Images From North America’s Highest Peak


Ian Bolliger, Peter McCarthy, and Dave and Hollie Leonard flew into Kahilta Base camp this spring aiming to summit Denali and ski either the Orient Express or Messner Couloir.

Two of them summited the 20,237-foot peak, the highest in North America, and together, the team managed to gather snow samples from 17,000 feet for the Snow & Ice Collections Project for the group I lead, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, researching high-altitude glacial thinning, though not without significant toil.

“Gathering the data provided us with objectives outside of self-indulgent summit goals, and also gave us a meaningful activity to perform on rest days,” Bolliger said, explaining that they sampled during a break in a storm, with wind and snow blowing fiercely. They still had to return to 14k camp that evening, so digging the pit was a race against time.

“It was certainly as difficult, if not more so, than we had imagined … The flat field just outside of 17k camp where we took our samples is a depository for snow blown over the adjacent ridge, making the firm snowpack not entirely amenable to our shoveling,” he recalls.

These photos, with captions by Ian Bolliger, are a window into their adventure on Denali—you can check out more on Bolliger’s blog.

Peter and Hollie descend the crest of the West Buttress by the light of the “midnight” sun at 1am, having broken camp at 17,200 feet. (Photo by David Leonard)
On our second day at Base Camp, we skied from the Cat’s Ears, which marks the end of the approach to the West Ridge route on Mt. Hunter. We made quick work booting up a steep headwall with some ominous hanging seracs to get to this point, where we grabbed a snack and took in the —> Read More