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Historic Denali climb follows Archdeacon Hudson Stuck footsteps

Historic Denali climb follows Archdeacon Hudson Stuck footsteps


In 1913, Episcopal Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, Walter Harper, Harry Karstens, Robert Tatum and John Fredson (who kept the camp and dogs healthy) were the first reported to have successfully summited the Alaskan peak known as Denali. In 2013 descendants of the original team repeated the climb. The Fairbanks News-Miner reports:

My grandfather was John Fredson, and long ago in nearly the same place, he greeted an equally worn and hungry group of climbers, four men who first successfully climbed Denali. The men I fed that day were their descendants.

We were giddy with victory for the achievement on that hot afternoon in June because we all recreated our ancestors’ roles. Sitting on heavy backpacks, Walter Harper’s great-grandnephew Dana Wright slurped a bowl of stew. Next to him, with a wide grin, was Dan Hopkins, who is Hudson Stuck’s great-grandnephew. Helping me cut the cucumbers is Ken Karstens, Harry Karstens’ great-grandson. His cousin Ray Schuenemann sips a cold beer next to him.

The News-Miner also carried this report:

The Denali Centennial Team of Dana Wright, Ken Karstens, Ray Schuenemann, Dan Hopkins, Sam Alexander and four Alaska Mountaineering School guides reached Mount McKinley’s South Peak on Friday afternoon, said Bobbi Kaylor, of AMS.

“The team is enjoying the view and their success before heading back to high camp on the Upper Harper Glacier,” Kaylor relayed to the Denali team’s Facebook page. “Congratulations to the team for a job well done! They are all happy and healthy.”

The Denali Centennial team includes descendants of the 1913 Stuck/Karstens expedition, which first successfully summited Denali. Wright is the relative of Walter Harper, the first to set foot on 20,300-foot Denali summit. Karstens and Schuenemann are great-grandsons of Harry Karstens. Dan Hopkins is a relative of Episcopal Archdeacon Hudson Stuck. Alexander represents two Alaska Native teen boys who helped with the 1913 climb. Dustin English, Hunter Dahlberg, Paige Brady, Elliot Caddy are the four AMS guides.

More stories here.

Now Hopkins, Schuenemann, Ken Karstens, Sam Tatum and Dana Wright, descendants of Stuck, Harry Karstens, Robert Tatum and Walter Harper, are on the mountain to recreate that first climb. Joining them are Sam Alexander, who represents my grandfather and Esasis George; and Dustin English, Hunter Dahlberg, Paige Brady, Elliot Caddy, four guides from Alaska Mountaineering School.

In mid-March 1913, Stuck, Harper and Karstens left Fairbanks by dog team to head to Kantishna. They stopped in Nenana to pick up Tatum, George and my grandfather. The plan was for Fredson and George to help ferry supplies and equipment to the base camp at the foot of McGonnagal Pass. George would return to Nenana and my grandfather would stay at the camp to care for the remaining dogs.

The boys weren’t there just to help. Stuck had the opinion that if Alaska Natives were to withstand the inevitable changes to their lives brought by the gold rush, then the brightest and best of indigenous people needed to be given the best formal education possible. Then they could go back and help their people.

Stained glass window in St Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Fairbanks commemorates the beginning of the climb.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a special exhibit of the first successful climb.


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