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North America, United States, Alaska, Foraker, Archangel Ridge

Foraker, Archangel Ridge. An eight-man British team sponsored by the Army Mountaineering Association made the second ascent of the Archangel Ridge of Foraker, which was first ascended by Gerry Roach and party in 1975. It rises up the east side of the north face for 11,000 feet in one continuous sweep. Since 1975, Denali National Park has tightened access restrictions; the use of horses is now prohibited. The logistics of getting eight men to Base Camp involved the use of Jim Okonek’s K2 Aviation and local dog-team drivers, twins Miki and Julie Collins. A landing strip was prepared on the Foraker River just outside the park and supplies were flown in. Miki and Julie moved them to the snout of the Foraker Glacier in March. The climbing team arrived in early April and spent 11 days following Miki’s and Julie’s trail from Lake Minchumina to Base Camp. Although we used skis, the going would have been almost impossible if we had not been following a prepared trail. Three camps were established at 8500, 12,000 and 14,000 feet. On April 26, Dave Peel and I reached the summit, both suffering minor frostbite. Upon our return to Camp III, we met the second summit team of Neil Brennan and Andy Gallagher. Peel and I descended to Camp II, whilst Brennan and Gallagher remained at Camp III. During the night, the weather broke with heavy snowfall making any subsequent summit attempt risky. All four of us descended the mountain in deteriorating conditions. Whilst crossing the spectacular “Angels’ Way” (a mile of knife-edged ridge), Gallagher took a terrifying 50-meter fall, fortunately escaping without injury. Our expedition medic strongly advised both Peel and me against skiing from the mountain. Although my frostbite injury appeared minor with one small blister on my big toe, the danger of refreezing and friction blisters on the march out was too great. We divided; five men skied to Wonder Lake and Peel, Gallagher and I were airlifted out.

Paul Edwards, Captain, Royal Marines