American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, McKinley, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

McKinley, New Routes. Our original intention was to climb the Cassin Ridge, but that was overrun with climbers and we found a ridge, which had only been descended but not ascended before. (See above.) Southwest of Windy Comer, it runs over P 12,960 and P 13,300. Our group was made up of Mike Kurth, Timo Saukko, Mario Bilodeau, Peter Mattsson and me. We flew to the Kahiltna Glacier on May 15, carried loads and arrived on the 20th at the 14,000-foot West Buttress Camp, where we acclimatized for three days. On May 23, we descended to our 8000-foot cache on the Kahiltna. Seen from there, our route is the logical route to Windy Comer for climbers looking for more than the slog to 14,000 feet. On May 24, we ascended the northeast fork of the Kahiltna to camp at 9000 feet at the foot of the ridge, below what we called “Canada Couloir.” This steeper approach looked more interesting and faster than the broken-up bottom section of the ridge. Day Two was an early one to beat the daytime heat and mush in the couloir and on the ridge. The 50° couloir exits on rock just above the broken section on the ridge and is direct and safe from everything but rockfall. It is about 12 pitches long. Once on the ridge, which had some interesting crevasses, we slogged up to camp at 10,900 feet. Day Three was nine hours of great, knife-edged climbing to camp in the col between P 13,300 and P 13,350. It is mixed rock and corniced ridge to P 12,960 and then a steep snow slog to P 13,300. Day Four was short but very breezy. The top section of this ridge is narrow and corniced until the descent to Windy Comer. After a rest day, on May 29 we went for two new routes on the face to the south (right) of Thunder Ridge. Mattsson and Saukko climbed the first half of the beautiful 1980 West Buttress Direct and finished the top half by taking the right branch of the couloir instead of going left, a fitting conclusion to 25 pitches of very hard ice. Bilodeau, Kurth and I were looking for rock. We climbed the prominent rock pillar to the right of the center of the face. The bottom half had 11 pitches of 5.8 rock while the top half was mixed snow and rock. We hit the 1982 West Buttress Direct four pitches below the top of the West Buttress. We all traversed the buttress and descended to the 14,000-foot camp. After two storm days, we all climbed to the summit of Denali via the top half of the West Rib.

Ross Clouthier, Alpine Club of Canada

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