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John Frieh

first winter ascent [TR] Mt Huntington - French (NW) Ridge (FWA) 3/1/2014

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Trip: Mt Huntington - French (NW) Ridge (FWA)

 

Date: 3/1/2014

 

Trip Report:

Summary:

On March 1st, Brad Farra (Portland, OR), Jason Stuckey (Fairbanks, Alaska) and I, John Frieh (Portland, OR), flew from Talkeetna to the Tokositna Glacier (~8600') below the west face of Mt. Huntington. We skipped establishing a base camp and instead immediately started climbing the French (NW) ridge, reaching an elevation of ~10,500' before bivying for the night. On March 2nd we started climbing around 8 am and reached the summit of Mt. Huntington just under 16 hours later around 11:30 pm. Due to the late summit we enjoyed a second bivy just below the summit at >12,000 feet. Six hours later we defrosted ourselves with mass quantities of coffee before beginning a descent of the West Face Couloir (Nettle-Quirk) around 9 am. As Jason and I had climbed and descended the WFC in the winter of 2011 we were able to move quickly down the route and reached landing zone around 3 pm on March 3rd, making for ~51 hours on route. I believe this was the first winter ascent of the French Ridge of Mt Huntington during the winter season and the third overall winter ascent to date.

 

Bob Butterfield's photo of the French Ridge (sun/shadow line):

p485655324-5.jpg

 

Brad on route; Jason Stuckey photo:

huntington_pano1_clipped_edit.jpg

 

 

Itinerary:

Feb 28/March 1: PDX -> ANC -> Talkeetna

March 1: Paul/TAT flew us to the East Fork of the Tokostina Glacier (~12 pm). Climbed to ~10,500'

March 2: Mt Huntington summit

March 3: Descent via the WFC; evening pick up

 

Back story:

I would be willing to bet most would agree Mount Huntington is a beautiful mountain. Classic lines, big faces, no "easy" way to the summit... dig out Alpinist 20 for a sweet mountain profile. For no particular reason the French ridge has always appealed to me... part aesthetics, part history (Lionel Terray!), and part commitment (you can't exactly bail off the route easily if conditions change).

 

I knew the amount of snow and the size of the cornices would determine how quickly one could climb the ridge (if not summit at all) so I started considering the French ridge as either a fall climb or a late winter/early spring climb in hopes of finding ideal conditions. My thought was if one timed it just right this would be the best time to encounter minimal slogging and more importantly minimal cornices.

 

I almost attempted it a few times over the last few years but something always prevented me from trying or a different line in the range looked better. Finally it all came together so we went for it... and it just so happened to be winter. That is to say I wasn't intent on making the FWA; I just wanted to climb it.

 

This trip likely would never have happened if it not for the excellent beta that Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi provided on conditions. Best pilot and best flight service in Alaska. Also Mark Westman has been an excellent source of AK beta for me over the years; I know I asked him for his opinion of my Huntington idea more than once.

 

Pictures:

Early on climbing to get onto the ridge top:

DSC01689_edit.jpg

 

Almost on the ridge:

DSC01692_edit.jpg

 

First bivy:

DSC01704_edit.jpg

 

Second day sun:

DSC01722_edit.jpg

 

Early on second day:

IMG_1400_edit.jpg

 

Getting closer... but not that close:

IMG_1418_edit.jpg

 

Gear Notes:

Light is Right! Petzl Quarks + Vasaks, new Arcteryx FL 45 liter pack (so sweet!), coffee

IMG_1259_edit.jpg

 

Approach Notes:

Talkeetna Air Taxi

DSC01664_edit.jpg

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Indeed. Another impressive smash and grab ascent! Your success rate using this tactic is hard to ignore.

 

Are you going to add a few more photos of the rest of the climb/descent?

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Are you going to add a few more photos of the rest of the climb/descent?

 

Thanks! Wasn't planning on it but could be convinced...? If you're looking for photo beta for the French or WFC let me know

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Very impressive ascent and pics. How nice to have stellar weather to enjoy while y'all were at it.

 

Congrats to the team on a successful climb, and thanks for sharing the story here.

 

d

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Thanks! Wasn't planning on it but could be convinced...? If you're looking for photo beta for the French or WFC let me know

 

Oh, I have no business trying for Huntington, but I do love pretty pictures.

 

That is one beautiful mountain.

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Wow!

 

What tool is that strapped to the Arcteryx pack (in the shot of the packs in the plane)? It looks like an ice axe without any sort of head.

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What tool is that strapped to the Arcteryx pack (in the shot of the packs in the plane)? It looks like an ice axe without any sort of head.

 

It's actually a Petzl picket (Petzl calls them snowtubes). I really like them because the diameter/shape of the picket is the same as my shovel shaft so I dont have to bring a full shovel; just the shovel head and use the picket as the shaft.

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beat my weekend for sure :)

 

didn't terray take a friggin month on that route (and break his arm or ribs or somethign?)

 

your carbon foot-print is making the Earth Mother :cry::grin:

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Wow...very impressive!! That is such a striking line, and your photos are very excellent in quality! +1 to more pictures. Congrats on a great climb.

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Damn! More photos please!

 

Terray was an eloquent writer. I love final words in his article about the first ascent:

"We had ceased for several days to be slaves and had truly lived as men. To return to slavery was hard..."

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I love the view from your 10,500' camp into the top half of the couloir on the Colton/Leech route. Brings back memories of being totally flamed out leading out of the top of that bitch. I was sure glad there was a great bivy platform there!

 

Awesome job, John! What great weather you guys had. Smash and grab masters!

 

 

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Thanks for the stoke! Sometimes the internet spray-feeds makes it hard to remember you don't need to be a sponsored 'rado rock jock to do something big and awesome in the alpine.

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I'm reading Conquistadors of the Useless right now so good timing on your TR. Must be some kind of record for days spent in the field vs peaks climbed ratio. :laf: Seriously, great effort and photos.

 

Whats the feedback on the HMG Icepack?

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Nice work! Looks like you guys had perfect timing- by the looks of what your wearing it wasn't too cold either. Congrats!

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