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North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hunter, Attempt on South Face

Mount Hunter, Attempt on South Face. After our arrival in Talkeetna, the weather continued poor until June 20 when clearing enabled Don Sheldon to fly Dean Rau, Duane Soper, Paul Harrison and me to the south side of Mount Hunter. An airdrop had been made at 8000 feet between the two icefalls which had to be crossed. Due to heavy snows the previous winter the crevasses were well covered but we had to minimize avalanche danger by climbing through these areas at night. We used 600 feet of fixed line in each icefall. On the 27th we established a high camp at 10,000 feet at the foot of the south face. Since this was to be our siege camp, we dug a fairly comfortable snow cave and spent the next few days hauling gear. On July 1 the weather broke and for the next three days we put in a route to a col 700 feet up on the east side of the wall. This col joined a ridge which continued several hundred feet up the wall. The climbing was on fairly steep mixed snow and rock with an occasional moderate 5th-class move between steep snow and easier rock. We had established the route 500 feet up the ridge when the weather turned bad, forcing a retreat to the snow cave. After four days of storm, on the 7th we set off for the summit attempt in somewhat improved weather. We had succeeded in climbing some 400 feet farther up the ridge when the weather again forced a retreat to the comfort of the snow cave. We waited out a storm for the next five days before heading down to Base Camp on July 13 when food ran out. The descent was difficult in two feet of new snow and with a critical shortage of fixed line and pitons. On the 16th Sheldon flew Rau and Soper out. On the 17th Harrison and I climbed a rock pinnacle which was 1500 feet up a rock and snow wall above Base Camp. We had 14 pitches of moderately difficult rock climbing (F5 at most), although one of the last pitches below the base of the pinnacle had some F7 in an overhang and corner. The final pitch of the pinnacle, which overhung spectacularly, was hard. The six-rappel, stormy descent took an hour longer than the ascent. (21 hours; NCCS III, F8, Al.) It was a poor year to attempt the south face of Hunter. We needed a stronger party. The climb is long, with technical difficulties, but is by no means impossible.

JOHN Waterman, Dartmouth Mountaineering Club