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Kraken

first ascent [TR] Revelation Mountains - Apocalypse (First Ascent) - A Cold Day in Hell 4/7/2013

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Trip: Revelation Mountains - Apocalypse (First Ascent) - A Cold Day in Hell

 

Date: 4/7/2013

 

Trip Report:

Well, since I'm now back in the normal "work world" and the adventures of the spring are nothing more than a distant memory, I guess it's time to spray about them.

 

This was the first big Alaska climbing trip I did this year when I made my annual pilgrimage to the Revelation Mountains, located at the extreme western end of the Alaska Range.

 

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Since 2008 I have been to the "Revs" every year and have plucked off quite a few hidden gems in this seldom visited range. This year was particularly frustrating since we had to wait nearly two weeks to fly in due to the Revelations' fickle weather patterns.

 

Apocalypse Peak is one of the highest peaks in the Revs at 9,340 feet. It was also the tallest unclimbed peak in the area and has always been on my hitlist.

 

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The 4,500 foot West Face is one of the most impressive walls in all of the Revelations. This peak looks like it belongs more in the Kichatnas. Several big walls, that are larger than El Capitan, jut skyward in daunting profile. April however, is a time for ice routes, so Aaron Thrasher, Jason Stuckey and I went sniffing around the West Face for a weakness that just may allow us access to the upper mountain.

 

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We were pleased to find the perfect "sneak" as Aaron called it. On the right side of the West Face, a weakness revealed a thin vein of ice dribbling several thousand feet down from a long and narrow couloir. It was an obvious line and we wasted no time in giving it an attempt.

 

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Aaron was out of time and had to fly out, so Jason and I started the next morning. The climb began with a beautiful rivulet of grade four ice, which we simulclimbed over about 300 feet. A steep gully of snow lead to more lower angle ice which went on for nearly 1000 feet. More steep snow lead to one of the route's crux pitches, a rapidly melting vein of grade five alpine ice that was no more than shoulder width for almost 200 feet.

 

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Just as Jason began seconding the pitch, my friend Conor flew by as he picked Aaron up from the glacier. They took an amazing shot of us on route.

 

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We continued up a steep gully that offered scant protection and eventually found a great narrow bivy just as the sun faded behind the peaks to the west. We chopped the ledge out for about an hour and then set up our First Light and enjoyed the rest.

 

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The next morning we set off early and immediately encountered more steep, cruxy ice pitches before the angle kicked back to 60 degrees. We simulclimbed most of the upper face, placing tons of ice screws and the occasional piece of rock gear.

 

 

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We eventually exited the technically challenging terrain but had lots of steep and very exposed snow plodding to contend with. We got to the summit ridge and could see that the north summit, a quarter-mile away, was about ten feet taller. We had to tag it...it was a first ascent.

 

With only two pickets we resorted to trust. I wouldn't fall, if he wouldn't fall. Deal.

 

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The notoriously bad weather of the Revelations was no where to be found and we enjoyed perfect views the whole trip. The summit was extremely small, only one of us could stand on top at a time.

 

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The Apocalypse is one of the few Revelation peaks with a detailed history.

 

It was been attempted several times by crusty Alaskan climbers in the 1980s, but has not even been tried for almost 30 years. Dick Flaharty of Fairbanks spent ten days on the central big wall, climbing 1,500 feet before encountering a band of poor rock. He was so enamored by the mountain however, that he named his clothing company, Apocalpyse Designs, after the peak.

 

A year or two later, Karl Swanson of Talkeetna attempted the central snow line on a solo mission, but turned around when an avalanche poured over his head and nearly took him for the final ride. I was astounded to discover that he was less than 500 vertical feet from the summit. So close!!!

 

We rappelled back to our high camp and had enough food to stay for another night. We had perfect weather and didn't feel rushed so we decided to enjoy our success and the perfect bivy.

 

In the morning we continued our descent and touched ground by late afternoon. A major inversion had me shivering all the way to camp, and we were not surprised when our thermometer had bottomed out at -20. The next morning it was even colder, and when Paul Roderick from Talkeetna Air Taxi picked us up, he said it was -35.

 

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Another wonderful trip to the Revelations is in the books. Can't wait to go back next year! Hey Jens...you game?

 

 

Check out my feature article in the 2013 American Alpine Journal (available in August), which fully details the history and potential of the Revelation Mountains.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

-Clint Helander

 

Gear Notes:

Tons of ice screws, a few pickets, a handful of rock gear (pins, a few nuts, some cams).

 

Approach Notes:

You gotta pay to play! A very expensive flight!

Edited by Kraken

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