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Ascent of Denali on 2019-06-12

Climber: Jared McCullough

Date:Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Denali
    Location:USA-Alaska
    Elevation:20310 ft / 6190 m

Ascent Trip Report

The pinnacle of the state high points. This would be my 48th state highpoint, roughly 11 years after beginning on Clingmans Dome.

On Thursday May 30th, my girlfriend, Tamra, and I took off from Talkeetna and flew onto the East Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. This was my first time in a bush plane and my first time landing a plane on a glacier. It was pretty surreal, especially flying directly into the Alaska Range. Mt Hunter loomed to the east like a huge sentinel. Weather felt decently warm. I jumped off the plan in shorts and a t-shirt. We were with a group from Alpine Ascents International. The legendary Denali guide, John Race, was our lead guide. Joining him on the guide side was Mike Coyle and Adam Butterfield. Mike had been up Denali before but Adam had not. And Adam would not make it to the top this time, either.

We experienced incredible weather for the entire trip. We did not have a single down day due to weather. To say that we were lucky is an understatement.

Our group of 7 client climbers and three guides was an outstanding group. Before the trip, I balked at my girlfriend's desire to use a guide service for Denali. I had no desire to pay that kind of money nor did I think we needed a guide service as long as we planned accordingly. Looking back on it now, I enjoyed the guiding service due to the camaraderie and overall enjoyment of the trip. Formed friendships with likeminded individuals are as priceless as a successful summit.

James Allen (Australia) - One of the youngest guys to summit Everest and lost the half of two of his fingers. Former corporate executive.
David Dronet (Texas and CO) - Pagosa Springs, CO resort owner
Ludwig Rohart (France) - Banker
Alan Gooda (Australia) - Telecom Industry
Christine Stafford (MA) - Resident Doctor
Tamra Wroblesky (NJ) - Owner of Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy

During summit day, Tamra was experiencing periods of overheating and exhaustion. She would fall to her knees and hold up the group. After a few instances of his, guide Adam would eventually stay behind with her and take her back down to 17k camp. She had made it to 19,000 feet. The year prior to this, we made it to the summit of Chimborazo and she had no noticeable problem there. I felt bad for Tamra. I felt angry at the lead guide for making a decision for leaving her behind, but I knew that the lead guide needs to be objective. It still upsets me to this day, but I know that it was also a valuable lesson for Tamra.

We continued across the "football field" and up to the summit ridge and across it to the summit. We arrived to the summit to blowing snow and bits of sunshine.

One of the proudest moments of my highpointing journey would happen next. I made it a promise to myself to bring a metal pill bottle full of my Dad's ashes from back home and spread his ashes from the summit of North America so he would have the greatest view of all. My Dad, Glenn, passed away on June 11, 2010 and I would summit on June 12, 2019. James took my phone and took a video of me spreading my Dad's ashes on the summit of Denali. I gave a short speech and I remember my eyes getting watery. My Dad was an incredible man and this was a fitting act of respect for him.

After a group photo on the summit, we headed back down to 17k camp where Tamra was waiting. I gave her a hug and explained my displeasure with the decision by our lead guide to leave her behind. I have since come to terms with it and have respected John's decision.

We made good time back to the landing strip on the Kahiltna Glacier. We hiked the remaining few miles under the midnight sun. Because it was constant daylight for us on Denali as soon as we landed on the glacier, we didn't need headlamps. I loved the alpenglow every late night and early morning.

We took two separate flights back to Talkeetna. Once we landed, I put on flip flops and changed into shorts. It was hot. We made our way back to our hostel outside of town and showered and got dressed to head to lunch. After lunch we would meet later at the Fairview Inn for a night of dancing and drinking. I drank so many shots that I puked all over the parking lot of the hostel. It was a rough morning the next day.

James would join Tamra and I on a super fast tour of southern Alaska the next few days (McCarthy was our favorite stop) before Tamra and I would fly out to Hawaii and get my 49th state highpoint. We sure do miss James and we miss Alaska. There's too much to write about to list here but it was an amazing time on Denali. I may attempt to climb again for a repeat of all the state highpoints and to lead Tamra to the summit.

I love you Dad.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Tent Camp



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