American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Middle Triple, Kichatna Spires, First Ascent by a Woman

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

Middle Triple, Kichatna Spires, First Ascent by a Woman. On July 12, Michele Morseth and I were flown to the Shadows Glacier of the Kichatna Mountains. We spent the first three days ferrying loads over a pass to the Sunshine Glacier. The next day, we relaxed and watched Michael Pennings and Jon Allen make the third ascent of the route. [See article earlier in this Journal.] On Day 6, we climbed four pitches, a beautiful 5.9 dihedral and some thin aid, and fixed four ropes. The following day was rest day in the rain as we prepared for a long day on the headwall. Planning on four to six days on the route, on Day 8 we were hauling up the lines when the third rope frayed through the entire sheath. Having already dropped our spare rope, we were forced to descend. This was a blessing in disguise as a storm began in earnest and continued for six days. On July 26, the rain eased and in the drizzle we climbed through the short night toward the snow-frosted ridge and upper pillar. Dawn brought a sunny day and the rock dried pitch by pitch. After thirty hours, we arrived at the top of the headwall and a tent site. Following twelve hours of rest, we headed up the ridge. Six pitches were mostly fourth-and easy fifth-class, notable exceptions being a 5.8 corner and an airy knife-edge, both led by Michele. At the end of twelve hours, we were at the second bivi ledge, a penthouse pocket of snow with a view of the entire Alaska Range. High pressure continued as we began our summit push on July 29. Free of loads, we climbed the final eight rock pitches over splendid alpine granite. These were continuous 200-foot pitches with an occasional 5.10 move, magnificent climbing with a view of Denali, Hunter and Foraker from each belay. Except for three points of aid to surmount the final roof, the final 14 pitches are of moderate free climbing. Michele and I spent five hours on the summit snowfield watching sunset turn into sunrise, napping and waiting for the snow to soften. We kicked steps nearly to the top of the summit cornice, which was too unconsolidated to go to its edge. At ten A.M., we reluctantly started down. One 200-foot and ten 100-foot rappels brought us back to the upper camp at noon on July 30. It was so beautiful on the 31st that we could not leave and spent the day taking photos and enjoying the bird’s-eye view. On August 1, we descended in the rain. Finding two of Embick’s (first-ascent team) anchors and two of Anker’s (second-ascent team), we made nine rappels from the lower camp to the glacier; four were of 200 feet and five of 100 feet. Pennings and Allen had rappelled down from the base of the pillar, bypassing the lower bivouac. It rained for two days more as we made carries back to the Shadows Glacier. On August 4, it cleared and we were flown out on schedule! We had made the fourth ascent of the route and Michele was the first woman to climb Middle Triple.

Joseph Reichert, National Outdoor Leadership School

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