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

Mount Hayes, East Face. In April, Tom Walter and I flew to the Alaska Range to try a new route on the unclimbed 6400-foot east face of Mount Hayes (4216 meters, 13,832 feet). The face consisted of 50% snow and 50% blue ice, much more of the latter than we expected. The angle varied from 45° to 65° with occasional steeper rock bands. We climbed roped but opted to ascend without placing protection for the sake of speed. Initially, we planned on climbing about 3500 feet to the major rock band that cuts across the face at 10,900 feet and bivouac on the rocks before finishing the remaining 2900 feet on the following day. Upon reaching the rock band, we were forced to continue due to the lack of a bivouac site. The blue ice ran directly into the steep rock band, eliminating any chance of carving a platform. By this time, the wind had picked up and the weather began to move in and so we pushed on hoping to find a more suitable bivouac site. The steepness and blankness of the face ultimately forced us to continue climbing into the dusk and finally to traverse off the face at 13,000 feet. We holed up in a snow cave that night and the following day while the storm raged outside. On the third day we climbed the 800 feet to the summit on the east ridge and then scurried back to the safety of our cave for the remainder of the day. The fourth day, we chose to descend the east ridge, battling 40- to 50-mph winds, in order to reach Base Camp below. Another three days of this continuous storm kept us buried in the snow cave there. When the weather finally broke, the Trident Glacier, moraine and surrounding tundra had been blown clear of snow, which made our three-day ski to the Black Rapids Roadhouse a true epic.

John Bauman