North America's tallest peak opens for climbers

AP News
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Posted: May 04, 2015 3:58 PM

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Hundreds of climbers are expected to attempt to summit North America's tallest peak this season, which has begun.

National Park Service rangers are ready to live on the mountain for the next three months to help with rescues on Mount McKinley.

An average of 1,200 people annually in recent years have tried to reach the top of Mount McKinley, and just more than half succeed in most years. Last season, that number was a low 36 percent because of bad weather, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1IbeXHx).

One Mount McKinley climber died last year, and 32 climbers required medical attention. Frostbite and hypothermia were listed as the most common serious health problems.

National Park Service spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri is stationed at Talkeetna, which is at the mountain's base at Denali National Park and Preserve. In one of her first daily blogs, she said the knee-deep snow was soft as of April 24 and thinned out at the mountain's highest elevations to slightly less than normal.

In Fairbanks, four climbers planning to tackle the 20,320-foot mountain are University of Alaska Fairbanks students Evan Mathers, Paul Owens, Adam McComb and Conrad Chapman. They plan to climb one day after graduating May 10.

The four became friends three years ago in a university mountaineering class. For a big graduation trip, they had been thinking about Mount Sanford in the Wrangell Mountains. Ultimately, they decided to go for the big one.

"We said let's get our deposits down and our permits in, and then we can't back out," Mathers said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com