It's on, baby! It's on like Donkey Kong! The 2014Denali 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 last year.
There has unfortunately already been a fatality on the mountain, a 39 year old German woman who died April 5 descending Denali Pass. She and her partner, a 34 year old male who was rescued, had traversed up the Muldrow. They were unroped, which makes sense since presumably the fixed pickets were not yet in place. Our hearts go out to their families and friends.
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 1,057 climbers registered for Denali, the lowest number since 1991. Only 50 climbs have been completed with 24 percent summitting. It's still early, and only time will tell if we'll be anywhere near the crazy 68 percent summit rate from last year. 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!