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North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Hajdukovich, Delta Mountains, Alaska Range

Mount Hajdukovich, Delta Mountains, Alaska Range. Almost 22 years to the day of the first ascent, twin parties converged on the top of Mount Hajdukovich to achieve the second ascent of the north summit and the first of the slightly higher south peak (2926 meters, 9600 feet). We started on March 14 by flying out of Sawmill Creek east of Delta for a ski landing near the peak. However, weather separated the group into two climbing teams. The northern party of Stan and Carol Justice, Tad Fullerton and Franz Mueter began their ski approach from the woods at 2000 feet on the Little Gerstle River. The southern party of Ken Leary (married to a Hajdukovich descendant), the author and Hank, a 70-pound Siberian husky, started from 5500 feet on the Gerstle Glacier. We skied with sleds down a little icefall to the glacier confluence at 4000 feet. We cached skis and sled before heading east up a snow ramp paralleling the unnamed glacier that drains the south basin of Hajdukovich. We camped at 6580 feet alongside an icefall that avalanched the following morning. That day, March 16, we hurriedly curved through the basin’s crevassed ice-steps, cramponed up a rocky snow slope to the 8200-foot col and traversed over a steep dome to climb the south ridge onto the main summit. In extremely rare perfect weather, we had climbed a new route on the peak in five hours from camp. But already there, to our amazement, were Justice and his party, who had just ascended from camp at 6000 feet on the north side to repeat the first-ascent route to the north summit and had then traversed over the top of the impressive east face to make the main summit’s first ascent. That party descended its ascent route. We others retraced our steps, keeping Hank on the rope as “middleman.” His special canine harness saved him twice in crevasse falls. By late on March 18, we had descended back to the Gerstle Glacier and skied 25 miles out its valley to the nine-trestle Gerstle River Bridge of the Richardson Highway, meeting all kinds of skiing conditions. Justice’s group remained on the mountain on March 17 to climb a 40° snow-and- ice rib on the north face of Hajdukovich’s north peak. We were privileged to make these new climbs in the memory of a multi-talented native of Montenegro who had come into the country as a guide, trapper and pioneer more than 80 years ago. A Yugoslav flag unfurled on the summit went to the Hajdukovich family still in Fairbanks.

Philip S. Marshall