There have been few updates from the Expedition Denali team this past week, although we did know that they were hoping to summit sometime in the past few days. On Monday they were at Advanced Base Camp, located at 14,200 ft (4328 meters) and were headed up to High Camp at 17,200 ft (5242 meters). After that, the team went radio silent while we waited for word on their progress.
Late yesterday we received an update at last and after 19 days on the mountain, the group is coming home without a summit. On Wednesday they made a bid for the top amidst good weather but as they approached 19,600 ft (5852 meters) storm clouds rapidly moved in and closed off any hope of topping out. Their latest dispatch indicates that there were 60+ climbers going for the summit at the same time and all of them turned back as thunder and lightning rolled into the summit.
With this summit bid over the team is now descending and preparing to head home. They fell 720 feet (219 meters) short of the summit, which has to be crushing, but after three weeks on the mountain it is time to come home. As I’ve mentioned before with this team, summiting Denali was a big goal, but they have aspirations well beyond that. They hope to inspire young people – especially minorities – to get active and become more connected with the outdoors. That work will continue long after they’ve left the mountain.
Congratulations to the team on a valiant effort. This story only underscores how challenging a Denali climb can be. The weather is incredibly unpredictable there and even though they were setting out under the best conditions possible, the window was slammed shut by sudden and unexpected storms. I’m sure there is a sense of disappointment amongst the climbers, but they did a fine job and their work with minority kids is only just beginning.
Everyone get down safe and come home soon.
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