In the summer of 1967, twelve young men ascended Alaska’s Mount McKinley—known to the locals as Denali. Engulfed by a once-in-alifetime blizzard, only five made it back down.
Andy Hall, a journalist and son of the park superintendent at the time, was living in the park when the tragedy occurred and spent years tracking down rescuers, survivors, lost documents, and recordings of radio communications. In Denali’s Howl, Hall reveals the full story of the expedition in a powerful retelling that will mesmerize the climbing community as well as anyone interested in mega-storms and man’s sometimes deadly drive to challenge the forces of nature.
Everest gets the publicity, but Alaska's Mount McKinley also known as Denali can be equally nasty, writes Hall, former publisher of Alaska Magazine, in this exciting account of a 1967 climbing debacle. McKinley's arctic location guarantees year-round snow, frequent avalanches, unpredictable storms, and winds well over 100 m.p.h. Joe Wilcox, a Utah college student with modest mountaineering experience, gathered 12 fellow climbers with varying degrees of skill and little money; they drove the Alaska Highway to Denali Park. Despite nearly 24 hours of daylight, it was an exhausting climb requiring repeated trips to stock seven camps while trying to safely navigate dangerous crevices, avalanches, and blizzards. Hall recounts their mistakes and in-group bickering, but adds that these were not exceptional. What they lacked was luck, a factor essential to any successful mountaineering endeavor. After one team reached the top, a brutal, week-long, once-in-a-century storm caught and killed seven others as they prepared to ascend. Matters might have ended differently, but Hall is less interested in affixing blame than telling the story. It was not Krakauer's Into Thin Air (1997) but Maurice Herzog's Annapurna (1952) that launched the genre of mountaineering expeditions that end in disaster, and Hall delivers his own skillful, heartrending contribution.