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North America, United States, “Gnomen Spire,” Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains

“Gnomen Spire,” Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains. In mid May Kjell Swedin and I flew to the Cool Sack Glacier, hoping to make the first ascent of P 8500, the satellite peak just west of Kichatna Spire. On our first attempt we climbed a 1700-foot hard ice couloir between the two peaks that had previously been climbed by the Oregonians in 1978 (A.A.J., 1979, pages 171-2) and Bouchard and Embick in 1979. At the top of the couloir we were met by deteriorating weather and a slightly overhanging headwall that was so rimed that it appeared featureless. We descended and the weather kept us pinned in the tent for ten long days. When the weather cleared, we attempted the west face of Sunrise Spire. Again wind and snow drove us down after two days and nine pitches of enjoyable rock climbing: F10 free-climbing in EBs in a good crack system on the lower pitches and higher up mostly aid on flakes and small cracks. On June 7, five days before our scheduled fly-out, the weather cleared in the evening and we left for another try on the satellite. We climbed the couloir during the night. The six-foot tunnel through the cornice at its top, which I had dug on the first try, was mostly intact, saving time and effort. The headwall was less rimed although still very hard and time-consuming. Above it, the remaining 500 feet were hard mixed climbing with ice-filled cracks and chimneys, verglased slabs and short aid sections. We stood on top during the darkest part of a pink-glowing, beautiful Alaskan night. The rappels went quickly and after 32 non-stop climbing hours we were out of the gully.

Robert McDougall, Unaffiliated