Jul. 9—It was a special Father's Day for Henry Horvath and his father, Tim, of Cooperstown, as they reached the summit of Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. Their quest for the top also became a fundraiser for Otsego Outdoors.
"Normally, we would have gone earlier in the year, but I didn't get out of school until June 3," Henry told The Daily Star.
Henry said people try to go earlier in the year because melting snow and ice create dangerous crevasses. He said as they were going up the mountain, several people were coming down.
"There are about 1,000 people who attempt to climb Denali every year and 50% don't make it to the summit," he said. "My dad and I were together as a team and we teamed up with one solo climber during the more difficult crevasse climbing for safety."
He said most people opt for larger groups that are roped together and have a guide, "but we didn't want to do that. My dad climbed it 22 years ago as a group and wanted it to be just me and him as a team."
To get to the base camp, which is at 7,20 feet, to climb the 20,320-foot mountain, one has to take a small plane, and because of bad weather Henry said the start of their climb was delayed two days.
"Denali is notorious for having savage weather," he said. "We got really lucky with the weather. Most of the time it was climbable weather. When we got to camp 14, which is at 14,000 feet, we had a day and a half of significant snowfall. Other than that it was good weather. When we got to camp 17,000 feet, the visibility was low and there was some light snow. Summit day was mostly good."
He said they didn't stay too long at the summit because they were afraid it would snow again and they didn't want to try to make it down the mountain in a whiteout. During the week before their ascent, he said, a high pressure sat over the mountain for five to seven days, allowing 100 hikers to reach the summit one of the days.
"As elevation goes, Denali is unique," he said. "It is as the same latitude as Siberia so the air is thinner. Even though it's a 20,000-foot peak, it feels like a 24,000-foot Himalayan peak."
In addition to combating the thinner air, he said both men carried 40-pound backpacks and they each pulled a sled weighing 50 pounds. He said to prepare for the climb, they did a lot of weight lifting, biking and hiking.
Henry said because it was June, there were 24 hours of daylight, which deterred sleeping, but allowed the duo to venture out whenever they wanted.
Now that they are home, he said, they're recovering from the trip and taking hikes whenever they can.
"This past weekend we took my brother rock climbing for the first time," he said.
At 16, Henry said he became the youngest person to climb the mountain this year. The teenager also wanted to give back to the local community and started a fundraiser called Outdoors in Alaska for Otsego Outdoors. People could pledge money for each camp they reached. Henry set a goal to raise $5,000 and has raised $3,025 of that goal.
"When I do these climbs I feel really lucky," he said. "Not everyone has the opportunity to do this. It's something that I love and I wanted to give back to Otsego Outdoors because they help the area in so many ways. During COVID, they provided access to and maintained trails and supported outdoor activities which was very helpful to me and other people."
To donate visit https://pledgeit.org/denali.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221.