American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Attempt on Mount Russell, Alaska Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1967

Attempt on Mount Russell, Alaska Range. Our attempt to make the second ascent of Mount Russell (11,670 feet) by a new route, the northeast ridge, came to nothing. Our group consisted of Don N. Anderson, Robert H. Bates, Lawrence Carter, Russell MacAusland, Dr. Harry McDade, Eric E. Shipton and me. Don Sheldon landed us on the 8000-foot plateau two miles northeast of the peak on June 24. We found a good pack route with one section of fixed rope, to our high camp at a col at 9900 feet. Beyond, the ridge which connected us to Russell narrowed to a knife-edge and was heavily corniced. Therefore we fixed a rope down an ice slope to a terrace which allowed us to traverse the ridge onto the northwest face of Russell itself. To regain the ridge from there was more difficult than we had foreseen. The snow and ice just above the schrund rose at an angle of 75°. Then the angle slackened a bit, but I had a terrifying drop into a bottomless hidden crevasse on the still 60° slope. Fortunately I was well snubbed after a fall of 20 feet, but the climb out was exhausting. We continued on the ridge and then again on the northwest face, fixing ropes on the steep snow and ice. Still 1200 feet below the summit we turned back, feeling we had done a good job of route preparation. On the way back we found a much better route, following the first half of the corniced connecting ridge. We were sure that with one good, long day on the steep snow and blue ice of the summit cone we should have a good chance for the summit. This was not to be. A storm broke in earnest on the night of the 30th. Winds blew more than 100 miles per hour. Our tent collapsed over our heads on July 1. For another day Don Anderson, my son Larry and I held shredded cloth over our heads or took turns shoveling off the drifting snow that threatened to bury us. Then the fragments gave way and we had to join the others in the too crowded two-man tents. On July 4 we escaped in a howling blizzard to Base Camp, where no tent was left standing. For the next ten days the storm continued. Over ten feet of snow fell in all. With a partial clearing we called for Sheldon, not wanting to tempt the wind in strained tents nor venture back onto the steep slopes now covered with so much new snow and windslab.

H. Adams Carter

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