North American Classic Climbs

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Muldrow Glacier Route

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The first ascent of the Muldrow Glacier to the North Summit of Denali practically began the history of expeditionary climbing on the North American Continent. This was the famous "sourdoughs" climb of 1910, a testament to the toughness and tenacity of turn-of-the century Alaskans, that was organized on a bet and conducted largely to discredit Captain Cook's claim of the first ascent of the mountain. The first ascent to the South (true) Summit followed 3 years later, and all attempts for the next 37 years came up the long Muldrow Glacier from the north. Then air travel opened up a new era on the mountain, and the West Buttress became the route of choice for those wanting to bag the summit in the easiest and most efficient manner.

Each year a few groups retrace the steps of the sourdoughs, relishing the isolation, the adventure, and the aesthetics of travelling through 21 miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness just to reach what is considered the base of the climb, McGonagall Pass. If you have the time (4-5 weeks minimum), and the wilderness travel experience, this classic route will prove to be an unforgettable adventure. Descent is typically via the West Buttress to the 7200 ft landing strip on the SE fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, so this is a complete traverse of the highest mountain on the continent.


Snow & Ice (expeditionary)




Denali Nat'l Park, Alaska, USA



G18, G19, G43, I2, W2


Alaska Grade II


Route Descriptions & Maps:


First Ascent:

H. Stuck, H. Karstens, R. Tatum, W. Harper, June 7, 1913


Trip Reports:

Lehman 5/01