by Sue Deyoe ~ July 1st, 2011
The 1954 South Buttress climb of Denali has gone down in the history books as one of the great stories of survival on Denali.
George Argus will be in Talkeetna this weekend to recount some of the tales of that climb.
Morton Wood, Elton Thayer, Les Viereck and George Argus rode the train to Curry on April 17th, 1954. They crossed the frozen Chulitna River to climb the South Buttress of Mt. McKinley and traverse the mountain to the north side and down the Muldrow Glacier.
In those years, Denali had been climbed fewer than 10 times and no one had climbed the southern or eastern faces of the mountain. And there was no air taxi support in those days.
Although the route up was successful, the descent was deadly. Elton Thayer, a ranger in Denali Park at the time, died in a fall on the way down. Argus was badly injured – most of his front teeth were gone and he suffered a dislocated hip. Tendons in both legs had been torn.
The long hike out to Wonder Lake by teammates Wood and Vierek to get help is also legend. They left Argus, laying severely injured, in a tent on the Muldrow Glacier. Rescue came, but Argus spent 2 weeks waiting for rescue.
Argus never did a major climb again. He earned a PhD from Harvard and became researcher emeritus of the Canadian Museum of Nature.
He will have a collection of photos and retell stories Sunday evening at the AMS Shop on F Street in East Talkeetna starting at 7 pm.