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Art Davidson, Ray Genet and Dave Johnston became Alaska heroes as the first mountaineers to complete the daunting task of ascending 20,320-foot Mount McKinley in winter.
Over a period of 42 days in 1967, the group battled terrifying winds, massive snowfall and brutal temperatures to reach the summit via the mountain’s West Buttress.
On their descent they were trapped by a week-long storm with a wind-chill temperature calculated at minus 148 degrees. That is the title of Davidson’s book that has become a classic of mountaineering literature.
Mount McKinley -- also called Denali -- is the roof of North America and is an iconic symbol of Alaska. Any climber who scales it is accorded respect, but the first to succeed at climbing the peak in the cold and dark of winter were feted for their bravery and ability.
Other expedition members who made the climb possible, but didn’t reach the summit, were Farine Batkin, John Edwards, Gregg Blomberg, George Von Wichman and Shiro Nihimae.
By conquering the elements in the face of extreme danger and hardship, the team etched its achievement in the minds of Alaskans forever.
– Lew Freedman
photos courtesy of Art Davidson / Anchorage Daily News
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