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Jul 19, 2015 - 06:11am PT
Moonflower Buttress: 1981

American Alpine Journal 1982


Social climber
Jul 19, 2015 - 07:33am PT
sooooo--whats for Breakfast today? Why certainly, I'll have the Moonflower Buttress.
Avery did you ever talk to Paul Aubrey about this climb?
Thanks again--you should put together a book of your 100 greatest hits.
smith curry

Jul 19, 2015 - 10:20am PT
Hopefully folks post up some great action shots from these routes

Jul 19, 2015 - 07:36pm PT
The Bibler-Klewin: 1982

American Alpine Journal 1983


Mountain climber
Jul 20, 2015 - 04:20am PT
I believe this is the same location as the above photo:
(From an attempt back in 2010)

This was my favourite pitch:
(The ice dagger just after the Prow)

Mountain climber
Jul 20, 2015 - 04:30am PT
I should also add this one:
(Bivy at the first ice field. Unfortunately we had to bail in the morning, because my partner had frostbite in several fingers)

Jul 20, 2015 - 05:33am PT
Beautiful pics! Thanks a lot KristofferSzilas. Feel free to post some more.

Mountain climber
Jul 20, 2015 - 06:30am PT
Here is one more (attempt in 2012), but it was too cold to get the camera out as often as on El Cap:

I'm sure Ian Parnell and Mark Westman has some good photos from this wall too...

All I can add is that the North Buttress of Hunter has the best alpine climbing on Earth. Good rock and ice, stable conditions (north facing and always cold), plus it is as steep as an alpine big wall can get!
For comparison lots of people free El Cap every season, but the North Buttress only sees a handful of ascents (if any) each year.

Social climber
Jul 20, 2015 - 06:56am PT
That ice dagger pitch looks way way out there. I got vertigo just by looking at it! Your photographs really express the intense nature of the route.
This thread should have about a million hits considering the importance of these routes and their history.
Thanks again you guys for posting and sharing-I really look forward to these reads.

Jul 20, 2015 - 07:47pm PT
Grison-Tedeschi: 1984

American Alpine Journal 1985

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jul 21, 2015 - 12:01am PT
Trying to complete the north buttress of Hunter, by any route, has been the Sisyphean task of my entire 22 years of climbing in the Alaska Range. Because of its proximity to the airstrip and it being easy to retreat from, it's always been a fairly popular route for people to attempt; while many make some progress on it, having everything actually come together- weather, conditions, timing, and fitness- to take any route all the way to the summit has proven for many suitors to be elusive. Many strong climbers have made impressive efforts only to be defeated by fatigue high on the buttress, dangerous avy conditions above the buttress, and of course the typical fickle weather of Alaska.

The eternal question is always, how fast, how light? Bivis are poor on the buttress and carrying bivi gear is heavy, but 30 pitches of sustained ice and mixed climbing, fully on your frontpoints, is difficult no matter whether carrying bivi gear or going light and trying to get it done all at once. In the latter case, my observations over the years are that not many people have the stamina necessary to take it all the way to the summit going single push style without bivi gear, especially on the more difficult routes, based on the number of climbers who begin rappelling at the Come Again Exit (the top of the final rock band) or the top of the buttress proper.

In any case, as Kristoffer and others have noted, it's a simply phenomenal place to be and the climbing is world class in quality. For many, just getting up high on it and experiencing some of the beautiful and iconic pitches of these routes has proven to be a reward in itself.

I made actual attempts on the Bibler/Klewin route- meaning we got off the ground- in 2001, 2003, and then twice in 2007. On the second of these 2007 attempts with my good friend Eamonn Walsh, we succeeded in reaching the top of the buttress (e.g. the "cornice bivi) after 48 hours, which included one miserably cold bivouac (-20F). It also involved finishing the final 1000 foot, 50-60 degree ice face in a raging blizzard between midnight and 5 AM, as a forecasted storm arrived 18 hours early; those last five hours on this climb surely ranks as one of the most difficult and stressful things I have ever done, and generated what was likely the greatest uncertainty I have ever had about my own survival in the mountains. Once atop the buttress, we dug a snowcave to get out of the elements and over the next 24 hours it snowed 3 feet, making continuing upwards impossibly dangerous. It also made rappelling down, in the still-ongoing storm, nearly equally unappealing and not exactly safe, but it was the only choice we had.
While the quality of the climbing was fantastic, the circumstances of our ascent and the high amount of suffering we endured detracted somewhat from the experience. It was, in the grand scheme, a rewarding and instructive experience, but getting so far up there and being unable to complete the much easier terrain above us was a difficult pill to accept. However, I felt fortunate enough to have simply survived, which puts things into a more proper perspective.

I've been on the ground in two subsequent seasons with ambitions for the French Route, but time was short and the weather was bad. As time advances, my interests have begun to turn to other objectives in the range, and places I haven't seen yet, but the buttress still lurks in my consciousness. Opinions differ, but summits are important to me personally. I take something positive away from my efforts there, but even today, when I look at the north buttress, it feels incomplete...if I am never able finish it, it will be my "one that got away". I'll be alright with that.

In 2009, Colin Haley and I sat down and tallied up what we believed to be the up to date history of complete (e.g.- to the summit) ascents of the various routes of the north buttress. There have been several since this list was made and I've included the ones I can remember that happened between 2011 and 2015, but some in that period are surely missing. If anyone knows of one they don't see, feel free to chime in.

Here is what I have:

Grison-Tedeschi (French Route):
1) Benoit Grison, Yves Tedeschi, 1984
2) Jon Bracey, Andy Houseman, 2007
3) Slovenians (I never knew their names), 2008 or 2009?
4) Colin Haley, Bjorn-Eivind Artun, 2009
5) Kurt Ross and JD Merritt, 2015

Wall of Shadows:
1) Michael Kennedy, Greg Child, 1994
2) Kevin Mahoney, Ben Gilmore, 2001
Giri Giri Boys Yokoyama and Kenji(?) freed the route in 2009 or 10 but rappelled from the third ice band

1) Scott Backes and Mark Twight, 1994
2) John Kelley and Stephen Farrand, 2002
3) Bruce Miller and Doug Byerly, 2002 or 2003
4) Katsutaka Yokoyama, Fumitaka Ichimura, and Yusuke Sato, 2006
5) Maxime Turgeon and Zoe Hart, 2008
6) Dave Edgar and Jay Mills, 2009 (with new variation through third rock band, and finishing on Come Again Exit instead of big trav. right as per Deprivation)

Bibler-Klewin (aka Moonflower)
1) Todd Bibler, Doug Klewin, 1983
2) Pat McNerthney, Rob Newsom, 1984
3) Andy DeKlerk, Julie Brugger, 1993
4) Randy Rackliff, Bill Belcourt, 1994
5) Carl Tobin, Joe Terravecchia, 1997
6) Steve Larson, Charlie Townsend, 1997
7) Tom Maceyka, Dave Reeder, 2000
8) Doug Chabot, Bruce Miller, 2001
9 Freddie Wilkinson, Ben Gilmore, Maxime Turgeon, 2008
10) Japanese (didn't get their names, one was female), 2008
11) Simon Anthamatten, Samuel Anthamatten, Andreas Steindl, 2009 (fastest r/t ascent to date- 36 hours basecamp to basecamp! And they carried and used a tent!)
12) Vivian Scott and two other Scottish climbers (did not get their names), 2009
13) Fred Degoulet and another French climber (didn't get the name), 2010
14) Sukman Choi, Jong-Il Park, Hee-Yong Park, 2011

15) Clint Helander, Mark Taylor, Vittorio Spoldi, 2013
16) Party of three climbers whose names I didn't get, 2015

A couple photos:


Jul 21, 2015 - 06:16am PT
Hey Mark, they say a picture's worth a thousand words. Those eyes glaring out from the balaclava certainly vindicate that particular cliche! Great pic.
I Parnell

Jul 21, 2015 - 09:29am PT
Well done Avery - gradually working through the whole range ;-) Hunter North Butt is a pretty special one though. So I've never been to the summit (which I regret) but I have been lucky enough to climb two great routes. A new one The Knowledge (to the Cornice bivi) with Jules Cartwright in May 2000 which was my first proper big alpine route and a massive step up courtesy of Jules. Lots of stories which I'll tell later on. Also repeated The Moonflower to the end of the rock/mixed with Kenton Cool in 2001 (?), freeing everything but the pendulum on the tower (mind a bit fuzzy but might have had one rest point on the way up that pitch. Marko Prezelj and Stephen Koch made the first free ascent shortly after. Pics of Jules on The Knowledge below, a fine and much missed friend.

Jul 21, 2015 - 03:03pm PT
Thanks Ian

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jul 21, 2015 - 03:43pm PT
With Ian's post it's important to highlight the two other major routes that have been established and climbed to the top of the buttress-

The Knowledge- Ian Parnell and Jules Cartwright, 2000
The Cartwright Connection (named for Jules)- Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker, 2011

These two routes are unquestionably the most difficult routes yet done on the buttress.

Ian, I don't know if you remember, but after you and Jules climbed the Knowledge I remember having drinks with you guys in Talkeetna (whilst you were nursing your broken ribs), then later we ran into you on the Kahiltna in a snowstorm as you were heading up towards Denali and Joe and I were heading down after acclimatizing for the Cassin and because there had just been a horrible plane crash with the park service patrol on board. The following winter we exchanged emails and I related that your north buttress climb had really made an impression upon Joe and I; but we hadn't really done very much pure waterfall ice climbing at that point and so we felt unsure of our skills and too intimidated to think the north buttress was something we could ever do, or even try. We thought it was "something other people do". You gave me a very no-nonsense reply- "you guys can totally do the north buttress". We did some pitches on it the following spring, and while we were too slow and didn't have our system dialed yet, just being up there, trying, showed us the path we needed to take to get there. The only reason we even tried in the first place was because of what you had said to us- no joke.
There's a select few singular exchanges and gestures I can recount in my life where something someone said to me effected a major shift in the way I viewed things, in my confidence and belief in myself. That was one of them. Thank you.

Jul 21, 2015 - 08:07pm PT
Alaskan Test-Piece Finally Gets Second Ascent

By Dougald MacDonald

Britons Jon Bracey and Andy Houseman have made the second ascent of the French Route on the North Buttress of Mt. Hunter, 23 years after the first ascent. The two men continued to the summit of 14,570-foot Mt. Hunter and descended via the West Ridge for a four-day round-trip. The French Route was the second to breach the 4,000-foot North Buttress, but it has largely been forgotten by most climbers, who associate Hunter’s steep northern wall with the famed Moonflower Buttress.

Bracey described their speedy second ascent in an email:
“[We] started up the French Route on the 8th of May in so-so weather. The first day we climbed the couloir under bombardment from some good spindrift. The last pitch exiting the gully was the crux, with sustained overhanging ice. We climbed another two pitches before a bivouac on an icefield. The following day we climbed through the ice-fields, with good ice runnels and mixed ground in between, and into the headwall. Sustained mixed climbing slowed our progress, and a lack of bivi sites forced us to climb on through the night. We finally reached the top of the headwall at 4 a.m., and briefly dug in for a couple of hours rest before continuing on to the cornice bivi site. Here we brewed up, ate, and rested for two hours.

“Still very tired, we continued on to the summit, which we reached at about 9 p.m. The ground after the cornice bivi was quite time-consuming, with one section of steep, rotten ice. A cold night was spent on the plateau below the summit. On the fourth day we descended the West Ridge back to Kahiltna base camp via the Northwest Basin. A great route and amazing effort by the first ascensionists back in 1984.”

The French Route (aka North Buttress Couloir) takes an independent line up the North Buttress, left of the Moonflower Buttress. After numerous attempts by many different parties, it was climbed in 1984 by Benoit Grison and Yves Tedeschi in four days, with another two days to descend via the West Ridge in a storm—lightning-fast, considering the date of their climb. However, their achievement was forgotten by most Americans, who had been captivated by the beauty and difficulty of the Moonflower (and, no doubt, by the mostly American cast of characters making the numerous attempts)—the Moonflower Buttress was finally climbed to the summit of Hunter in 1983, one year before the French ascent. The historical guidebook High Alaska goes so far as to call the French pair’s North Buttress Couloir a “variation.”

But Alaska Range aficionados consider the Grison-Tedeschi route a beautiful and inspiring climb. Mark Westman, who repeated the Moonflower to the top of the buttress this spring with Eamonn Walsh but was unable to continue to the summit after two feet of snow fell at their high bivy, said in an email, “The French Route is in my opinion and many others the proudest and most intimidating line on the wall. It took 23 years to get repeated—says a lot!”

Bracey and Houseman’s Alaskan trip was supported by the Mark Clifford Grant, UK Sport, Mountain Equipment, DMM, Crux, and Scarpa.

Dates of Ascent: May 8-11, 2007

Sources: Jon Bracey, Andy Houseman, Mark Westman, High Alaska, Alaska Climbing, The American Alpine Journal.

Thanks to Dougald MacDonald
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jul 22, 2015 - 04:16am PT

Jul 22, 2015 - 11:02pm PT
Mt. Hunter // French Route, 5th Ascent. (2015)

by Kurt Ross:" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.

I rappelled to the end of our ropes, slammed in a couple of screws, and yelled “I’m off!” up to J.D. While I threaded our next rappel, the rope didn’t move. I screamed a few more times, pulled aggressively on the lines, then gave up. I slumped onto the slings attaching me to the face and dozed off, as I had done at every other moment where my wakefulness couldn’t help move us forward. I was happy for the chance to take weight off my feet. Keeping them sealed in soggy boots for the last few days waterlogged my skin, making them feel blistered all over. After some indeterminate amount of time, J.D. buzzed down the rope and we continued.

“Make sure you yell loudly when you’re off.”


Somehow, after three full days on the go with only a couple hours of rest, we didn’t feel totally out of control. Of course we were extremely tired, but we could still think clearly enough to problem solve our way through the terrain. It’s scary to think about how we would have dealt with a bad storm or messy fall, but pushing ourselves this far didn’t feel reckless in the situation as it was.

We were descending the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter after climbing the Grison-Tedeschi (A.K.A. French Route) on the North Buttress of the mountain, a route which Mark Westman calls “the proudest and most intimidating line on the wall.” We decided to try the French Route instead of another because we figured it might be more intact than any other line on the face after the long spell of warm temperatures that we’d been having on the Kahiltna. We were also encouraged by the hard-man Slovenians Luka Lindic & Ales Cesen, who had climbed the route to the top of the buttress a couple weeks prior. The only real beta we had on route were the finger-point directions that Luca & Ales sprayed at us in camp.

At 11pm on May 29th, we skied out of camp toward the beautiful and intimidating face. At the top of “ski hill”, J.D. mentioned that “I’m not nervous because I think we can’t do it, but because I think we can.” I agreed. We stashed our ski boots and planks at the base then went into business mode.

J.D. made short work of the schrund then gave me a quick belay across. We simul-climbed through the traversing ice and snow which lead to the base of the prominent gully that aesthetically defines the route. I lead a shorter simul-block, then we started to pitch things out. Unlike other parties who have climbed the route, we pitched out most of the gully, which didn’t really feel much slower or more strenuous than simul-climbing might have been. We cruised through a handful of easy ice pitches. J.D. put the rope up for a scarcely protected one, and I sewed up an overhung one above that. Some easier climbing brought us to a great rest stop on a snow arete at the top of the gully, which finally allowed us to escape the grapple-spindrift that had been bombarding us throughout the gully. We sat for about two hours brewing, eating, sharpening, and dozing off as the dim twilight turned into daytime again.

The next stint took us through a couple rope-lengths of thick ice between protruding rock, which foreshadowed what the easier terrain on the upper headwall would be like. A long traverse right brought us to the base of the crux of the lower portion of the route. I placed too many screws on the first half of the pitch, so I was forced to run-out some desperate climbing to the lower angle terrain above, where I could find a rock anchor. We took turns zig-zagging around rock-bands left then back right then left again on ancient bullet-proof ice that required four or five exhausting swings to stick a tool.

The sky dimmed into twilight again as we timidly approached the base of the upper headwall. We were both quite unsure about whether our entry point was the same as previous ascents. I still am. J.D. lead a block of three tricky mixed pitches while I super glued my eyelids open so that I could belay and sleep at the same time. The glazed look on J.D.’s face made it evident that it was my turn to take a block. A well protected but burly off-width lead to the ramp that we probably should have been climbing the whole time. A couple more pitches of involved but easier climbing and a tricky right-facing corner that J.D. crushed into rubble finally lead us to easy ground.

We found a flat spot under a rock between the top of the headwall and the cornice bivi where we could finally make a formal bivouac. I ogled J.D.’s extra pair of socks while he changed out of his wet ones. Endless pots of water and some man-spooning made us sharp again. We didn’t sleep for more than a power nap in length, but the short break was trans-formative. We started moving again sometime in the evening.

The trudge to the summit wasn’t technically difficult, but it was physically draining. It was worrisome to consider the long descent ahead of us. Colin Haley claims that the “crux of any climb on the North Buttress of Begguya (Hunter) is the upper third, from the cornice bivi to the summit.” As we approached the summit pyramid, clouds began to swarm around us, obscuring our vision of the West Ridge descent. We tagged the summit at around 3am on June 1st.

We had the option to stick to our original plan to descend the West Ridge to the Ramen Couloir, or to go back down to the top of the North Buttress and rappel the Bibler-Klewin route. The latter option was more of a sure thing, but the former one was supposedly quicker and easier. 200 meters before we reached the summit, I had no intention of venturing into unknown terrain with low visibility on the West Ridge, but the sky suddenly cleared as we crested the top so we decided to go for it.

We ran down the ridge, carefully navigated an icefall, made five or six rappels into the top of the couloir, down-slogged for aeons, then finally reached the valley floor where we rested for an hour in the sun. It felt great to let my swamped feet dry in the sun, but hurt my soul to shove them back into my boots to start moving again. I think I would have achieved the same effect by coating them in maple syrup and walking on a bed of fire ants.

The lion’s share of the very cracked portion of glacier on the Southwest side of the mountain can be avoided by walking up a snow ramp and making a few fixed rappels into a narrow canyon over steep ice. During our late season attempt, we were not enthused to learn that this ice had become a torrential waterfall. Pulling our snagged ropes out of the falling water soaked us to the bone.

The seven mile long zombie-slog that followed was an exceptionally weird experience. After 75 hours on the move, my grey matter was melting. Tribal drums and piano music played in the silence. I could see dozens of faces and figures in the features of the rock face next to us. Whenever I squinted toward the foot of a ridge in the distance, it would turn into a helicopter. Without flotation, we broke into crevasses up to our hips and wastes numerous times. When we finally neared camp, I thought I was imagining the team of guided West Buttress climbers pulling sleds. It was an epic struggle to walk faster than this party, even though they each toted over 100lbs of gear.

In the two days that we rested before returning to the base of the buttress to retrieve our skis, six feet of snow fell. Once we did go, they were nowhere to be found. They were completely concealed by the powder that had fallen, and possibly slough from the face. We probed the area for two fruitless days before giving up. Ouch. I was originally planning to go up Denali after trying Hunter, but without skis my timeline was truncated. We flew back to Talkeetna to party at the Fairview instead. The route was by far the biggest, most wild, and most memorable route that I’ve ever tried. It was a huge step up for both J.D. and I, requiring every bit of our experience and skill.

Special Thanks to Kurt Ross


Jul 23, 2015 - 03:49am PT
Deprivation: 1st Ascent, 1994

American Alpine Journal 1995
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jul 23, 2015 - 06:45am PT
Holy smokes
My hat is off to all of you bad ass motherf*#kers
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