As spring arrives, mountaineering season ramps up

The beginning of April means the National Park Service, climbing guides, and air services are ramping up for the beginning of Denali climbing season.  A few climbers have already ventured into the range, and this year looks to be another busy one on North America’s tallest peak.

On Thursday, the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station reported that 772 climbers have registered to climb thus far.  According to Maureen Gualtieri, spokeswoman for the Park, that number is perhaps slightly above average, but definitely in the normal range.  She says that the Park Service is expecting around 1,200 climbers to make the attempt to summit Denali this year, which would be slightly higher than the 1,151 that attempted the climb last year.

Base camp is not currently in place on the Kahiltna Glacier, and is expected to be set up around the end of this month.  That hasn’t stopped a few individuals from trekking into the Alaska Range, however.  This week, Masatoshi Kuriaki returned from his 8th attempt to climb Mt. Hunter solo in the winter.  He spent sixty-six days on the mountain before returning to Talkeetna on Wednesday.  According to Park Service, Kuriaki made two summit attempts, but was turned around by ice conditions and high winds.  Also on Wednesday, a solo climber flew from Talkeetna to make an early spring attempt on Denali.

Last year proved to be a good one for climbers and Park staff.  There were fewer injuries than usual, and climbers achieved a 68% success rate, the highest in more than thirty-five years.  As May approaches, everyone involved is hoping for another safe, successful season.

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