'Denali's Howl' investigates a 50-year-old climbing tragedy
SFBG Building off that last thought, Denali's Howl opens with a section listing each man's climbing credentials. They weren't inexperienced by any means. Did clashes within the group lead to their downfall?
AH One of the things I wanted to do with the book was contextualize the climb in the day, in the environment. In the 1960s, climbing was something you did as a group. This wasn't a guided climb. Joe was the organizer, and he did try to lead, but he wasn't the guide. Today, a hired guide could look at you and say, "You're getting the early stages of altitude sickness," and send you back down the mountain. He's in charge, and you have no choice.
In this incident, it was a bunch of guys, essentially peers, some of whom had more experience than others, but they were climbing together. There were conflicts, but I don't think there were any more than in successful climbs — and I don't think they were the deciding element of the tragedy.
SFBG The book really shows how mountaineering has changed.
AH Denali National Park is now a major destination. There are more climbing rangers on the mountain at this moment, probably, than in the entire park in '67. Back then, there were an average of about 20 people climbing the mountain in a given year. Today, a couple of thousand summit each year. It's an industry now. There are satellite phones, [high-tech] weather reports, and a high-altitude helicopter standing by ready to respond. In 1967, these guys went up in what Joe called "the age of self-reliance" — they knew they were up there on their own. *
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