Czech mountaineer scales Denali in bid for Crown of the World

Denali, photo: Public Domain

Czech mountaineer Radek Jaroš has taken another step in conquering the highest mountains of each of the seven continents, the so-called Crown of the World. On Wednesday morning, the Czech climber, along with his colleague Petr Mašek, scaled Denali in Alaska. His success, however, was marred by the death of his colleague Pavel Michut, who died on Sunday while attempting to ski down the famed Alaskan peak.

Denali,  photo: Public Domain
At 6,190 metres above sea level, Denali is not the highest of the so-called Seven Summits, nevertheless, its location makes getting up the mountain extremely difficult even for seasoned climbers such as Radek Jaroš. Conditions on the mountain, formerly called Mount McKinley, are more severe than others and there is also less oxygen than other high mountains. This is what the Czech mountaineer told Czech Radio soon upon his return to the fourth base camp:

“We are totally worn out because we had to climb an elevation of 2,000 metres. We had just returned to the fifth base camp where our colleagues from the Czech expedition lent us a tent and then we’ll be moving to our tent in the fourth base camp.”

The 52-year old climber set out on his mission to conquer the highest summits of the seven continents soon after earning Crown of the Himalayas two years ago. In August 2014, Radek Jaroš became only the 15th person in the world to reach all 14 summits above 8,000 metres without using an oxygen mask.

With Mount Everest and Denali already ticked off the list, there are still five more items on the Seven Summits list, including Aconcagua in the Andes, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Mount Vinson in Antarctica.

Radek Jaroš,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
But despite conquering the Alaskan peak, Radek Jaroš was devastated by the death of his colleague and friend, Pavel Michut, who suffered fatal injuries while skiing down Denali. The 45-year old mountaineer died after falling while making a descent off Denali's Messner Couloir, a steep gorge connecting the basin with the upper part of the mountain.

“It was really tough for me. I cried twice today – first when we set off the fourth base camp and I saw the helicopter that came to recover Pavel’s body, just as we were advancing upward. And then I cried right below the summit, when it was already clear that we would reach it.”

Conquering the Seven Summits or the crown of the World is regarded a major mountaineering challenge, which was first achieved on April 30, 1985 by Richard Bass. The first Czech to earn the Crown of the World was Miloslav Caban in October 2005.