Mt Hunter: North Buttress

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Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2016 - 06:50pm PT
Mt. Hunter // French Route, 5th Ascent. (2015)

by Kurt Ross:

https://climbingandjunk.wordpress.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.https://climbingandjunk.wordpress.com/

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.”

“OK.”


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




nah000

climber
no/w/here
Jul 20, 2016 - 08:11pm PT
these pics always look so strangely enticing in the midst of a summer heat wave... can't wait for winter even though i'm enjoying the summer...

thanks Avery.
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 20, 2016 - 08:31pm PT
It's the reverse for me nah000. I'm in the midst of winter and can't wait for the summer!
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2016 - 03:07am PT
Grison-Tedeschi (French Route): Ales Cesen and Luka Lindic (2015)

http://www.cesen.com/agk/report.php?id=41


Special Thanks to Ales Cesen
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2016 - 03:57pm PT
The French Route: 5th Ascent, 2015. Kurt Ross and JD Merritt

by JD Merritt

http://pulldownnotout.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/all-in-on-mount-hunter-north-buttress.html

In the last days of May, Kurt Ross and I made the likely fifth ascent of the French Route/North Couloir, aka. Grison-Tedeschi, to the summit of Begguya, or Mount Hunter. (we believe the last full-ascent was by Colin Haley and the late Bjorn-Eivind Årtun, in 2009.)

A week previously, Brett Baekey and I climbed Deprivation in 21 hrs. The crux comes early, and while it may not have been "in", we made it go and made good progress after that. We went to the top of the Bibler exit pitch, the last technical pitch, near the top of the Buttress. We were ready to go to the top, but forced to rap the wall in a storm. Brett developed some sickness and ran out of time in the range, he left to start guiding in Colorado.


I wanted another go at Hunter, but via a harder route. It was important to me to go to the summit. It's hard to really quantify the difference between a climb to the top of the wall and a total-ascent. There are a lot of different ideas about what a "true-ascent" is, and I don't really care to tell anyone else what good style is, because I believe it's a personal choice. I stayed in the range and joined "Team Crevasse-holes" in their well stocked base camp. This would be Kurt's second attempt on the French route, and his third on the North Buttress. The French Route is incredibly sustained, and the crux climbing comes at like the very top of the wall, keeping it uncertain the whole way. Besides being a heart-wrenchingly aesthetic line, as a whole it's much harder than Deprivation, and considerably harder than the Bibler-Klewin.

Take Deprivation, replace all the snow ramps with steep bulletproof ice slabs, add maybe 10 involved mixed pitches, and replace the afternoon sun with the perpetual darkness of a true-north aspect, and you have the French Route.


We climbed in single push style with no sleeping bags. We shared one bivy sack to stick our feet in, and had a cut down piece of foam pad big enough for like 2.5 ass-cheeks. Our style could be described as 'light and naked', but not really fast. Our day-packs might have weighed 10-15 lbs dry. We set out near the beginning of the first reliable high-pressure, in a window of uncertain length. I brought enough food to stay well fueled for about 24 hours, and marginally so for another 12. This wasn't enough to feel good, but was marginally enough to get it done. We brought enough isobutane fuel for 4 days of water. As usual, we started just before midnight. On approach we could see that the crux ice on deprivation was already gone, just 8 days later.

We finished the crux pitch at the top of the head-wall 34 hours after crossing the 'schrund. We pitched most of it out, and were pretty consistently challenged the whole way up. We led and followed every pitch clean, not because we were trying to, but because we wanted to avoid wasting any time f*#king around.

We made a 90 minute brew-stop on the snow arete marking the end of the couloir. Our light kit wasn't warm enough to sleep at night: we were playing for all the marbles. At any given moment we needed to be either moving or bailing, and doing it quickly and deliberately. The Slovenians Luka and Alesh had dug snow and ice out from a boulder to create a bivy ledge the week previously on their attempt. Based on their description we were able to find it, and we were thankful for the work they did. We made a short afternoon nap-stop around 12,600 at the top of the wall, comfortably sleeping through the warmest hours of the day. This would be our only real rest. At this point I ate the last of my food.

We went for the summit around the time of our second sunset on-route. We climbed through worsening weather, and were briefly enveloped in whiteout on the summit plateau. As soon as it cleared we made a dash for the summit. We reached it in time for a perfect sunrise, looking over building clouds illuminated with fiery hues, and taking in an improbable view of Sultana, Denali, and Huntington. We were faced with a difficult decision. Our high pressure window was imminently closing. We were deeply satisfied to top out, but had to immediately decide between the supposed quick simplicity of a west ridge descent(if executed correctly) or the relative certainty of reversing the Northeast ridge and rappelling back down the Moonflower. We bet on a few more hours of visibility, at least enough to find the Ramen. We made our way down, with the weather closing in again as we left the upper mountain, rappelling and down-climbing into the western basin. I was in the depths of a full-bonk nutritionally, and well deprived of sleep. There was one spot where it really "got real": back at 7000ft we unknowingly rapped into a waterfall to avoid the impassable icefall leading down to the main Kahiltna. I was soaked to the bone at 23:00, and was forced to down-solo to a ledge and strip naked, putting on the only dry stuff I had and shivering away the last of my calories I consumed on the way up. We began the long slog around the massif. My only sustenance came from headphones.

We staggered back into camp during the first hours of Monday, June 1st, after a 75 hour push. The climbing was sweet, and the descent was managed. We tallied 4 or 5 hours of sleep, plus maybe another hour from nodding off at belays, on rappel, or even "gasp!" on lead. When we ran out of caffeine a general sort of fear had kept us awake.

This is the story in photos.


Special Thanks to JD Merritt
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2016 - 07:39pm PT
Mt. Hunter, North Buttress, second ascent of Deprivation. Stephen Farrand and I arrived at Kahiltna base camp on June 3 and stayed through June 17. In that time we managed to make the second ascent of Deprivation. The ascent took three days, with bivies on the first and third ice bands. We left our gear at our high bivy and blasted for the summit, returning to the bivy and beginning our descent rappelling down the Moonflower Buttress. On the descent we made a third bivy, then finished the descent and returned to base camp the next day.

John Kelley

American Alpine Journal 2003
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2016 - 07:53pm PT
Mt Hunter, Deprivation. Jeff Hollenbaugh and I would miss the Shaft, but after watching other Moonflower hopefuls unload their massive haul-bags onto the Kahiltna, we guessed Deprivation might better suit our style. We wanted to climb the north buttress of Hunter as fast and light as a winter spent on warm Colorado rock, not ice, would allow. We left Kahiltna base in early May, simuled past the ’schrund and up to the couple of crux pitches of the first rockband (and of the route: hard mixed, past vertical ice). Easier snow and ice put us at a bivy midway through the next rockband.

After a late start the next day, more climbing in the 50- to 70-degree range took us near an intersection with the Moonflower, which offered a more direct finish that we’d planned on taking from the start. Now on the Moonflower, we soon stopped to bivy below the third and final rockband. From here, the plan was to leave the bivy fixed and race unencumbered to the summit and back.

Unfortunately, the weather crapped out that night. Day three had us ducking our heads through heavy spindrift up to the Bibler-Come-Again Exit. We made it five more pitches up the buttress’s final 50-degree ice triangle before conditions forced us to call it a “modem ascent” and rap back down to our bivy.

That night, with the tent half folded over from avalanches, we considered the 20 60-meter raps still to go. Thankfully, the next day we on-sighted the Moonflower descent without mishap. No joke: that was the mental crux of the climb, and stepping back onto the glacier, we were happy to be done with it.

Bruce Miller

American Alpine Journal
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 21, 2016 - 08:05pm PT
Deprivation Variation

Canadians Dave Edgar and J Mills made a rapid repeat of Deprivation (Backes-Twight, 1994), with a significant variation between the second and third ice bands, where the original route does a big zigzag. Edgar and Mills essentially climbed straight up from the left side of the second ice band—yet still right of The Knowledge (Cartwright-Parnell, 2000)—adding five pitches of WI5 before joining the Moon-flower for the Bibler Come Again Exit. They made the massive round-trip from basecamp to summit and back in 45 hours.


American Alpine Journal 2010.
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 22, 2016 - 04:28pm PT
Deprivation, 2015: JD Merritt and Brett Baekey

http://pulldownnotout.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/deprivation.html


Thanks to JD Merritt

Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2016 - 04:08pm PT
Deprivation: Marty Beare and Pat Deavoll: 2004
by Marty Beare

Our climb began inauspiciously. A bergschrund acted as gatekeeper to the route. The five metre lower wall of the bergschrund collapsed in a pile seconds after Pat had completed an awkward lurch across to the upper side. Feeling lucky, we moved together up the first 300 metres of moderately angled ice-field and WI 4 runnels. An absorbing three sixty metre pitches of poorly protected vertical snow-ice and dry-tooling deposited us at the mandatory feature of every Alaskan climb: a 50º slope of blue ice. Regular polishing by spindrift avalanches ensures that these ice-fields have the texture and brittleness of glass. We pounded out three pitches of joyless window-pane climbing. Then Pat had the pleasure of leading 250 metres of braided ice ramps while I had the pain of humping the heavier of our two packs. The warmth of the late evening sun teased us as we wallowed up breakable crust. By midnight it had vanished in a chilly halo shortly before we reached a tiny bivouac eerie big enough for two dwarves to sit on. After an hour’s chopping the ledge was large enough for two dwarfs to lie on. For us, however, a reclining comma position also required constant body tension to support our lower legs that dangled over the edge of our perch. Pat fought the good fight with the bivi stove, in the process proving that the thermal properties of Black Diamond gloves, while superb at warding off the cold, are less effective at deflecting the heat of red-hot metal. After a dinner perfumed by the scent of melting nylon we settled into our bags and bivi sacks. It wasn’t warm and it wasn’t comfortable, but was definitely a blast to be more than half-way up the side of one of the best walls of ice in the world.

By morning we were feeling indescribably seedy. We had a hasty breakfast, untangled our spider-web of gear and ropes, and set off with headaches and cold fingers. The climbing remained intriguing and often literally kept us on our toes. Our line deviated from the original traverse and exit gully. We figured that it was more logical to link up with the third ice-field of the neighboring Moonflower route. The final ice-pitches of the Bibler Come-Again exit were a highlight of the climb. Way up there 1,500 metres above the deck we delicately placed our picks in a vertical seam of shallow ice that barely filled an off-width corner crack. After judicious alignment of left and right ice tools it was possible to reach over the bulge above into a plug of aerated snow-ice. A high reach on shaky footholds enabled relief via a thank-God dry-tool placement. A final five metres of vertical ice led to an abrupt change of angle and a view of the final ice band. This was our summit. In keeping with most other teams that make it this far, the top of the steep climbing was always going to be our high-point. Quite emotional with relief and elation we hugged, whooped, and took terrible photos of everything in sight. We then slipped into our well-practiced descent routine. This time going down was a joy. We descended the Moonflower route that the iconic Mug Stumps pioneered with New Zealander Paul Aubrey back in 1981. This stonking route is often vertical, occasionally overhanging, and rarely climbed. The sustained nature of the terrain through which it probes makes it an excellent choice for descent despite the approximately 35 rappels that must be negotiated. At three a.m. we eventually touched down on the lower edge of the bergschrund, about 53 hours after setting off. We hitched up to our sleds and began our mountaineers’ impersonation of skiers to complete the round trip to Kahiltna Base Camp and an early breakfast.



Thanks to Pat Deavoll



Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2016 - 07:37pm PT
Moonflower Buttress: Sam Van Brempt and Maxime De Groote. 2014.

Link: https://mountcoach.be/

By Sam Van Brempt

“The fear of the unknown”, some words just stick to my (Sam ) mind. It was that fear we felt stronger then ever that evening. Maxime De Groote, my partner for a lot of the harder climbs, was silent too. For over a week we’re in the Central Alaska Range. To warm up and acclimatize we climbed 2 smaller routes, before we got hit by a period of bad weather. Tent bound at Kahiltna base camp, we’re passing our time by staring at the ceiling, listening to music or trying to read a book. After 4 days in a complete whiteout, the warmth of the sun finally greets us. Soon the forecast shows us what we were waiting for, at least 4 days of blue sky. We make a last scouting trip to check the conditions on the huge face before us and inspect the descent options. It all looks promising so soon we decide to go for the main goal of this expedition: The Moonflower Buttress.

It’s already late afternoon. We feel a bit exhausted from our hike on the heat reflecting glacier but start to pack our bags. The typical decision making discussions soon follows? How many screws are we bringing? A full set of cams? 3 days of food or do we count for an extra day? How heavy is your pack compared to mine? Do we try to make one small pack for the hard leads?

In the early evening, our bags are ready to go and we prepare an extended meal. We’re both silent, and somehow I’m getting nervous with that massive buttress looming at our back. From time to time I turn around. Slowly, as the sun sets, the yellow-brown granite with small white-grey lines of ice turns into an impressive orange formation. From some small talk with Maxime I switch over to my inner thoughts. Luckily, he feels as restless as I do. Our bags are ready to go, the weather is perfect but somehow we’re mentally not ready yet. Not to leave now, neither to leave early in the morning. We decide to postpone our departure until the next day at noon, to give our body and mind some extra time to rest.

It’s difficult to fall asleep if you are nervous. In my mind I’m digging into my past, and suddenly I remember, a small talk with someone else always helped me. Staring at that favorite tent ceiling I’m waiting till it’s late enough to make a call with Yannick, a good friend and climbing partner. We’ve been climbing, skiing and traveling together the last 8 years. We share lots of highs and lows, which makes me feel really connected to him. And maybe we are, as I still remember my ex-girlfriend complaining I saw him more than her…

As usual if he can’t go on a trip, he’s following our progress from home. Helping us out where he can because he has better access to weather maps. Raising his 3 months old daughter, “Zoen” (the Dutch word for Kiss) he will probably be up early. So, that’s why I call him at 7 in the morning European time. A sleepy voice answers the phone. Zoen seems to sleeps longer then I expected. Because I woke him up with terrible news 4 years ago, I immediately let him know everything is still perfect. I tell him we’re ready for the climb and ask if he can send us a last weather update. His sleepy mourning voice replies something like; “If you ready to go you need to go, last time I checked this was a perfect weather window. Good luck…”

Little did he know? In that 1-minute call he said almost nothing but nevertheless his words calmed me down immediately. I simply needed to let him know we’re on the move. Like I needed that confirmation that he knows we’re on that mountain.

Next day, Friday 9th of May around noon, we hike underneath the base of the Moonflower Buttress. We’re surprised to see another climbing party at the shrund of the Bibler Klewin and even more to see a guy coming back from the right-hand side of the Buttress. As he comes closer we recognize him, it’s Scott Adamson, a funny guy with a mustache coming from Zion, US. A few days before we met Scott and shared some funny stories about climbing, America and it’s alcohol policies. Together with Aaron Child and Andy Knight, he climbed a new route on Idiot Peak, a satellite of Mt. Huntington. He and his partners flew over from the Tokositna glacier last week. His friends felt sick and stayed in basecamp but Scott went for a solo attempt on the Deprivation route. Unfortunately he had to come back down as the crux was in loose snow. We have a little chat about the conditions and the fresh snow before he wishes us luck and we move on.

Thanks to the party upfront we progress rapidly in the knee-deep snow, which is accumulated underneath the buttress. We follow their traces to what looks like the only possible way trough the massive shrund, a 5-meter overhanging snow and ice formation. We climb it with the help of some aid techniques and start climbing the lower ice field. As far as we know, there was Max and Rustie, an Anchorage party and the Dutch couple Marianne and Dennis. Both had plans to make an ascent but they both opted to leave a day later. So wondering who is in front of us, we try to catch up with them. Eventually it turns out to be another American party that flew in yesterday evening. 2 pitches further they turn back because they felt too tired.

We approach the first small gully of ice, which is named the Twin Runnels. Maxime takes the first lead in these runnels and we are both immediately surprised. The runnel is steep, small and in polystyrene snow. Perfect for climbing but placing good protection is almost impossible. Luckily for us, the protection gets better from the next pitch on. Although an occasional nasty move above that last piece of gear keeps our focus high and our progress rather slow! It somehow sets a tone of the day and what we later discover, the whole climb.

It is late afternoon when we reach our belay underneath the obvious rock feature, which is called The Prow. An aid pitch that is more and more climbed free. While Maxime puts on his down jacket for a longer belay session, I fuel myself with some extra food and I gear up. Not that I think I will free this, but I should give it a try. Some nasty moves later and I’m hanging on my gear, continuing with a mix of aid and free climbing. Maxime makes the pendulum into the McNerthney Ice Dagger from where we climb up to the start of Tamara’s Traverse.

Because of our late start today we arrive in the evening. As the sky turns red, the view is more then impressive but as there is no place to sleep, we can’t rest yet. We need to hurry to reach the first ice field before dark. Maxime starts the traverse giving me an exceptional photographic opportunity. Slowly the sun sets and at the time I reach the next belay it is almost dark. We simulclimb the last 100 meters and around midnight we start chopping 2 small ledges under a boulder on the first ice field.

We both feel miserable and tired. While we get into our sleeping bags, fresh spindrift comes down from the mountain and we need to make sure they don’t get wet. We start to melt snow and heat up water but with these cold temperatures it takes ages. I put the gas canister in the hot water for a few seconds so the stove can burn on full power for a minute afterwards and so on. We start to talk about interesting heating systems and wonder why no company found a light system to keep the gas canister warm. As we both try not to fall asleep, we fill up our Nalgene bottles with tea and a vegetable soup. We force ourselves to drink and eat enough so it is around 3 in the morning when we finally fall asleep.

Next morning we didn’t set an alarm but woke up by the morning light. The heat of the sun will be more then welcome but we know the sun hits this face only late in the evening. Cold and tired, we stay in our sleeping bags while we brew up some water and eat some dry biscuits. We’re both staring to the lower glacier in search of fresh traces. Wondering if a strong party made an early start and is climbing behind us. Knowing we’re not alone up here, would give us the motivation we need at this moment.

Knowing we’re both feeling miserable, and it’s easy to take each other down in a form of demotivation. We make some small talk and avoid the topic of an optional retreat. In this position, you don’t feel the joy of climbing and with the sun shining on the lower glacier. It’s just so easy to get back on your steps. I tell myself retreat is no option as long as the weather stays good and the route is climbable. We encourage ourselves to get out of that sleeping bag and it is only around noon when we finally start again. We climb some easy terrain and I take shelter behind a rock formation as there is a hanging snow mushroom the size of a car looming above the next pitch, the 5.8.

We heard some rumours that this pitch is harder then graded. Maxime, without question the better rock climber, takes an awesome lead, tries to move as fast as possible underneath the nasty mushroom and brings me up. Now, we’re standing underneath the feature that gave us the most doubts. The shaft, a 120m steep ice runnel with some overhanging steps. From the first look on the mountain we saw this thin grey line with a snow mushroom hanging in the first pitch. Climbing up this narrow gully I manage to get underneath this mushroom. Getting over it takes ages, placing protection, figuring out the moves, trying to get over it and turning back to the safe place to take a rest. That never ending internal dialog that I should go for it, which was encouraged by Maxime. Although this block of snow only had the size of a big duffle, it really scared us. Knowing we won’t get further without touching, I try to clear the mushroom so it won’t fall down on Maxime. Then suddenly it breaks loose and falls down without any trouble. I manage to climb the first overhang and really psyched I bring Maxime up. He takes the next lead, again with a loose snow-overhanging step.

Although every pitch was difficult so far, way out of our comfort zone and really close to our limits. We need to say, unlike the lower polystyrene twin runnels, we had no problem placing good protection almost everywhere. Standing in a split, Maxime works himself trough the second overhanging step and the third pitch of the shaft is back for me. It’s another steep one, my arms getting pumpy, I simply don’t manage to climb the whole length and have to give the last 15 meters back to Maxime. With the last rays of sun we reach the second icefield and start digging for a place to sleep. We climbed roughly 10 hours for only 8 pitches! We are exhausted, feeling terribly slow. But with the crux behind us, and weather still good to go on, we don’t let it bother us too much.

We manage to get a good sleep and wake up early for our third day on the mountain. From the ground we never had a good view on the “Vision” and the “Bibler Come Again Exit” leading trough the 2 last rock bands. And even up here, the right way looks unfamiliar. We follow the most obvious line and soon arrive at the start of the Vision. Due to a stuck rope, it takes a while but eventually we’re looking into the final ice runnel leading to the third ice field. The sun hits this field early so it feels great to finally enjoy the full heat of the sun. We climb trough the ice field, up to the right and start to search for the weakness in the last rock band, the ice runnel leading to “The Bibler Come Again Exit”. It’s over here that I made a big mistake.

Climbing up a small thin layer of ice, I place one last good screw underneath a steep step and try to climb over it. One axe in perfect ice just above the step, I start looking for my other axe placement but only find snow. Eventually my axe finds a hold. And, you know that feeling, when you place your axe and just the sound just tells you it’s not right. I was well aware of that moment, but instead of trying again, I tested it with my weight and the axe kept in place. Time to come high up, holding almost all of my weight on the lower axe using the other to stay in balance. And then, the bad axe rips out. I’m way too high above my good axe. While I’m falling backwards, I hold my only good axe at its head. Obvious I rip that one out too!

Suddenly, I find myself hanging 2 meters lower upside down, on that that tiny 8mm Ice Line. Looking to a glacier 1500 meters beneath me, I scared the sh#t out of Maxime and feel frustrated that I trusted that situation on such a route. I made a short but perfect fall and I didn’t hurt myself. Lowering myself back to the belay point of Maxime we take a short rest. Afraid doubts will take over, I soon go for a second try. This time, we climb over it, Maxime leads another length and we are standing underneath the last difficult pitch of this amazing route. We still don’t know if it is really “The Bibler Come Again Exit” but it was the most obvious feature.

Finally, we’re on top of the difficulties, a point of return for a lot of climbing parties but with the weather still on our side we opt to move on. We start the 10 pitches on calf breaking 50 degree blue ice. Too tired to simulclimb it safely, we pitch it all out. As usual we lose track of time and reach the top of the buttress when it’s almost dark. We find the cornice bivy. A perfect cave blown out by the wind but standing here, underneath a huge cornice we didn’t fancy to sleep and make a traverse to the other side of the ridge. Later on we discovered that this is a well-known bivy spot but we’re surprised to find a boulder that forms a good platform for what hopefully would be our last night on the mountain.

The effort of the last days makes us fall asleep easily. But didn’t necessarily make us have a goo night. From time to time we wake up by the cold or the fear of falling down this boulder. When the sun hits our faces early in the morning we pack our bags and start following the ridge to the summit. Navigating trough seracs, climbing loose snow and following the ridge we slowly get higher. Despite our acclimatization trips a good week ago, we still feel the altitude. We arrive at that point, which from a lower position looked like the summit, climb up and as usual, we see a new summit appearing in front of us. After a few disappointments we arrive on a flat spot with no option to go higher. We’re finally on top of Mount Hunter.

Fresh traces go down on the other side of the mountain in the direction of the west ridge, probably made by a skiing party that climbed and skied down the ramen route. As we always wanted to make a complete round-trip from our climb, this was the perfect descend or us. It was 10 in the morning, we know we need to descend the mountain as fast as possible but first we want to take enough time to rest. The summit is a huge platform so we easily take of our boots, dry our socks and unpack our bags in search of our reactor stove. As we’re sitting in the sun it is the first time since we left base camp that we manage to melt our water at a normal speed. We have to hydrate, get something to eat and of course enjoy the view. As I was in the range 4 years ago, back then we never managed to see the whole range as we always stayed on the southwest side of Denali and the day we topped out, it was in a whiteout. Now we can see 360° around us what surprised me how big this range is.

Around noon we start to descend the west ridge. First walking on the low angled summit slopes, then navigating through some seracs and finally traversing the exposed ridge in search of the fastest way down, the Ramen couloir. From high on the ridge we start rappelling into the couloir until the angle kicks back and we continue climbing down. Our hope to reach base camp early in the evening gets knocked down the lower we got. The snow is too wet, too deep and too loose. Several times we trigger small slushes and sporadically stones rain down from higher on. We decide to take shelter underneath a boulder and wait until the sun gets behind the ridge. We use the spare time to melt some extra water and eat the last freeze-dried food we kept on the side specially for this location, yes a crème brulé!

Late in the evening the conditions are better and we continue the descend. We safely climb down to the glacier and descended further in the direction of the icefall. While we were scouting for descent options a few days ago we already saw the skyteam skinning up trough the icefall. As they found a way trough, we knew we could follow their way out. Walking on the right-hand side we find their tracks back and follow them in the direction of the icefall. This labyrinth is the last obstacle that separates us from the lower Kahiltna glacier and the easy walk to basecamp. We are somehow amazed by how good the snow holds our bodyweight but not for long. Once we reach the crevassed area, we suddenly fall knee-deep through a snow bridge. As we keep on following the tracks of the skiers, they clearly have a better support then us on our feet. We’re cross tens of scary snow bridges and look into deep crevasses. Eventually we end up crawling on our knees or even the belly while the one is securing the other. At the end of the icefall we make one last rappel from a huge snow formation, and we are more then happy to be at the safe zone of the lower glacier.

By this time we are almost 20 hours on the way, and still have a serious walk ahead. Compared to several different climbing partners in the past, I’m not technically not the strongest climber. But when it comes to long pushes on low energy, navigating nasty terrain, I really get into my zone. I give my last power bar to Maxime and plug in my I pod, which I specially saved for this occasion. Running low on energy while walking brainless on this massive glacier, nothing beats music to set the pace. Somehow it brings at a new level. You get rid of your tiredness and it seems like you just can walk forever.

It’s 3 in the morning and completely silent when we arrive back in the safety of our basecamp! We hug each other. Finally safe and sound from what was roughly a 90 hour round-trip. Without question this was the hardest climb we ever did! Something to eat, a short confirmation we’re down safe to Yannick and we get into our tent. The next day, we feel the wind pounding on our tent. Waiting for the sun to heat up our cosy space we soon discover it’s not going to happen. I open the zip of our tent with my swollen hands and see clouds rolling over from behind Foraker’s Sultana Ridge. We’re back at the right time, just before the next period of bad weather…

Thanks to Sam Van Brempt




Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2016 - 08:12pm PT
Moonflower Buttress: Sam Van Brempt and Maxime De Groote. 2014.

Link: https://mountcoach.be/

All photos by Sam Van Brempt and Maxime De Groote


Special Thanks to Sam Van Brempt
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 23, 2016 - 08:21pm PT
Moonflower Buttress: Sam Van Brempt and Maxime De Groote. 2014.

Link: https://mountcoach.be/

All photos by Sam Van Brempt and Maxime De Groote


Special Thanks to Sam Van Brempt
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jul 24, 2016 - 04:02am PT
Seriously sick climbing, beyond anything in my world
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 24, 2016 - 05:01am PT
Beyond anything in mine as well.
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 24, 2016 - 08:45pm PT
"Wall of Shadows", North Buttress, Mt Hunter (2nd Ascent) Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney. 2001.

By Kevin Mahoney

Spindrift avalanches pass the door of our snow cave. A grin grows wide on Ben Gilmore’s face as he raises his fist triumphantly. Two thousand feet up the Wall of Shadows we discovered this crystal cavern to enjoy shelter from the storm. We stumbled upon the cavern by the Force, that undeniable draw that leads one off route with blind faith that something will come together (a.k.a. fool's luck when you are desperate). It is 10 hours into our second day of climbing; during the last three hours snow has been falling, creating spindrift avalanches at regular intervals. BTUs, sweat, Gore-Tex, and spindrift have joined forces to soak through all my layers. We are at the top of the Crystal Highway and another open bivy, with spindrift filling my bivy sack, seems less appealing than it did while leaving our tent behind on the glacier. Light may be right, but spindrift sucks.

This is our third trip to Alaska, which lately seems to be the only time we get to climb together. So it was easy for us to believe that we could pull off the second ascent of the Wall of Shadows with a scant alpine rack, two 7.6-mm 60-m ropes, four days of food and fuel, our sleeping bags, and bivy sacks. The A4 sections that Michael Kennedy and Greg Child experienced seemed to have ice on them, so we hoped it would go free or with very little aid since we were not prepared for anything more.

As Ben led up through the bergschrund, I recalled what Kennedy said about the first ascent: “It was the most difficult route in our combined 50 years of climbing.” As the rope went tight and I started to climb, I wondered what we were smoking back on the glacier for us to believe we could pull this off. A thousand feet higher we must have been smoking again, because after the first day we felt confident we would succeed. So far we had been able to avoid the first aid section, dubbed Coming into the Country, by climbing ice to its left. Then, half a dozen pitches of fun ice led us to Thug Alley, 200 feet of thin, plastic ice less than a yard wide. At the base of the Enigma, we chopped a bunk-bed bivy out of the ice.

Brew, dinner, brew, sleep, spindrift, sleep, spindrift, sleep. Finally we woke to a beautiful, cold morning. After drinking our instant oatmeal (the fastest way to get it down), we were ready to tackle the first real unknown, the Enigma (A4). Fortunately, it was Ben’s block so I got to cheer him on, hoping he could find a way through the mystery that was just out of sight. A thin ice runnel to a small roof ended with a choice: left or right? After some tenuous exploration, he settled on a thin ice smear to the right. Clearing off a dusting of snow, Ben discovered an old rivet from the first ascent. With a junk #1 TCU in, Ben stretched to hook a front point in the old, sun-faded tat, which got him high enough to gain egg-shell ice that had separated from the rock. The angle was only 85 degrees, so Ben figured it was no harder then WI 5. He continued with no gear for 30 feet on ice that was so thin that it required him to spread his body weight over three points, since no single point would hold. Most people would call it WI 6X, but Ben still thinks it was only NEI 5-. Finally, the Enigma was behind us and the rest of his block went smoothly and ended at the Crystal Highway.

At first I was psyched to have this block, but as the snowfall increased and the spindrift filled my jacket with regularity, I realized that justice had been served. Ben had had the crux pitch so I deserved the crux weather while leading 80-to 95-degree plastic ice. Fatigue, chills, common sense, and insecurities begged us to retreat; the thought of another spindrift-filled night loomed over our heads. At one spot we went off route to explore the top of a diamond-shaped blob frozen to the wall. The top had no potential, so I put in a rock anchor and started down the other side; halfway down my boot broke through the ice to my knee: paydirt. Forty-five minutes later, as we watched the spindrift avalanches pass the door of our snow cave, we were again optimistic about our future. Tomorrow, the Somewhere Else Wall (A4).

We wake to blue skies, just when we need it. Now it's my turn to sort out the other A4 section of the route. I climb an ice runnel to a hanging snow-mushroom traverse, then pull on some gear to get through the exit roof and gain ice for a belay. As Ben follows, his feet drop out from under him. The huge mushroom drops away and he is left hanging from one tool slotted in a crack. The next piece of protection is five horizontal feet away with blank rock separating him from it. With no other options, Ben cuts loose for the heinous pendulum into the right-facing corner. After pulling through the roof and settling into the belay, he finally starts to breathe again. After some more mixed terrain that required pulling on gear to ease my nerves, we are done with the Somewhere Else Wall. Ben leads us through the “dry heaves” and onto the third ice band, where we join the Moonflower Buttress.

As we search out the best place to spend our third night, we hear voices. Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller are finishing their second day cruising the Moonflower Buttress. I knew Doug from Exum Mountain Guides, and we had met Bruce the previous year. We decide that we will go to the summit together the next day.

The next day is clear and cold, and Bruce and Doug head out first for the Bibler Come Again Exit. While we wait our turn for the first real pitch, Ben discovers his water bladder has leaked two quarts of water all over his down parka—a great way to start our summit push. We climb through three fun pitches to gain the upper slopes to the northeast ridge and join forces with Bruce and Doug to break trail to the summit on a beautifully calm evening with light clouds dancing in the setting sun to keep us in awe during the tedious post-holing. A quick celebration, one last photo, then back down the northeast ridge.

Nine rappels, courtesy of Bruce Miller V-thread Express, bring us back to our bivy on the third ice band and finally sleep. The next day, nineteen more rappels and we are back at our skis on the glacier, marveling in the glow of an anxiety-free night of sleep.

American Alpine Journal 2002.
Will_H

Mountain climber
Chamonix mont blanc
Jul 25, 2016 - 02:25am PT
Hi Avery, a few photos from our trip on Deprivation in 2013. It was our first time climbing outside of the Alps, and proved to be a pretty wild experience.

Blog post here: http://willharrisclimbing.blogspot.fr/

Cheers

Will
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 25, 2016 - 04:09am PT
Thanks a lot, Will
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 26, 2016 - 12:31am PT
Wall of Shadows: Jimmy Haden and Russ Mitrovich. 2002

The Wall Of Shadows was an amazing climb with solid veins of ice and neve splitting through perfect granite! Even though we did not summit Mt Hunter, the quality of the experience still ranks as one of my favorite climbs. I would still like to go back and do another route on the North Buttress to the summit! I'm not sure if alpine climbing can get much better than the North Buttress of Mt Hunter!

Thanks,
Jimmy Haden



Thanks to Jimmy Haden

Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 26, 2016 - 12:33am PT
Wall of Shadows: Jimmy Haden and Russ Mitrovich. 2002


Thanks to Jimmy Haden
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