinley River to get to McGonogall Pass. From there, they took nearly the same northern route via the Muldrow Glacier to the summit as their forebears.
Modern climbers, about 1,000 annually, use the West Buttress route, which involves flying from Talkeetna to the Kahlitna Glacier base camp and going 13,000 feet to the summit.
The northern route the Denali team took is twice as hard as the western route, said AMS guide Colby Coombs by phone from Talkeetna.
“It’s a bigger deal,” he said. “They should be proud.”
The Denali team had been racing against the weather. Forecasts for the mountain’s summit had been ominous as the National Weather Service predicted increasing strong winds as strong as 45 mph and clouds well into next week.
Coombs said it’s the wind that turns people back from summiting.
“If it’s over 25 mph, most people can’t move fast enough to stay warm,” he said. “Usually if it gets cold, you can put on more layers. The wind cuts right through those layers.”
On Thursday, another team climbing from the west made it to 19,600 but had to turn back, Denali National Park and Preserve reported.
The Denali team has been keeping contact with family and friends via satellite communications. On Thursday night, they reported moving to 18,200 feet and making camp. The last word is that they would rest Friday or try to summit, said Tom Walker, a friend and supporter of the team.
“The forecast said mostly cloudy (Friday),” Walker said. “Instead of resting, they got the hell out of Dodge. They’re just horses.”
Freelance writer Diana Campbell is the granddaughter of John Fredson, a member of the 1913 team. Her email address is email@example.com.