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North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Thor, Chugach Range

Mount Thor, Chugach Range. The main and middle peaks of Mount Marcus Baker (13,176 and 12,850 feet) are separated by a drop of only 500 feet and thus may be considered peaks of the same mountain. Thirty years elapsed after Marcus Baker’s first ascent before the range’s second-highest independent mountain, 20 miles to the east, was climbed. In 1955 Larry Nielsen noted it and called it "Willard Gibbs,” but this name was not approved and it is now called Mount Thor, following the Norse theme of nearby Mounts Fafnir and Valhalla. Frank Whaley, then flying for Alyeska Air Service, left Winfred "Dub” Bludworth, his younger brother Harry and me at 8000 feet on the Yale Glacier, a dozen miles south of this peak on June 2. Leaving Base Camp near the head of the Yale Glacier, we snowshoed over the broad pass and down to 7600 feet on the Columbia Glacier and up its "Norse Branch” to dig a snowcave high camp at 10,500 feet. When heavy snowfall stopped late on the 5th, we climbed to the Harvard Glacier pass, up the ridge over the shoulder of "Odin’s Footstool” (11,626 feet) and around the end of the east ridge of Mount Thor’s south peak into the Nelchina Glacier drainage. Although the map shows the south peak higher at 12,350 feet, that is incorrect; altimeter differences and configuration lead us to think that Mount Thor itself is approximately 12,500 feet. In cold wind, strong enough to erase tracks between ropemates, we cramponed to the summit at 7 minutes to midnight and then went on to the south peak an hour and a half later. Storms and more new snow made avalanche danger too great for our planned ascents of other more difficult mountains, but on June 7 we made the first ascent of Black Cliff Mountain (10,270 feet) by its easy south ridge and the next day between flights out Dub and I reconnoitered the east ridge of Aspero Peak to 9200 feet. We had snow fall every day and never touched rock. Deep snow, altitude, and adverse wind gave Erik Barnes much trouble flying us out. Of the 28 independent peaks over 9000 feet in the Chugach west of its natural boundary, the Copper River, 11 have been climbed once and Marcus Baker three times, but none have been climbed on a walk-in. Are aircraft and the time they save that essential?

J. Vincent Hoeman