American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Huntington, Winter Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

Huntington, Winter Attempt. On February 14, 1994, Dr. Robert O’Brien and I planned to be flown to the branch of the Tokositna Glacier beneath Huntington’s west face to attempt a winter ascent of the Nettle-Quirk route. During the fly-in, the pilot made a last-minute change for safety reasons and landed us six miles west, under Hunter. Right away, we were three or four days in debt. We hurried to shuttle loads, dig caves and place ourselves in a position to commit six days to the face. On the third day, we began our first carry to the foot of the ice ramp. Unfortunately, due to illness, we did not reach our projected high point and lost our last available day. Our radio could not reach the outside world to change our flight pickup date. Rather than take the risks of an alpine-style ascent, we opted then for the French (west) ridge and loaded our packs for four days. The snow ramps to the ridge crest were 45° to 50° with occasional ice pitches. The main difficulties were swimming through hip-deep snow over rock. On reaching the ridge crest, a 50-mph wind threatened to throw us off balance and freeze all exposed flesh. We dug in and fought to secure the tent. While placing the screws and pickets, I had sustained serious frostbite on my fingers. After a miserable, frigid night, we realized we had to get down. Bob descended first, and I followed on a short rope. He did a great job of down-climbing over convoluted fluting, leaving me to follow and remove sparse protection. We reached our skis and the snow cave by late afternoon. On eight fingers I had hideous blisters, which Dr. Bob managed to keep intact during the next days’ skiing to the cave under Hunter and to our pickup point.

David Mowrer

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