American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hayes, North Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

Mount Hayes, North Ridge. On the second ascent of Mount Hayes’ north ridge miraculously everything went incredibly well. The weather was excellent, logistics worked out as planned, the route was difficult, but we did get to the summit. Joanne Groves kept us in contact by amateur radio. We had spent 13 days getting to our high camp at 11,000 feet, relaying loads all the way from the air strip on the west side of the Trident Glacier with two camps on the tundra and two below us on the north ridge at 8300 and 9500 feet. We had covered all that distance twice; we had twice climbed all those soft-snow breaking steps. By climbing at night, the soft snow had been manageable and with virtually no wind on the entire climb our steps had been, by the second day of relaying, like an ice staircase. A 300-foot fixed rope on a severe ice ridge just above our camp at 9500 feet assured our safe descent. By 2:30 A.M. on May 26 when Pat Pyne and I on the last rope left our frosty snow cave, Steve Hacket and James Brady on the first rope were breaking out the drifted-in steps on the way to the north shoulder at 12,500 feet. A one-day storm had obscured with hip-deep snow the route that Steve and I had wanded two days earlier. There was a cold wind. A three-o’clock sunrise drew our focus from the grinding work to a spiritual lift of red-gold alpine beauty. After two-and-a-half hours we reached the shoulder and saw before us a quarter mile of fantastic doubly-corniced ridge separating us from the summit cone. In a strong wind we could not have climbed that rooster-comb ridge, for in places it was so narrow and the snow so soft that you could not put your feet side by side. Snow chips dislodged by the right boot fell effortlessly a mile and a half, while snow clods kicked loose by the left boot could start powder-snow avalanches that had 6500 feet of fall. We used all our snow flukes and pickets on this 2½-hour delicate traverse of that wildly beautiful place. The last 800 feet were steep, but at last we found hard snow and could crampon without kicking steps. With thoughtful kindness, Steve Hackett and James Brady, and Dan Osborne and Ken Irving waited for us on the last rope so that we could all get to the 13,832-foot summit together as a successful party of friends.

Charles R. Wilson

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