At 20,310 feet, Denali is North America’s highest peak. Back in 1992, 3 friends and I decided to attempt to climb this peak. Kevin, the organizer of the expedition, planned to attempt all of the peaks in North and South America. Denali was the first. Kevin asked me to join the expedition, train the members and be the climbing leader.
1992 was a challenging year on Denali. The day we flew onto the glacier a 100 year storm was just ending. leaving multiple fatalities. A few days after we finished our climb a nearby volcano in the Alaska Range erupted, spewing ash onto the glaciers and making plane landings dangerous.
I recently came across my slides from the climb and decided to scan them. All photos were taken with a Rollei 35 German Model With Carl Zeiss Tessar 40mm F/3.5 Lens, at the time the best choice for a compact, full frame 35mm camera. I shot with Kodachrome slide film.
Despite challenging conditions and health issues among some members of the group, we made it to the start of the West Buttress (16,000 feet). and camped there while a storm made it inadvisable to travel higher. When the storm abated we had a one day window in which to summit before a new storm hit, so decided on an attempt from this camp rather than trying to establish a camp at the normal spot for a high camp (17,200 feet).
On summit day we made slow progress along the West Buttress to the 17,200 foot camp, where we left sleeping bags at tents that other climbers offered us. We would stay here for the night after our summit attempt.
Continuing on to Denali Pass at about 18,000 feet, the other three members of the team realized that our progress was too slow to safely summit and descend, so they turned around.
I continued alone, summitting at about 9pm. Perhaps 20 minutes later, a team arrived at the summit after climbing the West Rib. This allowed us to take the obligatory summit shots of each other, after which I quickly descended to the 17,200 foot camp, reaching it at 11:30pm and re-joining my teammates. We started our descent the next day.
We spent 21 days on the mountain.
My only regret was that I was unable to get our whole team to the summit, however I do think the decision for them to descend was the correct one, given their conditioning. Summiting from 16,000 feet is a challenge. Due to dehydration that day, my kidneys shut down for maybe 24 hours.
I scanned the slides using a Nikon Coolscan V ED and Vuescan x64 software, then processed the images in Lightroom and Photoshop to remove some imperfections in the scans (these are 30 year old slides after all!).
Click on the image below (taken on a different trip) to view the brief video. (Note: In some browsers it may be necessary to right click the image, then open in a new window or tab. I’ll attempt to fix this in future posts).