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North America, United States, Alaska, Foraker, Second Ascent of the West Ridge

Foraker, Second Ascent of West Ridge. On June 24 Spencer Fulweiler, Bob Garmirian, Chris Niles, Mark Siks, Bruce Underwood and I were dropped off at the Purkey Pile landing strip, just west of the McKinley Park boundary. We were hoping to climb the northwest ridge of Mount Foraker, but a closer look at the ridge from Clark Engle’s plane and the recurrence of an old knee injury which meant that Bob Garmirian had to be hiked out after the first few days of load-carrying convinced us to try something easier. We chose to attempt a repeat of Houston’s first-ascent route, the west ridge (see A.A.J., 1935), which would also mean a shorter distance to carry out gear. More than two weeks later, we had enough gear at the bottom of the ridge to give us a good shot. Our first few days of climbing, up to Camp II at 8900 feet, went well, up a steep, narrow snow ridge, and around a crumbly rock pinnacle. But a week-long snowstorm, now and then with lightning, kept us at Camp II for eight nights, where we contented ourselves with one or two rope-lengths of progress on the better days and watched our food run low. Finally on July 20, it cleared enough to let us put our third camp at 11,700 feet, after the prettiest section of the climb, over and around cornices on the main section of the ridge. We made extensive use of snowshoes there. Next we slogged up the steep section close to the great icefall at Foraker’s west end and set up camp at 14,200 feet. Our luck held long enough for us to grab the next day of good weather. We reached the summit at 5:30 A.M. on July 24, seven-and-a-half hours after leaving camp. On the descent, we had difficulty below Camp II, where the snow had melted and left ice. We had removed the fixed ropes to use them again up to Camp III and then burned them to save weight. The greatest danger of the climb was crossing the Swift Fork River, where we nearly lost Chris and Bruce, but we all made it safely back by the evening of August 1.

Charles B. Morgan