Weather in the desert southwest is decidedly warm and springlike this time of the year, but there is still an abundance of snow and ice up in the great white north of Alaska.  Conditions this year were perfect for waterfall ice outside of Denali National Park. Our annual training with the climbing ranger cadre from Denali NPS included a focus on team-based movement skills on snow and ice. We completed a couple of different multi-pitch waterfall ice ascents to a rescue scenario, followed by applying safe & efficient descending techniques – both with and without a litter.

The Denali NPS rangers are responsible for rescue throughout Denali National Park, but their primary focus end up being on the annual spring climbing traffic on Denali itself. The terrain on a peak like Denali can be quite complex ranging from crevasses to icefalls, big snow/ice faces, traversing features, rock walls, and of course the omnipresent cold and altitude. Some of the rope rescue problem-solving on Denali involves the use of specialized equipment such as the 1000m rope cached at high camp at 17,000 feet (that’s right, a full kilometer of rope – unknotted!).
Denali is perhaps the ultimate in mountain rescue terrain insofar as the complexity and challenges that are presented to the respondents. It continues to be our privilege to work and train with these exceptional rescue practitioners and alpinists.