Alaska Update: Bluebird Days Lead to Hundreds of Denali Summits

In our last update, we saw Denali’s official summit total shoot up. Over the last two weeks, that figure has climbed further, with a succession of bluebird days coaxing climbers to the summit.


The season’s summit success rate now stands at an impressive 69%, with 407 summits so far. There are still 360 climbers at various altitudes, waiting for their chance to summit.

Consistently good weather has also meant few emergency operations. The season started ominously, with a couple of deaths, but the last two weeks have featured only two emergency operations and no fatalities.

On June 10, a climber had to be evacuated with high-altitude pulmonary edema (as well as COVID). That same day, a two-person team activated their InReach device while descending from a 24-hour summit push. One of the climbers “was struggling to descend safely under their own power”. Guides helped them down to High Camp.

The warm, sunny weather has made for excellent climbing high on Denali but has caused a few issues lower down. Flights are having to cram their runs into short morning sessions when the glacier is still frozen. Climbers’ caches are popping out of the melting snow, sometimes aided by clever corvids!

Mount Foraker

Still no major news from Mount Foraker. The number of registered climbers has dropped to 13, with eight on the mountain, and five completed climbs. There are no summits listed in the official statistics so far.

Mount Hunter

Over on 4,442m Mount Hunter, the third highest peak in the Alaskan Range, Clint Helander and August Franzen bagged all three summits in a whirlwind 24-hour climb. You can read our full report on their climb here.

Crossing a cornice with Mt. Foraker in the background. Photo: Clint Helander

Kichatna Spire

“Kichatna Spire is massive, prohibitive, and remote.” But that didn’t stop Graham Zimmerman, Dave Allfrey, and Whit Magro from establishing a new line, The Pace of Comfort (VI 5.10 A3+ M6, 70˚ snow) over five days in late May.

The success comes 12 years after Zimmerman and Allfrey first envisioned the line. You can read our full run-down here.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Three large oil companies have abandoned their claims in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This should, at least for now, halt any plans to drill in the 1.6-million-acre reserve.

The lease sales were green-lit in 2017 but both the indigenous population and environmental groups have strongly protested, with ultimate success.

“This is positive news for the climate and the human rights of Indigenous people whose survival depends on a healthy, thriving calving ground for the Porcupine Caribou Herd,” wrote Wilderness Society’s Alaska state director, Karlin Itchoak.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.