Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dispatch Three- First Ascent of Peak 12,214 and three routes opened

Peak 12,214 (Voyager Peak) in the NW fork of the Lacuna Glacier

After 4 rest days and a several feet of new snow our focus and thoughts of climbing the North Buttress of Hunter via the Moon Flower had been derailed. Rather we used the days the mountains needed to shed, to return to the Lacuna project. With high pressure predicted we hoped this would be perfect timing for an ascent and it was.

We returned to the NW fork of the Lacuna glacier after confirming with the park that our trips there were the first visits to the area. Two days of glacier travel and retracing our tracks put us back at our previous Advanced Base Camp, below the south face of the unclimbed Peak 12,214.

Returning to the peak a second time and having a previous attempt (see post one) gave us integral knowledge of the south face and a quicker route down with a previously installed descent. This encouraged us to change strategies and take a much more aggressive approach by not taking any bivi equipment and committing to a single push. Our sights became set on a central buttress right of center, this being the most technical direct line on the south face not threatened by saracs capping the left flank of the mountain. The 2500ft granite buttress climbs several hundred feet of dihedrals and flakes finally narrowing to a thin exposed technical ridge and transitioning into a 1000ft couloir. The couloir ends on the summit ridge with 1000ft corniced knife ridge climbing to the summit cap.

On May 23rd at 8:30pm we left our tent and skis at 7500ft on the NW fork of the Lacuna for the summit of unclimbed peak 12,214. The climbing on the lower buttress was several pitches of excellent steep mixed climbing with M6 cruxes on good rock and but faceted snow. The ridge narrowed to a technical gendarme laden and rather narrow ridge with unstable and precariously balanced snow mushrooms . The exposure, position and good rock provided some epic climbing. It took us 12 hours to reach the couloir and finish the main buttress cruxes. Unforecasted clouds began to build and covered up the sun not allowing us to res and dry out during a brew up as planned and instead we had to push on. We reached the summit ridge and then caught a glimpse of the dark grey clouds on Foraker next door and began to descend. We connected with our high point from the first attempt and began a familiar descent down the SE buttress (the first attempt route). 26hours round trip.

Graham on pitch 3 of Nebula Arete (photo by Mark Allen)

After waking in the tent Graham and I calculated the remaining food and decide to go for one last attempt. Due to remaining energy, time, and resources we focused on the most direct line via a central couloir that trails into the upper snow headwall climbing nearly a plum line to the summit; the most obvious weakness. We had to commit to using our “return” food for the ascent (still only a couple of bars) leaving only 4 oatmeal packets for the 25km ski back to Kahiltna Base Camp. We nervously rested in perfect weather and watched the first hot day start the spring shed cycle, making massive avalanches come off the peak. We rested and got stoked to fire.

On May 26th at 10:30pm we headed up the Central Couloir. We found perfect neve and ice and blasted the face averaging 20-25ft/min and 1200ft/hr We reached the old high point on the summit ridge in less that 5 hours and summited in 3 simul-climbing pitches; 5hrs:45min at 4:15am opening the new line To the Center (4500ft AK4 AI2, Cornices). The descent was a long and blue collar involving technical down climbing and rappelling on the SE ridge to the SE buttress decent. We arrived at the old bivi on the SE Buttress and waited 4 hours for the snow to cool and descended back to our camp arriving at 7:15pm totaling 20:15 hours return.

This ascent felt good and validated all of our previous attempts and incomplete lines with a summit line that connected our two previous high points. This established three lines now that can be climbed to the summit.

We coined the peak Voyager Peak. Named after the satellite that launched in 1977 by NASA which is pushing further and further into outer space sending back information about deep space and carrying a payload of information about earth in case anyone else picks it up. This reflects the fact that while in the NW fork of the Lacuna we felt as though we might as well be on the moon.

Voyager Peak Route List:

Voyager Peak (12,214ft), route lines marked, descent marked in yellow (photo by Graham Zimmerman)

May 9th 2011:
Southeast Buttress/Ridge “Lunar Spur” 2500ft AK4 M5, AI 2, Cornices (Green)

May 23rd 2011:
South Face Central Buttress “Nebula ArĂȘte” 3500ft AK 5, M6, AI2, A1, Cornices (Blue)

May 26th 2011:
South Face Central Couloir “To the Center” 4500ft AK 4, AI2, Cornices (Red)

We pushed the 25km ski back to Kahiltna Base Camp in 13 hours running on fumes and returned to congrats and smiles from the park staff and friends keeping tabs on our project. This was the most adventurous Alaskan odyssey that either of us had been on and our persistence to succeed rewarded us with a beautiful summit of a remote unclimbed peak in Alaska’s great range. We thank everyone for the support and we hope you will join us next year for our nomadic wanderings in to the vertical world we are choosing to roam.


Mark Allen
Graham Zimmerman


  1. Awesome! Glad everything went well for you guys. I like the name you picked too :)

  2. Nice work guys! It's great that you did something off the beaten track. Way to get after it and stay after it.