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John Frieh

first ascent [TR] Lucifer - North Face "Agua Sin Gas" (FA) 5/15/2015

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Trip: Lucifer - North Face "Agua Sin Gas" (FA)


Date: 5/15/2015


Trip Report:

Summary: New route on the north face of Lucifer on May 15 2015. John Frieh (Portland, OR) and Doug Shepherd (Denver, CO) "Agua Sin Gas" III W4/steep snow


Lucifer is the peak just left of center:




I made my first trip to the Stikine Icecap in 2009 to make the first ascent of the west ridge of Burkett Needle. The climbing on the Needle was trumped only by the scenery; the Icecap seemed to be teeming with beautiful lines. I was amazed to learn many of them were unclimbed and as a result have more or less returned every year to attempt to climb one of them. In 2014 while approaching the West Witches Tit Jess and I spotted on the other side of what local climbers call "The Cauldron" or "Witches Cauldron" a very attractive looking face. I took a few photos and made a mental note to keep it in mind when a conditions and weather window coincided; I didn't expect it would be the following year.


After reading SE Alaska's snowpack was 30% of normal earlier this year I more or less assumed I wouldn't get to climb there unless a weather window appeared early in the year. In August of 2013 I was shut down by extremely difficult glacier conditions in a low snow year and didn't want another "scenic helicopter flight" trip.


I was in Salt Lake City the Monday prior training with some climbers when I noticed a solid weather window was taking shape. I pinged the usual suspects and Doug was available for a quick trip. I flew home from SLC Tuesday night, packed bags and drove to Seattle Wednesday night to meet Doug and catch the early flight north Thursday.


Wally zipped us in Thursday afternoon; it was after he dropped us off as we were setting up camp that we realized I had in fact forgotten the stove in Portland. I think for most trips this would have ended the trip right there but the warm temps of the high pressure had turned the glacier into soup and we found a few shallow pools to collect water from. Still... no hot water meant no coffee which is an epic in my book. Doug earned a partner of the year nomination for not killing me right then and there.


Given the heat wave we opted for a 2 am departure from camp in hopes of climbing a large majority of the face in the predawn hours. We found the same puddles we had collected water from the night prior unfrozen at 1 am so we knew it was going to be a mess.


We managed most of the face before sunrise but we found the face slow going with numerous crevasses and sloppy snow in the unusual heat. We were hoping for a direct line up the headwall to the summit but given the temps and conditions opted for a safer, less direct line off the face climbers left of the summit.


We managed the ~4000' face in about 12 hours; though we encountered some vertical snow/snice in places found the majority of the terrain to be moderate. All in all a good day out. We managed to snag a pick up some day and were back in Petersburg later in the day on the 15th making for a <24 hour Petersburg to Petersburg trip.


Given my fuck up we opted to name the route "Agua sin gas" which in Spanish means "water without gas" Though usually this is reserved for still water (i.e. not sparkling water) it happened to also hold true for our situation.


My 5th first ascent on the Icecap; my 10th in Alaska. :rawk:



Glacier shenanigans



Throw the horns! :rocken::rawk:



Partner of the year



Gear Notes:

Petzl Laser Speed Light screws.


Arcteryx FL 30 was the perfect size for this route.


Approach Notes:

Wally at Temsco Air in Petersburg

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I was in Salt Lake City the Monday prior working with Mark Twight to train Kyle Dempster for his upcoming Pakistan trip


Nice name drop

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awww, man, don't do that - it's like showing weakness to a drill instructor- it just encourages the bastard :)

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Great work John, and kudos for putting up with the horrific suffering that comes from caffeine withdrawal. ;)


And I feel your pain (in a mortal way). I one time forgot the lighter on a Rainier trip on a cold spring weekend. We had to turn around at high camp with no other parties around to bum from, no way to melt snow, and no liquid water in sight. Safe to say, my partner wasn't happy, and neither was I. I won't make that mistake again!

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Pretty damned cool.


Timely too, I'm reading Robert's book "On the ridge between life and death" right now. Your pics bring it together nicely.





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