North America, United States, Alaska, Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains

Publication Year: 1980.

Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains. Bob McDougall and I spent our first six days in the spires getting acquainted with the sleet and snow storms characteristic of the Kichatnas, and moving our supplies despite them. After landing on the Tatina Glacier we moved over the “Perfect Echo Pass” (A.A.J., 1978, p. 370) to the Sunshine Glacier. Because of poor weather and visibility, four nights out of our eighteen climbing days in the region had to be spent on the pass. We made our move to the Sunshine Glacier entirely in storm and finally on the evening of our seventh day the clouds began to lift and we left for our first climb. In light of the plastered condition of all of the spires we concentrated our first attempt on the unclimbed P 7295. On its north side we connected a 1000-foot gully and the ½-mile-long hanging glacier to gain the north ridge. The ridge was heavily snow-plastered and the thin climbing on the crest was made most memorable by the sunrise near the summit (June 22-23, NCCS IV, F8, Al). We next opted for dry granite and climbed the long southeast ridge of Buff Spire (1st ascent, A.A.J., 1977, p. 113). The ridge provided a dozen pitches of excellent rock climbing and Bob was happy to lead the F9 and F10 pitches in his EB’s while I played the donkey and followed in my mountain boots, having left my EB’s in the cache on Perfect Echo Pass (June 25, NCCS IV, F10). We had three more days of blizzard during which we moved back over the pass to the Tatina Glacier. When the skies finally cleared, our eyes focused on the unclimbed 2000-foot west buttress of P 7270. It provided many varieties of difficult free climbing for 16 pitches, strongly reminiscent of the climbing on Middle Cathedral Rock in Yosemite. With the exception of a few moves of aid in a sodden corner near the base, the climbing was all free and done in EB’s. Bob and I alternated pitches of solid cracks and wobbly flakes to tie together our best and last climb of the trip (June 30, NCCS IV, F9, Al).

Stephen M. Pollock, University of Washington Climbing Club