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AlpinistAndrew

Mt. Foraker Attempt 4/22-5/8

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Well since I’ve been posting so much recently I’ll talk about my recent trip to Alaska as well. Went to Alaska from April 22nd to May 8th to attempt the Sultana Ridge of Mt. Foraker. Arrived in Talkeetna early on the the 23rd. Heard from the rangers that two dudes had attempted Foraker but turned around on Crosson. Flew out of Talkeetna the day we arrived (good thing too cause the weather shut down the next day and stayed so for several days. We landed in Kahiltna base Camp. Spent one night there and skied across the Kahiltna for the base of Mt. Crosson. We camped near the toe Mt. Crosson. We built a sweet base camp in “the dunes” as we called it. Next day scouted the icefall approach, but decided the access couloir would be to steep. So the next day we scouted the South slope. We had some trouble getting to the base. We met a team of four climbing rangers who were also attempting the Sultana Ridge of Foraker. We went up the day after we saw them. We went up to the 9000 foot camp on Crosson and spent the night there in our Eldorado. Next day we attempted to summit Crosson and leave a food cache on the summit. The weather went south and we retreated to our high camp. Next day we made another attempt. Weather was decent and the snow was firm low down. We did some fairly technical climbing for what the book says. We did some sketchy unprotected exposed rock scrambling and some exposed snow traverses. Higher up we encounterd an ice face/ramp. Not too stoop but the ice was complete shit. It took five swings just to get a decent stick. We only had three screws with us as well. I attempted to climb ice, but backed off. My buddy tried the same and backed off as well. This was around 11,800 on Crosson. We retreated to high camp, spent one more night and returned to our base camp the next day. Descending the lower slopes was tedious with big packs, very firm snow conditions (great for going up but slow for going down). Took a rest day and set off to climb peak 9,300 a couple miles away. Made a camp up the kahiltna in what we called “the ice box” I’ve never been so cold. With my -15 bag, insulated pants, down jacket, hat, and hot water bottle I still froze my nuts off. My climbing partner was also very cold. We attempted the peak the next morning but turned around due to high avalanche potential. We once again returned to our base camp. My feet were pretty thrashed from skiing in my koflack degrees (I should have had better boots). So we took a rest day and decided to pull the plug early. (We had 23 days set aside, we were there about 16. We skied over to Kahiltna base camp to fly out, only to get stuck there for four days waiting for good weather. We hung out with these two dudes who work for RMI Seth and Tyler, Super cool dudes, they climbed the Mini-Moon Flower. Say John Varco and his climbing partner as well, and Sue Knott and afew other Mountain Hardwear folks. Finally flew out, got myself some beers and flew home that night to Sea-Tac arriving at 5am (long fucking day). I learned a bunch on this trip about expedition climbing, climbing in Alaska in general and just climbing big mountains. An awesome time. I look forward to my next expedition next spring. Alaska=Fucking Cold. pictures are in gallery.

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Thanks for the post Andrew. You going back to Alaska again next Spring? Good to meet you in Talkeetna!

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Wow, very nice pics. That pic of your camp has a great view of the Moonflower Buttress and the Lowe Kennedy route on Hunter. Beautiful! Though, it's easy to see the 'schrund that's formed on that thing that's shutting people down.

 

Thanks for posting the TR. Sounds like it's been a rough spring up there, from what I've heard. Kudos to Seth and Tyler!

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Alaska=Fucking Cold.

I hear you. I was there 4/29-5/9 to climb Mount Hunter west ridge. We got stuck at camp 2 where the origibal route meets NW basin route for 4 nights. We had 6-10 inches of new powder snow and 30-40 mpr winds. We just didn't have enough food to attempt the summit. My heart was broken when we had to turn around. We were the first team on the NW basin route on Hunter. So we kicked steps all the way to camp 2. It was a great experiense and I would like to try again next year if I can find partners.

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Alaska=Fucking Cold.

I hear you. I was there 4/29-5/9 to climb Mount Hunter west ridge. We got stuck at camp 2 where the origibal route meets NW basin route for 4 nights. We had 6-10 inches of new powder snow and 30-40 mpr winds. We just didn't have enough food to attempt the summit. My heart was broken when we had to turn around. We were the first team on the NW basin route on Hunter. So we kicked steps all the way to camp 2. It was a great experiense and I would like to try again next year if I can find partners.

 

Pochi

Why such a short trip?

You might have been able to give it another go if you have had another week or so.

 

I wonder if Sue and Zoe are going to get a shot at the I Spur? I hear conditions, in the range, are similar to the conditions last year. That would not be in their favor.

 

Jedi

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I just got back from a Hunter West Ridge attempt. Same results as Pochi, with lots of quality time in our tent at camp 2. Two Spaniards out of a group of six summitted in really sketchy conditions. They all carried snow boards up to camp 2, then carried them back down. The epic Hunter ascent for this year was two Japanese who climbed Deprivation on the North Buttress, over the summit, then down the original West Ridge route. I heard them go by our tent in the middle of the night. Amazing effort. These will probably be the only summits on Hunter for this year, as the slopes were really mushing out on our descent. I can't wait to hear about Sue Knott's I Spur attempt. I think they were fairly committed when big weather moved in.

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When we were in Talkeetna waiting to fly out 4/21-4/25 we met two dudes (Tom and Dave), some old hardmen from Colorado who were waiting to fly out and get on the Infinite Spur for their third attempt in the past couple years. Anyone hear anything?

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Tom & Dave are trying it again? I met those guys after they attempted it in 2002. It was too warm and I don't think they even set foot on the route. I hope they get it!

 

Jedi

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In todays news....

 

Rangers search for 2 climbers

 

MOUNT FORAKER: Ripped backpack found 300 feet off route.

 

By PETER PORCO

Anchorage Daily News

 

Published: June 3, 2006

Last Modified: June 3, 2006 at 02:35 AM

 

Denali National Park rangers planned to resume a search today for two people overdue from a climb on Mount Foraker in the Alaska Range.

 

Helicopter searches of the climbers' intended route Thursday night and Friday, hampered by cloudy weather, failed to find them. However, the searchers did find and retrieve a backpack belonging to one of the climbers, said Daryl Miller, the park's South District ranger.

 

The pack was torn and contained a few items, Miller said from his office in Talkeetna.

 

Miller declined to identify either of the climbers or their hometowns.

 

"We're still trying to figure all this out, and the family is not in right now," Miller said Friday evening from his office in Talkeetna.

 

"We want to make sure that everyone finds out through proper channels," said Maureen McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the Denali rangers, also in Talkeetna.

 

The 17,400-foot Foraker, located about 15 miles southwest of Mount McKinley, is known as a difficult mountain to climb from any direction and sees a fraction of the number of attempts on McKinley.

 

There's no way to climb Foraker without using technical mountaineering gear and the techniques that go with it, according to climbing experts. So far this season, 26 people have returned from Foraker without having reached the summit, McLaughlin said.

 

The missing climbers were the only people known to be on the mountain as of Friday, she said.

 

Their intended route was the Infinite Spur, a steep ridge up the middle of the South Face. The Spur is "one of the great test pieces of the Alaska Range," according to "High Alaska," a mountaineering history of McKinley, Foraker and Mount Hunter.

 

The two climbers began their ascent of Foraker about 20 days ago, McLaughlin said. Their due-out date was given as June 8. Still, the rangers had reason to be concerned, they said.

 

"They had left some information with folks at the base camp that they probably expected to be on the route in the neighborhood of 10 days," McLaughlin said, referring to the Kahiltna Base Camp at 7,200 feet elevation, where the climbers were initially dropped off by ski plane.

 

"They had food and fuel to last longer than that, but it's now been approximately 20 days they've been on the route," she said.

 

All that information added up to some worry, Miller said.

 

"I made a judgment call and decided to make it a SAR (search-and-rescue mission) as of yesterday," he said.

 

The high-altitude Lama helicopter on contract to the National Park Service -- the only mode of searching available in that area, according to Miller -- was launched Thursday evening after several days of heavy snow in the mountains. Because of clouds, however, the Lama pilot, Jim Hood, was able to fly only near Foraker's upper reaches, the Park Service said.

 

Hood flew again on Friday, with mountaineering ranger Meg Perdue and climber Mark Westman, who has climbed the Infinite Spur, said McLaughlin. Again, clouds obscured parts of the route, she said.

 

On one surveillance flight, however, the searchers spotted the backpack at about the 8,000-foot level, 300 feet to the right of the climbing route, near a crevasse, Miller said.

 

Using a 100-foot-long extension and a "grabber," Hood scooped it up into the aircraft, Miller said.

 

The pack had been "ripped open," according to McLaughlin.

 

It contained a pad, a couple of hand warmers and a radio that the base-camp manager was already familiar with, having seen it when the missing climbers came through.

 

Miller said the rangers are hopeful but "perplexed." There has been avalanche activity on Foraker's South Face, the broad area where the climbers are presumed to be.

 

Meanwhile, finding the climber's damaged pack "doesn't look real good," Miller said.

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From KTUU.com --

Search continues for missing climbers

Saturday, June 03, 2006 - by Chris Joy

Anchorage, Alaska - Searchers in Denali National Park are still looking for two overdue climbers on Mount Foraker. The National Park Service says 37-year-old Karen McNeill of Alberta Canada and 36-year-old Sue Nott of Vail Colorado began their climb on May 14.

 

The search began because of concerns about food and fuel supplies and the amount of time the pair had planned to spend on the mountain.

 

Since Thursday, the park service has been flying planes and a high altitude lama helicopter, but has found no signs of the climbers. Park rangers say a damaged backpack, which appeared to have fallen from a higher altitude, was found at the base of the climbers’ route. The National Park Service says some of the route has been obscured by clouds and those areas will be searched once conditions improve.

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So I don't really no what to say. I have become friends with both Karen and Sue over the last couple of years, they both get after it better than almost any men. These women are as tough as they come, but I fear the worst.

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My tent was next to theirs at Denali Base and we talked to them the day before they took off for the spur. What a great pair, lots of yelling and laughing, and lots of borrowing of my corkscrew. I sure hope they're hanging in there, as they are definately tough enough. The Infinate Spur is a monster of a route, and the weather has been pretty rough this year.

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Watch this page for new reports: http://www.nps.gov/dena/home/news/

 

Day Four of Search for Two Climbers on Mt. Foraker

 

Clear conditions allowed aerial searchers the first complete observation of the Infinite Spur route on Mt. Foraker, the ascent route of missing climbers Karen McNeill and Sue Nott. In the previous three days of the search, clouds obscured key portions of the route. As of the evening of Sunday, June 4, after four days of searching, the location of the climbers remains unknown. McNeill, age 37 of Canmore, Alberta, Canada and Nott, age 36 of Vail, Colorado began their climb of the Infinite Spur on May 14.

 

The NPS-contracted Lama high altitude helicopter resumed the aerial search Sunday morning at 10:00 am, and flew four separate flights covering high probability areas in the vicinity of the route, as well as several possible exit and descent routes. A fixed wing aircraft with observers was also used to search several small glaciers at the base of the South Face of Mt. Foraker.

 

Sunday’s search found additional gear items including a jacket, stuff sack, and a glove that were located in the vicinity of the damaged backpack recovered earlier at the base of the route. Based on equipment descriptions provided by friends of Sue Nott, it is believed that all of the gear belonged to her. Observers on board the Lama helicopter also got a better look at tracks found at the 14,800-foot level of the Infinite Spur, and are confident they belonged to the missing climbing team. Additional tracks may have been spotted at approximately 15,800-feet on the route, although high winds precluded closer observation.

 

Plans are currently being finalized for Monday’s search effort, which will focus on the high probability areas below the route, as well as further investigation of the possible track sightings near the top of the Infinite Spur. Fixed wing aircraft will be utilized to further search possible exit routes on the surrounding glaciers. Flying conditions are expected to remain favorable through Monday.

 

More info also here: http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.html?topic_id=204230&f=0&b=0

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