American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Mount Tittmann, St. Elias Mountains, 1991

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1993

Mount Tittmann, St. Elias Mountains, 1991. Mount Tittmann (3525 meters, 11,565 feet) was probably the second-highest, named, unclimbed mountain in Alaska. The few climbers who had seen it had considered it ominous and forbidding. It sits within seven miles of the Canadian border, just north of the Chitina Glacier and 30 miles northwest of Logan. It was named for O.H. Tittmann (1850-1938), a former International Boundary Commissioner and a leader of some of the early USGS boundary survey parties that explored the US- Canadian border. In the fall of 1990, I flew to a small landing strip near the Canadian border and hiked alone up the Ram Glacier to reconnoiter. During my first night at high camp, I got a foot of new snow. The second night saw three feet of snowfall. However, I did pick a possible route up the west face of Tittmann to where it joined the southwest ridge at about 10,500 feet. I hiked out in a rainstorm with avalanches roaring down both sides of the Ram Glacier canyon. In June, 1991, I guided a St. Elias Alpine Guides group of four to attempt the route. Our high camp was at 7800 feet near the base of the route. Steep snow and ice led to the bergschrund at 9300 feet. From there it was mainly 45° slopes steepening to 70° to under the huge cornice at the top of the face. We traversed left under the cornice and up over several séracs to reach a small basin under a rock tower at the ridge junction. Because of the weather, this was our high point at 10,500 feet. After the failure in June, Bruce Blatchley and I flew to the Ram Glacier landing strip at 2500 feet on July 28, 1991. It took two days to hike up the rock-covered Ram Glacier to high camp at 7800 feet. Despite doubtful weather, on the 31st we kicked steps to 8800 where the route steepens. At 5:30 A.M. on August 1, we started back up the route. From the end of the steps at 8800 feet, the snow was thigh-deep, wet, unstable snow. The final pitch under the cornice again involved tunneling through soft snow. Finally, at 1:30 P.M., we reached the basin below the rock tower and rested. At 3:30, I crossed the bergschrund under the tower on a snowbridge, which disappeared in a puff of snow. I fell only a few feet and did a back-flip out of the schrund. I had to find a new snow bridge. I picked a tricky ramp of hollow ice and crusty, layered snow to the left. The first fifty feet were on vertical ice and then the angle eased to 70°. I climbed to a corniced sérac with a curtain of icicles hanging from it. I broke off icicles to crawl upward, swung out over space, and eased my way around the comer, hanging on my ice tools with no protection. I climbed the final eighty feet to the cornice on crusty, loose snow and through it to the ridge crest. It took us five hours to reach the summit and return along the corniced ridge in a whiteout with high winds. The descent was tricky and we finally reached our high camp at 8:30 A.M. after a 27-hour summit day.

Danny Kost, Unaffiliated

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