Guides seem to be earning their money on 20,120-foot Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
The most obvious dividend is safety: None of the six climbers who died on Mount McKinley last year were part of guided groups. Only one guided climber died in the last 10 seasons, which saw 38 deaths among McKinley mountaineers.
And none of last year’s 12 major rescue efforts involved guided groups, even though more than a quarter of all climbers were guided.
About 1,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit each year. On average, for every 200 climbers who have assaulted the mountain, one has died on it. Last year’s six deaths for 1,220 climbers was in line with the long-term numbers.
“There have been better years (1991 had no fatalities) and worse years (1992 had 11),” says J.D. Swed, South District Ranger of Denali National Park. But the 1 in 200 ratio prevails.
Not only are guided clients much safer, but more of them reach the summit. Last year, 53 percent of them got to the mountaintop, vs. 40 percent for unguided climbers, according to Park Service records.
For lists of outfitters or information, contact Talkeetna Ranger Station, P.O. Box 588, Talkeetna, Alaska 99676; (907) 733-2231.
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