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North America, United States, Alaska, Ice Climbs Near Valdez

Ice Climbs Near Valdez. During the four-month 1980-1981 season, 33 more frozen waterfalls were newly climbed, bringing the total to 62 in the close vicinity of Valdez. Almost all of these are roadside climbs. During December, cold temperatures and little snow permitted climbing several frozen watercourses of character between very steep creeks and low-angle falls. Located only a few feet from the sea and a few blocks from the center of town are Tidal Wave (II, 850 feet), Crooked Creek (III, 800 feet) and Ice Worm (III, 1100 feet). A new area was pioneered at Nineteen-Mile on the Richardson Highway, yielding Oosik (IV, 300 feet), Matinee (IV, 250 feet) and Seventh Heaven (IV, 250 feet). The last climb, a brittle ribbon of ice in the back of a shallow chimney, saw a member of the first-ascent party fall when both tools popped out simultaneously, but then catch himself by a reflexic stemming move. Later in the season standards began to rise with ascents of Flying Cloud (V+, 320 feet) by Andrew Embick and Bill Lorch of Valdez, and of Marginal Desperation (VI–, 220 feet) by Carl Tobin of Fairbanks and Dana Hollister of Phoenix. The first climb is a thin and discontinuous hanging sheet, and the second a free-hanging icicle about two feet in diameter. Aid from a Terrordactyl pounded into the rock was required on the latter. Both are in Keystone Canyon. Wet suits were used on an initial attempt of the extreme Wowie Zowie in the Mineral Creek Canyon, because of wet conditions. Difficulty still compelled a retreat, via multiple free rappels from bollards. A later try in March was successful despite friable, overhanging and very poorly protectable ice, without let-up for a hundred feet at a time. The route, pictured on page eighteen of Climbing 63 as “unclimbed”, was 420 feet and rated VI by Carl Tobin and me.

Andrew Embick, M.D.