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

 

Northern Lights Over Mt. McKinley

ridge through the clouds was surreal and beautiful.  It took a day to master the ridge and reach the Great Icefalls of the Muldrow Glacier. 

  We started our next day at 3 am to cover as much of the Muldrow Glacier before the temperature rose and the snow softened.  The trek became rough with 125 lb packs on our back.  As the snow warmed, we started to break through the ice bridges and drop into crevasses.  Everyone in the group wore snowshoes and stayed roped together to keep each of us from falling past our waist into a crevasse.  By the end of the day we were snow shoeing in glacier slush above our knees.  All of us ended up breaking through the snow bridged crevasses, but our falls were arrested mostly by  the gear hanging on our backs.

   As we left the Muldrow Glacier we reached McGonagall Pass and could see Wonder Lake (our destination) 26 miles to the north.  We set up camp for the night and consumed our remaining food supplies.  It felt great to get out

 
of the climbing gear we had been wearing for over three weeks.

  The next morning we woke to rain, but we were glad to be on solid rock and anxious to see plants and the color green again.  This part of Denali National Park sees few visitors and there was little sign of any trail most of the day.  We stayed on caribou trails and headed due north, crossing several fairly large streams and rivers.  With the rain we are soaked to the bone so at this point river crossings didn’t make much difference.  Also at this point the mosquitoes became unbearable...even for Alaskans!

  Our goal was to reach Wonder Lake by 6 pm to catch the last Park Service Bus to the Park entrance.  At about 5 pm we reached the McKinley River, the last major hurdle.  The river is about a mile wide, braided, ice cold and chest deep.  We crossed the river as a group, in a line, with loaded packs on our backs, hanging on to a single spruce pole.  The crossing was slow and difficult.  Once on the north side of the McKinley River, there was no sign of a trail.  We finally wandered onto the Park road at 10 pm a couple of miles east of Wonder Lake.

  A Park employee on a bicycle happened by shortly thereafter.  He was so alarmed by our appearance that he left all his food and took off to find the Park Ranger at Wonder Lake. 

 
We had all lost at least 30 lbs or more, our clothes were hanging on our slighter frames, we were covered in mosquitoes and we probably looked like refugees from a concentration camp!

  The Park Ranger found us a camp site but the Park bus driver offered to let us sleep on the bus and escape from the mosquitoes and rain.

  Everyone at Wonder Lake was excited to meet climbers who had reached the summit of Mt. McKinley and hiked all the way to Wonder Lake.  All the campers decided to cook us a dish.  We had a great meal and enjoyed sharing stories of the climb and posed for many pictures.  We didn’t realize at the time that everyone kept their distance.  At 6 am the next morning we took the six hour bus ride out of the Park….with all the windows open.  We apologized to our bus mates…If you think about it, a month without a shower and a change of clothes really is a bit too long!

 

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Harvey (second from right)