The First Free Climb of Denali’s ‘Slovak Direct’

A Slovak team has put its mark on the Denali climbing season. First, Michal Sabovcik, Richard Nemec, and Sisa Kristofovicova climbed the normal West Buttress route on May 19. A day later, teammates Martin Heuger, Matej Duda, and Robert Vrlak followed.

Then between May 24 and 27, two members from the second group, Vrlak and Duda, also climbed the Cassin Ridge.

Robert Vrlak and Matej Duda on the Cassin Ridge and atop Denali. Photo: SHS JAMES/Facebook


Finally, on May 26, Richard Nemec and Michal Sabovcik free climbed the ‘Slovak Direct’ route on Denali. It took the pair some 40 hours to top out.

“Mark [Toralles] and Bru [Busom] of Spain climbed most of the line free in 2019, but they didn’t lead the crux pitch free,” Richard Nemec told ExplorersWeb. “The leader aided the pitch and then the second climber climbed the pitch on top rope.” So the Slovaks was the first-ever fully free climb of the route.

The Slovak Direct route. Photo: SHS JAMES/Facebook


Richard Nemec and Michal Sabovcik. Photo: SHS JAMES


The Slovak Direct has been climbed 12 times so far, including twice this season. A total of 28 climbers have managed the route since its first ascent in 1984 by Slovaks Blazej Adam, Tono Krizo, and Frantisek Korl.

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.