Aaron Pessah sat on a leather couch in a roomy Anchorage hostel earlier this week. The skin around his nostrils was red, tender and blistered. As he trekked up and down Denali for two weeks, he wiped away gunk running out of his nose — and with it, sunscreen.
Aside from frostnip on his toes, Pessah said the sunburn on the underside of his nose was his only lasting mark from climbing to Denali's 14,200-foot camp and back down. That left him 6,110 vertical feet shy of the summit of North America's tallest peak. The snow leading to the next camp was too unstable to push on, Pessah said.
The 28-year-old wasn't alone in falling short.
So far this year, 16 climbers have come and gone from Denali. No one has reached the 20,310-foot summit as far as the National Park Service knows. But it's still early, mountaineering rangers say. An estimated 159 climbers remained on Denali Thursday, according to the latest park service report.
"Early-season climbs are difficult," said Tucker Chenoweth, a mountaineering ranger with the National Park Service. This season's Denali climbers have seen shorter-than-normal stretches of clear and wind-free days.
"It's been a good day here, a good day there," Chenoweth said. "We haven't had the high-pressure stretches that we've had in the past."
And on Denali, weather rules.