AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

North America, United States, Alaska, Coastal Range, Burkett Needle, Southeast Ridge

Burkett Needle, Southeast Ridge. Greg Collum, Greg Foweraker, and I helicoptered in from Petersburg to the Baird Glacier on the evening of May 3 and set up our basecamp. The next day we packed a load of gear to the foot of the Needle and began preparing the initial buttress with fixed rope. Over several days we established a spectacular high camp at a saddle below the tower and pushed our ropes to the top of the first buttress. This area presented some of the steepest and most difficult climbing on the route. Collum led the final pitch of this initial pillar, a spectacular A3+ crack system that overhung the entire route below. After a few days of R & R at basecamp we returned to our high camp on the evening of May 12. I picked up a stable weather forecast from the Coast Guard on our small radio and we filled our pockets with energy bars and loaded a couple of small packs with water and a spare jacket each, and by 5 a.m. on May 13, we were climbing our fixed ropes in the soft Alaskan dawn. We climbed fast, and soon elected to leave everything but some food and water at a ledge. Some high clouds were already moving in. Pitch after pitch of blocky ridge climbing with steep, 5.9 steps delivered us to the base of the final tower by noon. There was a halo around the sun, a sure sign that a storm was on the way. Long, steep free climbing pitches took us up a prominent corner system. Greg Foweraker led a difficult finger crack that broke out onto a quartzite ramp that cut to the left and surmounted the last steep rock. As I led up the summit ridge the lower peaks disappeared into a thick soup of clouds. We reached the summit at 5:30 p.m. It was the second ascent of the tower.

Snowflakes blew by sideways as we began rappelling down our route. By the time we reached our fixed ropes it was full conditions. We reached our tiny camp about 11 p.m., brewed up soup and tea, and slept a hard, dreamless sleep. The climb is rated V 5.10 A3+. The weather remained poor for the duration of the trip.

Dan Cauthorn, unaffiliated