Altitude is not everything: the vertical relief of the mountain is 18000 feet (5500 meters), and its latitude, just a few hundreds miles below the artic circle can bring some of the coldest weather anywhere, especially during the fierce Alaskan storms, when winds rage over 100mph and temperatures drop -40. For those reason, climbing Mt McKinley combines the challenges of a high-altitude climb with those of a polar expedition. Each year, about a thousand climbers seek to reach the summit, the vast majority of them through the technically easy West Buttress route, and about half of them succeed. In the spring of 1993, I set out to traverse the summit solo by ascending the technical West Rib. Thanks to favorable weather conditions, I was able to reach my goal in a total of 18 days. See pictures of the expedition. I returned to the Park in 2000 to admire the summit from the tundra. The access is made easier by a shuttle system which let you reach the heart of the Park, while eliminating private automobile trafic.
[CLICK on any picture to see a larger image and details, to add to selection, to order, and to download wallpaper.]