American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Marcus Baker, Chugach Mountains; Wrangell, Wrangell Mountains; and McKinley, Northwest Buttress

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

Marcus Baker, Chugach Mountains; Wrangell, Wrangell Mountains; and McKinley, Northwest Buttress. Todd Frankiewicz, Leo Americus and I completed a winter ascent of Marcus Baker (13,176 feet) on March 1. Though technically not difficult, it has rarely been ascended in winter. We skied up the Matanuska Glacier and set up a high camp at 10,500 feet. A terrible storm moved in. We went for the summit in a break in the storm and consequently ended up in terrible weather. We reached the summit in frigid conditions and quickly descended to the snow cave. Unfortunately Americus froze one toe quite badly. The three of us skied over a 9000-foot pass, dropped onto the Marcus Baker Glacier and skied that to the Knik Glacier and on into Palmer, completing an 80-mile trip. My next adventure was a traverse of the Wrangell Mountains from the confluence of the Sanford and Copper Rivers at the Glenn Highway to McCarthy at the toe of the Kennicott Glacier, a distance of 150 miles. Howell Powder, Alex Swiderski and I skied up the Sanford River to the west side of Mount Zanetti (13,009 feet) and camped at 9000 feet. From there, on April 12, we climbed to the summit up 30° to 40° hard packed snow and ice. This was good acclimatization for Mount Wrangell (14,164 feet). We gained the 13,000-foot plateau, dropped our gear and proceeded to the base of the south face at 13,200 feet. On a wonderfully sunny day, April 17, we chose a direct route through the wind-sculptured gargoyles hanging off the face in all directions. The last 200 feet of the climb was up a 50° ice gully. The Nebesna Glacier is gigantic! It took three days to ski from the Wrangell plateau to the base of Blackburn. Our route was from 8000 feet on the western end of the north face. In one long day we got past many crevasses to 13,000 feet. The following day, Alex and I battled our way through blowing snow to 14,500 feet, where the north-face line meets the north ridge but had to retreat because of the weather. We still had 50 miles to ski to reach McCarthy. In May, Tom Kelly, Howie Baer and I climbed the northwest buttress of McKinley. This wonderful route is rarely attempted partly because once Kahiltna Pass is reached at 10,000 feet, you have to drop 3000 feet to the Peters Glacier. It took us 27 days from the Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp and back. Kelly and I reached the summit of the North Peak on May 26. The better weather never came for our climb to the South Peak. According to the Park Service, our climb of the northwest buttress was only the fifth ascent.

John Bauman, Mountaineering Club of Alaska

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