by Lorien Nettleton ~ May 9th, 2012
There are currently 999 climbers registered to climb Mt. McKinley, and 15 registered to climb Mt Foraker. This week the number of climbers currently on McKinley tripped to 139, up from 49 last week. 3 climbers are currently attempting Mt. Foraker.
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The first two climber’s of the season have successfully reached the summit of North America’s Tallest Mountain. Jeremy Aschen and Adam Bartlett of Vail, Colorado ascended the west buttress route and made it to the top of Denali on May 5th. They reported cold conditions and some frostbite, but neither required significant medical attention. So far, 6 other climbers have withdrawn from the mountain without making it to the top.
A crew of 8 people assisted Mountain Ranger Roger Robinson in establishing base camp last week. Samuel Alexander of Fort Yukon was one of them. Alexander is one of seven climbers who will participate in the Centennial Expedition honoring the first ascent of Denali. The expedition is made up of descendants of the successful 1913 expedition, and Alexander’s connection, as an Alaska Native raised in Fort Yukon, was the youngest member of the expedition, John Fredson.
John Fredson was the first Alaska native to graduate from college, who later went on to enhance the village of Fort Yukon with his knowledge of western ways. Fredson later established the Venetie Indian Reserve, 1.6 million acres north of Fort Yukon which is reserved for the Gwich’in people to continue their traditional lifestyle.
For Alexander, the week at base camp was a good introduction to high mountaineering. He’s familiar with many individual components of a three week climb, but just to be sure, he’s back up in the mountains this week getting some additional experience.
For Alexander, achieving the highest summit is a journey to honor his heritage, and makes a comparison to the Hudson expedition, both of whom lobby to recognize the mountain under it’s commonly accepted original name, Denali.
KTNA news will have more of our interview with Samuel Alexander when he returns from six day mountaineering course next week.