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Slovak Direct on Denali Climbed in 21.5 Hours – That’s Insane

The Slovak Direct on Denali climbs 2,700 metres at VI 5.9X M6 WI6. Three climbers just climbed it in a third of the previous record time

Top alpinists Matt Cornell, Jackson Marvell and Alan Rousseau have climbed the Slovak Direct on Denali in 21 hours and 35 minutes. The 2,700-metre route is graded VI 5.9X M6 WI6.

It was first climbed in 1984 by Blažej Adam, Tono Križo and František Korl in 11 days. In the 1985 American Alpine Journal, Adam wrote, “From May 13 to 23 we climbed a new route on the south face of Mount McKinley to the right of the Cassin Ridge… We had very good weather for the first five days but it was rather bad after that. Bivouac sites caused us great problems. Only on three nights, 5, 6 and 9, could we pitch our tent; on all other nights we had to hack out bivouac shelves. The climbing on the face was UIAA IV to V + on rock and 60° to 90° on ice. We placed 150 rock pitons and 40 ice pitons. We wore out new crampons and ice axes.”

In 2000, it was then climbed by Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore in seven days. Then right after, Steve House, Mark Twight and Scott Backes climbed it in 60 hours for the third ascent. Twight described the Slovak Direct in his book Kiss Or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber as one of the “most powerful experiences of our lives.”

In 2012, Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman climbed it. After his return to Britain, Bullock said, “They [House, Twight and Backes] had the balls to go single push, with no sleeping bags or tent, on a route that had only just seen its second ascent by top class alpinists 14 years after being established. Mark’s writing about it really put the route on the map. Then the Giri-Giri boys enchained it with The Isis Face in a eight day push. So basically it’s one of the big hard out-there routes on Denali. Steve House said it was his first world class route.”

In 2018, Chantel Astorga and Anne Gilbert Chase became the first all-woman team to climb the Slovak Direct. “We made the ninth overall (we think) and first female ascent of the Slovak Direct on the south face of Mount Denali completing a two-year dream,” said Gilbert Chase. “It was an amazing and wild adventure that I can’t put into words at this time. It took everything we had and challenged our mental and physical strength many times over. What a beautiful mountain and a badass route.”

In 2021, Marvell and Rousseau climbed Infinite Spur on Mount Foraker and Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter in a push and were hoping to also climb the Slovak Direct. This year, they teamed up with Cornell to try to climb the Slovak Direct as fast as possible.

“We are happy with what we have done and excited about what this effort shows us we can do in the future,” said Rousseau. “I am doubtful our record will stand for twenty years. I am hopeful some buddies in a couple weeks climb it faster! Everyone’s success pushes our sport further as we learn from one another.”

Slovak Direct Ascents

1984: Blažej Adam, Tono Križo and František Korl
2000: Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore
2000: Scott Backes, Steve House and Mark Twight
2008: Katsutaka Yokoyama, Yusuke Sato and Fumitaka Ichimura
2010: Jesse Huey and Mark Westman
2012: Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock
2013: Rémi Sfilio and Helias Millerioux
2017: David Bacci and Luca Moroni
2018: Chantel Astorga and Anne Gilbert Chase
2019: Bru Busom and Marc Toralles
2022: Matt Cornell, Jackson Marvell and Alan Rousseau

2012 Ascent