Denali’s Southeast Spur and Boyd N. Everett, Jr.


Denali Rising Stark. (All rights reserved)

It’s a shame that when I’m researching a particular climber the only thing that routinely comes to the forefront are brief reports of his untimely death. In these instances remembering that our sport is hardly mainstream and most people do not care to the degree I do. But the public’s attention is usually brief and dismissive of climbers accomplishments and art except when tragedy strikes.

So be it. We get it.

But Boyd N. Everett, Jr. didn’t settle for that.

Everett was an alpinist that, according to his friends that knew him, wanted the community to know about and understand more about climbing. He was a nerdy, reserved securities analyst for the Lehman Corporation from New York City by day, and a frequent visitor to the ‘Gunks and organizer of aggressive mountaineering expeditions on his days off. He also taught climbing lessons to youth groups, shared countless slide shows to church groups and other audiences, and later made films of his climbs.

He was an unassuming presence most people never took seriously as a climber if you hadn’t climbed with him. In fact, even in Talkeetna he was the subject of ridicule prior to his historic first ascent of Denali’s Southeast Spur in 1962. He carried around his briefcase in town for days until the weather cleared and his team could attack. Many others in New York had no idea of his climbing interest and accomplishments until late in his life. It seems he started coming into his own then.

His accomplishment on the new route on Denali was a remarkable feat in logistics and bullheadedness. They dealt with hard ice, tunneling and rough weather. The route require endless step chopping, rock climbing, climbing cornices and seracs at 10,800 ft. (a section known as “The Fluting,”) and overcoming an overhanging ice wall . One pitch at 10,700 ft. took the group all day to overcome because of the hollow snow and difficulty in setting up protection. At the end of the Spur, the team, knowing they didn’t have sufficient food supplies for all, sent Everett and partner Sam Cochrane to the South Summit.

Everett wrote the quintessential treatise on climbing in Alaska in those days, The Organization of an Alaskan Expedition, which, according to Jonathan Waterman, was copied by untold numbers of dreamers and climbers that wanted to do something big. His leadership and vision also took himself and his teams of climbers to the four highest mountains in North America and to an attempt on Dhaulagiri (26,795 ft./8,167 m.) It was the 1969 attempt on a new route on Dhaulagiri in the Himalayas that cut his life short in an avalanche around 16,500 ft. along with six of his teammates.

There are two records that I am quite impressed by and one I’ve always wanted to duplicate. Everett held the world’s highest recorded game of bridge on Mount Logan (19,551 ft./5,959 m.) He also hit one heck of a golf drive over the side of Mount St. Elias! I’ve always wanted to carry a ball and a club up to the top of some peak and whack it for everything I could in some sort of sense of victory, freedom, and endless space. I can imagine how Everett might have felt in his follow through.

Everett has a memorial fund established in his name that is now part of the ongoing American Alpine Club Mountaineering Fellowship Fund Grant. It was initiated from an endowment from his estate. It’s a fitting way for this man to allow his life to contribute more to climbing, just as he wanted others to know more about and understand climbing better.

Thanks for coming by again. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ’em!

Sources: 1) Waterman, Jonathan, High Alaska: A Historical Guide to Denali, Mount Foraker, & Mount Hunter, American Alpine Club Press, 1999; 2) 1964 American Alpine Journal, pp. 167-8; 3) 1968 American Alpine Journal, pp. 498-500.


6 thoughts on “Denali’s Southeast Spur and Boyd N. Everett, Jr.

  1. Great article. I have a question regarding Boyd Everett’s family. Did his father work for CNA Insurance back in the 60’s and 70’s?
    Thanks in advance!
    Janet Frampton

  2. I know not many people have done it since Everett and my grandfather, but I was wondering, how many more people have summited via the southeast spur?

  3. Hi, Charlie. No, I don’t know with any authority, but I expect it to be low relative to other routes on Denali.

    I had to poke around a little to see if there was an quick answer and as I expected there isn’t anything readily pre-packaged. I checked the American Alpine Journal, Boyd’s entry and related references are the most common (, and the statistics of climbers on Denali (like this don’t give the “back story” of the registered climbers, such as the intended route and their success.

    However, a ranger at the station in Talkeetna is going to give us a little insight into the last twenty years of digital information: Hopefully he can at least tell you and me how many have intended to climb by the southeast spur, and then take the average success rate to get a realistic sense. It won’t be authoritative, but it will give us a sense. If that doesn’t satisfy us, then maybe fly up to Talkeetna and raid their filing cabinets.

    I hope to report back sometime next week. Feel free to email me in the meantime:

  4. Charlie, I heard back from the rangers at Denali National Park & Preserve last night; earlier than expected. And they had some exciting news.

    Before they dove into the digital filing cabinet they asked one of the three most knowledgeable people about the Alaska Range about our question. I almost started with them, but decided that I didn’t want to draw on the same wells, which is why I just called the rangers, figuring they track the stats and there might be more available.

    So Mark Westman, an Alaska Range expert that is generous with his knowledge, lent us hand: He is fairly certain that no one has climbed Denali by the Southeast Spur route since the ’62 first ascent. That’s probably good reason for a lot of pride in your grandfather!

    If you’re interested in repeating the route, shoot me an email as I have some recommendations for resources and people for support. All the best.

  5. Wow, that’s great, I’ll be sure to let him know. I haven’t gotten into mountaineering yet, but who knows? Maybe one day I’ll follow in his foot steps. Thank you so much for finding this out for me!

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