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North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Huntington, Second Ascent of Northwest Ridge

Mount Huntington, Second Ascent of Northwest Ridge. Our team included Cindy Jones, Bob Newman, Todd Rentchler, Roger Robinson, Charlie Campbell and me. On April 5 we flew with pilot Buddy Woods, minus Campbell, who had contracted strep throat, to the northwest fork of the Ruth Glacier below the north face of Mount Huntington. Six days of hauling loads up the Ruth brought our mountain of gear to an unclimbed 2000-foot ice face, one mile west of the French approach to the northwest ridge. Although it was technically more difficult than the French approach and significantly increased the length of the climb, this 60° face had much less avalanche danger. Three-and-a-half days of magnificent ice leads and 2400 feet of fixed line brought us to the ridge crest, a col on the ridge midway between Huntington and P 12,380. Here Camp I was established, still 2½ miles from Huntington’s summit. Charlie Campbell was flown in and proceeded with Roger Robinson directly up the face to push out the route. An initial series of gendarmes slowed progress but gave way to more moderate snow slopes on a corniced ridge. Later, we were forced to skirt more gendarmes to the south on steep snow and a short rock ledge. We reached the point where the French had gained the ridge on April 20 and set up Camp II in a snow cave and igloo on a hanging sérac. Charlie lost a filling, descended and was flown out. The weather, rather benign to this point, took on a sour nature for the remainder of the trip. It required several days of climbing through steep loose snow to gain the base of the first step and nail the overhanging rock pitch above. Here, an old cable ladder and bits of fixed line marked the presence of Lionel Terray and his first-ascent team 12 years ago. We quickly climbed the corniced ridge above the rock section to the base of the second step. Bob Newman and I ascended the step and fixed 1200 feet of line to the base of the third step but were brought to a halt by the arrival of another storm. Several days later, on May 3, we returned up our fixed lines in still unsettled weather to establish Camp III in the saddle at 10,500 feet below the second step. There Todd Rentchler and Cindy Jones remained to push the route as best they could in poor visibility, icy ropes and daily snowfall. By May 7, the last of the fluted headwalls was fixed through the lacework to the top of the fourth step. Todd Rentchler and I, after a surprisingly difficult thrash on the final ice fluting above the fourth step, stood the next day on the corniced summit, making the fifth ascent. Roger Robinson, Cindy Jones, Bob Newman and I made our way to the summit on May 9. A storm-burdened descent to Base Camp took six days as we removed all possible fixed line and hardware. After our extra gear was flown out by Cliff Hudson, we skied, walked, crawled and cried for 80 miles and eight days to arrive at Moose Creek on the Peterville Road by May 27.

Ed Newville, Unaffiliated