Two Pioneers summit Mt. McKinley

It’s not surprising that DU students rise to the top in many fields. But it’s not often they rise to the very top — as in the highest point in North America.

Now two DU students have done exactly that. 

On June 16, junior biology major Mike Hinckley and MBA student Håvard Selseng (both DU ski team members) stood at 20,320 feet atop Mt. McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park. 

The climb lasted 10 days — nine to get to the top and one day to return to base camp.

Hinckley grew up in Alaska. 

“Since I was a kid I have always wanted to climb Denali. Denali was always in the background while I was busy doing other things, but I always stopped to admire it,” says Hinckley, the youngest of the nine who made it to the top that day. 

For Selseng the feat was a natural progression from climbing Mt. Blanc in France and Mt. Elbrus in Russia in 2003 and 2006, respectively. 

“It’s also part of the seven summits — the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Being a student in the U.S. was also a reason to choose Denali,” says Selseng, who’s from the steep hillsides of western Norway and grew up running, hiking and climbing. 

Hinckley says for him it wasn’t “a trophy hunt,” but rather something that he had dreamed about as a kid. The two say planning was one of the biggest hurdles. 

“To get on the mountain in time I had to reschedule a final and change my flights,” Hinckley says. “The last week of school was hectic, pulling everything together with finals. I remember sitting in my last test trying to focus.”

They say the idea to climb Denali arose in a van on a ski team trip. 

“I have talked a lot about doing Denali and always got excited about the possibility, but the high usually ends with the reality and difficulty of arranging it all,” Hinckley says. “But then Håvard replied in an e-mail with simply, ‘lets do it,’ and that was the real starting point.”

So what’s next for the climbing duo? Selseng says just to be “outside and have a good time with good friends.” But then he adds, “Aconcagua in Argentina — the highest in South America — is tempting, and also a trip to the Himalayas could be a natural step up after Denali.”

Hinckley says he hasn’t given much thought to “another big trip.” “There are countless things I want to do in Alaska and in Colorado, and it’s just a matter of finding time to do them.”

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