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North America, United States, Alaska, Fairweather Carpé Ridge

Fairweather, Carpé Ridge. On June 11, Mike Daniel and I reached the summit of Fairweather (4669 meters, 15,320 feet) via the Carpé Ridge, by which the first ascent was made in 1931 by Alan Carpé and Terris Moore. Although they described the route as a “moderate snow climb,” the conditions now are very different. The south side of the mountain gets much sun, which makes it unstable and subject to constant change. Our party also included Adam Rosenthal and Czech Stan Drdla. From Base Camp, set up on May 26 at 4500 feet a half mile from the base of our route, we saw a constant barrage of avalanches. We encountered mostly bare, broken rock up to 10,000 feet mixed with heavy crevassing and unstable snow slopes. At 5500 feet, the icefall was blocked by ice canyons, which we bypassed on May 30 by three 5th-class rock pitches to reach the snowfield below the start of the ridge. On May 31, we rigged a load-hauling system up this 350-foot section. The next day, while climbing in the icefall, we survived a massive avalanche which fell from the second hanging glacier. Drdla was carried 100 feet in it but continued the climb. On June 2, we set up Camp I in a protected 5900-foot site at the foot of the ridge. We then climbed 1100 feet of easy rock intermixed with steeper rock steps threatened by rockfall. Camp II and III were pitched at 7400 and 9300 feet on June 5 and 6. Above Camp III, the ridge rose steeply to the Ice Pyramid. It had been avalanched down to hard ice. The weather deteriorated at 11,300 feet and so we dug a snow cave, where we waited out a storm for 36 hours. On June 11, we climbed several steep snow arêtes and hard, steep ice slopes to just below the south shoulder at 13,800 feet. We climbed around two séracs on the shoulder and crossed the heavily crevassed ridge to the base of the Ice Nose. Rosenthal and Drdla descended since the former had developed symptoms of acute mountain sickness. From 14,300 feet, only Daniel and I continued, climbing four steep ice pitches up the Ice Nose. Twenty hours after leaving our bivouac cave, at eight P.M., we wove around wind-sculpted snow turrets onto the flat summit of Fairweather. We descended in four hours to the snow cave. It took several demanding days to descend, while we were threatened by rockfall from the lower hanging glacier and by potential avalanches from Camp III down to the icefall.

Paul Netzband