American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, U.S., Alaska, Split Thumb, Juneau Ice Field

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1955

Split Thumb, Juneau Ice Field. Looking northeast from camp 16-A on the Lemon Glacier, one sees the intriguing rock sentinel of the Split Thumb (5523 feet), rising near the western periphery of the Juneau Ice Field. The first ascent of this peak was accomplished July 2, 1954, by Ed LaChapelle, Dick Hubley, Carlton Ray, Dr. Conrad Buettner, and Bob Goodwin, members of the Juneau Ice Field Research Project.

We started from the Jamesway hut at 7 A.M., on one of the rare clear days experienced on this part of the ice field, out onto the smooth névé of the Lemon Glacier. With some on skis and others on foot we traveled down glacier to the point where a small tributary glacier from Scorpion Peak blends with the Lemon Glacier. Climbing up this tributary, we reached a glaciercovered ridge which trends towards the base of the Split Thumb. Contouring along just below the crest of the ridge, we arrived at a col which we crossed. We then ascended the following ridge and dropped thence down to a cirque glacier lying beneath the south face of the peak. By cutting diagonally to the right, we arrived at the base of the southeast arête of the mountain. This is a long, high ridge broken by numerous little gullies encased in ice and snow outlined against the sky. We cut and kicked steps up a steep couloir to the lowest visible point and ascended this arête over easy rocks to the foot of a steep rock face lying across the arête. I kept to the right at the foot of the rock face and ascended the edge of the east face of the peak over good rock, utilizing small pinch holds. The summit rocks were reached directly. The other four members of the party roped up and traversed under the face to a shallow couloir on the south face. Ascending the couloir for 25 to 30 feet, they then climbed diagonally up a wide crack which leads to the summit rocks and reached the summit at noon. On top there spread out before us an unlimited view of the entire ice field with its numerous peaks and pinnacles rising out of the snow. We built a cairn, took photos, and consumed a leisurely lunch before descending and returning via the same route.

Robert Goodwin

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