Spring has Sprung on Denali

Just in from the Denali National Park Service, an Ataxic climber has been heli evacuated from high on Denali:

“At 10:30 pm on June 1, NPS rangers at 14K received a radio report of an ataxic climber on the summit ridge. The reporting party (an team of 3) shared some altitude medications with the sick climber, whose teammates helped him descend to Zebra Rocks at approximate 19,100 feet.  Meanwhile, the park’s high altitude helicopter landed at 14k camp shortly after midnight, picked up a ranger, then ascended to the patient’s location on a reconnaissance flight.

They returned to 14,200 feet and configured the ship for short-haul with the rescue basket.  Pilot Andreas Hermansky then successfully retrieved the patient at 00:45 am and short-hauled him back to 14k where he was loaded internally for a flight back to Talkeetna.  VIP Dr. Nick Weinberg accompanied the patient as medical attendant.  The patient was transported by ground ambulance to the Mat-Su Regional Hospital”

Meanwhile – back to the spring weather:

The temperature has gone up this week on Denali, though minus 30 c summit temps may still cause pause for a few teams. With winds dropping, the season is well underway with exactly 100 people now having made their way to the top of North America and over 500 active on the peak. Comments on conditions direct from the Denali Rangers include:

7,200 camp:  Doesn’t get much nicer than this. Clear skies, a breeze of 6 mph out of the east with gusts to 15 mph. No precipitation in the past 24 hours.

In the last 12 hours:

Current temp (8 am): -6 C (21 F)

High temp:  -3 C  (27 F)

Low temp: -8 C  (18 F)

14,200 camp:   Clear skies, winds calm at 3 mph out of the northeast, with max wind speed of 6 mph out of the north.

In the last 12 hours:

Current temp (8 am): -23 C (-9 F)

High temp: -13 C  (9 F)

Low temp: -26 C  (-15 F)

The advantage for the early summiters is the lower glacier is still frozen and skiing/snowshoeing out should be rather enjoyable. Though pulling a sled with a mind of its own can limit ones ski style, the descent from 14,200 (4,328 meters) Camp can still be a lot of fun. With a good 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) of vertical, its more than you will get from any North American ski resort – and you earned it by getting up the hill in the first place.

Over the next 2 weeks is the real summit window, fitting in between the chill of May and the heat of late June/July when the glaciers really start opening up. I well remember my first descent on 7 July, with crevasses collapsing comic book style behind as a we skied over ever thinner bridges down the Glacier- not an experience I’d ever want to repeat.