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North America, United States, Alaska, West Face of Mount Huntington, Alpine-Style

West Face of Mount Huntington, Alpine-Style. Since the climb would be a second ascent, following the Harvard route, one should up the ante: do it alpine-style. Jeff Bevan, Randy McGregor, Bruce Wehman and I flew to the Tokositna Glacier on June 25, spent the next week hauling loads to the base of the mountain, climbed and fixed ropes on the “Stegosaur.” On the afternoon of June 30 Jeff and Randy informed us that they were spooked and depressed and were giving up. Bruce and I decided to go it alone. We fixed a 600-foot rope off the north side of the Stegosaur from the Harvard party’s “Alley” camp. On July 4 we got a fair-weather forecast over the radio. On July 5 we were off and soon arrived at the base of the ice gully. Two and a half pitches took us to the 600-foot rappel rope. The Alley pitch was snow with ice so far below the surface that it was not worth digging for. After three more pitches we hit the face proper. The rock was covered with verglas. Pitches up to F8 took us up the chimney, now at 7:30 P.M. a natural funnel. We made the best of the ledge for a bivouac, both half-sitting with our feet dangling. We were off again at three A.M. The first lead of the Bastion had a few F5 walls but the next part went fast since there was enough ice to avoid all the rock. Another quick lead and the Nose appeared, a classic Yosemite-type aid pitch. Finally falling ice again told us it was time to call it a day and move right to a second bivouac. The next morning we started out with three easy pitches with great expectations of an easy day to the Harvard bivouac site. Then, after a couple of false leads, I started up on a tongue of ice which did not have enough support to allow completion; I moved left and found a traverse which went. We were well to the right of the Harvard route on the bottom half of the wall on an easier ledge-crack system, but the first belay was only halfway up what was supposed to be a one-pitch wall. All the cracks were filled with ice ahead and Bruce did some A2 for 30 feet. The next crack system was running water; I had to use more aid before a few free moves took me to the top of the rock. Two more leads brought me to a rock from which the bivouac site was obvious, but it was nine P.M. before we reached it. We did not get started until seven A.M. After one fifth-class lead, Bruce and I alternated fourth-class leads to the north ridge. An unbelayed stroll led us to the last difficulties: three successively harder bergschrunds. I went around the first two. The third one gave in only after real effort and a short fall. Bruce led up an easy snow pitch and a few more feet took us to the summit shortly after noon on July 8. We completed the descent in two and a half more days, beleaguered by falling rocks and ice and, on the lower slopes, early-morning avalanches.

Dean F. Smith