American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Silverthrone, Winter Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

Silverthrone, Winter Ascent. On March 5, my father Jim Okonek of K2 Aviation flew my wife Diane, Ricardo Ernst and me to Kantishna. We skied to the Muldrow Glacier via McGonagall Pass and ascended the Brooks Glacier to the Silverthrone Col at 10,650 feet. Ricardo pulled moose steaks and smoked salmon from his heavy sled for us to dine on. Despite wind-scoured slopes, we never experienced the slightest breeze for the entire trip. On March 12, we followed the north ridge to the 13,220-foot (4029-meter) summit of Silverthrone. A thin, and in some places corniced, summit ridge added excitement to an otherwise easy climb. My Dad, returning to Talkeetna from the Ididarod Dog Sled Race, flew by as we neared the summit. The temperature was comfortable 0° F and it was calm and clear. Denali loomed so close it seemed we could touch it. On March 14, Diane and I walked up McGonagall Mountain under the full moon and northern lights. On March 16, the three of us ascended P 9240 from Gunsight Pass. This is the true beginning of Denali’s Pioneer Ridge and the point the Cairns expedition had reached in 1912. The next day we descended to the Peters Glacier, which we followed to its terminus and along the Muddy River. In August of 1986, the Peters Glacier began to surge and in a few months advanced several miles. The surface of the glacier is an imposing jumble of dirty séracs and crevasses. We returned to Kantishna on March 21.

Brian Okonek

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