"We wanted to take one of the gnarliest mountains in the world and make it look like your local backcountry ski area," says Aspen-based freeskier Chris Davenport of his 22-day June expedition to 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. And they did. Along with Clark Fyans, Nick DeVore, Kirsten Kremer, and Adam Clark, Davenport, 36, skied a dozen lines off North America's tallest peak, even dropping a few 20-foot seracs for kicks. "If you can climb fast and light at altitude and ski 50-degree slopes," says Davenport, "you can take that to any mountain—even K2." That may sound like a foolhardy claim, considering the Himalayan monster's deadly reputation (the 28,250-foot peak has seen only one ski attempt), but Davenport's casual swagger is indicative of a shift among pro adventurers. That old goal of conquest has evolved to incorporate play. As we report in the following pages, today's elite athletes, empowered by better training and gear, have begun making once unimaginable feats—climbing El Cap twice in a day, say—seem routine, even fun. "Our trip was about recreation—a group of friends going skiing," says Davenport. "The mountain just happened to be Denali."
Filed To: Backcountry Skiing