THE GLACIERS WERE ROARING. In the never-night of the Alaskan spring, between daytime slides and evening storms, Sheldon Kerr and her ski partner, Jessica Baker, were partway up the 7,000-foot South Face of 14,470-foot University Peak, deep in the Wrangell-St. Elias, the biggest and most remote national park in the country.

Paul Claus, the only bush pilot who flies into that range, had dropped Baker and her gear off on the glacier, then left her there for two days before another weather window opened and he could drop Kerr. They walked through boot-deep, clear blue water until they set up camp on the glacial layer of ice at the base of the peak.

For 11 days in May, Kerr and Baker tried to time the climb: skin up in the narrow window of dusk when the snow firmed up, moving carefully through icefall and crevasses, switch to ski crampons, then to ice tools as the face got steeper. The plan was to summit, then ski down in the early morning hours. But storms kept gathering over the peak as they climbed. Every night, they’d hike up a little farther and get shut down.

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