It's on, baby! It's on like Donkey Kong! The 2015 Denali climbing season is officially open, brought to you by the good men and women of Fort Wainwright's B Company 1st Battalion 52nd Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the Sugar Bears. Every year they fly their CH-47 Chinook helicopters to basecamp, hauling all the stuff we climbers depend on for support. Check out the photos from 2013.
New this year is the official Denali Dispatches blog, your source for daily-ish field reports and mountain alerts. This is your big chance to beat Kilian Jornet's speed record from last year on the West Buttress route: 11 hours and 48 minutes, set in June of 2014.
One sad note, the Mission Memorial Day expedition had to turn back due to weather. Even sadder, the first climbing fatality of the season is Argentine climber Javier Callupa, who perished at high camp in early May. His remains were recently recovered.
Your first stop should be the National Park Service to look at the annual weather summaries and mountaineering summaries. This year there are a mere 958 climbers registered for Denali, the lowest number since 1991. Only 271 climbs have been completed with 35 percent summitting. It's still early, and only time will tell if we'll be anywhere near the crazy 68 percent summit rate from 2013. The biggest factor is of course the weather, and the National Weather Service is now tracking the weather on Big Mac. Be sure to terrify yourself by looking at it daily.
By the way, you know what do all these organizations have in common? They are paid for by our tax dollars, so respect that and don't burden them any more than you have to. Plan and train to take care of yourself and your team on the mountain, and don't be a Jadranka!