A Climb of Denali’s West Buttress
Alaska’s Denali (6,194 m) – still known as Mount McKinley in official USA government circles – has a set of unique characteristics that are known far and wide across the mountaineering world. The low altitude (~700 m) from which it rises, just 3° south of the 66°6’N latitude Arctic Circle, gives it a singular distinction amongst the world’s mountains. Denali’s closest 6,000 m rival in terms of latitude is in central Asia, at just 39°N. This ensures that Denali is not only the coldest of the 6,000m mountains, but is vulnerable to the violent storms that head south from the Arctic and gather in the nearby Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.
Denali is the highest peak on the North American continent and as such is a highly desired objective for more than a 1,000 aspirants each year. Even in the face of relatively large numbers, mainly on the West Buttress route, the United States National Park Service (NPS) has tried to encourage a philosophy of self-sufficiency amongst mountaineers whenever possible. In this article we’ll discuss a logical and tried approach to an ascent of the West Buttress route, and identify many of the problems you’re likely to encounter along the way.