North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hunter, North Face Attempt, and West Kahiltna Peak, Southwest Buttress

Publication Year: 1984.

Mount Hunter, North Face Attempt, and West Kahiltna Peak, Southwest Buttress. Ned Lewis and I made an attempt to climb the Lowe-Kennedy route on Hunter (A.A.J., 1978, pages 344-352) in early June. We hoped to make a quick alpine ascent and descend via the same route. We encountered waist-deep snow on the lower sections and as we climbed higher, the conditions became worse. It was turning out to be more of a swim than a climb. We bivouacked a few hundred feet below the Triangle and agreed that our progress was too slow and the conditions too dangerous to continue. We then climbed West Kahiltna Peak (3912 meters, 12,835 feet) via a new route up the southwest buttress. After sitting out a day in a typical wind storm on the Kahiltna Glacier, we skied the next day to the southwest buttress. Six-and-a-half hours through the precarious icefall that guards the buttress brought us to a col on the south ridge. There we dug a snow cave and bivouacked for the night. The next morning brought us face to face with the crux of the climb, the rock band below the summit ridge. From that point we followed the previously climbed south-ridge route, which ascends the right side of the rock band. Ned led seven pitches through the 60° to 70° rock and ice. Once on the summit ridge, we found that the peak did not let up on her defenses. Hidden crevasses slowed our ascent. We painstakingly found most of them by probing the virgin snow before each step. Less than 100 feet from the summit, one crevasse took us by surprise when Ned took a 15-foot free fall into it. Luckily, with only a few scratches and bruises, he climbed out. We descended the summit ridge and climbed down the left side of the rock band, which took us almost as long as the ascent. After a short rest at the snow cave, we continued the descent through the icefall and back to camp. We were in the region from June 6 to 14.

Stacy Taniguchi