Type: Snow, Alpine, 18000 ft (5455 m)
FA: Stuck, Harper, Tatum, Karstens
Page Views: 6,115 total · 41/month
Shared By: cerickson on Jul 22, 2011
Admins: L. Von Dommelheimer

You & This Route

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Access Issue: Register with the NP Mountaineering Headquarters in Talkeetna, AK before climbing in the park! Details


An amazing and varied route. Choose your own crux on the Muldrow - the McKinley River Crossing, any of the icefalls, Karsten's Ridge, the exposed Upper Harper Glacier, or summit day - which seems almost benign by the time you get there.

Crossing the river about 1/2 mile upstream of where the Wonder Lake trail leaves you is wisest, though prudent river crossing skills are mandatory. Once across, aim for a small grove of spruce trees that mark the beginning of the unmaintained yet cruiser trail to McGonagall Pass, 5700ft. From McGonagall Pass (know how to read a map and don't go to Oastler Pass!), simple glacial travel will land you at the base of the lower icefall at 6,700ft, which is bypassed by a large trough on its right side.

Above the lower icefall, tackle the Hill of Cracks on its left but move fast to avoid exposure to serac fall. The great icefall, which is the route-finding crux of the route, is above you and passed by starting center and ending right. From the top of the great icefall at 9,700ft, aim middle on the glacier while gradually trending left towards Karsten's notch. Don't aim for the lowest point in the saddle, aim for the second lowest point. Climb the ridge to a flat camp at 12,200ft, then climb the narrow and awesome Karsten's Ridge to Browne Tower at 14,600ft.

From Browne Tower you can stay high and left on the Lower Harper glacier or dip down and right (left recommended). Either way you will cross the glacier and skirt the icefall on the right side to a camp at 16,800-17,500ft. Camp in seracs or build huge walls, but either way be prepared for howling winds from the Southeast to Southwest and also from the Northeast to Northwest. Ascend the mellow Upper Harper to Denali Pass and hang a left to join the herds on the West Buttress. Summit day is longer from this side, so give yourself 10-16 hours roundtrip.

Climbing the North Peak of Denali is an awesome way to avoid the crowds and highly recommended. There are numerous ways to do it - I'll leave that adventure up to you.


Snow Pickets, Ice Screws could be useful in early season.