American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hayes, Southwest Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Mount Hayes, Southwest Face. After climbing the east ridge of Deborah, Carl Tobin and I hauled loads on top-heavy, overloaded sleds over a 9450-foot col and down onto the Susitna Glacier. We were able to dump half our loads on the lateral moraine of the Susitna in anticipation of our returning the same way eventually to float out to the highway on the Susitna River. The inflatable raft we had humped around the mountains for two weeks made a good marker for the dump as we headed for Mount Hayes. Our knowledge of the existing route on the west face of Hayes was sparse, but Carl remembered mention of an icefall and gully. It seemed certain that the previous ascent must have been near the icefall tumbling down the right side. Accordingly we decided on a rib line in the center of the face. Due to a storm, we got going only at two P.M. on May 23. Low technical difficulty at first enabled us to climb unroped and within three hours we were halfway up the face. With the steepening angle, our pace slowed and we were soon belaying. At one A.M. we had some vertical ice and then the cornice to dig through before emerging on the huge summit plateau. Erecting the small bivy tent was hell with the wind howling and the temperature at -30° C, but we were soon holed up in it and brewing. The next day, May 24, in a break in the storm, we rushed to the summit and back to our tent. Our plans for a long rest changed when the weather continued to improve. We reluctantly packed up at midnight and set off down the west ridge, a cold and miserable descent, but after a night and half a day of down-climbing and rappelling, Carl fell and I jumped over the bergschrund at the bottom of the ridge. All that remained were three desperate days of skiing out down the Susitna Glacier in a spring thaw and a 12-hour float down the river to civilization.

David Cheesmond

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