Denali: Jost Kobusch Reaches Pickup Spot

The summit is only halfway, especially on Denali. Jost Kobusch is on the final leg of his solo winter climb, just one day away from his pickup point. From there, a bush plane will convey him back to Talkeetna once the weather permits.

After summitting last Sunday, the solo climber faced a gale on his way back. Kobusch described yesterday as the “hardest day, descending in a storm on blue ice terrain, dragging a heavy sled among crevasses, and then building an ice cave.”

Kobusch’s position today at 3,000m, indicated on the map as a camp or cache point. The plane dropped him off three weeks ago at the SE Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier, at 2,150m.

Friday-Saturday pickup?

According to his tracker, he has progressed swiftly today and is approaching the spot where the bush plane dropped him off three weeks ago. Kobusch left food, fuel, and supplies for an additional 10 days there. Multimodel forecasts show rough weather for the next couple of days, but a possible window on Friday afternoon till Saturday.

Here’s a map of reporting points in the Denali area. Check the Denali forecast at different altitudes here.

Forecast for Denali at 4,500m.

Forecast for Denali at 4,500m.


Some background

Kobusch is the 17th person to summit Denali in winter and the fourth to do so solo. Art Davidson, Ray Genet, and Dave Johnston did the first successful winter ascent over a period of 42 days in 1967. They “faced extreme conditions via the mountain’s West Buttress, and a week-long storm on descent,” wrote.

Vern Tejas of Anchorage (later well-known as an Everest guide with Alpine Ascents) did the first complete winter solo in 1988. Four years earlier, climber-polar traveler Naomi Uemura of Japan summited alone in winter but perished on the descent.

Tejas was vacationing in Japan when he heard about Uemura’s death. “I could not have imagined a more audacious idea,” Tejas wrote — but then he adopted it. So in the winter of 1988, he set off with a folding aluminum ladder that he had bought at a drugstore in Talkeetna around his waist. He hoped that the ladder would span any crevasses he happened to fall into along the way. Read more about his amazing climb here or watch the video below by


Staeheli and Dupre

David Staeheli did the third winter ascent via the West Rib. He summited on March 13, 1990. (Note for purists: within astronomical winter but after the end of meteorological winter.)

“I believe that all the winter accidents can be traced to poor judgment, carelessness, or inexperience with local conditions,” Staeheli reported in the AAJ. “I believe my success was good luck, but luck is made as well as found.”

Ironically, Staeheli was later involved in a tragic episode on Denali, when one of his clients died and three more were injured. A lawsuit followed, and Stahaeli was held responsible for abandoning his client. They reached a settlement, and the outfitting agency kept its license. Stahaeli had retired by then.

Fifteen years went by until American Lonnie Dupre reached the top in January 2015, on his fourth attempt. It was the first Denali solo summit achieved in January. Previously, a three-member Russian team had summited on January 16, 1998.

Again for winter purists, note that Dupre set off on December 18, 2014, before the start of meteorological winter.

When Jost Kobusch confirmed that he had summited last Sunday, his home team announced that he was the first non-American to solo Denali in winter, and the first person to climb the Messner Couloir in winter.

When Kobusch returns to Talkeetna, we’ll report more details about this remarkable climb, from the conditions he endured along the way to the route he chose to descend from the summit.

Update, Feb. 23: Kobusch reached the pickup point today.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.