Friday, February 25, 2011
Denali Winter Ascent: Heading Down For Now
Earlier this week I mentioned an expedition that is currently underway on Denali, in which Artur Testov and Christine Feret are attempting to climb Denali in the winter. When last we checked in on the two climbers, they had been stuck in a snow cave for six days and were waiting for the weather to improve. Now, a few days later, the weather hasn't gotten all that much better, so they've elected to head down the mountain and wait for another opportunity.
According to their latest audio dispatches, Artur and Christine have descended to 11,000 feet (3352 meters) where they managed to find a snow cave they had previously built at that altitude. They've now taken shelter there and are hoping for another crack at the summit, but conditions are extremely bad and the weather is always unpredictable on Denali this time of year.
From the sounds of things, the descent wasn't much of a picnic, as Christine calls it a "hell day" in her dispatch, but she did say that as soon as they dropped below 11,000 feet, the wind stopped and it became an absolutely beautiful day on the mountain. That has encouraged them to sit tight for a bit and wait for their next opportunity, but it is also a bit disheartening to find conditions so calm down below, but know what kind of maelstrom awaits up towards the summit.
Climbing Denali in the winter is one of the biggest challenges in all of mountaineering. While the peak is "just" 20,327 feet in height, it is situated at a latitude that makes for very long, and cold winters. Most climbers take on this mountain in late-June and into July, and even then it can be a bit dicey. Artur has successfully climbed the mountain in winter however, and Christine has what it takes to make it to the top too. All they need is a little luck and a proper weather window to give it a go.
Stay tuned for updates.