The team gave it a strong effort, working hard for weeks as they made their way up the slopes of Denali, but ultimately, conditions just didn’t cooperate. They started up for the ridge camp at 16,400 ft yesterday, but were turned around by the conditions.
Over the past days, feet of new snow has accumulated above their 14,200′ home for the past 10 days. The loose snow has made footing especially difficult, and increased the risk of avalanches. After a long, difficult day of pushing up towards their next objective, the team decided that prudence was the smarter part of valor, in this instance, and has decided to head downwards.
They have no easy task ahead of them, as descending will be even more grueling for some team members than climbing uphill. Over the next 3-4 days, they will make their way down the mountain and along the massive Kahiltna Glacier, bound for the packed snow airstrip a vertical mile and a half below there current location.
This team took on a challenge that few would ever consider. The effort they put forth and the lengths to which they fought in the face of brutally challenging weather is beyond the scope of my vocabulary, but the 2012 Denali climbing season has seen especially tough weather and the necessary windows of stable conditions necessary for these climbers to make their way further upwards just did not materialize. Hopefully, the snow and wind that has buffeted them for the past week will diminish somewhat as they work their way down off the mountain.
Here is lead guide Drew Ludwig, master of understatement: