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[TR] Augustin Peak - Trident Glacier - Kichatna Mountains - [FA] North Buttress (Alaska Grade V, AI4, 4,600ft) 04/21/2023

Michael Telstad

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Trip: Augustin Peak - Trident Glacier - Kichatna Mountains - [FA] North Buttress (Alaska Grade V, AI4, 4,600ft)

Trip Date: 04/21/2023

Trip Report:

I will likely continue to update this TR with pictures, history and info about this part of the range. So stay tuned.

On April 19th Kurt Ross, Nelson Neirinck and I flew into the Kichatna Mountains of Alaska with three weeks of food and hopes to climb a couple new routes if weather allowed. We got dropped off on the Trident, a tri-forked glacier on the east edge of the range. Our primary objective was to attempt the unclimbed N-Buttress of Augustin Peak up to the north ridge, which we would then follow to the summit.


We arrived right at the end of a stellar weather window, allowing us no time to explore or get a feel for conditions. We crossed our fingers hoping for good neve, but accepted that sugar snow wallowing was entirely possible. While Kurt finished setting up our hasty basecamp, and Nelson slept off his jet lag (he had just flown in from Norway), I skied over to get photos of our route and choose a line as the sun fell behind the neighboring peaks.


My alarm went off at 4am the next morning. Nerves were high as we ate a hefty breakfast and discussed our planned route. With so many question marks, we almost bailed on our plan in favor of poking around to get more info on the snowpack. Thankfully we stuck with plan A, but in turn got a somewhat comfortable start at 6am with two and a half days of food and fuel. We expected to bivy somewhere on the north ridge that night, hopefully summiting and descending the next day. 

Following my skin track over to the base, we trudged up the snow cone to the start of the route which boasted nice looking water ice to start the day. Nelson took the first block, leading us up the ice steps in a fun ~100m pitch of AI3. From there he led up another 250m pitch up through some more easy ice and up the lower snowfield to the base of the runnels I had spotted the day prior. This was the last time we used the Ice screws for the remainder of the route.






This part of the buttress was one of the bigger question marks. From below we could see a series of narrow runnels cutting perfectly through the face, but whether it was Ice, neve or sugar snow was what we were scared of. As Kurt took off, we were delighted to find almost perfect neve plastered to the walls, and just enough rock gear to keep it reasonable. These two long pitches were by far the best climbing on the route. I wished it would go on forever. A small cornice crux led us out of the runnels and into the upper snowfield. Here we unroped and trudged for around 350 meters up to where the buttress met the ridge. 







It was only 3pm at this point, and with 8 hours of daylight remaining, we hoped we could make it up and over to the east ridge where we could chop out a bivy to spend the night. Based on the conditions up to that point, we decided to skip the crux of the ridge, and traverse lower along the exposed NE face to surpass the corniced knife edge above. 



After brewing up in the sun, I took over the lead for the ridge ahead. The middle gendarme provided sunbaked rotten slush climbing to get up and over. Once on the NE face I tried to make a shortcut through a rock band, but encountered vertical facets over rock, so backed off and descended around instead on the easier but faster terrain below. Once the pro ran out, we unroped and continued to the summit simul soloing the same steep snow to AI2 conditions we had been on for the past several hours.






We reached the summit around 9pm as the evening sun began to set. Despite being pretty tuckered out, the increasing winds and rapidly dropping temps encouraged us to keep moving. Chopping out a platform for our two person tent while being hammered by wind did not seem appealing. Down climbing to flatter, less exposed terrain did. Still unroped, we began our slow trudge down the east ridge toward the NE face. 2,500ft and two and a half hours of face in down climbing later, we reached the glacier. Now roped up for glacier travel, Kurt led the way down over numerous schrunds and through the jumbled mess of the icefall in the dark with impressive accuracy. The only hiccups being myself punching through a fairly inconsequential schrund, and Kurt nearly being eaten by a crevasse.




Once back on the SE fork of the trident, we wallowed our way out of serac danger and collapsed into the snow to brew up some more water and eat dinner. We were safe at this point, so it felt like a good time to celebrate with some warm food. It was 1:30 in the morning. The incoming storm had filled the sky with clouds, cutting off all ambient star/moon light, making for the darkest night I have ever experienced. 



We arrived back at our skis at 2:40am, and I crawled back into my tent at 4am. Exactly 24 hours after waking up the day prior. 

The next 8 days involved a lot of lounging, eating, a little bit of skiing, and no climbing. A series of storms dumped nearly four feet of snow on us. Our bathroom area was buried and required a grid search, Nelson's tent was almost completely buried, and all chances of more climbing were buried along with it. On Saturday, May 29th we got picked up by TAT before another endless series of storms came in. If we hadn’t come out the day we did, we would surely still be trapped in the Kichatnas right now, running out of food, missing flights and being generally really bummed. 


While quite moderate, I believe the North Buttress of Augustin Peak is now the longest route in the Kichatna Mountains. To the best of our knowledge this was the third ascent of the mountain 

Gear Notes:
Single rack to #3, maybe doubles in middle sizes. Medium selection of iron including NB's a small angle or two and all sizes of beaks. Full rack of nuts from brass to big. 5-8 screws 70m ropes We brought a picket, but didn't use. Different conditions or a different party may find these very useful.

Approach Notes:
Charter a flight through TAT. Ski 25 minutes to the base.
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Most excellent job making it up and down. Congrats on the achievement and catching the weather window. Conditions (from my living room) look like they were top notch.

Do you have plans for a return in hope of other possibilities next year?

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10 minutes ago, Lostbolt said:

Most excellent job making it up and down. Congrats on the achievement and catching the weather window. Conditions (from my living room) look like they were top notch.

Do you have plans for a return in hope of other possibilities next year?

I'm definitely planning to come back to AK next season. However not to the Kichatnas most likely. Some of the harder routes on Hunter and Huntington are calling my name.

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