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[TR] Pika Glacier - 5/22/2010

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Trip: Pika Glacier -


Date: 5/22/2010


Trip Report:

Without being hardcore climbers we were looking for someplace that had some easier climbing for our first trip into the range. We talked to several people and decided on spending a week on the Pika. Everyone we talked to, when asked about easier climbing around there all said "there's plenty of that around the Pika" but no details. So off we went.


Denali Overland picked us up at the airport in Anchorage Saturday morning and took us up to Talkeetna. After sorting gear and talking with TAT we were able to fly in that evening, getting camp set up by about 9pm.




Foraker on left & Denali on the right




Waking up every morning to that view :grin:




The first day we decided to just check out what was around so we skied up the glacier between Crown Jewel and the Munchkin. Since we only planed on scouting things out we didn't bring much gear. Of course we got to looking at the small peak just west of the Munchkin (Little Arapiles??) and started up.



With the hot weather the snow slogging got old so we moved over to the rocks.



It would have been fun easy climbing with less snow, but a little sporty with snow/ice over rock without crampons. Once we got off that we headed to the pass just south of the Trolls for a look around and then headed back to camp.



A look down Glacier with Foraker at top right



After talking with a friend in the AMS class camped next to us we decided to head down to The Hobbits Foot Stool for some easy rock as it had been a while since we had plugged gear. We did the right side of The Stool which turned out to be 5.5 or so. Great easy climbing in a beautiful location.


The Foot Stool is the face in the upper left.



On our way back from The Foot Stool we noticed a couloir cutting up the east face of Royal Tower just to the right of Gargoyle Buttress. Notes I had written from an AAJ said it was 6 mixed pitches above an 1800’ 60* couloir and done in May ’87.


Couloir just left of center



We set the alarm for 2:30am. Unfortunately there wasn’t a hard freeze that night and we discussed wether we wanted to go for it or not. After breakfast we decided we were already up and what the hell. After skiing to the base we started up the snow cone leading to the couloir sinking up to the knee/thigh until we crossed the bergschrund. The snow was firmer the higher we got and even got onto some ice, simu-climbing the whole way. About 1000’ up we broke into the sun. With the light freeze it didn’t take long for stuff to start coming down and the snow to turn too soft to comfortably climb. I set an anchor on the right side and belayed Joel up. We did five raps down the right side leaving single pins and nuts at each station. Rolling into camp about 8:30 spending the rest of the day sleeping and trying to stay cool.





Joel approaching our turn around spot.



Me at our only belay and high point.



Wednesday we skied up into the bowl between the Throne and Trolls this time bringing a light rack. We looked up Lost Marsupial and thought it looked within our ability and planned to try it the next day. We skied to the col just south of The Plunger and followed the ridge towards the Trolls.


About the time we were going to turn around next to a rock pillar I seen a crack I wanted to try. Not proud to admit I had to step in a runner to get on the route out of the snow. After sewing it up I was on top of the pillar using a slung block to belay up Joel.





Talkeetna is out there somewhere


Not wanting to leave anything we found an exposed walk-off around the back side returning to our skis and Joel getting some good turns on his split board while I fought my way down in my leather boots and skis on our way back to camp.


Thursday (the only day I forgot the camera) we headed back up to Lost Marsupial (Grade III, 5.8) and was on route at about 9:30. We took a leisurely pace up the blocky terrain. We aren’t sure if the bottom 5.8 pitch was covered in snow or we just bypassed it but didn’t come across anything down low above about 5.5. We simu-climbed some of the 3rd-4th class mid-route while climbing over rock and snow. The 5.6 crack went easier than expected except for the rock I kicked down hitting Joel in the knee. We got to within a half pitch below the ridge going to the top and noticed weather moving in from the valley. With the weather and snow conditions we decide to head down. For some reason we decided to do full length rappels (not recommended). Seems like rope management was complicated by terrain and rope length but, everything went OK until the last rap with our ropes not budging. I set my Reverso to auto-block mode and climbed back up to the anchor freeing the ropes and doing two 30m raps down to our packs and back to camp for the day.





With Joel’s knee bothering him from the rock fall, climbing was out for the day. We decided to go for a ski and scout objectives for next time/year. While headed out of camp we stopped by the camp of a couple guys we saw coming in while we were on the Marsupial. Talking with the guys I recognized the voice of a guy who I had met/seen in Ouray the last two years. After talking a bit I agreed to take pics of the area further down the Pika. We skied down to the base of Italy’s Boot, across to Dragon’s Spine, and back to camp.


Dragon's Spine



Italy's Boot




Lower part of the Pika



With a pick up time from between 1-9pm on Saturday we called TAT and asked if they could give us a better guess as to what time they would be there. We told them we were ready and were told they would be there between noon and 2:00. At 11:30 we seen the 185 circling over head. We hurried and tore down the mid and drug the rest of our bags to the “runway” the AMS group stomped out several days ago when they left. After the longest takeoff roll of my life we were airborne and on our way back to Talkeetna for three dinners with dessert and :brew: that night.




Overall it was a great trip with beautiful weather. Five out of eight days with sun and only a total of two hours of rain scattered over the other three days. Never thought I would ask for cooler weather during May in the Alaska Range. The snow was too soft for good climbing but there was too much snow for great rock climbing. On the flight out our pilot told us early May was the best time for snow/ice climbing on the Pika and mid June to July was best for rock, info that would have been helpful before the trip!!


Can’t wait until next time I can get into the Range. Hopefully next spring!!!!



Approach Notes:

Denali Overland &TAT

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Great pictures Pat - You guys had awesome weather! That place is really fun --- but hitting it the right time of year is tough. The rock climbing conditions are better the longer into summer you wait but the chance of precip goes up after mid June.

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Joel told me about this trip when i saw him in Juneau last week at the MRA conference. Now I've seen the photos so I believe him. You guys had an awesome weather window. Looks like a great time.


John (from OMR)

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Can’t wait until next time I can get into the Range. Hopefully next spring!!!!


Hi Pat,


may I join you next spring? :)



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