American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Deborah, Attempt on East Buttress

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

Mount Deborah, Attempt on East Buttress. (This extraordinarily difficult climb was also attempted in 1964 by a group from the Harvard Mountaineering Club. See A.A.J., 1965, 14:2, pp. 405-6—Editor.) Our expedition got off to a poor start with the loss of a key member, Jim McCarthy, due to a prior non-climbing accident. On June 18 Pete Carmen, Don Jensen, John Hudson, Frank Sarnquist and I were flown in and landed in perfect weather on the glacier southeast of Deborah by the very skillful pilot Denny Thompson. He amazed us by dropping six plane loads of supplies in a hundred-foot diameter on the narrow Deborah- Hess col. The next day we moved up to the base of the 6000-foot face and continued that night up a heavily crevassed area. Two members continued to the col to make sure the airdrop did not get buried by snow. The rest moved loads up and gained the assault shelf (the col) only after three days because of a storm and earthquake (magnitude 5.6 in Fairbanks). After a day of repackaging supplies, it started snowing in the night and continued for the next eight days with a fall of about ten feet. Despite the weather, we continued the climb, moving loads to the base of the ridge and fixing ropes on the buttress. A clearing on the ninth day did not last and that night it resumed snowing very hard, continuing for another eight days. Again in spite of heavy winds, snowfall and unstable conditions, we continued working on the difficult route. After 25 days of almost continuous storm we just got a little higher than the previous attempt and it was apparent that we could not make it up the final two-thirds of the buttress. A climb of this technical difficulty can be made only in a good year, if this ever occurs on this mountain.

Arthur Gran

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