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Denali Height Being Measured By Climbers

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This story by KNOM’s Francesca Fenzi :

A dispute over the height of North America’s tallest mountain may be resolved this week, as surveyors climb to the top of Mount McKinley.

McKinley – recognized throughout Alaska by its Koyukon Athabascan name, Denali – has long been thought to stand at 20,320 feet, a measurement recorded in 1953. That number was contested in 2013, when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) used radar technology to re-calculate the mountain’s height. The result was a mere 20,237 feet… 83 feet lower than the previously recognized elevation.

“Oh, people didn’t like the lower number. And I was bothered by it myself. I mean I had people say, ‘It’s still over 20,000 feet, I hope?’ And I said, ‘Yes it’s still over 20,000 feet, but I don’t know how much over 20,000 feet.’”

Dave Moune is Senior Project Manager with Dewberry Geospacial Products and Services – a company contracted by USGS to perform the 2013 survey. Moune says the “new” elevation, in addition to being controversial, may not be entirely accurate.

He says the measurement was taken from the air using radar frequencies, to create 3D images as part of an ongoing mapping project around the state. And while that technique is great for mapping complex terrain in 3D, Moune says its single-point elevation measurements could be off by several meters.

He adds the most accurate way to measure height for a specific peak is to use GPS. But for that, you need old-fashioned boots on the ground…

“Hey there, this is Blaine. We’re up at 14,000 feet on Denali on the summit survey expedition.”

Blaine Horden is leading those boots – and a team of three surveyors – to the summit of Denali this week. Their mission: To set the record straight.

As of Monday night, the team had settled in at 14,000 feet… with plans to push for the summit as early as Wednesday. But Moune says the task of measuring a mountain isn’t an easy one.

“These guys are not just taking themselves to the top of the mountain. They are carrying a lot of equipment with them. That all has weight associated with it. Some of it is stuff they have to keep inside their coat so their bodies will help keep it warmer. That all adds to the complexity of the climb.”

 In addition to challenges faced by all high-altitude climbers, the team will need to clear a few logistical hurdles. For example: finding the physical peak of Denali – rock that has been buried under feet of ice and snow.

This is an ambitious goal. No survey of the mountain so far has calculated elevation using its natural peak… all measurements have been taken from ice resting on top of the mountain. Which, Moune says, could have contributed to some level of error in the past.

“People want to know how high is Denali. And perhaps the best we can do is tell them how high the ice and snow is in 2015 on the day that we surveyed it. Recognizing that the thickness of the ice and snow may change whenever it snows and rains up there. Or melts for that matter.”

 Moune says even if Horden’s team also measures from the ice at Denali’s summit, the data they gather will still provide an improved estimate of the mountain’s true height.

The expedition could take as long as three weeks to complete, but Moune reports that the surveyors are currently ahead of schedule – and could begin their descent by the end of this week.

Remains of Argentinian Climber Found High on Denali

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The National Park Service reports that the remains of a solo Argentinian climber have been found at a camp high on Denali.

According to a statement on Thursday, the body of 39-year-old Heraldo Javier Callupan was discovered shortly before midnight on Sunday, May 10th.  The Park Service says Callupan began climbing on May 1st, and was last seen leaving the camp at 14,200 feet to continue his climb on May 6th.  He was discovered four days later by another climbing team.  No other teams were reported in the area between May 6th and May 10th, and mountain patrols were not yet in place at the highest camp.

The National Park Service says Callupan was discovered lying in the snow, and had no apparent signs of trauma.  Thursday’s statement says he appears to have died from “unknown medical issues”.

Positive identification of Callupan’s remains took several days and coordination with the Argentine Consulate.  The Consulate notified his next of kin on Wednesday.

This is the only death reported thus far in the 2015 Denali climbing season.

U.S. Army ‘Sugar Bears’ Fly Supplies to Denali

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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On Monday, Army helicopters flew the last round of supplies to Denali base camp for the 2015 climbing season.  The unit, dubbed the “Sugar Bears” is well-known in Talkeetna, and has a history in Alaska of combining training and supply runs.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning went along on the flight and has this story:

There are signs all around of the imminent beginning of Denali climbing season.  The temperature is warming, the mosquitos are back, and the Sugar Bears are in town.  Sugar Bears is the nickname of the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment’s Bravo Company, based at Fort Wainwright.  If the name conjures up images of breakfast cereal, there’s a good reason. (more…)

NPS Staff Prepare for 2015 Climbing Season

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Last year, climbers attempting Denali had one of the lowest success rates in recent history.  Soon, hundreds more climbers will come to Talkeetna on their way to try to conquer North America’s highest mountain.  More than 700 mountaineers are already signed up for the 2015 climbing season, and that number will continue to grow.  Denali National Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri says that guided groups are not subject to the sixty day advance registration that most climbers are, so hundreds more are likely to register and attempt the climb.  Guiltier says she would not be surprised if the numbers are around last year’s mark of 1,200, but she does not think they will be significantly higher at this time.

Spring also means training for the mountaineering ranger staff.  Maureen Gualtieri says that rangers have completed rope, avalanche, and medical training, and that aviation training is currently underway.  As climbing season approaches, the National Park Service will receive logistical support from the military to set up the various camps on Denali.

In May, the KTNA news department will begin producing Denali Reports for the 2015 climbing season.

Lonnie Dupre returns safely from historic Denali climb

Friday, January 16, 2015

Climber Lonnie Dupre has returned to Talkeetna after becoming the first soloist to ever summit Denali in the month of January.  While in town, he stopped in to speak with KTNA’s Phillip Manning.

Lonnie Dupre’s historic climb began on December 18th, and he summited Denali on January 11th just after 2:00 pm.  This was Dupre’s fourth attempt at the unprecedented feat of being the first person to climb the mountain solo in January.  Veteran climber Willi Prittie says January is a tough month for climbing in Alaska, when the longest periods of daylight stretch just past six hours.

“You’ve got to be really on top of your self-care, your logistical stuff, and take advantage of every little bit of daylight that you have, and it isn’t any too much in something like January.” (more…)

Weather turns back Lonnie Dupre’s ride home

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

After becoming the first solo climber to reach the summit of Denali in the month of January, Lonnie Dupre will be spending at least one more night on the mountain after weather forced his ride to turn back.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning was along for the attempted pick-up, and has more:

When it comes to getting in and out of base camp on Denali, nearly everyone travels by airplane.  That was the plan on Wednesday.  Climber Lonnie Dupre was expected to reach base camp by the early afternoon, and two planes were going to meet him, caring sponsors, support crew, and reporters.  The weather was clear, but a system was obviously moving in from the south.  After one final check-in with Lonnie Dupre by satellite phone, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick set off.

The flight started fairly smoothly, but as the plane entered the Alaska Range, turbulence began to pick up. (more…)

Lonnie Dupre becomes first ever January Denali soloist

Monday, January 12, 2015
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Lonnie Dupre on a previous winter attempt of Denali.

History has been made on North America’s highest peak. On Sunday, Lonnie Dupre  became the first solo climber to summit Denali in the month of January.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

The news of Lonnie Dupre’s summit came early on Sunday afternoon. His support team received a message from Dupre’s GPS locator that he had made it to the top of North America’s highest peak.

This attempt to be the first successful January soloist on Denali is Dupre’s fourth.  His previous tries were thwarted by bad weather high on the mountain.  Last Thursday, Lonnie Dupre shared via satellite phone his thoughts on being held back by poor conditions.

“There’s nothing worse than having to stay put, especially when you have eighteen hours of darkness every evening.  It makes for very long nights.  And, of course, just  always having the weather pull the rug out from under you when you were psyched up to go somewhere or do some climbing.” (more…)

Lonnie Dupre Continues His Attempt at Denali History

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Climber Lonnie Dupre is continuing his attempt to be the first person to climb Denali solo in the month of January.  He has given regular updates via sat phone, and his Facebook page is tracking his progress.  As of Tuesday morning, Dupre was camped at 14,200 feet and planning to haul his gear to 15,000 feet.  From there, he will establish caches and continue to acclimate as he waits for a weather window to attempt the summit.  In his last sat-phone update, recorded on Monday, Dupre says he is feeling fit after a day of rest.

You can follow Lonnie Dupre’s progress on his Facebook page.

Lonnie Dupre Makes Fourth Winter Solo Attempt on Denali

Thursday, December 18, 2014
Lonnie Denali

Lonnie Dupre before leaving Talkeetna. Photo from Facebook. Used with permission.

On Thursday, climber and arctic veteran Lonnie Dupre  left Talkeetna for his fourth attempt to be the first person to summit Denali in January.  Before he left, he spoke with KTNA’s Phillip Manning.

Climbing Denali is hard.  Even in peak season, temperatures dip below zero, and frostbite is a real concern.  In fact, this summer saw one of the lowest summit rates in decades, owing largely to weather.  Not many people attempt North America’s highest peak in winter.  Lonnie Dupre is one of the few who has.  He is beginning his fourth attempt to summit the mountain in January.  His previous attempts were all thwarted by the weather.  Dupre says he’s surprised at how mild the Alaskan winter has been so far. (more…)