Currently, there are 1,057 climbers registered to climb Denali, and 388 are currently on the mountain. Fifty climbers have returned to town, and twelve have summited, giving 2014 a summit rate of 24% thus far.
Team Butte America, who I spoke with last week prior to their departure from Talkeetna, last checked in with their GPS locator in the area of “Camp 2,” which is near 11,000 feet. With more than two weeks of food remaining, the team still has plenty of time to wait for acclimatization and weather to make a bid for the summit.
On Thursday, I spoke via satellite phone with Captain Samuel Palmer, who is the team leader for the first of two U.S. Army Alaska teams that will be attempting Denali this year. Captain Palmer says the team arrived in base camp on Wednesday, and planned to set out on skis Thursday evening.
“We deliberately spend twenty-four hours here to start acclimating, coming from 500 feet in Fairbanks up to the 7,200 foot level we’re at now. Then we’re going to wait until the sun stops melting snow and it firms up so we can have a nice ski out.”
Captain Palmer says that he has heard from mountaineering rangers that conditions on the glacier are currently good, but that could change by the time the team descends.
With one early season accident and continuing icy conditions high on the mountain, Captain Palmer and his team are planning to be extra cautious in the area of Denali Pass, near 18,000 feet.
“We will be clipping into pickets for protection as we move up the Autobahn onto Denali Pass, and, if at any point we feel the protection that is there is inadequate, we’re going to take the time to put in pickets and keep ourselves anchored to the mountain.”
In an ideal scenario, Captain Palmer says his team should be able to summit by June 3rd. A second U.S. Army team plans to set off for Denali next week.