Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 27, 2015

Roger Truesdale's High Adventure


by Paul Cooley

The Sedona Westerners were treated to an evening of high adventure at their monthly meeting on the evening of February 12th by Roger Truesdale's presentation describing his 25 day ascent and decent of North America's tallest peak: Mount McKinley aka Denali.

The native Athabascan people call the mountain Denali, meaning "The Great One." A gold prospector, William Dickey, named it Mount McKinley in 1896 after President William McKinley. Truesdale explained that he prefers to call the mountain Denali, and that there has been a movement of late to switch the name back to Denali.

Roger Truesdale with some of his hiking and camping gear.

“Denali is 20,327 feet high, but the ascent of it is actually longer than the ascent to the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, because Denali’s ascent starts at a lower altitude”, related Truesdale. He explained that Denali rises about 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) from its base, a greater vertical rise than Mount Everest’s 12,000 foot rise (3,700 meters) from its base at 17,000 feet (5,200 meters). Denali’s peak is 20,237 feet (6,168 meters) above sea level, making it the third highest of the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each of the seven continents — following Mount Everest in Nepal and Aconcagua in Argentina.

Truesdale’s ascent actually began many months before his arrival at the base of Denali in May, 2005, when he first met up with a group of 3 other climbers and spent approximately 6 months of training and familiarizing himself with his new acquaintances and the rigors of climbing.

In late May, 2005 the group of four climbers, including Truesdale, dubbed the "Wise Guys" arrived at Talkeetna, Alaska along with their multitude of equipment, clothing and food provisions. They initially set out hauling 60 pounds on their backs and 60 pounds on a sleigh they each pulled behind. Truesdale said twenty five days on the mountain was a grueling and stressful experience, testament to the fact that the success rate of summating Denali was 62 percent. Out of his group of four, two eventually returned without having reached the summit.

Truesdale explained their means of ascent included ferrying equipment and food ahead and above the group, strategically caching these items in the snow for future use, and then returning to a lower altitude to sleep at night. This strategy not only provided for their survival on the trek, but helped them gradually acclimate to the changes in altitude. But, this strategy also meant that in reality they climbed the entire distance to the summit twice.

A great amount of precaution had to be used to avoid the possibility of falling into one of the many crevasses that existed along the course to the top of Denali, Truesdale told the group. In fact, he showed the many means by which the climbers would use rope lines for guidance around the crevasses and how they would affix their equipment, specifically their snow shoes, to allow quick reaction in the event they fell into a crevasse.

Truesdale said he brought along three changes of socks and underwear, and saved a clean pair for the final summit up Denali. He also said that there was no real joy in reaching the summit. But, the real joy finally came when he finished the entire 25 day trek, a joy that was only exceeded by the joy of marrying his wife Jane.

He said his group was fortunate to have very good weather conditions for almost the entire sojourn. The weather was clear on the day they hiked the summit and he was one of 101 to complete the feat on that day.

Truesdale taught physical education in an elementary school for 32 years, mostly in Bloomington, MN. He was also a high school cross country ski coach and had been a competitive fencer, orienteer, cross country skier and long distance runner. He and his wife Jane presently live in Estes Park, Colorado.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.