by Phillip Manning ~ June 10th, 2013
June 7, 2013 marks the hundred year anniversary of the first summit of Denali, known as Mt. McKinley to many outside of Alaska. This year, over 1,000 climbers will attempt to summit North America’s highest peak. One group, however, has a particularly close link to the original 1913 party. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with the members of that group as they finalize preparations in Talkeetna.
Talkeetna is well known in the mountain climbing community as the primary departure point for Denali expeditions. The vast majority of those climbers fly from here to Base Camp, located on the Kahiltna Glacier, and begin their climb up Bradford Washburn’s West Buttress route. One expedition that will soon be departing is taking a very different journey, however. Six climbers are finalizing preparations to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers, who were the first to summit Denali on June 7, 1913. They will be retracing the original route, which starts north of the mountain. Ken Karstens, descendent of original summit team member Harry Karstens, described the route, which begins at Wonder Lake and doesn’t meet up with the more popular West Buttress route until the team has nearly reached the summit. Ken also explains how the process of gathering the team, whose families had spread throughout the country, took place.
The expedition contains family representatives of all four members of the original summit team of Walter Harper, Harry Karstens, Hudston Stuck, and Robert Tatum. Ken Karstens and Ray Schuenemann are descended from Harry Karstens. Alaskan-born Dana Wright is a descendant of Walter Harper, the first man to set foot on the summit of Denali, and Sam Tatum represents Robert Tatum’s family. The sixth member of the team is Sam Alexander of the Gwich’in Tribe in Fort Yukon, who joined the team to represent the Alaska natives who made the trip possible for the party.
Most of the team has very limited mountaineering experience. Of the six team members, only Dan Hopkins, great-nephew of Hudson Stuck, has stood on the summit of Denali before. He climbed the West Buttress in 2008 and describes the differences between this expedition and his previous climb.
The team finishes preparations with Alaska Mountaineering School on June 7th, then departs for Denali National Park on June 8th, where they will be bused to Wonder Lake before beginning the 25 mile walk to the Muldrow glacier and begin to climb Denali one hundred years after their forefathers. The Denali 2013 team has a website and Facebook page that will allow people from around the world to track their progress as they attempt to repeat history.
In Talkeetna, this is Phillip Manning.