TR: Mendenhall Towers


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Juneau AK
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 6, 2008 - 11:58pm PT
This last March Sam Magro and I visited the Mendenhall Towers just outside Juneau Alaska to see if we couldn't dig up some fun mixed lines on the North Side of the massif. We flew in on the night of the 14th in clear weather......the next day it fell apart on us. Over the next week and a half we received over 20ft of new snow. We spend 7 days shoveling in 2-4 hour shifts to keep from being buried. Imagine the two guys in a leaky dingy bailing to stay afloat, yeah that was us. Finally, after one horrendous night, we dug a cave.

Then, after 5 days of cave dwelling, the storm broke. We had to spend the first day drying layers and letting the snow settle. The next we tried what we thought was an ice choked corner on the West Tower and got our asses handed to us. Then next day we tried again, cuz we're really smart like that, and got shut down by insanely difficult mixed climbing.

We had our bivy gear so at 11am we went exploring and hit the jackpot. Perfect neve ice and wonderful mixed climbing. 1500ft later we found a nice little alcove beneath an overhang and as it was beginning to get dark and the sky was red we figured why not get some sleep and climb in the light. We did just that and awoke to northern lights followed by another beautiful day of climbing on the upper headwall.

To get an idea of good the route was 14 pitches, the easiest "pitch" was AI3+, and the hardest AI4 M5. When the climbing got difficult the was gear there, then in between we found ourselves on bomber neve.

We summited at 6pm with a view 100 miles in every direction. We were able to run down the West Ridge with only one single rope rappel and made it back to camp by 8pm. We never even bothered getting out our headlamps, and the only gear we left on the route was a picket on the descent.

In the end we made the first ascent of the North Face of the West Tower "The Great White Conqeror" 800m V M5 AI4 A1


beneath the valley of ultravegans
Apr 7, 2008 - 12:48am PT

Out of curiosity, is there any relation to the Mendenhalls of Eastern Sierra fame?

Trad climber
Durango, CO
Apr 7, 2008 - 12:53am PT
Looks great. Way to go!

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Apr 7, 2008 - 12:53am PT
Awesome. If there is a god then 54 page-one political threads will immediately self-destruct out of pure shame.
Standing Strong

Trad climber
the secret life of T*R
Apr 7, 2008 - 12:56am PT
grj where did you guys come from? balla damn.

Social climber
On my way to Boulder
Apr 7, 2008 - 09:09am PT
Gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing -

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 7, 2008 - 09:18am PT
That is freekin' awesome. Very spare trip report, but nice and concise. Leave it to the Alaskan spirit to help keep us all focused on the ball.
Hats off to you gentlemen.

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Apr 7, 2008 - 09:24am PT
That's one beautiful mountain. Congratulations!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Apr 7, 2008 - 11:51am PT
Great job, lads! Brrrr ... sure looks cold, though.
Scared Silly

Trad climber
Apr 7, 2008 - 01:29pm PT
Niiice !!

Gym climber
Apr 7, 2008 - 02:20pm PT
I love the way this was reported...I've spent some time on these towers (traversed, aid on the N face, frist free of the ears) and know how big and dark they can be, well done lads, not just the climb but also the very British reporting style!

Did you walk or fly?

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Apr 7, 2008 - 03:01pm PT
Now that looks like an adventure. Got more pictures?
pimp daddy wayne

The Bat Caves
Apr 7, 2008 - 03:01pm PT

Juneau AK
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 7, 2008 - 03:02pm PT
Lets see if I can answer a few questions. I am from Juneau and Sam is from Ohio, but we've both been staying MT for the last few years.

I don't know where Mendenhall was from but his name is everywhere. That's one of the main reasons we named our route "The Great White Conqueror."

We flew in with coastal helicopters. Knowing the kind of weather we might be dealing with we brought more food than anyone in their right mind would think to bring. We skied in a whiteout to Suicide Bowl and found that the glacier had opened up much more than expected so rather than spend 2 days hauling and navigating our way through we called for a pick-up.

The Mendenhall is in bad shape. I hadn't been on it in two years and the usual access via the West Glacier trail is getting kind of nasty. It was very sad to see, but maybe it will reveal some amazing rock in the few years.

Trad climber
Bozeman, MT
Apr 7, 2008 - 03:03pm PT
Sam & Ryan.... Congrats guys... Everyone was pulling for you back in Bozeman.. Awesome work.. From Sam's TR, I heard there were also some brown little friends left behind on the route... Great work guys!


Trad climber
State of confusion
Apr 7, 2008 - 03:07pm PT
Great report--looks like a great route!
Did you mean the glacier's in bad shape due to
global climate change or did I just misunderstand?
(that happens occasionally). . .

Juneau AK
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 7, 2008 - 03:18pm PT
Thanks Josh, and yes some brown friends did some low angle base jumping.

Mountain climber
Bozeman, MT
Apr 7, 2008 - 05:05pm PT
Awesome! Nice work guys - looks like a sweet route and great climbing. I'm jealous!

Sam - see you back in Bozeman!


Trad climber
Apr 7, 2008 - 05:08pm PT
Fvcking proud!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Apr 7, 2008 - 05:30pm PT
I don't ice-climb but that's an awesome outing. Well done!.
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