From the May-June diary of Oleg Banar on McKinley

“We are standing in front of the Denali Pass, and through-winds are passing via it as through a tube. Dr. Cook and Barrill were also shivering from cold in this place. Their silk tent was stretched near the rocks 200 meters from the place of our Camp. “

Oleg Banar Dmitry Shparo

Let us look at the notes in the Diary of Oleg Banar, the Leader of our Jubilee Expedition, carried out 100 years after the ascent of Dr. Cook:

May 23, 2006.  We have ascended to the crosspiece (bridge) between the Peak 11,000 feet and the Peak 10,370 feet. From this bridge we turned to the familiar shelf, which we know from last year’s expedition, and following it we ascended to the East Ridge to the right of the Peak 11,000 feet”.

Then the mountaineers started to move along this crest to the Traleika Col, but their route was blocked by an unstable snowy peak, made out of newly drifted snow and snow cornices. They did not manage to come out to the Traleika Col.“

May 23, 2006 .  Continuation. If you look at the Pegasus Peak from this place, you won’t find the exact similarity to the famous sketch of Dr. Cook. Evidently he made his drawings to the west of the Peak 11,000feet.

We tried to descend from the East Ridge strait onto the Traleika Glacier, using the rope lines (railings). Viktor passed two ropes ( 100 meters), but he did not see any acceptable variant, as there were steep ice walls, cut by deep scars of bergschrunds.  It was evident that Dr. Cook and Barrill were notable to make this descent.  We think that Frederick Cook came to Traleika Glacier from the bridge (crosspiece) between the Peak 11,000 feet and the Peak 10,980 feet, which was situated more to the west.

May 24, 2006.  The ascent to the snowy-ice Tower11,000 feet appeared to be not too difficult. From the top one can clearly see the route along the East Ridge and the East Buttress to McKinley. There are large and dangerous snow cornices from the both sides of the Ridge’s crest as well as other considerable technical obstacles. It is quite evident that it was impossible for Dr. Cook to make his way here. 

After slipping from 11,000 feet to the glacier shoulder, going in the direction of the Peak 10,980 feet, we realized that this last summit was drawn by Dr. Cook in his diary under the name “Gunsight Peak.” From the low approaches this point looks like a gun barrel with a gun-sight on the end. We are absolutely confident that just this resemblance explains the name given by Dr. Cook to this summit. It is astonishing what a rich imagination Dr. Cook had! From this point the Pegasus Peak is also ideally identified with the double-headed mountain in Dr. Cook’s Diary. Traversing the crosspiece between the Peaks 11,000 feet and 10,980 feet we discovered a simple descent to the Traleika Glacier. 

There is no other way to the north in this region and definitely Dr. Cook crossed the Ridge exactly here. 

May 26, 2006. Our tent is standing on the Traleika Glacier at 700 metres from the East edge of the Spur. The whole East Ridge, which we had explored actually for three days, is now in full view (plainly visible). It is also possible to descend here to the Glacier from the Traleika Col, but, as we have made sure, it is rather difficult to get to the Traleika Col. There is a rock wall from the Ruth Glacier, and there is no way due to gigantic alluvions and cornices, if you go along the Ridge from the Peak 11,000 feet.  The other passes and bridges bristle with 300-500 meter ice faults. Thus our route is the only one , it is quite natural and safe. 

May 27, 2006. We have crossed the West Fork of the Traleika Glacier and came to the first narrow and gloomy gorge on the right side. We are afraid here of avalanches, the same as was Dr. Frederick Cook at this very place. 

May 28, 2006.  Our hopes to make an easy ascent to Mt. Carpe were not realized. The route is quite clearly seen, but during the night a strong wind has blown away all snow and we had to assault a slope, which was about 40 degrees steep, actually all along ice. And this is serious technical work. Sometimes we came across small snow islets, passed belts of ruinous shale rocks. From this point the steepness increased and pure ice began. In this place Dr. Cook cut his 2,000 steps, gaining 2,000 feet height. We needed 9.5 hours to pass this section. Definitely we could have done it much faster if there had been snow instead of ice. 

We reached the crosspiece 11,900 feet, where Dr. Cook and Barrill built a snow house. From this place there is a good view of the Yukon River and the green forest to the west, the two summits of Mt. McKinley, and the route to the South Peak – everything that Dr.Cook observed here.”

Banar, Afanasjaev and Bagov were ascending along Dr. Cook’s route to the South Summit of Mt. McKinley quite successfully. The Diary of Oleg Banar: 

May 29, 2006. The Ridge between Mt. Carpe and Mt. Koven is steep and badly destroyed, has a lot of crevasses and large cornices. Not in vain did Dr. Cook compare this Ridge with the “the sawtooth ridge”. It is actually so!

The hope that it will be easier after the Koven Peak were not justified. The crest is again sharp and steep and again gigantic overhanging cornices. 

At 7:00 p.m. we descended to the main Muldrow Glacier to prepare a place for an overnight stop.  Essentially here starts the dotted line of the few classical ascents to McKinley along the Karstens Ridge.

May 30, 2006. At first an ascent was not very difficult but then the Ridge starts to become steeper and steeper. One shelf follows the other. The weather has finally deteriorated: snow and all summits surrounding us have disappeared. 

The slope becomes steeper and steeper, now the steepness grade is more than 50 degrees. Dr. Cook wrote exactly about this very slope: “We knew that we could not descend to a sheltered spot, for there was none within the day’s climb. The darkness was too far advanced and we were too nearly exhausted to risk a farther ascent into the unknown dangers above. The slope upon which we had cut steps and seats in the ice was nearly 60 degree. But the ice was secure, the snow firm, and the danger from avalanches small. As a duty to ourselves and our families we had no alternative but to dig into the icy side of the mountain and hold on for the night” (33). 

It is clear, these are the Catacombs – the last and the most severe section before the Browne Tower. The take-off ends at the altitude 14,300 meters. 

Dr. Cook spent the night approximately at the altitude 14,000 meters, not far from the flattening before the Browne Tower”. 

The notes in the Diary, made by Oleg Banar, on the return from the summit: 

June 4, 2006. About 2.00 p.m. near the Browne Tower. The snow level has noticeably increased and the Crest became less stable. But there are no other variants of going around. We have passed the Catacombs, on which steep slope Dr. Cook made his overnight stop. Even for him that night was more then just an extreme one. Now when the weather permits us to examine the slope in detail, we can clearly imagine the nightmarish overnight stop of Dr. Cook and Barrill in a “snow hole” (Dr. Cook’ swords) above the abyss, when they tied themselves to their ice axes, hammered in snow. We feel unceasing respect to Dr. Cook for his fearlessness and his high professionalism”. 

May 30, 2006, continuation. Stopped in front of the Browne Tower at the altitude 14,500 feet. Snowstorm, Zero visibility, and in addition it is extremely cold. We have ascended 1.5 km during this day. Along the whole route we watched avalanches, rushing from the Koven Peak and the Pegasus Peak, ice falls roared on the Harper Glacier. 

May 31, 2006. Every hour the weather becomes worse and worse. I have phoned to rangers; they informed me that the forecast is bad. Our Marmottent was heaped up with snow up to the very top so that we can hardly breathe. But luckily our tent does not let us down; it resists a pressure of snow storm and the weight of the snow, tamped by wind. The Browne Tower is as white as a snowdrift. 

On June 1 the team was ascending from 6:00a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the mountaineers passed the mark 16,300 feet, where Dr. Cook built his second snow house for the night of September 14 to September15. The team stopped at the 18,150 feet, almost on the same place, where Dr. Cook spent his last night before the summit.” 

June 2, 2006. In our Camp under the Browne Tower we registered the temperature – 30 C and decided that this was the top maximum for our expedition. But today the temperature is about – 40C.

We started our ascent at 5:00 a.m. After a short traverse we came to the path, or it is better to say – a road, along which dozens of mountaineers ascend when the weather is fine. We met the first people from the start of our expedition at the Football Field– an enormous snow plateau before the take-off at the apical crest in front of the summit. 

At 1:.00 a.m. we greeted each other with our victory on the top upper point of Mt. McKinley.We have brought the book “To the Top of the Continent” by Dr. Cook here to the summit. Now after 100 years he has returned here too with his book, with the memory of him, he has again traveled along his own route together with us in one roped party! The rocks and glaciers at the summit are keeping memories of him! 

We stayed here for two hours and got frozen to the marrow of our bones. It was also cold at the summit in 2002, when Viktor Afanasjev and I made an ascent of the Summit of McKinley with the disabled sportsmen together with Matvey Shparo, but it was not so cold as now. And now there is – 35 C with strong wind. Snow is penetrating everywhere. Faces become white in a second. We took a lot of pictures. We paid attention that the tracks on snow are clearly visible (sharply defined). 

Due to bad weather we descended only to our Camp.

June 3, 2006. During the whole night snow was drumming on our tent, as if somebody was beating it with a stick. Outside there are constant sounds of whistle and wailing of squalls. We are standing in front of the Denali Pass, and through-winds are passing via it as through a tube. Dr. Cook and Barrill were also shivering from cold in this place. Their silk tent was stretched near the rocks 200 meters from the place of our Camp. We put our tent closer to the middle of the glacier to avoid ice falls from above”.

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