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Found 9 results

  1. Trip: West Fork Ruth Glacier, Alaska - The Rooster Comb, DIrect North Buttress Date: 4/15/1980 Trip Report: OK, this all happened a long time ago, so here it is, to the best of my rapidly aging recollection: In late April 1981, Keith Royster and I had been camped on the West Fork of the Ruth glacier with a couple of friends for two weeks. We were waiting for a weather window long enough for a 3-day alpine style ascent of the unclimbed North Buttress of the Rooster Comb. The pattern had been 2 to 3-day periods of stormy weather separated by a day of clearing. We knew from our experiences of the previous three seasons spent on the Ruth that if we were patient that pattern would reverse, and we could expect a 3 to 4-day period of fine cold conditions. Rooster Comb routes Bivy sites We both had climbed other Rooster Comb routes on those earlier expeditions. Scott Woolums and I had bagged the first ascent of the Rooster Comb’s main summit in 1978 via the SE Face. In 1979 Jeff Thomas and I made an ascent to the NW summit from the top of the col between the Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington. In 1980 Keith and Leigh Anderson climbed a new route up the NW Face to the NW summit. Each year we looked at the North Buttress and vowed to come back and give it a shot some day. That day was rapidly approaching for Keith and I, but the current weather was less than perfect. It WAS good enough for a bush pilot from Talkeetna to land on the West Fork just above our camp and drop off two British climbers, Nick Colton and Tim Leech. They post-holed over to our camp, introduced themselves and announced that they were going to climb our route the next morning. After the brits left to set up their camp we convened a hasty war council. We could beat them to the base; our gear was packed and we had skis. In a footrace we could move much faster that the post-holing brits and get on the route ahead of them. But we knew the weather, and it wasn’t going to be good. We had seen the lower buttress disappear under enormous avalanches more times than we could count. At best there would be continuous spindrift for most of the route. It was a huge decision… did we want the first ascent or the best ascent? In the end we decided to wait for the weather. We were climbing for fun, we told each other, not glory. Five days later Nick and Tim were back from their epic. Or maybe it was just a typical day on the crag for them, being crazy brits and all. The constant spindrift had slowed them down dramatically in the lower third of the route, and they had bypassed the crux section of the gully by aid climbing around to the right. If we couldn’t be first, maybe we could score some points on style. Now finally the weather was becoming settled, and we hoped most of the new snow had fallen off the route, because we were going to go that night. It seemed to us that, after weeks of watching the face over the past three years, the big avalanches cut lose in the mid-afternoon. By starting the climb at 10pm, we could be out of the lower gully before noon. Even in late April there is plenty of light for gully climbing at night. We blasted off right on time, leaving our skis at the base of the route. The lower gully was classic, with excellent snow and ice up a twisting gully, perfect granite on both sides. We climbed together, moving fast, the leader placing pro until out of gear. Sometime before dawn we switched leads at Nick and Tim’s first bivy platform, set dead center in a wide section of the gully. I was nervous just stopping there to belay. It must have been a nasty bivy in the conditions they were climbing in. Keith in the lower gully By 10am we were feeling like we were in safer ground, with most of the lower gully below us. About that time our friend Jim Olson was at the base to retrieve our skis. From the center of the West Fork he watched a massive avalanche fall into the gully below us. A cornice had let go from high above and it scoured the gully, then washed out halfway across the West Fork. A half-hour slower and we would have been right in the firing line. As it was, we were blissfully unaware of our close call. At about the halfway point, the gully becomes discontinuous as it runs into a prominent 500-foot rock band. We set our first bivy where the snow and ice of the lower gully met the rock band. It was a very small platform, maybe two feet wide, but well protected by the overhanging bulge of rock above. We spent the night in sleeping bags and bivy sacs at –20F. I had a miserable night, not cold, but cramping up on the narrow snow ledge. Even my facial muscles were cramping, locking my eyes shut. About 30 feet right of our platform, the next pitch began with a 30 foot section of vertical rock, beyond which the gully picked up again, though quite a bit more steep than it had been. Keith made quick work of the rock, and led up the gully a ways before bringing me up. I got a really sweet lead up the gully to the base of the crux pitch. This is the point where Nick and Tim had climbed out to the right, bypassing the heinous, rotten vertical ice hose that the gully had just become. I was not unhappy that it was Keith’s lead! Keith led up some beautiful gully ice to the foot of the overhanging 40-foot chimney partially filled with some really crappy looking ice. He put in an ice screw that MIGHT have held a light fall, and headed straight up. It was mostly a very scary looking stem, with his backpack and right shoulder against the rock wall on the right and his feet kicking holes into the rotten ice curtain on the left. It was a monster effort, and I was sweating bullets for him until he finally pulled over the top. Definitely a no fall situation! Keith on the heinous crux pitch Keith continued on easier vertical mixed ground and banged in a belay. I jugged past the heinous chimney, thinking all the while what a scary lead it must have been. I lead off from Keith’s belay, first traversing left to follow the remnants of the gulley, now degenerated into vertical ice-filled cracks. Protection was scarce, and my first piece after traversing left was a number 1 stopper. I climbed up another twenty feet of ice-covered rock, heading for a three-inch wide runnel of ice. At the base of the runnel I was REALLY looking for a placement, and there in the base of the crack was a fixed pin left by Nick and Tim. I hit it a couple of times with my north wall hammer. It rang true and I and clipped in. WHEW! I set my axe and north wall hammer into the ice of the runnel and grabbed hold of the sling I had clipped to the fixed pin to lean back for a good look up the ice runnel. Suddenly the rock broke, the pin pulled, and I was forty feet lower, upside down over 2000 feet of air. Hanging from the number 1 stopper, I watched my snow shovel fall back to the glacier. I looked over at Keith as I slowly rotated in the air. He told me, “Stop screwing around Kerr, I’m freezing over here!” I got back on the rock, and looked up to see my ice tools waiting for me, still stuck in the runnel. The pitch had been hard with tools. Climbing back up to them barehanded was “interesting”. Once reunited with my tools, I banged the pin back in and scampered up the ice. For the first time in two days I climbed into the sun. I anchored in and brought my frozen partner up. In a couple more easy pitches we were above all difficulties and built a commodious bivy ledge. The next morning we kicked up the summit snowfield and pulled out the flask for a quick summit celebration. The weather was still holding perfect, and we enjoyed the 360-degree view for a few minutes before starting down the ridge that led to the col between the main summit and the NW summit and plateau. The descent to the col was exciting ridge climbing, ending in a long free rappel into the col. The climb up to the NW summit ridge was not difficult and we walked west across the plateau to the top of the wide gully that leads down to the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. It was late and we decided to bivy in the bergschrund before descending to the col. Unfortunately, we were out of food. After we dug our way down into the crevasse and set up our bivy, I told Keith I was going out to find us some dinner. He looked at me like I had been smoking too much pot. I crawled out of our cave and crossed the top of the descent gully to the base of a large rock. I dug at the snow and rock for a few minutes, then reached into a hole in the rock and retrieved the bag of food and fuel that Jeff Thomas and I had left there the year before. Keith was suitably impressed with our foresight when I returned with a huge meal for two and a pint of stove fuel. We started down early the next morning, and made two rappels down the gulley. We were crossing the giant cornices of the col barely an hour after we started down, working our way across to the west side, and the safest descent route to the West Fork. I knew the way down from the Huntington/Rooster Comb col really well. I’d made two round trips over the col in 1979 on our way to Mt. Huntington’s SE side, and one round trip in 1980 to gain the East Ridge of Mt. Huntington. It’s straightforward snow and ice climbing, made a game of terrifying Russian roulette by the huge cornices and seracs that threaten every part of the face. This is definitely not a place to stop for a picnic, and Keith and I fairly flew down the face, reaching the glacier in about two and a half hours. Crossing the Huntington/Rooster Comb col on the descent We felt great after the climb. We had managed to cut a full day off the first ascent time, climbed the crux gulley pitch, and done it in a spell of perfect weather. The North Buttress is the most classic line in the West Fork, in my book, and I put it at the top of my personal list of achievements. Some days after we got back to base camp, Nick and Tim returned from climbing a new route on the West face of Mt. Huntington. You had to hand it to those two; they really maxed out the possibilities on their visit to the West Fork. Two years later Keith and I skied back into the range from the North, destination: the Colton/Leech route on Mt. Huntington. But that is another story… Since our ascent in 1981 this route has only had one other successful ascent. Gear Notes: Lightweight alpine rack (screws, one picket, assorted pins), 160m double 9mm ropes, sleeping bags/bivy sacs, MSR stove, 3 days food/fuel
  2. Hi all, I am trying to find a trip report that was talked about here a while back. A bunch of guys stayed at a remote hut in Alaska for a week or two, and when their trip was about to end without an incident, they decided to try all the drugs they brought on themselves. I seem to remember that the TR was posted in several batches and possibly not on this site. Could you please help me find it? Thanks!
  3. I am looking to get setup with Few people to explore the Ruth Gorge in - 2018 Spring/Summer Season. My idea is to spend few days in Anchorage first - One day in Matanuska Glacier (Get all the crevasse rescue and ice climbing). If possible hike one day in - Exit Glacier (Get more situated with Alaskan Glacier Travel). Then fly down and setup a Base camp in - Ruth Gorge for 2/3 Days. Get familiar with the area and do some climbing with skill level permits. I am not a die hard mountaineer or climber - I can do whatever is my limit. Looking for few like minded people to share the Guide cost or any other cost which can be split. If you wanna do more intense climbing - you are most welcome to do so. With Regards Tapas
  4. Here is a link to a report on another forum for a good effort on the Mendenhall Towers. http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1553487&msg=1554874#msg1554874 Enjoy
  5. best of cc.com Cassin Ridge TR

    Denali’s Cassin Ridge had, for me, long held a place as a route that was too technical, too big, too scary, and just too hard to even think about trying. Road trips down south, ice seasons in the Rockies, and winter aid in Squamish, slowly began to change my perception of the route into something climbable. I jokingly mentioned the route to Nick Elson after a day of dry tooling in Squamish and to my surprise and excitement he seemed just as keen to try the route as I was. Nick is a solid rock and ice climber and I knew his ability to climb 5.12 (in the gym…) would be our secret weapon on the 5.8 crux’s… I left the Rockies in February to go tree plant on the coast and make some money for the trip. While coastal planting is great for the wallet and physical conditioning it can be horrible for my psyche. In 50 days of planting over 40 were raining and our cut blocks were either just below or just above the snowline. I prayed my frozen feet and hands were a side effect of the creatine I was taking to try and put weight on for the trip. Nick miraculously sent our applications and fees in and the date was set for a May 10 arrival. I left the coast on May 5th and in a flurry shopping and packing (throwing everything in my van) Nick and I set off from Vancouver on the 4 day drive to Talkeetna. Once in Talkeetna we went to the Ranger station and prepared ourselves for a stern lecture on the dangers of climbing and the importance of safety. I nervously sat as the ranger pulled out our resumes and eyed them closely. To my surprise he looked up and said “looks like you boys have a lot of cold weather climbing experience, lets take a look at the route shall we?” The Ranger in fact, almost seemed to have more confidence in our ability to climb it then we did! Maybe he had our resumes mixed up with 2 other climbers? He took us through a slideshow of the route with pictures from the year before that I must admit, made the route look quite challenging. Acclimatization Once at base camp we sorted gear for our cash and packed up 14 days of food fuel to acclimatize on the West Buttress route. After dinner nick quickly became nauseous and promptly vomited into the vestibule. He reassured me this was standard practice for him while acclimating at “altitude”. Base camp is at 7200ft. We spent the next 5 days getting to the 14000ft camp and taking care not to push to hard. Once at 14k we set up shop for the week and dug in. Other than 110kph winds (160kph were recorded at 17k) we had an uneventful week at 14k with 2 short day trips up to 17k on the upper West Rib to Acclimatize. We spent the week reading, writing, eating, cross wording, and listening to American radio on my mp3 player. 2 weeks after leaving base we were acclimatized as we were going to get and sick of sitting in our tent day after day; despite the quality of entertainment in people watching at the 14k camp. It truly is an international jungle! There’s ALWAYS something going on up there. Helicopters flying up to pick up injured climbers, tents blowing away, team breakdowns, a guy who fell down the orient express (miraculously was uninjured), fixed line drama, craziness! With the weather forecast predicting a high pressure system building we happily packed up camp and headed back down to base camp to grab our gear and food for the Cassin. Base Camp As usual, the forecast ended up being wrong. Well, sort of. It was originally forecast to be good, but the next day was changed to a “strong” low pressure system, but actually turned out to be sunny for the next few days with a forecast of snow in the next few days. We frustratingly waited for that elusive 4 day forecast of high pressure from the north, it never came. We made use of a sunny day and climbed the SW ridge of Mt. Francis. A beautiful 4000ft IV 5.8, 60 degree snow route 15 min from base camp. More dustings of snow kept us in camp as we impatiently read the last few of our books; a depressing book about hunting and killing cocaine lord Pablo Escobar and the first 2 adventures of Harry Potters. We got our break just as it appeared Harry had discovered who had opened the chamber of secrets… Cassin Day 1 At 8:00pm that night Nick and I went as usual to the base camp manager’s tent to listen to the nightly forecast. To our surprise it was calling for sunny weather for a few days then a chance of snow and then clearing later in the week. It wasn’t the strong high pressure we wanted but it was the best forecast we’d had in a week. We also felt that after a week we were beginning to lose our acclimatization and if we didn’t go now we’d have to reacclimatize at 14k and drop 5000ft down the west rib to the base of the route; instead of going up the quicker but more dangerous Valley of Death. We quickly took down camp and discussed a few last minute gear details. 1 pot or 2? Shovel or no shovel? Fleece jacket or not? What do we need 2 pots for? 1 pot would do for our bowls as well. Nick wanted nothing to do with the shovel but it seemed I had an irrational attachment to my shovel and so ended up bringing it. In the warmth of the evening sun I left my fleece jacket and brought just the shoeler, gore-tex, and down. Neither of us brought over boots. Decisions I would later regret. For rack we brought 6 cams, 5 nuts, 7 screws, 3 pitons (#5, #6 bugaboo and a ¼ angle), and 8 slings. We brought 5 days of food and fuel for a week. My meager food was the least I had ever brought for 5 days. My food bag had 45 gu gels, 10 yogurt granola bars for breakfast, 5 sesame snaps, 5 fruit bars, 2 Cadbury chocolate bars a pack of soup and 3 dinners. We left base camp a 9:30pm and set off towards the valley of death. The valley is so called for the kilometers of serac lined valley that threaten to crush anyone who enters. In the few minutes we were at a lookout overlooking the valley from the 14k camp we saw a serac collapse and the powder rush over one of the safer spots on the route, the so called “Safe Camp”… Hard snow and a trail to follow allowed us move fast through this dangerous, awe inspiring valley. Once at the safety of the west rib couloir we set up the tent for a few hour sleep and to brew up before heading up the first crux, the Japanese couloir on the Cassin Ridge. 5 hrs later and not so refreshed we hiked the short distance to the base of the Japanese couloir and Nick started up what was one of the tougher pitches of the route; a short vertical section over the bergshrund on extremely rotten ice was a difficult and eye opening pitch. We had assumed we would be able to simul-climb the 9 pitches up the couloir but the amount of ice and rocks being knocked down the narrow gully and attention demanding nature of the climbing forced us to pitch out 9 calves burning, pick dulling, energy sapping pitches to the first and very small Cassin Ledges camp at 13600ft. This small rocky ledge is about 4ft by 10ft and just fit our bibler tent. Cassin Day 2 The next morning nicks lungs felt like they were being squeezed in a vice, and he was in obvious pain. Not exhibiting any other signs of pulmonary edema and not wanting to go down we took a rest day and hoped the problem would heal itself We ate a half dinner to conserve food. Cassin Day 3 Nicks lungs felt sufficiently good enough to continue and other than a large amount of blood in his shit that morning (still no clue what that’s from) felt good to go. One mixed pitch led to a 5.8 pitch that would take us to the start of the cowboy traverse. The cowboy traverse is a 7 pitch knife edge ridge that starts steeply at 45 degrees with steep drops on either side. The last 1/3rd of the ridge is a less steep corniced ridge that requires traversing at 60 degrees. This ridge is extremely difficult to reverse and once completed commits one to the 6000ft of climbing to the summit. Conditions on this feature vary from year to year and even within the month. It can be unprotect able snow or calf burning blue ice that takes bomber screws. Luckily we found it in nearly perfect condition with a few inches of bonded snow on top of ice screw protect able ice. The small amount of snow on top of the ice allowed us great rests and secure climbing and we were able to simul-climb the arête in 2 leads to allow us to swap gear. The winds were now picking up and snow began to fall and we decided to pitch camp at “the most spacious camp on the whole route” , a flat spot at the top of the arête and at the base of the snowfield leading to the first rock band. Cassin Day 4 A short pitch through a shrund took us to a snowfield that led to the base of the first rock band. 3 mixed pitches took us to a difficult mixed/mostly rock pitch (off route) followed by another distressingly steep mixed pitch (possibly off route). My technique of pulling on gear came to an abrupt stop when no gear could be placed to pull on. After much thrashing and swearing and a disturbingly long time later I belayed nick up. We simuled up the next 2 pitches to the top of the first rock band where a short snow slope led to, as the guide book says, a “small exposed bivy” at 15700ft. A small ledge had already been chopped and even after some more chopping by us the tent still hung distressingly over the edge by a good 10 inches. While chopping the ledge Nick put a fist sized hole in our single wall tent, possibly to increase ventilation, I assume. We anchored the tent to screws and axes and tied, mostly, everything in, including ourselves. Strong winds and snow kept us awake most of the night. Lack of snow to build a wall now left us exposed to any winds that ripped across the mountain. Cassin Day 5 By morning, blowing snow had accumulated halfway up the tent wall on the side against the ledge wall and was pushing us, and the tent, further off the ledge. The wind was now howling outside it was quickly obvious we could not move in these conditions. I boiled a liter of water each and locked ourselves in the tent. By noon the gale winds had blown most of the snow clear from between the tent and the ledge but unfortunately the snow had also acted as a stabilizing force for the tent. The winds would at times nearly flatten the tent and threaten to rip us off the ledge. By evening the snow had stopped but the winds had further increased and the situation was becoming more serious by the minute. That evenings forecast was predicting “an extreme high wind warning for the upper mountain and a strong low will persist over the mountain for the next few days. Fuck. Snow was blowing in the vent hole nick had created and high winds all day and night had shaken any condensation off the walls onto our bags. My -30 down sleeping bag was now a very heavy and expensive nylon sheet; with a frozen ball of down on either side of the baffles. Damage control, Nick and I flipped to see who had to go outside and tighten guy lines make new guy lines, move the tent in, tighten it in and try and prevent the destruction of our sole shelter. I lost. As quickly as possible I tied string and slings and equalized our tent but no matter what I did it still seemed to that the major gusts would flatten the tent if someone wasn’t bracing it. It was at this time I noticed we might have a small problem. Our windscreen had blown away. No big deal, I couldn’t seem to find the pot lid either, hmmm. My heart slowly began to race as I realized that our only pot was no longer where it had been and that all three were probably airborne over the south face of Denali. At least that’s one (or 3) things less that I now have to carry. I told Nick in a good news bad news type way and all he replied was “At least we have the stove”. Indeed. That night the wind continued to howl and we both stayed up all night with our backs against the windward wall trying to brace it and find a position comfortable enough to allow some sleep. None would work and we eventually resigned ourselves to staying up and bracing and catching ourselves dozing when a massive gust would come and threaten to throw us off. Neither of us talked much. My mind was racing. My sleeping bag was useless. I put all my clothes on and shivered in my nylon sheet. Both poles were now badly bent in multiple places. If the tent collapsed we’d be fucked. What the fuck were we going to make water in? The mental math of rapping 3500ft with one rope and sparse gear was to unappealing to think about. Not to mention reversing the Cowboy Traverse. Besides, Nick and I are both Taurus’, stubbornness is our strong point. Cassin Day 6 I woke out of a half sleep to find my lungs killing me. They felt like what Nick had described to me on day 2 at the Cassin ledges. I hoped it was from crouching all night to brace the tent but took a dex and diamox to calm my now racing mind. Some time in the morning the wind eased up and we decided we had to move. Our shovel blade would have to do to melt water in. Any water we had to melt from here to the summit would have to be melted in our shovel blade. This time consuming process took over 2 hrs to melt 6 liters. We packed up camp and headed up the second rock band. By the time we’d melted water and got moving it was the afternoon and we only went several pitches before getting to a sheltered bivy at 16500ft; the last for several thousand feet. We decided to stop here instead of risk another exposed night above the rock band. My lungs were killing with every breath and I was glad not to be gaining much more than several hundred feet elevation since the last bivy. We camped on an abysmally small ice ledge next to a rock wall but at least it offered some shelter. After repeated failed attempts to heat water enough to cook our dinner and even trying to heat it in the foil container we resigned ourselves to several spoonfuls of cold, slushy, crunchy, Mountain House Kung Pow Chicken. Motivation was gone, food was critically low. I lay awake all night listening to my lungs and my grumbling stomach. The lower half of my body hung off the ledge. Morning couldn’t come quick enough. Cassin Day 7 and 8 We debated having a rest/storm day but with no dinners, not enough food to last, and a ledge that closer resembled a sloping couch we would hardly be recovering enough to warrant a rest. My breathing seemed so constricted that I didn’t want to spend another night on the mountain. We joked it was summit or fly (as in a rescue helicopter). We spent the next few hours brewing in the spindrift and wind and then packed up with the goal of carrying over the summit to the17k camp on the West Buttress. 2 more rock pitches led us to the top of the second rock band and the end of the technical difficulties. All that separated us from the summit was 3700ft of non technical snow and rock. After a long break we set off up steepening slopes on hard wind slab to frustratingly slow knee deep wind drift. We seemed to be going maddeningly slow according to the topo elevations. Nick broke trail through a tough deep section and my wheezing lungs could barely keep up. We stopped around 18000ft to listen to the 8:00pm weather report on our FRS radio. Partly cloudy and 80kph winds above 17k was the forecast. The best it had been all week. After a Chuck Norris joke and listening to some ranger talk we set off with renewed spirits. I drank the last of my now frozen water and had a last GU gel. In the increasing cold and high winds, melting more water on the shovel would be next to impossible. We resigned ourselves to pushing over the summit. Luckily my energy seemed to be increasing and nick and I pushed hard to the summit in the increasing midnight cold. My feet slowly lost warmth and stopping became unbearable. I had to keep moving to keep them from freezing. Landmarks kept coming quicker than expected and nick and I quite quickly found us at Kahiltna Horn at 20000ft; just 320ft shy of the summit! The wind was now howling over the summit ridge our thermometer showed -30C and with the wind at over 90kph the wind-chill was down to over -65C.We ditched our packs and raced the few hundred feet to the summit. Nick told me he felt like shit, and had trouble keeping his balance. Not unusual for the amount of food and water we had consumed over the past few days but also a symptom of life threatening cerebral edema. Excitement turned to the urgency of getting down. We got back to our packs and nick flopped on his with a tiredness he’d never shown before. I took out a dex and diamox pill and he quickly took them with the last sip of his water. I yelled through the wind we had to get down and we quickly put our packs on and headed down. Unexpectedly, we found ourselves breaking trail through knee deep snow, I though this route was a highway?! We later found out that no one had summited for 8 days because of storming conditions and high winds. No shit. The pace was agonizing, my lungs would burn if I walked to fast and nick would collapse in the snow every few hundred meters. After a few hours of that we made it to Denali Pass and could finally see the first signs of people! I broke off in knee deep powder and only after several hundred meters realized there was a wanded route to our left that would hopefully offer firmer snow. I began to cut over but the exhaustion forced me to stop every few feet and collapse in the snow. Nick, feeling renewed energy in the lower elevation took over the breaking and dragged my now exhausted ass into the 17000ft camp; 17hrs after leaving our high camp on the Cassin. We set up the tent and melted some water in a borrowed pot and collapsed in the tent for a few hours. My lungs still hurt and after a few hours sleep we packed up to get to the warmer 14000ft camp where we had a fuel and much needed food cash. I scrounged some tasty waffle treats and some chocolate from a party who was bailing and nick and I savored our first non gu food in a while. We continued with renewed energy to the 14k camp and spent a long time just sitting on our packs in the warmth staring at nothing and everything. It was over. For the first time in days I felt relief wash over me. We’d made it. Stefan Albrecher
  6. Just heard on the radio that Masatoshi Kuriaki just completed the first solo winter ascent of Foraker. He spent 56 days on the peak, 10 minutes on the summit and had to bivy in a snow cave on his way down! To pass the time he composed haikus including this (roughly translated) one: See the summit It is so so close But far away The interview on the radio said he hauled out 28 lbs of human waste. His quote (in broken English) "Two day out, 1 pound waste. 56 day out, only 28 pound!" Here's more info: http://www.japanesecaribou.com/ Once APRN posts the interview online I'll link to it.
  7. Jed Brown and I just returned to Fairbanks after making the first ascent of Mt. Moffit's North Wall on July 10-13th. The Entropy Wall (VI, 5.9, A2, WI4+), approximately 1,500m and 33 pitches, is followed by approximately 900 meters of snow and ice slopes leading to Moffit's summit. It was the most serious and commiting climb I've ever done. Some rock was poor, but some was excellent and splitter. Highlights included a perfect snow-mushroom bivy, a 3m horizontal roof, steep water-ice pillars, and lots of free climbing and aid climbing up steep cracks. More pictures to come eventually! Picture of the face: http://59A2.org/hayes/200607/route.jpg
  8. Summary: Brook Alongi, Fred Beckey, and I recently climbed a previously unclimbed 7530ft peak in the Neacola Range via a 3000ft, 40-50 degree snow coulior on the south side of the peak. Details: Fred and two others attempted to climb this peak two years ago. The two guys started climbing the coulior starting at midday on a warm day against Fred's advice. They made it about halfway up the coulior and were then washed down to the base of the coulior by an avalanche! No injuries, but that was the end of that attempt. While the peak is only ~70 miles SW of Anchorage, and is visible from the southern end of Anchorage, getting there is no easy task. We took a wheeled plane from Anchorage to a small gravel strip on the west side of Cook Inslet which is primarily used as a service station for the offshore oil rigs. We were then picked up by a helicopter and deposited on the glacier at the base of the route. We set up our tents, and started climbing. The route was straightforward and we stayed to the climber's left side of the coulior. The weather began to deteriorate as we approached the top of the coulior and a moderate snowfall with some wind greeted us when we reached the col. Fred was very tired at this point and decided to sit at the col and wait while Brook and I continued on toward the summit (we estimated about 200' vertical away at that point). I led up through some granite blocks and put in a piece of rock pro or two. We were trying to move very fast at this point because Fred was cold and nervous about being left alone, tired, on an untraveled peak, with 3000' of steep snow separating him from our camp. Brook soon joined me and we looked over a slight rise and saw the summit about 100 yards away and less than 100' above us. The snow was falling more heavily at this point and it was getting pretty blustery, so we decided to turn around and start getting Fred, and ourselves, back down. There were really no technical difficulties between ourselves and the "true" summit, so I consider our effort a "summit". If you don't, that's fine. We reversed our steps down the coulior with LOTS of face-in downclimbing and putting in pickets as running belay anchors since we were pretty tired at this point. A few pics of us descending: We got back to the tents after 15 hours on the go. Fred was pretty beat, but Brook and I hoped to do some more climbing in the next few days (unclimbed rocks/peaks everywhere!), so we went to sleep looking forward to some faster-paced activity in the future. This was not to be the case however as a storm rolled in and we spent 5 days huddled in our tents being pummeled by rain, wind, and snow without much pause. I think we had a total of about 3hrs of time over the course of those 5 days that were pleasant enough to get out of the tent for more than a pee-break. We did lots of reading, playing cards, sleeping, and listening to the rain patter against the tent. FUN! Finally the weather broke! Note whiskey: We used the satelite telephone to contact the chopper and initiate our retreival/rescue. We were so elated about the nice weather that we started drinking whiskey and inventing "glacier games". Here are the results as I remember them from my whiskey-affected state Event/Winner Ski Pole Javelin/Me Propane Canister Shot-put/Brook Ice-axe tomahawk throw/Me Half-eaten Horescock Hammer Throw/Brook Fred was not interested in participating in our silliness, but if he had, I think he would be a natural for the horsecock toss. In any case, we finally got out of there and flew home. We considered many potential names for the peak including "Horsecock Peak", "Mount GeorgeBushSucks", "Mount Snugtop", and several others, but settled on the more-likely-to-be-accepted-by-the-USGS "Mount Chakachamna" in reference to the large lake with that name just north of the peak. Chakachamna Lake is visible at the top of the picture. Our mountain, "Mount Chakachamna" is the point labeled 7530 at the bottom right of the picture. Our coulior is on the south side of the peak. There are lots more unclimbed peaks/rocks in the area like these cool-looking buttresses: although the rock quality did not look very good with a few exceptions. Thanks to Fred for planning the trip and making it happen. Thanks to Brook for the great partnership, patience, and calm demeanor. Thanks to Jim Sweeney and Art Davidson for their hospitality and for sharing their stories.
  9. John Kelly has been attempting several new routes on Yukla over the past year. He already put up a new route on the Northwest face earlier in 2005 and has tried several others since. I finally got a chance to join him on an attempt at a line on the Northeast face. Our line is just barely visible under the snowfield on the far left Another better view of our route, which is just to the left of the obvious white smear under the snowfield on the left. Yukla, first climbed in 1967 via the Icicle Glacier by famed Alaskan mountaineer Art Davidson (first winter ascent of Denali and auther of the book 'Minus 148') sees little traffic due to its hearty approach and difficult access, and has probably seen less than 25 ascents, even though it is only 8 miles from the road. At a height of over 7500 feet, it is the fourth highest mountain in the western Chugach, and dominates the skyline around Eagle River. The Northwest face is one of the biggest walls in the entire Chugach, and is still, for the most part, virgin...with the exception of two or three routes. I flew back to Anchorage on Saturday, December 31st at 8 AM and was on the trail by 2 PM. We bushwacked through the tedious Icicle Drainage and finally arrived at our first bivy site in the valley at 2:30 in the morning...a great place to bring in the new year. On the way to the drainage, we met a nice girl sitting alone at the Echo Bend camp who hooked us up with some great...stuff. We really owe that girl, she made the rest of the approach go easier. We woke up the next morning in true Alaskan style, and were on the go by noon. We simulclimbed up the snow fan to the base of the virgin Northeast face and spent the next three hours chopping out an awesome bivy ledge on a 60 degree slope, 500 feet over the valley floor. All the while, small sluff avalanches continued to pour over our route-to-be. John leading pitch two. We awoke at 4:30 the next morning and were climbing well before six. It finally started getting light at 9 and we were up the first two pitches by then. John lead most of the hard pitches, which consisted of M5-M6 climbing with overhanging rock and long runouts at parts. His most amazing lead took place at the chimney, on the fifth pitch. He started at 2:45, and spent the next 2.5 hours meticulously inching his way up the virgin terrain while I belayed and shivered inside the cave. By 5:30 it was dark and John had finally lead his way up the crux and had established a belay station. After tediously following John's line and cleaning the pro, I unlodged his pack from the overhanging section and he hauled it the rest of the way up and I carefully finished the crux, wishing I could have watched him lead what he called "one of the most amazing pitches of his life," big words coming from John, who has done some big climbs in his day, to say the least, We knew we were getting close to the top of the face, where we would meet up with a lower angled snowfield which would allow us to top out and then walk off on the Icicle Glacier and then back to our high camp. I led the next pitch, which started off in a narrow hourglass below a five foot tall rock buttress that steepened to a steep snow slope, then to a 20 foot step of WI3 crumbly ice with crappy protection. I put in one snarg and a 16cm screw and continued climbing. I slowly climbed up the couloir in seemingly endless unconsolidated powder snow that dissolved whenever my hands or feet touched it, and ran down right onto John. For several hours, I went left and right, up and down, diagonal and zigzag, trying to find suitable places for some protection...but there was none. The cracks were seemingly nonexistant, all to common on the Chugach rock. I managed to get in one #3 stopper at the base of a seemingly gravity defying vertical wall of powder snow that was about 15-20 feet high and had a 5 foot tall overhanging powder mushroom on the top. I stuggled in vein for several hours, trying to find more protection and a way to surmount the powder wall. If I had had better pro in the walls, I feel I could have gotten up the wall, but I was not willing to take a lead fall on a poorly placed stopper with at least a 100 foot runout behind it. The lights of Anchorage illuminating the sky At about midnight on the 2nd, we decided to can it and retreat, figuring we were close, but still had another pitch or two to go. It was a dissapointing defeat, especially when we saw how close we were to being finished and getting our names on a new route. We spent the next 5-6 hours making a total of six rappels. I had lost my cell phone in the cave on pitch five and was convinced I would never find it again...oddly enough it was waiting for me at rappel station number four...how it stopped right there I will never know. We got back to our high camp at six in the morning, planning on walking back down to the boulder camp and sleeping there...we woke up at 10 AM with our feet sticking out of the tent and we weren't even in our sleeping bags. I still had my helmet on. We had been climbing for 24 hours straight, had both consumed less than 2 liters of water during that time, and had hardly eaten anything. For me, it was my first big experience in alpine climbing and I learned a lot. For John it was another defeat on the walls of Yukla. You can clearly see our line. It follows right up the middle, through the chimney, and then to the hourglass snow couloir. Our highpoint was just at the base of the hourglass. In different conditions, that powdersnow headwall might be easier to surmount, but conditions weren't favoring it at that time. From there it is merely a walk up. John really deserves most of the credit for the climb. He lead the hard pitches and was patient with me as I learned the ropes. If time allows, we might go back and finish the line in February. Last March, John and his friend Dan completed first ascent of the Heritage wall on Heritage Point in Eagle River, which was featured in the American Alpine Journal.
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