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[TR] Mt. Silverthrone - West Face direct couloir 9/4/2011

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Trip: Mt. Silverthrone - West Face direct couloir


Date: 9/4/2011


Trip Report:

Hi all,


Thanks in part to your helpful suggestions we walked in 30 miles from Wonder Lake to climb a new route on Mt. Silverthrone's 4000' west face, following a couloir Joe Puryear and Mark Westman attempted in 1997 before turning back in bad weather. They later made the first ascent of the face via a different couloir and followed the north ridge to the summit. The 'new' route takes a straight line from the glacier to the summit, and descends the north ridge.




We left camp on the Traleika at 6am and hurried through the runout zone of the seracs at the head of the glacier's east fork, where the route begins. The climbing was uninterrupted 50 to 60 degree snow and ice, which we simulclimbed with pickets and ice screws. We weren't faster than the weather and lost visibility in the afternoon, but continued up to escape. One of us was sick from altitude and recovering from a 30' fall off a knife-edge ridge we wandered onto somewhere on the face below the summit, so we moved slowly. We topped out in a whiteout and storm at 7pm. We dug a snow cave at 13,100-something feet, 10 or 20 yards south of the summit, and waited there until morning, listening to the wind and unsure whether we would be able to leave. At 6am the wind and blowing snow was still bad but visibility had improved so we hurried down the north ridge. The easy descending ended at Peak 11,270 and we simulclimbed down the steep ridge, arriving sometime around 12pm at the descent gully noted in Puryear's book.


Full story in photos at Picasa .



Gear Notes:

four alpine ice tools

four ice screws

three pickets

60m 8mm rope



foam pads



Approach Notes:

1 day driving, etc., from Wasilla.


2 days to McGonagall Pass.


1 day to the head of the Traleika. We camped on the medial moraine, 3 miles from the route.


10 hrs up, 6 hrs down (not counting hiking to and from camp; we could have camped closer but liked the moraine).





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Cool! A great line done in perfect style.


Thanks for sharing an AK TR, I think it is great that more and more folks are posting their TRs from outside the Cascades. Keep em' coming!

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Shit, we took 16 days and got weathered out at a little above 10k. Nicely done. Course, we had a shit ton of stuff. Light and fast, NOT, heavy and comfy, fer sure... Congrats! :brew:

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WOW, just checked out the pics on Picasa and am amazed at how much less snow/ice is there since I was in 1998. Sure brings back great memories. Denali was my "office" from 1993-2000. Thanks for the stoke.


Looks like you did not have the same crevasse issues we had on the Muldrow/Traleika???

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I love it!




Psyched for you guys, congratulations.

I was wondering how long it would be before someone went all the way in and did that thing properly. I'm guessing the difficulties were similar to our line, but no doubt the line you did was the better and more aesthetic, shooting as it does straight to the summit.


I see from the video that the objective hazards on the approach haven't changed much. That same serac fired like that while we were on the attempt of that line, and also while we were "reconnoitering" it the day before- yes we went through that danger zone twice! Well actually four times, two up, two down. After that, we decided we'd tempted fate twice too much and settled on the left hand line. Your experience was also similar to ours as we were stormed in high on the route as well. We couldn't see a damn thing from the top. But we had no bivi gear with us and it was beginning of April and cold as hell so we couldn't sit it out, we ran down and made it back to our camp which was right at the foot of the descent couloir. 13 hrs r/t.


Anyway, proud effort, guys! Bravo.


Here's a photo of Joe's from our attempt on your line, just before the first slough avy and our subsequent bail:




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MW— thanks! I'm surprised the approach dissuades people; we kept saying on the way in that even if we didn't make it up the Traleika, at least we got to hike through some beautiful country.


On our recon day we saw I think 4 serac avalanches pummel the approach, and as we rushed up the morning of the climb, found that the debris area was much wider and took longer to rush through than we thought. I think your lower route is probably the smarter one.


Definitely we were lucky with the warm temps and break in the clouds for our getaway. The only long climb I'd done before this was Pioneer Peak there along the highway, so I was a little bit freaked out as we headed down. My partner tried to get a photo on the summit but couldn't because I was literally towing him downhill. Anyway, that was a sweet face you guys explored; I hope more people get to check out the solitude in that area. Hope we get back there soon.


Much thanks to Jan, Anne & Camp Denali for the unexpected showers, dinner and ride out.

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Yeah, this and December are the only months I'm home from school in CA, so gotta go for it while I'm here. Great thing about September is that even if the climb's a bust, the berrypicking's great!



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