American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, The Cats Ears, Devils Thumb

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

The Cats Ears, Devils Thumb. The Cats Ears is a spectacular double tower mounted on the west face of the Devils Thumb. It was climbed in July by Paul Starr, Fred Douglas, and me from Vancouver, British Columbia. Our approach was from Petersburg by a short float-plane hop to Scenery Lake—thence over a low col into the Witches Cauldron, a wild and desolate chasm between whose branches the Thumb erupts. This glacier, whose ice stream is tilted back toward the chasm headwall, was our base and airdrop site, a day’s pack from the lake. The climb was made from here in two bivouacs, with one entire day required on the final 800-foot spire. Rock on the tower itself was good, and there was only minor aid despite steepness. The route, however, was devious and not obvious, requiring nine leads on the east side. Incidents included one fall and a major, unprovoked landslide which took out half our bivouac ledge a couple hours before we were to reoccupy it in descent. Two other class-5 rock peaks were climbed further south toward Scenery Lake, and on one of these we experienced the major earthquake which shook Alaska this summer. A memorable sensation! There are many technically difficult unclimbed peaks in the Thumb area, and some nice routes on the Devil itself.

Richard R. Culbert

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