Over a thousand climbers annually make an attempt to reach the summit of Denali, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. Most of them travel up the popular West Buttress Route (otherwise known as the Washburn Route). For this high altitude glacier trek, climbers really draw on their years of experience backpacking more than technical alpinism skills. After several seasons on the mountain, I am surprised at how quickly lightweight tactics get kicked to the curb on this grueling 13,000-foot ascent. Most climbers on the route barely move under towering packs supporting crushing loads of 75 pounds or more. Sadly, this seems to be the norm... Something you just have to endure if you want a shot at the top of North America.

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