Mount McKinley is the highest peak in North America. It is a huge snowy mass, flanked by five giant glaciers and countless icefalls. It dominates the horizon from as far south as Cook Inlet, 200 miles away, and as far north as Fairbanks, 150 miles away. Its steep unbroken south slope rises 17,000 feet in twelve miles. Five major ridges extend from the summit, and many spurs and buttresses extend from these. The mountain is increasingly known by its native name, Denali, which means The Great One in the Athabaskan language.
Denali is not an especially difficult climb technically, but the weather is more severe here than anywhere else in the world, and many lives have been lost attempting the ascent. The number of attempts on the summit have increased dramatically in recent years, and a greater percentage of these are ending in failure.Elevation Gain: From High Camp to the summit = 3,120′ (17,200′ to 20,320′), Distance: 2.5 miles Time: The trip from high camp to the summit and back takes most parties 13-14 hours and is usually the hardest day of the expedition.
From High Camp one crosses a long steep traverse section of glacier and gain the slope leading to Denali Pass known as «The Autobahn.» There are fixed pickets along this section of the route and the climbing can be on anything from deep winter snow to bullet-proof blue ice.
After reaching Denali Pass at 18,200 feet, climbers traverse across another long fairly flat section called the «Football Field» after which one ascends the last and final slope, «Pig Hill,» below the incredible summit ridge.»
Because of the high altitude and harsh conditions one try to minimize time spent at high camp. Many teams have endured foul weather and conditions for as long as a week before getting a break for a summit attempt, most groups spend 3-4 days at high camp.