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North America, United States, Alaska, Chigmit Mountains, Reconnaissance

Chigmit Mountains, Reconnaissance. In late May 1983, Peter Reed and I travelled by float-plane to Lake Iliamna in search of good rock. We had heard from geologists that the nearby Chigmit Mountains possessed large quantities of granite which might be suitable for climbing. We camped on the shore of Knutson Bay in the northeast comer of the lake. From camp we could see the impressive 2000-foot south buttress of Knutson Peak and we left for the face with high hopes. Upon our arrival we were disappointed to find no vertical crack systems that would offer a natural line of ascent or places for protection. The rock itself was indeed granite but of a variety we had never seen before. Unlike the fine-grain granite common in the Sierra, the rock was large-grain made up of massive quartz crystals. The high quartz content of the rock made the composite very brittle, and early attempts in placing bolts proved fruitless. The rock, being covered with lichen, might provide excellent friction climbing but without protection and only after considerable gardening. We were able to salvage the trip by finding a miniature “Lost Arrow” at the west end of the buttress which was relatively clean and produced several pitches of good climbing at 5.7, A2. On the south side of Knutson Bay, we climbed an enjoyable outcropping which provided short free climbs in the 5.4 to 5.9 range.

Steve Davis