Climbing To The Top...Mt. McKinley 20,320 feet  by Harvey Bowers

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My first dream of climbing Mt. McKinley was at age 18.  I lived within site of the mountain since age 21, but I waited until age 45 to make the climb of my life.  I came away from the Mountain with the overwhelming impression that I should have made the ascent when I was younger.  Yet, during the climb I met three men celebrating their 65th birthday on the summit. I also met Jennifer Johnston from Anchorage who at the ripe old age of 12, was the youngest girl to summit Mt. McKinley.  My best advice, if you want to climb a tall mountain, do it at your earliest convenience.
The Denali climb actually starts about six months before landing at base camp.  To get in shape, I did a lot of 20-25 mile hikes and ski trips with a 65 lb. pack.  As part of my training program, my wife, Sandy even ventured with me to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back to the rim in a day. 
May and June are the best climbing months on Mt. McKinley.  May can be very cold and by the end of June avalanche danger increases and crevasses open up on the glaciers making it almost impossible to travel.  So, on June 10, 1995, we began the expedition by flying from Talkeetna and landing on the Kahiltna Glacier at 6,000 feet.  I was a member of a 11 person guided group which planned to

Summit Ridge, Mt. McKinley, June, 1995

summit the Mountain, then traverse over the north side of Mt. McKinley and hike out to Wonder Lake in Denali National Park.
From the time we left base camp, we were roped together in groups of four.  Basically, except when we were in camp, we spent a month roped within 50 feet of each other.  This isn't as bad as it sounds.  When the weather cooperated we had some of the most fantastic and interesting mountain scenery you can imagine.  On clear days, it seemed like it was over 100 degrees F and I managed to badly sunburn my face on the first day.
In reality, you climb Mt. McKinley two or three times ferrying the mountain of gear and food needed to get to the top.  On the first day we reached 8,000

feet.  The next day we ferried gear to 10,000 feet and returned to 8,000 to sleep.  This leap frog method continues day after day, weather permitting, until reaching 17,000 feet. 
On day three, at 11,000 feet, we hit a major snowstorm and spent the day and night (no darkness) keeping our camp shoveled out.  From 11,000 to 14,000 feet the mountain starts getting a bit tricky with a climb up Motorcycle Hill followed by a dense crevasse field before reaching Kahiltna Pass and Windy Corner.  The wind spills off the pass in a very steep area with glare ice, some rock and large crevasses.  It was tricky trying to keep the heavy sleds tethered behind us from sliding

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