American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Ice Climbing above Nabesna, Wrangell Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993

Ice Climbing above Nabesna, Wrangell Mountains. On April 2, Harry Hunt and I drove to the town of Nabesna, north of the Wrangell Mountains, to climb several frozen waterfalls we had scouted in January when we had snowshoed up canyons to check out possible routes. We had discovered several Grade III, IV and V climbs, but the weather on the earlier trip was too cold for ice climbing (-25° to -35° F). In April, the days were longer and the temperatures warmer (0° to -7° at night and up to 25° in the daytime). The canyons we climbed in did not get any sun. All the climbs were on hard, boilerplate ice, sometimes brittle and hollow. We arranged to stay in a log cabin in Nabesna, with a wood stove. We walked down a hard-packed snowmobile trail to the east side of White Mountain to look at three climbs. Our main objective was a two- tiered waterfall up in a narrow canyon a short hike from the cabin. It was about 200 feet high. The lower curtain was a 100-foot pitch of Grade III or IV ice depending on the line taken. This brought us to the crux: a 65-foot section of vertical ice with a couple of ledges 30 feet up. At the top of the last steep step were 40 feet of rambling Grade II or III ice below a snow gully. The ice in the crux was candlesticked, hollow and brittle. We rated the climb Grade V. Just to the right is a Grade III or IV ice curtain, which Harry led up the center and then on the right. On April 4, we drove back down the road to milepost 36.5. We had seen ice in a hidden canyon to the south. It was a hard two hours across the valley and up a narrow stream gorge to the climb on the right up the canyon. The lower part consisted of three 15- to 25-foot sections of Grade II or III ice. Then a snow slope took us to the base of a 40-foot-high, free-standing pillar, easier ice for 20 feet and another steep curtain of candlesticked ice. The lower pillar was about six feet wide and three feet thick. If you hit the ice with your tools, it produced a sickening hollow sound. The upper steep section was sustained vertical ice for 40 feet and fun to climb after the lower pillar (Grade V). There are at least ten climbs in the area that range from Grade II to V. More ice will probably be found but be harder to get to.

Danny W. Kost, Unaffiliated

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