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North America, United States, Alaska, McGinnis Peak, Southeast Ridge

McGinnis Peak, Southeast Ridge. The southeast ridge of McGinnis Peak has acquired a local fame from the very loose rock and corniced knife-edged portion of its lower part. As a member of a four-man party which attempted to gain access to the elusive route by way of the Black Rapids Glacier in August 1979, we knew the route’s possibilities, the probability of poor conditions and its reputation. On April 25 Dan Gray and I waded the Delta River opposite its junction with McGinnis Creek. Four fair days later, we were at 9000 feet in the cirque of the southeastern branch of McGinnis Glacier. On April 30 we reconnoitered the ridge proper. The route descends for 1000 feet to a col, which is the crux before ascending again. The reconnaissance didn’t reveal the route entirely but with minimal protection it seemed that all visible sections could be climbed. On May 1, with summit gear, Dan Gray and I were on the ridge. With the help of rime ice on the rock sections, seven hours brought us to the col. A sudden weather change persuaded us to return to Base, knowing we could complete the route. It stormed on May 2 and 3. At 4:30 on May 4 we were heading for the ridge. It took much attention and constant belaying, sometimes from doubtful stances, to return to the col. Twelve hours of work put us in a position where belays were better, the ridge more predictable and the cornices more conventional. Faced by fatigue, a very exposed ice section and cornices guarding the summit, at midnight we opted for a bivouac at 10,500 feet. We dug a platform into a cornice, brewed up, and were in bivy sacks by 1:30. By 5:00 A.M. we were off again. At nine o’clock we crested the ridge and walked to the summit together (11,400 feet). After 45 minutes, our knowledge of Alaskan weather dictated our departure. Knowing how impassable the southeast ridge would be in foul weather, we descended the previously climbed northeast ridge. A steep snowfield on the upper part and rock in the central portion required utmost concentration. Thelong descent forced us to bivouac in deteriorating weather. From there we had an easy walk down a snow ramp to the northeast branch of McGinnis Glacier. We had spent 51 hours on the peak, 42 of them climbing.

Walter Palkovitch, Unaffiliated