Climbing Mount McKinley in Denali National Park This Year Has Been Almost a 50-50 Proposition

Little more than half of the climbers who set their sights on the summit of Mt. McKinley got to stand there this year. NPS photo.

With the climbing season in Denali National Park and Preserve winding down, now's a pretty good time to look at how climbers fared this season. Overall, those tackling 20,320-foot Mount McKinley have had little better than a 50-50 chance of reaching the summit.

As of Thursday, July 8, 1,225 climbers had registered to climb North America's tallest mountain, and 126 were still on Mount McKinley. Of the 1,095 completed climbs, there were 591 summits, or 54 percent, according to park officials.

At least four climbers died on Mount McKinley this year.

* Joris Van Reeth, 27, of Borgerhout, Belgium, died in June when his anchor appeared to fail and he fell 100 feet in rocky terrain.

* Pascal Frison, 51, of Auxerre, France, died in mid-May when he fell to his death while trying to stop a sled holding his gear from sliding off a section of the West Buttress.

* Canadian Andrew Herzenberg, 39, and Israeli Avner Magen, 42, both residents of Toronto, Ontario, in late-May were descending a steep snow and ice gully wedged between Werewolf Tower and London Tower on the southeast side of Ruth Gorge on Mount McKinley when they were hit by an avalanche.

Last year 59 percent of the climbers reached the top, park records show. Of the 1,161 climbers who went up Mount McKinley in 2009, just 12.4 percent were women, according to park records.

Most 2009 teams -- 242 of the 268 teams -- followed the West Buttress route, and 60 percent of those teams reached the summit.

The top five nations, in terms of climbers, last year were the United States (698), Poland (47), Canada (44), Japan (38) and Great Britain (38).