Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dispatch two - Mt. Hunter, West Ridge

On the morning of the 12th Mark and I left Kahiltna Base Camp for the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter. This route is a super aesthetic feature that gains about 8,000 feet of elevation in 3 miles. It is an absolute classic of the Range and is included in the revered Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Without a doubt, it lives up to its reputation. The night of the 12th found us halfway up the route just above the crux, a mixed section. We had climbed up miles of beautiful corniced ridge through a series of steep rock towers. We were joined at the bivy by our buddies and local Alaskans, Clint and Boon. We spend the evening hootin’ and holerin’ between our tents and to Kahiltna Base camp over the radio. The next morning saw us moving on to the ice face, four pitches of traversing steep ice on the side of the knife edge ridge. Above this, we rallied up the broadening ridge to the summit plateau where we found the one of the most spectacular bivys either one of us had ever experienced. A wave of ice and snow inside a crevasse allowed us the escape the developing winds and spin drift while watching the purples and pinks of alpenglow wash over Mt Foraker. The next morning it was obvious that our weather window was coming to an end so we ran to the summit, avoiding the summit ridge cornice via a natural Chutes and Ladders tube. On the summit, we were graced with gorgeous views of the AK range around us including Denali, Foraker, Huntington and peaks of the Ruth, where we spent time last season. We then proceeded to race back down to the Ramen Couloir just below the ice face and down-climbed that feature. As we reached the glacier, we were encompassed in pea soup. With zero visibility we attempted to navigate our way around the heinous ice fall that we knew was somewhere out there in the fog in front of us. But after a few hours of fruitless wandering we bivyed once more and finished our food. The next morning dawned clear and we found our way to the other side of the ice fall and by the afternoon we were back in the comforts of base camp. Now a storm is bearing down on the Range and we are resting -perfect timing. The West Ridge allowed us the gain a period of acclimatization and knowledge of the conditions up high in the mountains. When our bodies are ready and the weather is clear, we will begin to attack the steeper terrain this range has to offer and we’re psyched about it. Best wishes to everyone at home. We will check in again soon.

NW face of Mt. Hunter, photo courtesy of

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