Shop Eddie Bauer: Men Women Kids Outerwear Gear Sale
Be First Recipients Fight Dangerous Conditions During Training on Mt. McKinley
Posted on July 19, 2010

Confined to a snow cave for 12 days by a blizzard during her last attempt, Be First recipient Christine Feret is making another push to become the first woman to summit Denali in the winter, alongside partner Artur Testov. Picking up from her previous post, Christine and Artur face tough conditions that threaten their ability to reach the next stages of their training climb.

By Christine Feret

After taking a day off at McGonagal Pass, we crossed the Muldrow moraine in the rain and were starting to worry about the snow conditions we would encounter on the glacier. We were at around 6,500 feet and far from freezing temperatures. The North Side has almost constant direct sunlight in the summer, and colder temperatures are a key to manageable snow conditions.

Having made camp at the end of the moraine, we woke up at 2 a.m. and the outside of our tent was wet. When we woke up again at 4 a.m. it was frozen. We took a first look at the Lower Icefall hoping to bring cache at the top. We slowly navigated through the riddles of crevasses as the bridges looked soft and questionable.

We made it to out the Lower Icefall in almost four hours. The sun was up and dangerously warming the already slushy snow. However, we wanted to bring our cache higher to a more stable camp area and we decided to push on. Within a half hour, we were in soupy snow, falling into snow holes and crevasses. We quickly left our cache on the beginning slope of the second Icefall and headed down toward our camp.

We were late. The bridges that had held us on the way up were crumbling underneath us. Working in total symbiosis and walking like ballerinas, we made it back down.

We spent the following days waiting for a good frost that never came. We would unsuccessfully try our way up to our cache and food every night. After running out of food, we decided to make it back up anyway. We set out at 3 a.m., fell in more times than I wish to remember, and finally made it to our food at 9 a.m. at 8,600 feet.

We went down to 8,000 feet where Artur had seen a safer camp place and waited there for a little bit of colder weather as we were being rained on even at that elevation. We carefully stayed within a couple of feet of our tent for fear of sinking chest-deep in the snow.

The following night, we gave it one more try. The trail we had made seemed somewhat frozen and held us up. We reached our previous turning point, a network of wider crevasses with collapsing bridges we had punched through a few days before.  I spotted Artur on top of a questionable 2×3-foot ice platform. The next crevasse at his feet was wide, but it was obvious to us it would not hold him. We could rappel down it, climb up the other side, set up ropes, spend three hours crossing it, but the next crevasse was 30 feet away.

We had to turn around with our frustration and a weakening feeling in the knees at the prospect of re-crossing the Lower Icefall, then the grueling miles of moraine, the 40 miles of tundra and the McKinley River again. We would see no Pioneer Ridge and no Denali traverse this time.

We set out at 4 a.m. the next night, in a rain, drizzle and fog. The snow had yet again deteriorated through the day. More crevasses were opening around us and even though the conditions were all wrong according to “Glacier Crossing 101,” we knew this might be one of our last chances to make it down.

I will never forget this trip down the Lower Muldrow–our utter concentration as we carefully controlled each of our step placements, relying equally on our personal and combined skills. We fell in, we got out, we cursed, we laughed–we made it down. Two days later, we were back in Wonder Lake waiting for the bus out.

I wrote once why we climb: We climb for love of it, for the humbling experience of feeling so small in this immense and overwhelmingly extreme environment, for the many rewards that come from overcoming one’s fears and from realizing the power of the human spirit. Besides being partners in life, this is why we climb together. We love every moment of being out there, the breathtaking beauty of the harshest environments, seemingly unsuited for human life but so possibly pleasurable.

Each step forward in mountaineering is a personal victory. Each safe return is the true accomplishment. Goals are set to be tried, and regardless of the outcome, each moment on the way is a gem to enjoy. Until our next big session, I will remember with a smile on my face this fantastic, trying expedition that reminded me of what true mountaineering is about.

Author: - Monday, July 19th, 2010

  1. Le Conte Dominique

    C’est super impressionnant mais tellement magnifique !!! Je suis heureuse de pouvoir suivre tes aventures Christine et je veux bien croire que chaque pas est une victoire personnelle face à cette immensité blanche…
    Merci à tous les deux de nous faire partager ces instants…Gros bisous pour vous réchauffer au moins le coeur.

Write A Comment

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.