It’s climbing season on the Great One. Denali Park officials are lamenting a variety of newish climber behaviors they say are leading to bad outcomes. It surprised me to hear that climbers are often forming impromptu teams when the companions they began their expedition with go down for the count, sick or whatever. I suppose that might be okay if your new friends were actually old friends. Otherwise, shew, I can’t imagine picking up a random partner for a Denali summit. Though tying in with a team for the glacier travel to 14,000 feet would probably be reasonable. After that you could just go solo.
Another action that concerns the Denali climbing rangers is the growing trend of summiting in one push from the 14,000-foot camp (as our WildSnow team did in 2010). They say going for the 7,000-vertical-foot summit blast leads to accidents. I’m sure it does. The question is, does it lead to more safety incidents, statistically, than for climbers tenting at the brutal 16,000-foot high camp? Show me the numbers. Details here.
Lisa and I just purchased a pair of Radpower e-bikes. We’ve been zipping around like a couple of teenagers, doing errands and the occasional 30-mile plus ride. After seeing how these things took over cycling in Europe, I was waiting for the electro-wind to hit here. It has, albeit with a few concerns. I was amused by the USFS stating that technology has bypassed their land-use policies. Not the first time something disruptive has come along. ATVs and tech bindings come to mind. I’m well aware that policy makers are constrained by law, but they do have powers of interpretation and rule making. Maybe they can adapt to e-bikes? I mean, we’re not talking Sherman tanks here. Get the skivvy.
Up for a dose of gloom? This article in High Country News puts numbers on the outdoor recreation explosion of last summer. Quite sobering. Though I felt a little left behind — having seen only two people outside our group during our six day Wind Rivers backpack last August. Maybe that didn’t count as summer? In any case, mainstream outdoor fun is now a reality of North American culture. I’m not one to advocate limiting someone else’s fun. But there’s plenty of ways the land can be preserved while still used for recreation. And let’s not forget: If you don’t like crowds, just invoke a tiny bit of strategy. Like backpacking in August.
Back to Alaska. Apparently the first ascent of Denali included elements of advocacy and social-gospel. In “A Window to Heaven,” the author, Patrick Dean, writes that first ascentionist Hudson Stuck had several goals beyond summit fever. First, he was Episcopal clergy who cared greatly for Alaska’s native peoples, and wanted the ascent to call attention to their needs. Along those lines, Stuck also hoped the climb would help his cause of renaming the mountain, then known as McKinley, to its Native “Denali.” Review here.
And I’m still on Alaska… Check out what’s happening to the “Into the Wild” bus. They airlifted it out of the bush some time back, and are now in the process of installing it in a museum. That’s sad in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. On the other hand, the decrepit thing has apparently been an attractive nuisance since Krakauer informed the world of its history. Probably best it’s out of there and under loving Alaskan hands. More.
Avalanches are not a big concern for summer skiers, but don’t let your guard down. Fragile cornices are a never-ending concern. And even when it’s sun-softened, summer snow can be so firm and slick that stopping a sliding fall is next to impossible. A Colorado skier just died in such circumstances. Condolences to all. Report here.
Oops, I’d better throw in some ski touring news. I don’t know if I’ll ever jam the Patrouille des Glaciers ski touring race into my bucket and join the 1,600 teams who tackle the 110-kilometre Swiss alps contest every two years. But fantasy is fun — and I hope to at least spectate some day. Apparently the race was in danger of obviation. Sounds like things are good now — the organizers claim “the future is guaranteed.” Terrific news. Report here.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.