ANCHORAGE - Two Russian mountaineers attempting the first winter ascent of Mount McKinley's formidable north side decided Wednesday to turn back at about the 11,000-foot level.
John Quinley, a National Park Service spokesman in Anchorage, said mountaineers Marat Galinov and Alexandre Smirnov called the Talkeetna ranger station late Wednesday morning to say they were giving up their quest.
``They realized that they don't have enough time to get to the top and get back within their window of having enough food and fuel,'' Quinley said.
Galinov and Smirnov were retreating from Karstens Ridge, a little more than halfway up the 20,320-foot peak, North America's tallest. They were expected to reach the mining community of Kantishna in about a week, Quinley said.
The climbers' progress was slower than planned, largely due to temperatures that first rose above freezing and then plunged to 60 below zero north of the Alaska Range.
Given their limited progress, their decision to turn back was a smart one, Quinley said.
``There was no sense going higher and prolonging their suffering if they were just going to have to turn around in a couple of days anyway,'' he said.
Galinov, 40, and Smirnov, 42, left overland from Kantishna on Dec. 11 with a month's supply of provisions.