Success story from Denali: Jost Kobusch achieves solo winter ascent

Jost Kobusch
Jost Kobusch

Nice success for Jost Kobusch. According to his team, the 30-year-old German climber reached the summit of Denali at 1.03 pm CET on Sunday – after a solo ascent via the Messner Couloir. No one had ever succeeded before to climb this route in winter, and then also solo. With an altitude of 6,190 meters, Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain in North America and thus one of the Seven Summits. Because of its location in Alaska, high in the north, it is considered one of the coldest mountains in the world.

35 hours after setting out from high camp at 4,330 meters, Jost had returned there from his summit push, his team let it be known: “Jost has reported that he is doing well, other than minor frostbite on his toes.” Temporarily, there had been irritation because Kobusch’s GPS tracker had indicated that he had turned back below the highest point. The reason given later was that Jost had only stayed at the summit for a very short time because of the adverse weather. From the summit, however, he had sent a message the coordinates of which showed that he had been at the top.

Trump prevented Kobusch’s first attempt


In recent years, Jost Kobusch had made headlines with his winter attempts on Mount Everest. His goal is to climb the highest mountain on earth solo and without bottled oxygen, via the rarely attempted route via West Ridge and Hornbein Couloir to the summit at 8,849 meters. In the first attempt, he had reached the West Shoulder at a good 7,300 meters in winter 2019/2020. In winter 2021/2022 the end of the line was due to strong winds at just below 6,500 meters.

In 2019, Jost had already set his sights on climbing Denali in winter. The shutdown imposed by then U.S. President Donald Trump – the federal administration was temporarily shut down due to the outstanding funding of the government budget – had put a spoke in his wheel at the time: work was also not being done in the Denali National Park Administration, so an ascent was not permitted.

First winter ascent of Denali om 1967

GPS message Kobusch from the summit of Denali
Jost’s GPS message from the summit

The route Kobusch used in his ascent to the summit is named after Reinhold Messner. The living mountaineering legend from South Tyrol had summited Denali in 1976, together with the Austrian Oswald Oelz, through the snow gully, which is steep up to 45 degrees.

The first winter ascent of Denali was achieved in 1967 by the Americans Art Davidson, Dave Johnston and Ray Genet – via the West Buttress, the normal route to the summit. In February 1984, Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura reached the summit solo, disappearing on the descent. Uemura’s body has not been found to this day. The first mountaineer to climb Denali solo in winter and also survive the descent was Vern Tejas in 1988. The US mountain guide also ascended via the West Buttress.

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