Mt Hunter: North Buttress


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New Zealand
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 10, 2016 - 05:14am PT
North Buttress of Hunter


New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2016 - 05:32am PT
Hunter’s North Buttress Direct (1981)

Mugs Stump

ABSORBED in my thoughts, I listlessly watched the craggy peaks go by as Doug Geeting instinctively maneuvered the plane through the passes to the Kahiltna Glacier. I don’t even remember whether the other two in the plane were Americans. Watching the jutting peaks drift by, I imagined myself alone in one of their ice-filled corners, standing on that tiny platform or hanging in that spectacular crack running above that roof. My mind was filled with exploring a big wall alone. Slowly in the last month I had brought myself to this point, with several weeks of running, not just for conditioning but even more for the solitude it gave me and the chance to think. I spent hours poring over photos I had taken a month earlier when Jim Bridwell and I had flown in to check out the buttress. I devoted idle time to going over the route and all the situations I could foresee. Dreamlike, I was soaring through the mountains toward the Kahiltna Glacier, where I would start to climb again. I believe strongly in preparations for a climb, from close route study to one’s personal little rituals. All this was now behind me. I was flying in to solo the north buttress of Mount Hunter, but fate altered this.

After landing on the glacier and waiting until the piles of packs, people and skis were unloaded, I crawled out to be greeted by someone who was possessed by similar madness to what I felt. I dragged my gear out and started setting up my tent. Paul Aubrey had been sending out messages that he was up for something if I needed a partner. I had met Paul a month earlier out here on the glacier during an inhumanly cold reconnaissance of the buttress. At first greeting, I imagine that I was a little cold to him since I was still possessed with the thoughts of being alone. But, as I put up my tent and glanced in turn at Paul and at the towering 4000-foot buttress, the sun melted away my image of being out there solo. I wanted to climb the route and it certainly seemed more likely that I could if I had help. I walked over to Paul and told him that I was ready to start climbing in the morning and that we could ski up to the buttress and discuss the route. After we had a little chance to feel each other out and examine what was expected on the wall, we decided on the partnership. From a couple of mutual friends, I knew that Paul had done some nail-ups in the Valley; technically we could get by. And I didn’t figure that Paul, coming from New Zealand, would be a fair-weather bird in case it got nasty.

We returned to camp for a sleepless night of tea and talk. I packed a food bag and we were ready. We had only one hammock between us. We would chop ledges for one of us, a tiring but warming chore on a frigid night. As it turned out, there wasn’t one natural platform on the whole route big enough to lie on.

We got an early start. Skiing toward the buttress, I could see another party’s porta ledges quietly hanging in the face’s massive darkness. They were trying another start, but it appeared that in several hundred feet they would be joining our route. I wanted to beat them to the big dihedral of the keel-shaped tower, so that we could bivouac somewhere above it. If we got there after them, we would add a whole day to our schedule before there would be an easy place to pass them. As we skied to the bergschrund, two other climbers approached. They were planning another route to the right of the buttress’s nose.

We started up the ice ramps and grooves that laced the first thousand feet. Because I was running out a 300-foot rope, we moved quickly. The ice was moderate to 80° with lots of rock for anchors. At about 1000 feet we found the 400-foot traverse to take us to the base of the “Ship’s Keel,” a beautiful, huge, steep corner. The wall above overhung slightly. We were no longer able to see much of the route ahead as we could on the lower-angled ramps below. The other party that had started the day before was not here. One pitch up the dihedral we found a patch of ice stuck to the rock, big enough to chop a platform where Paul could curl up for the night. I hung the hammock and wrestled off my crampons while standing in étriers. We brewed up and surveyed the difficult rock traverse ahead.

The next morning the tension traverse brought us to the base of the ice tongue. The route was falling into place. From the ground we had not been sure how to gain the tongue. Our discoveries were feeding our confidence. A narrow groove of concrete-hard blue ice ran above to the start of the “Tamara Traverse,” the key to the ice slopes above. Paul had slipped on the traverse lower down and I cautioned him of the outcome of a slip here. The traverse was on 80° ice and the anchors at the end were two screws buried deep in the ice slope’s metamorphic rot. Tediously I worked my way across the spectacular passage. There was a roof above, and the wall below dropped slightly inward. Paul quickly joined me on the icefield and ran the rope to its top as my eyes searched the corners of the awesome shaft that cut through the granite wall above. My mind was somewhat relaxed as I realized that we had finished a major obstacle and that we could not start the shaft till the next day. A hard pitch of mixed climbing brought us to a slope which eased us into the shaft. I fixed a line at its start and rappelled back to our second bivouac. We had several hours of daylight left, but this was the last possible place to stop until the shaft was climbed. The deep chimney twisted upward for 500 feet and I wanted a full day to climb it.

By morning the weather had changed. By midday it would be snowing. I started up the first pitch. The ice was steep: 80° to overhanging. I had never seen ice so steep for such long sections. It was just past vertical for 25 feet and bulged outward at the top. Most overhanging ice I had encountered in the past was airy and brittle, but this was firm up to the bulge. As I moved up the arc, I felt gravity pushing me away from the ice. I had not only to pull up but also push in with my whole body to keep my front points in contact. After a few moves like this, I realized it was ludicrous to try to free-climb. Already high above my last protection, I didn’t know where or how I could get something in before I was over the bulge. I clipped into my Roosterhead and tied off a snarg that certainly would not have held a fall. I moved up alternating from tool to screw until I could reach above the breakover and pull myself onto the friendly 80° ice. I buried a snarg and ran the rope out to the belay. Paul jümared up as I hauled my pack and studied the next pitch. It was steeper and longer, overhanging for 35 feet. The last 15 feet were a frothy, brittle curtain. Luckily a crack that I could reach from the steep ice ran out the left wall. I pulled myself up. Never had concentration made such a deafening roar in my head. I was a shell of forces and movement. My body relaxed as I moved upward on my étriers. Above the bulge, I swung back onto the 75° ice and ran the lead out. My excitement was explosive as I screamed in order to release the fullness. I felt that I belonged there. The next pitch had three steps, each about 20 feet of overhanging ice. The first required some aid but the others moved by quickly as I climbed in a trance. The shaft was the crux of the climb and as I neared its top, my concentration was overtaken by an incredible contentment, a totality of explosive elation and peaceful confidence. Paul came up as I hauled my pack.

“Here, eat one of these,” Paul offered as he handed me a fortune bar.

“Where’d you get this, man? You’ve been holding out on me,” I joked.

Paul confessed that when he watched me pack the food bag, he thought he might starve up there. He had already eaten four bars and started feeling that he had better share the last two for fear of my running out of gas. I chidingly tore open the bar and read my fortune: “You will be successful because you are in love.”

I started up the last thirty feet of the shaft. It had been snowing the whole time we were in it. The sloughs were now beginning to run, bringing darkness as they engulfed me. The short vertical step brought us to another ice band and we headed for the next rock. It was a deep, broken trough. The route-finding would have to be done impromptu as the visibility was poor in the heavy snow. After a couple of pitches up a broken slab, we stopped for our third bivouac, hoping for clearing by morning. I took the hammock and Paul balanced on a very narrow ledge, which took a couple of hours to chop in the armor-plated ice.

The next morning it was still snowing. We were buried by the night’s sloughs. I instinctively entered a deep groove I had glimpsed the day before down to the left. Two pitches later I ran into a roof. A 40-foot pendulum around a corner put me into another groove. It soon angled off under another roof. I nailed up a crumbling white seam, uncharacteristic of the compact diorite around. Several pitches of ice-filled cracks and gullies brought us to the end of this section of rock. We broke out above the storm as we crawled onto the last ice band. Methodically we moved up the slope and chopped out our fourth bivouac below the headwall and the last obstacle of the buttress.

The night was magic. Perched a couple of thousand feet above a sea of clouds, we looked out at the chain of mountain islands. Denali, the great one, was an overpowering presence, its scale misleading in the clarity of the night air. And to the western horizon, miles past Foraker and Crosson, the small cone of Mount Russell rested in its soft blue ocean of clouds. It was clear and cold. We melted snow well into the night, making “tea” from lemon sweets, the only ration we had left after dropping the food bag earlier that evening. It should be one or two pitches to the top of the buttress and then the rest of the day to get down. I crawled into my hammock and sleeplessly gazed out on the surrealistic landscape. I thought of what I’d done to get here, not just in the last four days but in the years past. For some reason, I felt part of some great movement, one of infinite scale, too grand to see but only to feel in the night’s wind. I looked at Paul’s figure curled up inside his sack balanced on a tiny platform. I wondered about his thoughts, something that isolated us. In the vastness in front of me, I felt even more isolated. I was a shell, the same as the figure beside me and the mountains around. I felt an aloneness, my thoughts totally my own, creating a peacefulness of beauty and friendships.

Paul rustled in his sack and I started melting snow for a morning brew. By now the sea of clouds had rolled back. We repacked and started up a series of ice-covered ledges to the headwall under a cloudless sky. I avoided a strenuous-looking squeeze chimney by nailing a thin overhanging crack which took me to the base of an ice-filled corner. The ice was clear and thin. I could see the rock wall through it. The first snarg went in only halfway but carried me another thirty feet to another screw. A break in the left wall took a Friend. It felt good as the last solid protection was sixty feet below, a bashed-in stopper on the overhanging headwall. The ice ran straight up for another 100 feet, thinning as it reached the top. I was getting close. As I moved up, the ice became thinner to where my crampon points were hitting the rock through the half inch of ice. Leaning out, I could see bare rock at the break-over. It was not going to go. Luckily there was another way. To my right ran a horizontal crack to a four-inch vertical crack splitting the wall to the top. From below I had noticed it was full of ice and reserved it as an alternative. After placing a Friend, I jammed out to the right, crampons scraping on the smooth granite. After a fall, I reached the ice-filled crack, sunk in my axe and pulled myself into the spectacular slot. With hands and feet stacked in the narrow ice, I gazed up to its end, and the top. No place to stop! But there was no need to stop. Freedom was my catalyst as I deliberately and methodically made each placement. As I pulled over the top and onto the summit slope, I envisioned a crack like this running for days. Where could I find it? I didn’t want the feeling to stop.

When Paul reached me, I asked him if he wanted to go to the summit of Hunter. The top of the mountain was a mile and a half of steep snow slogging away. And then, the most logical descent would be the five-mile west ridge or the Lowe-Kennedy route. I had intended only to climb the buttress and was glad when Paul agreed to start down. I wanted to see the route again, from a different perspective.

We followed the route back to the “Tamara Traverse.” Rappelling the shaft was airy and brought home the steepness of this section of the climb with most of it hanging in space. At the end of the “Tamara Traverse,” we dropped straight down with four difficult rappels over the undercut wall. One of these rappels was totally free from the overhanging rock, just reaching a stance at the very end of the rope. By late afternoon we were bounding down the slope below the bergschrund to our skis.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Alaska Range, just south of Mount McKinley.

New Route: Mount Hunter’s North Buttress Direct, May 1981

(Paul Aubrey, New Zealand and Terry (Mugs) Stump, American).

American Alpine Journal 1982

Johnny K.

Jul 10, 2016 - 08:27am PT


beneath the valley of ultravegans
Jul 10, 2016 - 10:18am PT
Peter Metcalf's Enormocast interview adds another dimension. Not the same face, though.

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2016 - 08:59pm PT
Moonflower Buttress, 1981.

Mountain 85

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 10, 2016 - 09:19pm PT
Bibler-Klewin: 1982

Mount Hunter, North Buttress. Finally, the north buttress has been climbed all the way to the summit. It was Doug Klewin’s fourth and my second try. We began to the left of Mug Stump’s start (See A.A.J., 1982, pages 118 to 183), climbing eight pitches up to the base of the Prow. We continued to the base of the Shaft for 17 pitches on the first day. Bad weather trapped us there for a day. Then we climbed the Shaft, freeing sections of overhanging ice. This was the only day of the climb when it did not snow. In bad weather we climbed the next rock band and pitched our tent somewhat below Stump’s high point, which we think was somewhat lower than he indicated, and a little to the right. For the next four days we sat in our tent threatened by constant avalanches and high winds. Once we tried to climb out of the situation but after four pitches we found the spindrift so heavy that I could neither see nor hear Doug only inches away at the belay. We were forced back to our bivouac site after getting to within 40 feet of the top of the last rock band. When the weather cleared, we went for the top. The clearing was brief and soon we were in a storm again, waiting to see which way to go. We bivouacked again before getting to the summit on June 3 and again on the descent of the west ridge. It snowed so much during the eleven days that we lost our well-wanded cache of $2000 worth of equipment at the base of the climb.

Todd Bibler

American Alpine Journal 1983


New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 11, 2016 - 03:52pm PT
Grison-Tedeschi: 1984

Mount Hunter, North Face. Benoît Grison and I made a new route on the north face of Mount Hunter from June 24 to 29. On the first day we climbed the huge ice gully that cuts the left side of the face. It rises precipitously in a series of vertical steps. We bivouacked at its top at 10,500 feet. On June 25 we traversed up and right toward the center of the face. The ice was thin and brittle. On the third day we kept well to the left of the principal buttress. The mixed pitches were very difficult and subject to incessant snow slides. We bivouacked on the ridge top. We reached the summit on June 27. Our descent via the west ridge was dangerous because of bad weather.

Yves Tedeschi, Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne

American Alpine Journal 1985

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 11, 2016 - 11:50pm PT
"Deprivation" on Mount Hunter (1st Ascent)

Marc Francis Twight

Our new psycho-mixed climb,

"Deprivation," rises nearly 2000 vertical meters (6562 vertical feet) up the north buttress of Mount Hunter west of Mugs Stump's and Paul Aubrey’s 1981 Moonflower Buttress route. Scott Backes and I followed a system of ice runnels and ledges through four major rock bands on the northwest-facing wall of the north buttress. In 1988, Nick Craddock and Lydia Brady from New Zealand climbed through the Third Rock Band but were forced to retreat from high on the wall. In previous and subsequent years to 1988. the route was apparently the scene of several attempts.

Scott and I left our skis on the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 8260 feet at one A.M. on May 15 and crossed the bergschrund at 2:30 A.M. We simul-climbed 150 meters of moderate ice with one 75° crux below three distinctly visible parallel runnels of ice. Scott climbed the left-hand one to a ledge, traversed across and belayed me up the right-hand runnel, which had an 80° crux. Another 75° pitch up and left gave access to three hard pitches of climbing, where we hauled the leader’s pack. These three pitches all had questionable belays; we had only one or two good pieces of protection per rope-length. The first two had 90° passages on thin ice; the third featured totally psychotic mixed climbing, dry-tooling on rounded edges, bad protection, a bad belay and “ice” like the stuff in the freezer at home that didn’t hold picks very well.

The First Ice-field passed by in a 20-minute simul-climbing burst to the base of a prominent left-facing ramp. The ramp pitches were easy in comparison to those below with 70° to 80° cruxes and emptied us out onto 65° black ice. The “alpine vacuum cleaner” sucked us into runnels—the line of least resistance—eventually spitting us out onto a 50° ice arete which we more or less followed up the Second Ice-field to a bivouac ledge chopped out of the ice beneath the Third Ice-field. We quit climbing for the day at 7:30 P.M., having managed about 2500 feet of upward progress.

On the morning of May 16, a 100-meter traverse to the right brought us to a mixed passage with a 75° or 80° crux. We climbed onto a ledge system leading left and then back right, allowing us to avoid about 25 meters of artificial climbing, which would have slowed us down unnecessarily. We simul-climbed 200 meters up and left on 45° to 50° terrain. As the ground steepened, we belayed five pitches on ice back right, which was mostly 60° with one 75° mixed section, to the base of the obvious waterfall cutting through the Fourth Rock Band. This pitch had two 95° cruxes and the ice was black, hard and evil. One more 75° ice-and-mixed pitch got us through the Fourth Rock Band and onto the slopes leading to the top of the buttress proper. We negotiated three mixed pitches, moderate but with several viciously steep (90°) passages. Darkness— false night actually—came at eleven P.M., but we continued climbing as temperatures fell to -20°F. All the gear was frozen; the carabiners wouldn’t close, the camming devices wouldn’t operate and two of our five ice screws were choked and unusable. We tried melting the cores out with a lighter to no avail. That left us with three screws to protect ourselves on the five 60-meter pitches of black ice which separated us from the cornice. We crawled through the icecream roll on the top of the buttress at six A.M. and stopped to brew until 9:30. Clouds brewing in the west inspired us then to move quickly. We simul-climbed through two 80° sérac walls and rushed up perfect sastrugi toward the summit. Reaching the plateau after two hours, we traversed south of the summit pyramid, climbing upward nonetheless, forced higher than we would have liked by an extensive series of bergschrunds. We turned the corner at an altitude of 14,490 feet, twenty feet higher than the actual summit—so much for our altimeter—and dropped off the plateau towards the west ridge.

In a gathering storm and white-out conditions, we managed to find the out-off into the northwest basin. This turned out to be the most dangerous place I have ever been. With a little radio information from Steve Mascioli, we descended the west ridge and reached 6500 feet on the Kahiltna Glacier at eleven P.M. We were met by Michael Kennedy, Greg Child, Joe Josephson and Ken Wiley, who had retrieved our skis and brought them along with hot drinks, food and powerful morale-boosting camaraderie. At one A.M., we were all back at the Airstrip, enjoying Annie’s company and cooking in the radio tent. [Anne Marie Duquette was the radio operator and flight coordinator at the Airstrip.— Editor.]

The ascent of the north buttress and the descent of the west ridge in 72 hours—three days faster than the second quickest round-trip—reflect an attitude defined by years of climbing in the Alps and a willingness to accept a certain amount of risk, although different risks were taken by previous parties on the same wall. Our ethic was to climb between storms rather than counting on being hit by one and sitting it out. Our plan was to climb as fast as we could until something went wrong, even the slightest detail, at which point we would promptly retreat and attempt the wall again in better conditions or with the appropriate gear. For me, alpine climbing is about movement and freedom and defining my own rules.

We had previously attempted what was to become “The Wall of Shadows” and realized that our lightweight, speed-dependent style would only end in despair and failure on that wall. We retreated after six pitches. On “Deprivation,” we climbed at what we consider the minimum (a subjective term which would mean far too much gear for some and unjustifiably slim for others). We carried enough food and fuel for two bivouacs—the food already stretched and rationed. We had no tent, only bivy sacks, which actually meant a saving of energy when we chopped the bivy ledge, as a long shallow head-to-head ledge takes an hour to chop and a tent platform for even the smallest tent requires a minimum of three hours’ determined work. Counting on movement to keep us warm, we wore little clothing and carried but “belay jackets” to wear over our shell gear when we stopped. Factoring the jackets, climbing suits and Shake-n-Warms into our sleeping systems allowed me to use a synthetic sleeping bag rated to 20°F, while Scott wisely opted for a 10°F bag. The packs, without the hardware and ropes in them, weighed more than 25 pounds but less than 30. Our rack of hardware was pared down to just enough gear to rappel from the top of the buttress, should it have come to that: 7 cams, pitons, 9 nuts, 5 ice screws. We had 40 feet of 5mm perlon rope and a coat hanger to make Abalakov rappel anchors in the ice and figured that 26 or 28 60-meter rappels could get us off from the cornice. Above there, the fail-safe point, we were committed and could only “fail upwards.”

I do not recommend our style of climbing to other alpinists—it is just the way I do things. I am willing to accept the necessary “deprivation” and risk. But it isn’t for everyone. Having said that, it is my opinion, however, that it is the future of Alaskan climbing. I believe that many great walls can be climbed non-stop as long as teams wait for perfect conditions and are willing and able to fail, and as long as they are not dependent on victory and the summit as a definition of success. Coming home alive is succeeding; the summit is a gift. Good, hard climbing and man striving for his utmost perfection should be the definition of a successful Alaskan adventure.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Alaska Range

New Route: Mount Hunter, 4441 meters; 14,470 feet, via “Deprivation,” a 2000-meter-high route west of the Moonflower Buttress route on the northwest-facing wall of the North Buttress; Rating Alaskan Grade 6, Alpine ED+, 90° ice; May 15-17, 1994 (Scott Backes, Marc Francis Twight).

American Alpine Journal 1995

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 12, 2016 - 05:18pm PT
Wall of Shadows. 1st Ascent: Greg Child and Michael Kennedy, 1994

Shadows of Doubt, Mount Hunter

Michael Kennedy

CLICK! A SIMPLE SOUND: the snap of a crampon heel-bail against a plastic boot, hanging over the side of a portaledge 1000 feet above the Kahiltna Glacier. Just one of dozens of precise mechanical movements we’d have to make every day. But for me, the banal act of putting on crampons possessed a strange, symbolic significance, for it signaled my continued willingness to engage the labyrinth of vertiginous, ice-veined rock above, to put all thoughts of home and comfort aside. Climbers often talk about the difficulty of stepping into the unknown, but I had no doubts about what to expect on the Wall of Shadows, this new route on the North Buttress of Mount Hunter. The puking agony of blood creeping back into frozen digits. The bad anchors, the unavoidable avalanche slopes, the storms that boiled up from nowhere. The dreary physical numbness of 16-hour days, wondering which way to go, where to bivouac. The grind of doing too much work on too few calories, your body eating itself just to survive. Most of all, though, I dreaded the anxious, dreamless nights.

As I swung my other boot out over the void, I came to a crafty little realization: if I dropped a crampon we would have to go down. But I knew that now wasn’t the time to bail out. We were too close to the ground—just a day into the route—and it would be far too easy to climb back up. Best to wait until retreating would be a true epic, then we wouldn’t want to return.

Although Greg Child, my partner on this adventure, gave lip service to the darker fears and doubts all alpine climbers seem to dwell on, he seemed awfully enthusiastic about our project. “I figure we have to keep going until something stops us,” he said. “And if it does, we’ll just have to get ourselves back down.”

In May 1993, we’d climbed the Nettle-Quirk route on Huntington’s West Face together, then attempted the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter. Warm conditions and my premonitions of doom turned us back that year, but our eyes were drawn to the monolithic wall left of the Moonflower. An inobvious line of sinuous ice smears and steep ramps loosely connected by devious rock pitches seemed to offer some possibilities, and even as we retreated from the Moonflower we laid plans to return.

May 13, 1994 saw Greg and me back at the Kahiltna Glacier airstrip, the epicenter of Alaska Range mountaineering, well-prepared for a long siege. Others had arrived before us, and we settled into what we came to call the Ghetto. Not a strict geographical construct but rather a state of mind, the Ghetto was occupied by a shifting band of miscreants gunning for various routes, real and imagined, on the North Buttress of Mount Hunter. Unlike the 1300-odd Denali aspirants who would pass through the airstrip in the summer of 1994, none of us knew if we’d even get onto our routes, let alone up them. Perhaps that was part of the bond we felt.

At least four parties had their eyes on the Moonflower, and they presented a serious collection of talent. Montana-born Joe Josephson, a Canadian Rockies ice wizard, and Steve Mascioli, who'd tried the Moonflower three years in a row, were first in line, followed by Jeff Burton and Chris Caldwell, two North Carolina climbers we’d met on Huntington in 1993. Later, New Paltz locals Mike Dimitri and Brett Wolf, and Salt Lake City climber Bill Belcourt and New Hampshire ice expert Randy Rackliff flew in for a look. Ken Wylie, a Canadian who’d come to Alaska alone after his partner bailed out of their Ruth Gorge trip at the last minute, played a valuable supporting role, as did Annie Duquette, the base-camp radio operator who informally adopted all of us.

Only Bill and Randy eventually succeeded on the Moonflower, making an efficient and uneventful ascent from June 1-7. Joe and Steve made three concerted attempts, reaching the top of the first ice band 15 pitches up on the third, while Jeff and Chris, after retreating from the Twin Runnels, flew over to the Tokositna and made a three-day ascent of the Harvard Route on the West Face of Huntington.

The grand masters of Ghetto existence, however, were Scott Backes, a Minnesota climber who’d been around almost as long as I (although we’d never met), and Dr. Doom himself, Marc Twight. They had arrived on the Kahiltna in late April with several weeks’ worth of food and an ambitious hit list, including the same route Greg and I coveted. Worse yet, they were supremely capable and might actually do it before we got there.

It was comforting, then, to arrive in Alaska and learn that the weather had been abysmal; Marc and Scott hadn’t gotten up a single route, nor had anyone else on the Kahiltna. “Thank God you’re here,” Scott told us as we stumbled onto the glacier out of Jim Okonek’s Cessna 185, dragging six heavy duffels of food and gear. “Marc and I agreed that if we hadn’t done this thing by the time you guys showed up, we’d let you have it.” They’d tried the route a few days before during a short respite from the nearly constant storms, but had retreated after climbing the first six pitches. From what they told us, we could now safely dismiss that start and look for another.

Greg and I immediately set to work, carrying a load of gear to a cache in the middle of the glacier just a quarter-mile from the start of the climbing. We’d brought along a powerful spotting scope that afforded us an intimate view of the travails that awaited us, and we spent hours peering into it trying to fathom the secrets of the wall.

The scope revealed a thin crack that split the first rock band, then came a traverse left into an ice-filled arch, followed by a wide smear. Dubious mixed ground led to a right-leaning ramp and a steep 400-foot rock wall. After some mixed ground, the route would join the Moonflower at the final rock band. Then the 2000-foot slog up the Northeast Ridge to the summit.

There were question marks, sections we couldn’t decipher until we reached them, but the route formed in our minds. We agreed to play to each others strengths: because of his extensive wall experience, Greg would lead the hard aid pitches, while I'd take the slippery cruxes. It took us parts of two days to fix six ropes and get our haul bag up the first four pitches. All we needed now was good weather.

Meanwhile, Marc and Scott started up a new route to the right of the Moonflower, following a system of ice runnels and ledges leading through four major rock bands. We watched them through the scope, and the climbing looked very difficult in places. Their speed was impressive, too. They climbed 2500 feet in 18½ hours, bivouacked, continued up through the final rock band —which included the hardest pitch of the route, with two 95° cruxes on bad ice—then traversed up and around the plateau just below and south of the summit. Foregoing the easy climbing to the top, Marc and Scott climbed down the West Ridge in storm and whiteout conditions late on May 17, aided by some beta from Steve Mascioli, who had done the West Ridge before. Marc and Scott’s route, aptly named Deprivation, had taken 72 hours round trip.

A new series of storms set in and confined us to camp. Huge waves of spindrift obliterated the North Buttress every time the clouds rolled in, inspiring much apocalyptic speculation—and varying degrees of resignation, angst, doubt, hubris, humor, and fear—among the denizens of the Ghetto. Mostly, though, we exercised our patience muscles.

A preternatural calm settled over camp. I wondered about the climb Greg and I had mapped out, how we’d manage certain parts of it. I didn’t feel rushed or anxious—I knew that we would get up on the route, and once we did, we wouldn’t be turning back. Something felt right about the trip. Marc and Scott’s success had been a boost, but more than that, it helped solidify the feeling that had been growing since we’d arrived—a subtle, almost electric atmosphere of solidarity and trust, not just between Greg and me, but among all of us in the Ghetto.

On May 24, we woke to a foot-and-a-half of new snow. But the sky was luminous—clearer than it had been the entire trip—and we spent a warm afternoon making our final preparations. We left camp at seven A.M. May 25 and skied up in the crystalline cold to the bottom of the North Buttress. By early afternoon we’d jugged our fixed lines, sorted out the ropes, and cast off. Two tedious mixed pitches led up to a protective overhang, under which we anchored the portaledge. But first I had to grapple with the wide smear we’d dubbed Thug Alley.

This pitch had looked hard from a distance and on closer acquaintance was still daunting. Burying my doubts, I hooked my way up a steep onionskin of styrofoam-like ice at the bottom, delicately weighting my crampons and ice tools so as to not destroy the thin, frozen veneer. Forty feet up, the angle eased slightly, the ice became gloriously plastic, and placing a couple of ice screws along the way, I ran out the 200-foot rope to a hanging belay. It was one of the best single pitches I'd ever done.

Thug Alley had been one of the major question marks of the route; in a worst-case scenario it would have been too thin to ice-climb, and we would have had to nail it. Comfortably ensconced in the portaledge and sated, at least for now, with soup, cheese, and hot chocolate, our confidence soared. Later, though, my thoughts turned darkly inward, and I wrestled with the familiar demons of ambition and fear, wondering again if I had it in me to give all that this wall would demand. I could barely suppress the urge to flee the next morning, and imagined all kinds of tricks that would get me out of here: drop a crampon, drop the stove, drop a rope, drop the rack. Greg had doubts as well, although like me he kept them to himself. His budding career as a “serious” writer was all-too-sedentary preparation for the rigors we now faced, and suffering from tendinitis, he had been unable to climb for several months. A few weeks before going to Alaska he’d had cortisone injected into his elbows to ease the inflammation. “I was really worried up there,” Greg told me later. “I thought my tendons might totally give out like broken boot laces.”

Despite our infirmities, we got ourselves and our baggage to the top of Thug Alley, then Greg front-pointed up a wall of cold plastic to the next obstacle of the route. A narrow, ice-filled chimney ended in a roof festooned with snow mushrooms. To the right was a steep, sparsely featured rock wall that would require aid, and to the left, a slight break in the roof gave access to a thinly-iced but otherwise blank slab. The ice would go quicker than the aid, we reasoned, so I front-pointed up the chimney and stepped left, crampons screeching against granite. A good pin gave me the confidence to get to the roof, then I was stumped. I could pull over onto the slab, but the ice was thin enough to be almost useless, the pin was 15 feet below the roof, and it didn’t look as if I’d get anything else in for an eternity.

I climbed back down and hung disconsolate on the pin. Greg shouted up, wondering if it would go. I glanced over at the wall to the right—it looked unlikely, even on aid—and steeled myself for another try. Twenty-five feet of nerve-wracking, barely-in-balance climbing later I came to an impasse. The angle above increased ever so slightly, and for 15 feet it looked as if I’d have to fully weight my tools to progress. I probed every patch of ice within reach; the picks bottomed out after an eighth or quarter inch. Nothing was substantial enough to pull on.

My left crampon scraped six inches down the slab, catching on God-only- knows-what and sending my heart rate into orbit. I was looking at a 50-footer. “I’ve really screwed up now,” I told myself. I don’t know how I got down those 25 feet, so scared I thought I’d puke. I lowered off a good pin beneath the roof, disgusted with myself, and by the time I reached the belay I was ready to throw off the haul bag and head home. Greg wasn’t fazed. “We can’t let something like this stop us,” he said as he racked up. “I’m sure I can aid my way up on the right.”

Three hours, many upside-down tied-off knifeblades, a rivet, a final aid move off a Spectre in an ice-choked crack, and 50 feet of steep ice later, Greg slumped into another hanging belay atop the Enigma. I'd stopped brooding by then, and seconding the pitch, marveled at Greg’s display of skill and tenacity.

After a doubt-filled bivouac, more mixed climbing, twisting and turning, in and out of étriers, brought us to the bottom of the Crystal Highway, a right-leaning ramp that gave three long, sustained rope-lengths of perfect one-swing styrofoam. We were in a stunning position, dangling against a shimmering mirror of ice 2000 feet above the glacier, a polished, golden-granite wall to our left and the bizarre, bulbous snow formations of the Mushroom Fields to our right. A bulging, in-obvious wall leaned overhead. We could see that it would require much aid; in the end it proved to be the crux of the route. We gladly put it out of mind as we burrowed into the portaledge for the night. Morning came all too soon for Greg. I’m sure he would have welcomed a good excuse to go down, but he failed to drop the rack when he had the chance. I settled into my harness and pulled on my parka, happy again to be a spectator. Steadily, he tip-tapped his way up, avoiding huge, fragile blobs of snow with awkward tension traverses, swinging around roofs, bludgeoning knifeblades into bottoming cracks, and skyhooking on icy flakes. Twelve hours and two 200-foot pitches later, he’d cracked the Somewhere Else Wall—as in “I wished I were somewhere else”—and we settled in for our fourth night on the climb.

An ugly, snow-choked overhang guarded the bottom of the final cascade, so in the morning we traversed left to the mixed exit we’d spotted from the glacier. I was tired but energized, totally consumed now with this pitch, this climb, this moment. Inching up, I used every trick I’d learned in the past 25 years, and a few I’d just figured out. An hour of stemming, jamming, pinching, teetering on one front point on a dime-width edge, gloves on and off, tools stacked in the corner crack, an adze cammed against a chockstone, a pick wedged into a crack, and I leaned gratefully back against another set of anchors—atop our 21st pitch—nursing blood back into frozen hands as the electric buzz of adrenaline ebbed away.

Mist swirled all around as we climbed easier mixed ground to the third ice band and trudged several hundred feet to another hanging bivouac below the final rocks. Although we still had a day of hard climbing left on the North Buttress, the worst was behind us, and we’d soon be able to abandon our wall gear for the long slog up and over the summit. The clouds had an ominous look to them, though, and after we crawled into the portaledge it began to snow. We were alarmed when the first big avalanche swept over us, but eventually became numb to the drum of snow pounding against the fly. Clouds still engulfed the mountain next morning, and the snow built up steadily. Encased in our nylon coffin, we passed the day by eating and resting.

The next morning was quiet, still, and oh-so-cold. I cleared the ice from the zipper and peeled back the frozen nylon of the portaledge fly. Denali stood aglow in the distance, not a cloud in sight. Struggling with everything, we slowly dis-entombed ourselves and packed the bare minimum: sleeping bags, pads, two days’ food and fuel, a pared-down rack. Everything else went into the haul bag, which was sacrificed to the glacier waiting below. The portaledge was frozen beyond dismantling. We abandoned it and started the plod. No turning back now.

The Bibler Come Again Exit to the Moonflower, the last barrier between us and the icefield leading up to the Northeast Ridge, looked hard. I wasn’t in the mood for it. I wanted to sit down, preferably in Annie's hut eating pasta and drinking beer. I wanted off this mountain. Once I’d stopped feeling sorry for myself I actually enjoyed the Come Again. I ran out of energy and rope just below the top, leaving Greg to moan his way up the final off-width. Five pitches of brittle blue water ice covered with six inches of powder followed. Our packs were light, but we were both wasted. We finally reached a perfect natural eyrie below the cornice at the top of the buttress and set about restoring our waning energies with as many hot brews as we could coax out of the stove. An hour of sun did much for our spirits, but nothing for our sodden bags, and we spent a brief night—our seventh on the route—shivering in the Alaskan twilight.

Nothing quite prepared us for what we encountered when we popped up over the top of the ridge the next morning. The sun was a blessing, but a thick layer of snow blanketed the upper part of the mountain. We still had a long way to go. Trudging listlessly along, I wandered too close to the edge, breaking off a big chunk of cornice that tumbled into the depths. Jumping back, I muttered, “Wake-up call,” then returned to my labors.

We traded leads often, but knee- and sometimes waist-deep powder slowed us to a crawl. “This is soul-destroying work,” Greg sighed after a brutal stretch in front. I couldn’t agree more, but we didn’t have much of a choice. Twelve hours after leaving the cornice we staggered onto the flat summit of Mount Hunter, 14,570 feet above the sea and miles from home. It was our eighth day on the mountain.

We dropped our packs, embraced, and admired the view. It was calm and cloudless as far as the eye could see. A few minutes after we’d arrived, one of Doug Geeting’s pilots flew by and tipped his wings at us. Down at camp, we imagined that Marc and Scott and Annie and the others were watching us. It was a comforting thought.

More knee-deep snow awaited us on the descent across the summit plateau. We stomped out a sleeping platform and took advantage of the warm evening sun to rest and dry out. Cold twilight arrived three listless hours later, and Greg and I burrowed soundlessly into our bags. In the morning, four miles of Hunter’s West Ridge and 6000 feet of relief still separated us from the Kahiltna Glacier airstrip, and we knew we’d have to motor to get off the mountain that day. The seven A.M. cold was like a razor, cutting to the bone. My feet stayed numb for five or six hours despite all my efforts to warm them. Worse, I was completely out of sorts, frightened of the crevasses and cornices and avalanches, and unsure of finding the proper way down. Greg took the lead, parting the snowy sea like an ice breaker.

We each poked a leg through the snow and into crevasses several times, and were lucky not to do worse. By late afternoon we were rappelling the steep gully leading down into the northwest basin, a variation that avoids the bottom mile and a half (and some of the trickiest climbing) of the West Ridge.

Conditions were tropical. Wet, rotten snow sucked at our feet and huge séracs leered down at us from three sides. We ran down a huge pile of avalanche debris, rationalizing our folly by pretending that the most dangerous slopes had already gone. We scurried across football-sized fields of freshly fallen ice blocks, some the size of a refrigerator. In several places fresh slides had wiped out the tracks we were following, those of a Colorado foursome who had climbed the West Ridge several days before. For all its popularity as the “normal” route up Mount Hunter, the northwest basin was an incredibly dangerous place.

Two tiny figures had skied up to an abandoned camp near the bottom of the route a couple of hours earlier, then sat patiently waiting, no doubt getting a chuckle out of our antics. As we stumbled down the last hundred yards to the main glacier, they ran toward us, whooping and hollering. “Did ya get some?” grinned Scott, peering into our drawn faces. He and Marc took our packs and pressed cups of hot tea into our eager hands.

The tension of the past nine days gradually ebbed as we sat recounting our climb in the warm evening sun. Greg and I had found what we’d come to Alaska for: the Wall of Shadows was the hardest route we'd done in our combined half-century of climbing. I didn’t want to let go so soon. But the intensity was gone, and the experience already fading into memory. And we’d made it home.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Alaska Range

New Route: Mount Hunter, 4441 meters, 14,470 feet, via “Wall of Shadows,” left of the Moonflower Buttress route on the West Buttress; Rating Alaskan Grade 6 AI 6+, 5.9, A4; May 25-June 2 (Greg Child, Michael Kennedy).

American Alpine Journal 1995


New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 12, 2016 - 05:27pm PT
Wall of Shadows. 1st Ascent: Greg Child and Michael Kennedy, 1994

Climbing: March 1995

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 13, 2016 - 12:13am PT
The Knowledge (1st Ascent)

Ian Parnell, England

The north buttress of Hunter surely must be nirvana for hard mixed climbing. Some of the steepest rock and ice in the Alaska Range—and all that history, seeping through the perfect granite. I had to keep pinching myself because, on my first trip to the mountains, it really looked like we might complete our own route on this sounding stone of Alaskan climbing.

My last lead had started with a neat little section of strange ice stuck in blobs to the face before I tension traversed to a thin crack. Here, the free climbing had quickly given way to aid beneath a choking veneer of ice. The only worry had been swinging through a roof. Beneath it loomed a huge snow mushroom that threatened the belay below.

Jules Cartwright, my partner, could do little but count lucky stars across the Arctic sky. He’d already dealt calmly with an amazing goulotte of inch-thick ice. The confidence gained from seeing Jules in his element and in control doing the business 50 feet out from his runners was palpable. Now Jules was back in aiders, hanging out against the perfect alpine blue sky as the rock began to overhang. Could life get any better?

Bang! I was folded in half. The force pulled me down hard onto my anchors, as I felt squeezed into the snow.

“Clip in, Jules!” I cried out, desperately knotting the rope as I fought to stay conscious.

It’s funny how life’s path can suddenly twist, but three days up Hunter, and now with fractured ribs, things were looking a lot more serious. I looked up; Jules hung next to the remaining half of the snow mushroom that he’d accidentally touched. The look in his eyes spoke volumes. After five years of oh-so-close attempts in the mountains, he knew that our Alaskan dream was close to the breaking point. As I slowly accustomed myself to a shallow breathing pattern, I felt the same desire quietly return. The climb had changed. Jules would have to lead all the hard pitches. I was gutted, having relished the prospect of pushing it further on lead. Instead, I rationalized that my role now was to focus my efforts on breathing and moving up, whichever way I could.

Three days later and 500 feet higher, the pain had subsided to a background hum—that is, until one of us shifted his weight at the bivy. Oh, why had we brought a single ledge? We had been trapped head to toe for 45 hours in our cradled shelter, Jules’s feet tenderly perched atop my lumpy rib cage. While the spindrift avalanches intermittently darkened the walls of the flysheet, we eked out our packet of sugar-coated cookies and recalled the amazing climbing below.

I would eventually spend a day and a half at the “rib-tickler stance” as Jules struggled with the hardest pitch of the route. Time-consuming, awkward, tied-off aid invention led to within 15 feet of easy ground. Here, though, lay a nightmare slot: perhaps 12 inches wide, flared, and coated in verglas. Jules tried everything, including trying to aid off axes in a quarter inch of ice. I gauged each attempt by an imperceptible creep of rope before a flurry of expletives and the inevitable crunch of ribs as the ropes came tight at the end of another fall.

We had spoken to Mark Twight at base camp, who told us that only fools risk falls in the mountains. We began to feel like court jesters as we eventually notched up about seven. Jules couldn’t quite explain what happened to finally get him through the nightmare pitch, but with all his expletives it could only be dubbed “The Scream.”

By contrast, the third rockband approached perfection. The initial pitch involving mixed climbing, at times overhanging, to a pendulum to a hanging tongue of water ice, Jules stretching to a hanging belay as I began simulclimbing. The final pitch had looked blank from the base camp telescope, but sealing the name “The Dream,” a perfect A1 crack cleaved the smooth headwall.

Now, at our junction with the Moonflower, we waited for the storm to clear. The day before, we had been joined by Koji Ito and Hiroyuki from Japan, who had battled through the spindrift of the Moonflower. Unable to speak in the storm, we could nonetheless feel the spiritual bond grow. We were amazed at their stoicism: in their fragile hammocks, they considered retreat, but, seeing us stay put, decided to hang in as well.

As conditions improved, we set off for the Bibler-Come-Again exit. We had planned to cache gear at the Cornice Bivy and make a dash for the summit before rappelling the Moonflower, but now our personal summit became the Cornice Bivy itself as we waded through three feet of avalanche-prone snow over black ice.

How do you describe those summit moments when shared dreams are realized? We had few words at the time, but the sense of relief in knowing that we had been able to grasp our slim opportunity was obvious. So, too, was our pride in our route, The Knowledge, which called on our entire combined mountain skills, plus a few new ones invented on the spot.

The Knowledge (Alaskan 6, ED4 5.7 A2++ WI6, 1200m) on the north buttress of Mount Hunter, May 25–June 1, Jules Cartwright and Ian Parnell.

American Alpine Journal 2001


New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 14, 2016 - 12:01am PT
The Knowledge (1st Ascent)

Ian Parnell, England

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.

Thanks to Ian Parnell

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 14, 2016 - 06:57pm PT
The Cartwright Connection, 2011. 1st Ascent: Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker

Unrelenting spindrift avalanches and gusty winds blasted and buffeted the portaledge. Our small cocoon of safety on this harsh mountain was slowly being engulfed, as we nervously watched the snow level rise up the fly walls. It had taken five of the toughest days’ climbing of our lives to get to this point, and our chances of reaching the top of the north buttress were diminishing. The forecast was for more snow and stronger winds over the upcoming days.

The first day went smoothly, according to plan. Not that night, though, as Matt Helliker and I realized the perils of hanging our portaledge on a 60° ice slope. We were awakened when it collapsed and transformed into a hammock. On day two we faced many uncertainties, as we found a way through steep, complex terrain, with many overhanging snow mushrooms. Matt fought hard in the lead all day and at 2 a.m. had us below the steepest rock band of the climb. In overcoming these difficulties our confidence had grown, and I started to think we might have a chance of getting up this climb. Day three was steep and scary—thinly iced slabs, overhanging cracks, aid on loose rock, a pitch of vertical ice, and more. We finally got to bed at 6 a.m. Day four we joined the Bibler-Klewin/Moonflower route; we just needed luck with the weather. Day five it snowed and wind blew.At 9 p.m., after being trapped on the ledge all day, we sensed a slight lull and had glimpses of the sun through the clouds. We were both thinking that this might be our only chance, and with no food left there was no point in waiting. We packed a stove, spare gloves, warm jackets, and a minimal rack, our goal being to reach the Cornice Bivouac, 500m and 13 pitches above. However, we felt the chances of success were negligible.

Two pitches later the snow started again, and we were battling against spindrift. The cold was almost unbearable, but our optimism and unwillingness to give up won through. In dream-like exhaustion we stood at the top of the face at 5 a.m. Few words were said, and we had no comprehension of what we had achieved. We only knew we had to start rappelling. Thirty-eight rappels and 14 hours later, we were back on the glacier, where we collapsed, having been awake for 36 hours. We named the route the Cartwright Connection, in memory of my good friend Jules Cartwright, whose vision it was to attempt this line.

Jon Bracey, France

Editor’s note: Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker climbed very steep terrain a little left of the Bibler-Klewin/Moonflower, before joining it at the Second Ice Band, beneath the Vision Pitch. The16 independent pitches presented difficulties of M6 AI6 5.8 A2. They rappelled the Moonflower. While some argue that the limited amount of new climbing defines this as a major variation, rather than an independent route, it is undoubtedly a highly technical challenge, significantly harder than either the French Route or the Moonflower, and one to which future parties may try to add an autonomous finish. Jules Cartwright’s original concept envisioned new ground directly to the Third Ice Band/Come Again Exit.

American Alpine Journal 2012

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 15, 2016 - 02:15am PT
Moonflower, 3rd Ascent: Andy De Klerk, Julie Brugger, 1993

By Andy De Klerk

Hi Avery,

All good here in SA.
I've been keeping tabs on your North Buttress thread on Supertopo. Well done on highlighting another super Alpine classic.

As far as our ascent goes, here are 2 pics that I thought were the most relevant in summarizing our ascent - The first is of me starting up the Shaft in brilliant weather, and the other one of Julie near the top of the third ice band getting nailed with spindrift.

Julie Brugger and I spent 4 days climbing the Bibler/Klewin on the North Buttress but our total round trip was 14 days. We had an epic with bad weather after the first 3 days and we spent a long time on the summit plateau trying to find the start of the west ridge to descend in a whiteout. But we found it in the end and everything worked out fine, we just got a little wasted because we had only brought food for 6 days and gas for 8.

I have one of Bradford Washburns pictures of Mt Hunter hanging on my wall and every time I look at it I can't help but smile because it wasn't the Buttress that was the problem, it was the rest of the mountain afterwards that threw everything it had at us.

We approached the route as a "big wall ice climb", and our original idea was to haul up small mountain para-gliders with us. The very early Ailes de K Turbo Everest para-gliders that were more like tiny 7 cell skydiving canopies that were like flying bricks and that dropped like a stone. Ironically, when we were on the ridge just under the summit a hole in the clouds appeared and the wind was just perfect for launching. We could have been down in base camp in 10 minutes, but sadly we had left the para-gliders behind at the last minute. We'd done this combination before in the Alps and in Peru and the hit rate was about 50% and I rather wanted to climb the North Buttress than to risk not climbing it in order to maybe fly off. The rules for paragliding in the park are much stricter now than back then it was early days when both activities were not yet mainstream.

The North Buttress was really good climbing. The twin runnels and the shaft were brilliant. The prow was also really great mixed climbing. We bivvied open on the first and then the second ice bands and then it started snowing hard while we were in the Vision and then it got really unpleasant. We bivvied on the third ice band and then again just above the come again exit, and those last 5 pitches up to the ridge were just horrible with loads of spindrift sliding off all the time. The summit day was long and fine but then down on the summit plateau the weather closed in again and we couldn't see a thing for a week. When it did clear we went down the west ridge and back to Kahiltna base camp in a day.

It's a classic. We had a great time. It took a while before the memory of the great ice climbing superseded all the snow plodding that came after though. We should have left some skis at the base of the West Ridge. The post hole session up the Kahiltna was character building. The strongest retrospective I have of doing the North Buttress is how easily accessible it is with such excellent climbing, but at the same time how remote it is after you continue over the top. It's a big wall ice climb that you can fairly easily rap off of, which then changes into an Alaskan mountaineering adventure rather quickly.

Thanks to Andy De Klerk

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 15, 2016 - 07:03pm PT
Mt. Hunter, North buttress, Sympathy Variant. 2013.

Choi Suk-mun, Moon Sung-wook,and I reached the top of Mt. Hunter on May 21 by a variation of Deprivation, the Sympathy Variant (VI AI6 R A2+). Our original plan was to climb a completely independent route just left of Deprivation, but we were stopped by the collapse of a huge ice pillar eight pitches up, near the first ice band. This pillar is at about the same height as “The Prow” on the Moonflower route. We reached the ice pillar by way of a 50m overhanging traverse (A2+). The pillar was wide but thin and sublimated; despite the conditions we kept climbing. However, while Choi was leading, the pillar suddenly fell. Fortunately, the terrain was overhanging, so none of us was injured.

We retreated, and three days later we began climbing toward our previous high point. We climbed the exact same route until two pitches below the collapsed ice pillar, where we traversed right to reach the first ice band on Deprivation. After passing this ice band we began to look for unclimbed terrain, and took our route through a rock band to the right. The ice conditions in this section were terrible and contained unstable belay stances (AI6 R). Once reaching the second ice band, we joined Deprivation again and bivouacked at the entrance to the third ice band. From here, we climbed a ramp that connected us to the Bibler-Klewin route, where we spent a night in the cornice bivouac after passing through the “Bibler Come Again Exit.” There was heavy snow on the final snowfields, and it took us many hours to reach the summit, forcing us to spend a second night in the cornice bivouac. After 30 rappels down the Moonflower, we arrived back on the glacier the following day.

An Jong-neung, Korea

American Alpine Journal 2013

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 17, 2016 - 08:22pm PT
Moonflower: Clint Helander, Mark Taylor, Vittorio Spoldi, 2013.

Many Thanks to Clint Helander


New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 18, 2016 - 09:19pm PT
Moonflower: Clint Helander, Mark Taylor, Vittorio Spoldi, 2013.

Special Thanks to Clint Helander

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 19, 2016 - 11:58pm 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.

Jul 20, 2016 - 12:25am PT
great thread and pictures, Mugs was a good writer. Haven't finished yet the Kennedy article is next. thanks

New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2016 - 07:50am PT
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