On June 14 at 3 a.m., Katie Bono crawled into basecamp on Alaska’s Mount Denali, frostbitten and exhausted. Bono, 29, had left the same camp, located at 7,200 feet, at 6 a.m. the previous morning, summited the 20,310-foot peak (North America’s highest) in minus 40 degree temperatures at 8:46 p.m., then headed back down.
Her round-trip time of 21 hours, 6 minutes set the women’s speed record on the mountain, and was the third-fastest time ever recorded on Denali. What makes Bono’s accomplishment even more impressive is that, during the three-and-a-half weeks she spent on the mountain, she ran into a number of setbacks. Denali has been cold and stormy this year, resulting in only about 30 percent of permitted climbers reaching the summit. (Normally 50 percent make it.) Well into an earlier summit push, Bono had to turn around due to bad weather. In addition, she had to help a friend who’d fallen ill get off the mountain, and, during her record-setting attempt, she didn’t have enough food or water. Savannah Cummins, a photographer from Salt Lake City, was there to document the trip.