Conditions were much more difficult a century or so ago during the early days of climbing in Denali National Park and Preserve. In those days, mountaineers had no guidebooks, or guides, to lead them up McKinley. At times they found themselves running into deadends, as the following account from James Wickersham from a 1903 climb notes:
. . . we reached an arete or sharp ridge of bare rock at the extreme upper end of the bench glacier, and found, to our intense disappointment, that the glacier did not connect with the high ridge we were seeking to reach, which yet seemed as far above us as when we began the ascent. We are now about 10,000 feet above sea-level on a sharp ridge of rock. Here our bench glacier roadway ends, for over this arete which juts out from the mountain wall, the descent is almost perpendicular to the great bergs of the main glacier, far below as they crowd over each other to enter the narrow gorge. Here is a tremendous precipice beyond which we cannot go. Our only line of further ascent would be to climb the vertical wall of the mountain at our left, and that is impossible.
For more history from Denali National Park, visit this site.