ANCHORAGE - The 2001 climbing season wrapping up on Mount McKinley is already assured of its place in history.
Despite a record number of climbers attempting the peak - 1,305 as of Friday - no deaths have occurred on the mountain for the third year in a row, a blessing credited mostly to June's exceptional weather. If that holds through the few remaining expeditions, it will be the first time for such a streak since the mid-1960s.
The McKinley climbing season runs roughly from late April to mid-July. On Friday, only two climbers remained on the mountain, said ranger Roger Robinson. A solo mountaineer is expected to attempt the peak in August, he said.
Never before this year had 1,300 people tried to climb McKinley, according to the National Park Service. Of those, about 780, or 60 percent, reached the 20,320-foot summit, said chief mountaineering ranger Daryl Miller.
The summit success rate is usually 35 to 50 percent. A higher percentage of climbers reached the top this year because of an extraordinary streak of good weather, Miller said. Climbers were confined to their tents by foul weather for only three or four of the 80 prime climbing days.
Since they were not delayed, they did not have to rush to meet timetables, he said. For example, they could take longer on summit day, among the more risky segments of a McKinley trip.
"This year, it was so obvious, the weather allowed people to climb" at a more relaxed pace, Miller said. "They weren't behind, and I think that had a great deal to do" with safety.