Three KZN men in team that conquered perilous Alaskan peak

2014-06-11 00:00

LOCAL businessman Andrew Barnes is happy to be back home after climbing one of the world’s coldest mountains, Mount McKinley.

Barnes, who spoke to The Witness after returning from Mt McKinley on Saturday, said the South African mountaineering team managed to climb the mountain in 13 days.

“It was cold, but we were happy to climb the mountain which is a few hundred kilometres from the North Pole,” said Barnes.

Barnes accompanied two Durbanites, Sean Wisedale and Tony Badenhorst, Wilmien van der Merwe from Thabazimbi, Marlette Hegyi and Anthony Rowan from Johannesburg to the summit of the highest mountain in North America, also known as Denali, which reaches a staggering height of 6 194 metres.

The mountain is in Alaska and close to the Arctic Circle. Icy temperatures of 35 degrees below zero kept the team busy.

“It is completely snowbound and the upper two-thirds are permanent ice fields. The Kahiltna Glacier must be navigated using rope and/or snow shoes and crampons,” said Barnes. He said they had to man-haul their own gear and supplies across the snow fields and glaciers on plastic sleds.

A brief weather window allowed them to step onto the summit. The average time to climb Mt McKinley is 21 days.

Barnes, a Pietermaritzburg property developer, is married to Shannon and they have three children.

Kath Wisedale, Sean’s wife, told The Witness that Mt McKinley is famous for its pristine glaciers and notorious for its crevasses. “Crevasses, avalanches and frostbite are the greatest threats to progress and to life.”

She said the team climbed in high winds and driving snow for eight continuous days to reach the high camp at 5 185 metres.

“It took the team just under two weeks to complete the climb. Three of them suffered from mild frostbite and survived three plunges into crevasses. Preparation on Mt McKinley is vital for the team’s climb of Mt Everest in 2015,” said Wisedale.

McKinley is one of the “Seven Summits” — a mountaineering goal to climb to the highest point on every continent.

Wisedale described it as not an overly technical climb but said the weather is severe and many lives have been claimed by the conditions.

However, she said what makes this climb remarkable is that all six of them reached the summit.

This is Barnes’s second time up Mt McKinley. — Witness Reporter.

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