by Kraig Becker
As we mentioned a few days back, one of the more high profile climbing teams in Alaska this spring is the Expedition Denali squad. They have their sights set on climbing the 6194 meter (20,320 ft) Mt. McKinley, which is commonly referred to by its Koyukon name of Denali in mountaineering circles. Much like everyone else on the mountain this year, the team will be laser focused on reaching the top. But this group knows that the summit is just one minor step in reaching some much loftier goals down the line. One of the things that makes this expedition so unique is that the team consists entirely of African American climbers. These outdoor enthusiasts and role models were specifically picked to take part in this project because of their desire to inspire young people of all ethnic groups to follow in their footsteps. It is no secret that engagement with the outdoors amongst young people today is about as low as it has ever been and this is especially true with children of color, who tend to spend even less time outdoors than their caucasian counterparts. The members of Expedition Denali hope to set a good example for not just minority kids, but all young people, inspiring them to get outside and discover their own adventures.
Starting this week the Expedition Denali team has begun to gather in Palmer, Alaska, which is where the state’s National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is located. NOLS has played an important role in this project from the beginning and their dedicated staff and guides have helped prepare the Expedition Denali climbers for the challenges they’ll face while on the mountain. It will be a few days before they head to Base Camp, but when they get there the team will be well prepared in large part because of the excellent training they’ve received ahead of time.
A Denali climb can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete depending on such factors as the experience level of the climbers, how well they acclimatize to the altitude and most importantly, the weather. Even in June, the weather conditions can be wild and unpredictable on North America’s tallest peak, causing climbers to exercise caution and patience before they head to the summit. The Expedition Denali team has scheduled their arrival at a good time however, as they should have the most reliable weather of the year ahead of them.
The team will document their entire adventure which will be turned into a film once they have completed the climb. That film, which was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, will be an important tool for them to pursue their goal of getting kids more active.
[Photo Credit: Expedition Denali]