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Kraken

first ascent [TR] New Route on Yukla Peak - Chugach Mountains

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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.

 

7679hurdy05.jpg

Our line is just barely visible under the snowfield on the far left

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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. grin.gif

 

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.

 

7679Yukla_050-med.jpg

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.

 

7679Yukla_043-med.jpg

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.

 

7679Yukla_route.JPG

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.

 

7679Yukla_089.jpg

 

 

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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I would like to, but don't know when I will have another 4-5 days off again. There's that ramp on the left that looks easier. I can't lead that chimney and I'm not sure i'll get the chance to go out with John again soon. The ramp is sustained steepness of maybe 60-75 degrees and there might be more pro on that ramp. February looks promising.

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nice work. my editing was to try to fix the pics so they show. I can't help you on the one hosted on Tripod.

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Finished that route with a guy named Josh last week. It took us two and a half days round trip from our high camp and went at V WI5+ M6/7 A1, 2,300'. The temps. were around -15. We named it the History Of Things To Come.

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Yeah, just want to thank John again for giving me the chance at such an awesome route, I learned a lot and felt honored to have had a shot at such a formidable route.

 

Congrats again John and Josh!

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if you're talking about the northwest face, that obvious line is also dubious in this shot. It looks like a direct snow/ice line to the summit, it is actually a cresent shaped coulouir. It goes almost to the summit and I think JK said it involves a pitch or two of vertical rock. It has been climbed by at least three parties to my knowledge, Richard Baranow being one of them.

 

Not much is known about any of these peaks, even though they are only a few hours from Anchorage.

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btw, the ramp on the left is less steep , a little more exposed, and i think pro would be somewhat questionable in places. Doesn't look like there is any ice on that ramp, purely rock placements. Chugach rock is infamous for shitty protection as well as quality and I think that would be the biggest limiting factor. The key would be to hug the wall on climber's right the entire time. I'm thinking of going out there in March when I have about 10 days off, might give that a try.

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trying to find suitable places for some protection... The cracks were seemingly nonexistant, all to[sic] common on the Chugach rock...I managed to get in one #3 stopper...If I had had better pro...I was not willing to take a lead fall on a poorly placed stopper with at least a 100 foot runout behind it.

 

Pins?

 

Thanks for the TR. Way to go, JK.

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cracks were shallow, pins were suitable for much of the climb, it was 2-something in the morning and we'd been climbing for 22 hours. I found few places wehre pins would go in on the last pitch, cracks were either too shallow or not there. JK and a guy named Josh came out and finished it, that pitch they rated at M5, I believe.

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For a rack I've been using:

 

One full set of DMM Wallnuts

 

6-8 cams (almost worthless in the icy cracks)

 

4-8 of the shorest ice screws

 

4-6 hexes

 

pins: 4 Bugaboos 4 LAs 4 angles

 

2-6 specter(sp?) ice hooks, for frozen veggies

 

It's a good sized rack with a little of everything. Clint's right, lots of long runouts. It's just the way it is. As far as I know our route is the second one on the face. The line to the right is alot bigger than the photo indicates. I'd guess it will most likely go at WI5 M5 or so and around 8-12 long pitches, depends on how much you can third class.

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