Mt. McKinley 1:250,000 scale - U.S. Geological Survey
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Südliche Stützmauer - Le Contrefort du Sud
FIRST ASCENT: June 19 to July 3, 1965 by Shiro Niahimae, Masatsugu Kajiura and Hisazumi Nakamura. From their advance base camp on the East Fork, five Japanese climbers recognized extreme avalanche danger on their planned South Face route and instead turned their attentions to the South Buttress. They ascended the avalanche-prone icefall and placed a high camp at 15,570 feet in the col of the South Ridge of the mountain. Ascending the southeast ridge toward the 18,960-foot shoulder, they were forced to bivouac by bad weather. At this point, Dt. Yoshito Tsukazaki, the expedition leader, elected to stay behind because of altitude sickness. On the long, curving summit ridge, another climber, Katsuhiko Kaburgai, fell victim to nausea and stayed behind at Carter Horn while the others went on to the South Summit. (Parties climbing the route over the years since the first ascent have generally placed more camps than the Japanese. They've reported moderate snow, ice and rock climbing generally less difficult than found on the West Rib.)
POINT OF DEPARTURE: Southeast Fork, Kahiltna Glacier
ALTITUDE GAIN: 13,320 feet (4,060 meters)
ROUND TRIP DISTANCE: 26 miles (42 kilometers)
TIME: 15 to 30 days
CRUX: The icefall between 12,000 and 15,000 feet (3,658
and 4,725 meters) is generally regarded as the
greatest hazard on the route, but weather conditions
can make any section -- especially the higher ridges
-- dangerous and more difficult
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 1,200 feet (400 meters) of fixed
rope and six snow pickets; six ice pitons; and
12 rock pitons (mostly small and medium angles)
ROUTE: From the landing area on the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, move west to join the main glacier. Turn right, north, and proceed approximately 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) to the junction with the East Fork. Follow an easterly course up the left center of the glacier as it curves to the north to meet the mountain's South Face.
An advance base camp on the left side of the glacier near Kahiltna Notch is safer than once closer to the base of the icefall. Large avalanches have beene observed descending the icefall and running across the East Fork of the glacier.
The icefall that descends from the South Buttress to the East Fork is constantly moving and changing from season to season and day to day. A route that is relatively safe on one day may be too hazardous to risk the next. Generally, the line is safer in May when conditions are colder and more stable than in late June or July. Most expeditions climbing the route have favored the left side of the icefall, taking what protection is available from rock buttresses and seracs.
The crest of the South Buttress is reached at an altitude of 15,500 feet (4,725 meters). Follow the crest of the ridge north toward the South Face.
Mt. McKinley Summit 1:25,000 scale - adapted from U.S.G.S.
West Buttress West Rib Cassin Ridge South Buttress
From the base of the pyramidal face, ascend a prominent snow couloir on the left that offers access to the skyline ridge at 16,800 feet (5,121 meters). Follow the ridge on mixed snow and rock to a good campsite at 17,800 feet. Bearing left from the ridge, a prominent 50 degree snow couloir gives way to a snowfield which provides access to the summit ridge. Follow the curving arc of the ascending summit ridge in a northwesterly direction to the South Summit.
CAMPS: Ten camps are normally made by parties ascending the South Buttress Route.
Camp 1 7,000 ft. 2,134 m.
Camp 2 7,200 ft. 2,195 m.
Camp 3 7,800 ft. 2,377 m.
Camp 4 8,600 ft. 2,620 m.
Camp 5 9,500 ft. 2,956 m.
Camp 6 10,800 ft. 3,291 m.
Camp 7 12,000 ft. 3,658 m.
Camp 8 14,800 ft. 4,511 m.
Camp 9 15,600 ft. 4,755 m.
Camp 10 17,800 ft. 5,425 m.