American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Rooster Comb, Southwest Face of South Peak

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1979

Rooster Comb, Southwest Face of South Peak. On July 13 and 14 Dave Holsworth and I climbed the southwest face of the south peak of the Rooster Comb. We used the southern approach to Huntington, described in the 1972 south-ridge attempt (A.A.J., 1973, pages 406-7) and went through the icefall between Huntington and the Rooster Comb. The cirque gives easy access to the east face and east ridge of Mount Huntington and the west ridge of the Rooster Comb, but it is well guarded by the extremely dangerous icefall. We climbed diagonally through the icefall, not knowing that Thuermer’s team had found a route around it. We considered ourselves very lucky to have made it. Dave was hit by a block of ice and I had earlier pulled back muscles. While waiting to recover from these injuries, we turned our attention from Huntington to the south peak of the Rooster Comb, which looked simple and straightforward. Appearances are deceiving. There were several very steep short pitches of ice which crossed the multiple bergschrunds; the higher slopes were from 50° upwards. The last several pitches were extremely steep and unprotected. The Rooster Comb has three summits, the northernmost being the highest. We had planned to traverse the ridge to the north peak, a mile distant, but after hanging over the summit cornice trying to find the ridge, we discovered that it was not climbable. We bivouacked on the summit and descended the next night by the ascent route. The descent became interesting since we had only three screws and a few bollard loops. We had brought no deadmen because it didn’t look steep! As the weather was particularly poor this June and July, we waited for some time for a cold night to attempt a variation on Huntington’s south ridge. Thuermer’s route and ours had the same first 1000 feet that bypassed the third icefall, but it also held the crux, a 30-foot section of vertical, rotten, slushy ice. Our injuries still plagued us and after several attempts we headed down. We burned and packed out our garbage and made it back to the landing strip near Mount Dickey.

Jeb Schenck

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