American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount McKinley, New Route Variant on the Southwest Flank

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1978

Mount McKinley, New Route Variant on the Southwest Flank. Bernhard Ehmann and I climbed the prominent snow and ice rib which rises from the northeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier three miles from its junction with the main glacier. The rib ascends in 60 roped pitches of mixed snow, rock and ice, from 9500 to 13,500 feet at a point opposite Windy Corner on the West Buttress route. Mixed rock and snow gave way to a 35° snow rib up which we plowed for 15 pitches to one of the few naturally suited bivouac sites at about 11,000 feet, immediately above a short steep ice pitch. At midday on the second day we climbed a series of pitches in a delicate corniced section, which offered the greatest objective danger on the entire rib. Belays were ineffective in the unstable honey-combed snow. Several pitches of ice culminated in a 60° ice ramp which joined the gently sloping glacier above. We continued climbing through the night, hoping for a bivouac spot and finding a frigid one in a partially filled schrund several pitches from the top at 4:30 A.M. In the middle of the third day we trudged across the upper Kahiltna Glacier to intercept the well broken West Buttress trail at about 13,600 feet. We paralleled the upper West Rib to the left of it in a 6000-foot couloir to reach the summit on May 20. Mike Helms and Reilly Moss repeated our route a couple of days later.

Patrick Morrow, Calgary Mountain Club

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