It's on, baby! It's on like Donkey Kong! The 2016 Denali climbing season is officially open, brought to you by the good men and women of the National Park Service with a huge assist by 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, getting valuable high-altitude mountain flying experience while doing the Park Service - and all us climbers - a solid by hauling thousands of pounds of supplies to build basecamp. Check out the great photos from this year.
Fresh from its debut last year is the official Denali Dispatches blog, your source for daily-ish field reports and mountain alerts. They're already posting to it, check out the April 26 post to see that there has already been a HAPE evac among the 22 climbers currently on the mountain.
Your first stop should be the National Park Service Denali Mountaineering page to look at the annual weather summaries and mountaineering summaries. As of April 26 there are only 726 climbers registered for Denali, the lowest number since 1992. Only 2 climbs have been completed with no summits yet. It's still very 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. And don't forget, this is your big chance to beat Kilian Jornet's speed record from 2014 on the West Buttress route: 11 hours and 48 minutes, set in June of 2014.
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! So switch on, get up there, have fun and most of all be safe. As always getting to the top is optional; getting back down is mandatory.