American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Foraker Talkeetna Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Foraker, Talkeetna Ridge. On May 3, Dave Auble and I left the Kahiltna Glacier to attempt the second ascent of Foraker’s Talkeetna Ridge, first climbed by Bertulis, Bleser, Baer, and Williamson in 1968 (A.A.J., 1969, pp. 289-294). Our approach took two days, and unfortunately required us to cross two passes before we could set a camp at the base of the ridge. The first three days of climbing were spectacular: the mixed terrain among the gendarmes on May 5 led to a 500-foot wall of beautiful granite (5.7) on the second day. This was followed by several pitches of steep blue ice before we reached Camp III, a level tent site at about 12,000 feet, and a pleasant change from the cramped bivouac ledges that served as Camps I and II. A storm pinned us down for three days beneath the serpentine “Peruvian Way.” Described by Bleser as “a thin suspension of ridge,” this part of the climb offered us the same hair-raising experience his party had endured eighteen years earlier. The ice climbing was difficult and disturbing at best, and it occupied us for the next two days. Our fifth camp was carved from the very crest of the ridge itself, where it ended abruptly at a steep granite headwall; a strenuous pitch up hard blue ice took us from there to the interminable upper slopes of the mountain. Horrific conditions forced us to camp a few hundred feet from the top on May 13, but the next day we headed across the summit in the still-raging gale. We followed vague compass bearings to the edge of the plateau in a whiteout, finally settling for the welcome shelter of a huge hanging sérac while the storm continued until May 16. Our descent of the south-southeast ridge was less than pleasant: we nipped off a few giant cornices, had a remarkably close call with an avalanche, lost another day to bad weather, and Dave suffered from seriously frostbitten feet and a broken tooth. The innumerable rappels only served to prolong the ordeal. However, fueled by a herculean effort on Dave’s part on the final day, we reached our Base Camp at last on May 19. With its 10,000 feet of vertical relief, varied and technical climbing, and spectacular positions, the Talkeetna Ridge receives our strong recommendation to anyone seeking a truly committing Alaskan outing.

Charles Townsend, Unaffiliated

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.