American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Kichatna Spires

  • Feature Article
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Kichatna Spires

Andrew Embick, M.D.

The CATHEDRAL SPIRES of the Kichatna Mountains, in the southwestern Alaska Range, offer the most challenging climbing in North America. The weather characteristic of the area is very bad, but the granite can be of high quality. The area is familiar to very few climbers, who however tend to return repeatedly. The number of ascents has grown since the first in 1965 to the point that there is some difficulty in keeping track of exactly what has been climbed. Twice now, at least, “first ascents” have been reported which on review were determined to be repeat ascents of peaks whose original identity was not clear. To permit more accurate identification of peaks, as well as to record past ascents, the following list and a marked map with keyed references are presented.

The list is based on one by Dave Black and Al Long and was compiled with help from Gary Bocarde, Mike Graber, Roy Kligfield, Bob McDougall, Ed Newville, Hiroshi Oda, Steve Pollock, Royal Robbins, Peter Sennhauser and George Schunk. This list corrects several errors and records all known ascents. For example, the spelling of “Gnomon Spire” is corrected from that in reference 43. Though USGS topo map Talkeetna B-6 identifies a Cul-De-Sac Glacier, this is better known as “Cool Sac.” Vulgarian Peak was not identified correctly on its original ascent, and the second ascent of Sunrise Spire was reported as a first ascent. Riesenstein was initially labelled “Dark Tower.”

A question exists about the customary name to be applied to the area. Because of the plethora of mountaineering place names involving “cathedral” it is urged that the area be generally referred to as the “Kichatna Spires,” recognizing that to be strictly accurate one should say “Cathedral Spires of the Kichatna Mountains.”

An attempt has been made to provide an overall rating for each climb, based on the overall grade used in the YDS and NCCS. Because the weather in the area is so poor, one of the main difficulties is simply surviving. Risk is primarily contributed to by the increasing chance of error from fatigue on an extended climb. Thus the relative ratings reflect

primarily the time required to do the route. Kichatna ratings are not necessarily exactly comparable to those of other areas, but are approximations to those in customary use.

No attempt will be made to review the history and characteristics of the area as several reviews have recently appeared. Suggestions, additions and corrections will however be gratefully received, and it is requested that future Kichatnas climbers continue to report their routes to avoid confusion.

ASCENTS IN THE KICHATNAS

Peak

Alt. Approach Glaciers

Route

Team

Year

Diff.

References





7270 Cool Sac Tatina

E face S ridge

DeMaria Geiser Hudson

1965

II

2



Sunrise Spire

c7900 Cool Sac Shelf

SE couloir ?

Bloom DeMaria Suhl

1965

II

2



Whiteout Spire

c7700 Cool Sac Tatina Sunshine

NW ridge from N

Geiser Hudson

1965

III

2



Vertex Peak

c7300 Shadows Trident

W couloir S ridge

Millikan D. Roberts

1966

III

3





c6500 Shadows Trident

N ridge from W

Johnston Meisler

1966

II

3



Kichatna Spire

8985 Shadows Cool Sac Sunshine

E couloir N ridge

Davidson Millikan

1966

V

3



Avalanche Prong

c6900 Shelf Shadows

W face

Johnston D. Roberts

1966

II

3



Rock Prong

c6500 Shadows

W face ?

Johnston Millikan D. Roberts

1966

I

3



Mt. Nevermore

c8100 Tatina Monolith

NE ridge

Fitschen Raymond Robbins

1969

III

5,6



Mt. Jeffers

c8000 Tatina Cool Sac

S ridge from W

Fitschen Raymond Robbins

1969

IV

5,6



Sasquatch

8303 Monolith Sunshine

S face from W

Fitschen Raymond Robbins

1969

IV

5,6



Gurney Peak

c8400 Shadows Trident Caldwell Sunshine

N buttress

Ferche Fredrickson Katra

1972

IV

8



Citadel

8520 Shadows Shelf Cool Sac

N face N ridge

Ferche Fredrickson Katra

1972

IV

8



Peggy’s Peak

7133 Tatina Cool Sac

S ridge from W

Black Graber

1975

II

11



Tatina Spire

c8200 Tatina

SE face

Aprin Black Graber

1975

VI

11



Sasquatch

8303 Monolith Sunshine

W face

Aprin Black Graber

1975

VI

11



Poliak Spire

c7500 Tatina

NE couloir

Bocarde Denkewalter Sennhauser

1975

II

10, 13



Three-O-Spire

6760 Tatina

E face

Crawford Hostetler

1975

II

10, 13



Mt. Neveragain

c7900 Tatina

SE couloir

Bocarde Crawford Hostetler

1975

II

10, 13



Whiteout Spire

c7700 Tatina Cool Sac Sunshine

NW ridge

Bocarde Denkewalter

1975

II

10, 13



Middle Triple Peak

8835 Monolith Sunshine

W face

McLean Porter

1976

VI

14



Citadel

8520 Shadows Shelf Cool Sac

E buttress

Black Embick Graber Long

1976

VI

15, 17



Middle Triple Peak

8835 Sunshine Monolith

N ridge from E

Black Embick Graber Long

1976

V

9,15,17



Buff Spire

6885 Sunshine

S face

Black

1976

III

15,17



Archdeacon Peak

C7300 Shadows Trident

E face

Rieder J. Roberts

1976

V





Lewis Peak

c7800 Sunshine Caldwell

NW face

Rieder J. Roberts

1976

VI

12



Archdeacon Peak

c7300 Trident Shadows

W face S ridge

Coates Robbins

1976

III





Middle Triple Peak

8835 Sunshine Monolith

E buttress

Embick Graber Long Schunk

1977

V

16,19,32



Flattop Peak

c8400 Tatina Monolith

NE face N ridge

Graber Long Schunk

1977

II

16,19



Augustin Peak

c8600 Trident Getaway

W face to N ridge

Graber Long Schunk

1977

V

16,19



Miranda Peak

7370 Trident Scorpion

E ridge from S

Graber Long Schunk

1977

II

16,19





6847 Shadows Shelf

SE couloir

Beachamp Newren

1977

II







c6500 Shadows Trident

N ridge from W

Beauchamp Bridgers Roybal

1978

II





Steeple Spire

c6600 Shadows Trident

NW ridge

Beauchamp Bridgers Roybal

1978

III





North Triple Peak

c8400 Tatina Sunshine Monolith

NW couloir

Ellsworth Sennhauser

1978

IV

27



Riesenstein

c8000 Cool Sac Shelf

W face

Kearney Newville Thomas

1978

VI

26,33



Citadel

8520 Cool Sac Shelf Shadows

W ridge

Kearney Thomas

1978

IV

26,33



Steeple Spire

c6600 Shadows Trident

NW ridge

Bartlett Black

1978

III

29



Mt. Jeffers

c8000 Cool Sac Tatina

E face

Becker Embick Milne Tuthill

1978

VI

20,23,25



Sunrise Spire

c7900 Cool Sac Shelf

NW couloir

Embick/Tuthill + Becker/Milne

1978

IV

20,23,25



Cemetery Spire

c7600 Cool Sac Shelf

N ridge

Becker Embick Milne Tuthill

1978

IV

20,23,25



Bastion

7475 Cool Sac Shelf

S ridge

Becker Tuthill

1978

III

20,23,25



Rook

c7400 Cool Sac Shelf

N ridge

Becker Tuthill

1978

III

20,23,25



Transition Peak

6337 Cool Sac Tatina

SE face

Milne

1978

II

20,23,25



Skuzerian Peak

c6700 Cool Sac Shelf

W face S ridge

Becker

1978

II

20,23,25



Peggy’s Peak

7133 Cool Sac Tatina

E face

Becker Milne

1978

III

20,23,25



Grendel Spire

c8000 Trident Caldwell Getaway

NW couloir N ridge

A. Mannix C. Mannix Newville

1978

V

28



Mt. John Bryan

c6900 Shadows Trident

SW ridge

Arts Flavelle Mitten

1978

II

24,30



Potlatch Peak

c6600 Shadows Trident

SW ridge

Arts Flavelle Mitten

1979

II

24,30





c7200 Shadows Cool Sac

E face

Flavelle Mitten

1979

I

24,30





7270 Tatina Cool Sac

W buttress

McDougall Pollock

1979

IV

22,39



Yahlto Peak

7295 Sunshine

N ridge from E

McDougall Pollock

1979

IV

22,39



Buff Spire

6895 Sunshine

SE ridge

McDougall Pollock

1979

IV

22,39



Poliak Spire

c7500 Tatina

E buttress

Hara Oda

1979

IV

35,40



Kichatna Spire

8985 Cool Sac Sunshine Shadows

NW face

Bridwell Embick

1980

VI

21,36,37,38



Ptarmigan Spire

c7700 Cool Sac Shelf

S couloir E ridge

Bridwell Embick

1980

III

37



Serendipity Spire

c6800 Tatina Cool Sac

NW couloir N ridge

Embick Long

1980

I

42,46



Vulgarian Peak

7785 Tatina Sunshine

W face

Embick Long

1980

II

42,46



Mt. Jeffers

c8000 Tatina Cool Sac

W face

Cerf Schunk

1980

VI

42,46



Serenity Spire

c7500 Tatina

E face

Embick Long

1980

IV

42,46



Plum Spire

c7300 Tatina

E couloir

Cerf Long

1980

III

42,46



Trinity Spire

c7500 Tatina

E face

Embick Schunk

1980

V

42,46



Nightwind Spire

c8300 Tatina Sunshine Monolith

NW couloir

Cerf Long

1980

IV

42,46



Gnomon Spire

c8500 Cool Sac Sunshine 7200 Trident

NW couloir

McDougall Swedin

1980

V

43,45







NE face

Beilstein Woolums

1981

IV

47



Mt. John Bryan

c6900 Trident, Shadows

SE face

Beilstein Woolums

1981

IV

47



REFERENCES

1. “Riesenstein” hoax, Summit June 1962

2. “Ascents in the Cathedral Spires, Alaska”, A. DeMaria & P. Geiser. AAJ 1966, p 25-29

3. “Kichatna Spire”, D. Roberts & R. Millikan, AAJ 1967, p 272-278

*4 “Challenges in the Cathedral Spires”, D. Roberts, Summit June 1968, p 8-25

5. “Californians in Alaska”, R. Robbins, AAJ 1970, p 58-62

6. “Up Against the Walls”, J. Fitschen, Ascent 1970, p 2-11

7. “Cathedral Spires”, D. Roberts, AAJ 1971, p 328-329

8. “Gurney Peak and P 8520, Kichatna Mountains”, W. Katra, AAJ 1973, p 408-409

9. “Middle Triple Peak, Kichatna Mountains, Attempt”, A. DeMaria, AAJ 1973, p 409

10. “Cathedral Spires 1975”, G. Bocarde, Climbing #34 Jan-Feb 1976, p 28-29

11. “Ascents in the Cathedral Spires”, M. Graber, AAJ 1976, p 304-307

12. “Fakin’ It”, J. Roberts, Climbing #39 Nov-Dee 1976, p 16-19

13. “Kichatna Spires”, G. Bocarde, AAJ 1976, p 435

14. “Middle Triple Peak”, R. McLean, AAJ 1977, p 103-105

15. “A Trip to the Kichatnas”, A. Long, AAJ 1977, p 106-113

16. note, Climbing #44 Sept-Oct 1977, p 4

17. “Fear and Trembling in the Kichatnas”, A. Embick, Climbing #40, Jan-Feb 1977, p 6-14

18. note, New Mexico Climber, Fall 1977, p 2

19. “A Return to the Kichatnas”, A. Embick & A. Long, AAJ 1978, p 370-380

20. note, Climbing #51, Nov-Dee 1978, p 2-3

21. “Knife Edge In The Sky, Kichatna Spire’s Northwest Face”, A. Embick, Climbing #57, Nov-Dee 1979, p 10-15

22. note, Climbing #56, Sept-Oct 1979, p 3

23. note, Mountain #66, Mar-Apr 1979, p 12

24. “The Kichatnas”, Scott Flavelle, CAJ 1979, p 110

25. “Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains”, A. Embick, AAJ 1979, p 168-171

26. “Citadel W Face, Riesenstein W Face and Kichatna Spire Attempt”, A. Kearney, AAJ 1979, p 171

27. “North Triple Peak, Northwest Face, Kichatna Mountains”, R. Ellsworth, AAJ 1979, p 167

28. “P 8000 (‘Grendel’)”, E. Newville, AAJ 1979, p 171-173

29. “Steeple Spire”, D. Black, AAJ 1979, p 173

30. “Three First Ascents”, R. Mitten, AAJ 1979, p 173-174

*28 “A Slightly Slanted History of Climbing in The Kichatnas”, A. Long, Harvard Mountaineering 1979, p 9-20

29“Middle Triple Peak East Buttress” in Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, ed. S. Roper & A. Steck, Sierra Club Books, 1979 p 42-47

*30 “Kichatna”, A. Kearney, Mountain #69. Oct 1979, p 24-29

31 “Cathedral Spires, Mountains to Marvel At”, M. Wright, Alaska Magazine, Sept 1979, p 50-53

32“Kichatna Mountains”, Hiroshi Oda, The Iwa to Yuki #73, April 1980, p 90-95

33. note, Mountain #71, Jan-Feb 1980, p 16

34 “Northwest Face of Kichatna Spire”, J. Bridwell & A. Embick, AAJ 1980, p 473-480

35“Kichatna Spire Nordwestwand”, German translation of above article by E. Hass, Alpinismus Sept 1980, p 53-57

36 “Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains”, S. Pollock, AAJ 1980, p 527-528

37 “Poliak Spire, Cathedral Spires, Kichatna Mountains”, AAJ 1980 p 528

*38“Eighteen Years After the Riesenstein Hoax, A History of the Cathedral Spires”, M. Graber, Ascent 1980, p 27-56

39 note, Climbing #64, Jan-Feb 1981, p 3-4

40. note, Climbing #68, Mar-Apr 1981, p 3

41 “Bird Lives”, interview of J. Bridwell by J. Long, Mountain #79, May- Jun 1981, p 22-25

42 “Gnomon Spire”, R. McDougall, AAJ 1981, p 160-161

43 “Cathedral Spires”, G. Schunk, AAJ 1981, p 160-164

44 “Cathedral Spires”, Scott Woolums, AAJ, 1982.

* indicates review article

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