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North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hunter, North Buttress Attempt

Mount Hunter, North Buttress Attempt. Dan and Patrick McNerth- ney, Rob Newsom and I* arrived in Talkeetna on May 2 and were on the glacier that evening. The next couple of days found us establishing Base Camp and telescoping the face. We chose a different line from the one of the previous year, an awesome one right up the middle of the buttress. The gully we climbed in 1979 (A.A.J., 1980, pages 523-4) was out; it avalanched daily. The weather went sour for five days. It cleared and we spent the day watching the face dump spindrift. We left late the next day in clear weather. The climbing was fantastic on steep, good ice, averaging 70° with many vertical spots and F8 rock. We were five pitches up when darkness and clouds closed in. We fixed three ropes to gain a small snow arête. With much chopping it yielded two spots big enough to sit on, one for three and the other for one. There was no room for tents and it started to snow. After six hours the storm had not abated and so we rappelled off amidst rapidly running rivers of spindrift. For a week it snowed every day. The weather finally cleared and we gave the face a day to slough off. The next day we regained our previous high point and climbed seven pitches more. The climbing, some on aid, was equally steep and demanding, with pendulums, ice-hoses and such. We had reached the lower icefield on the buttress. Chopping produced two marginal tent spots. Rob was in the upper tent alone as his ledge was only as wide as he was. The ice hose that we had telescoped looked incredibly intimidating and it had started to snow. As we sat in our tents, a powder-snow avalanche hit our tents and knocked Rob off. He slid 20 feet until his rope stopped him. He retired to the lower tent. Two days later visibility improved and we rappelled off.

Douglas Klewin, Tooloose Alpine Society

* Recipient of an American Alpine Club Climbing Fellowship grant.