Denali Winter Ascent: In A Holding Pattern, Waiting For Weather To Improve

Denali Mt McKinley

Climbers Artur Testov and Christine Feret have returned to Denali this year to challenge that formidable mountain in the winter. The duo made the attempt in 2010 as well, but were forced to turn back due to bad weather, and while it may be a new year, their old foe has returned to challenge them once again.

This expedition actually got underway back on February 1st, but due to my travels, it slipped off the radar a bit. But, there is still plenty to report, as both Artur and Christine have made good progress, despite the extremely cold temperatures and generally poor conditions. The two are currently huddled in a snow cave on the headwall while they wait out the high winds that are causing whiteouts on the mountain. They’ve been in that cave for four days already and yet they remain optimistic and confident in their approach to the climb. Temperatures are said to be hovering around -60ºF (-51ºC) so they’ll also wait for warmer temps before moving up as well.
A winder descent of the 20,327 ft (6,196 m) Denali is one of the toughest challenges in all of mountaineering. The feat has only been accomplished a hand full of times, with weather usually being the biggest obstacle. Throughout the winter, the mountain is shrouded in darkness while high winds, heavy snow, and frigid temperatures punish anyone who attempts to claim the summit. The mountain is a challenge even in June and July, the prime climbing season, which makes a winter attempt all the more daring. 
You can read more about the expedition on their official website, where you’ll also find plenty of audio dispatches to help keep you informed of Artur and Christine’s progress. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather clears and gives them a crack at the summit.
Kraig Becker