Mount Shand, West Face. Rick Studley, Ian MacRae and I convinced Paul Rodgers at Talkeetna Air Taxi to land us in a basin at the base of the west face of Mount Shand on April 1. Friends in Fairbanks had first named us the Dream Team, but once they got a whiff of our pre-trip stench they changed the name to Team Dirt. Considering I had pneumonia, Rick’s broken wrists and feet were still healing from a J-Tree fall, and Ian… Let’s just say that Team Dirt was a fitting title.
Our plan was to land at 8,900 feet, carry loads to the base of the southeast arête at 10,000 feet, and fix the route in two sections. After sitting out a storm for six days we headed up to the arête. Besides the fact that we didn’t have enough rope, there was no bivy site in between the two sections and it was too cold to climb 2,000 feet of rock. On a peak-bagging spree of ill repute we “climbed” Aurora Peak and Whales Tail from our 8,900-foot camp.
After more storm days, we dropped through an icefall down to 7,000 feet below the northwest rib of Shand. We were expecting a snow and ice climb but brought a few pins for kicks. The snow couloir we started up quickly became mixed and soon was pure rock. We climbed six pitches of crampons-off 5.6 granite till we topped out on the snow/ice rib proper. The rib cleanly split a face full of seracs. Easy snow and ice led us to a crevasse camp at around 9,000 feet. The next day was windy and cloudy. We moved anyway and found ourselves below the summit ridge in high winds after climbing 2,000 feet of snow and ice. Across the way we could see our friends Mike Litzow and Randy Waitman getting nailed by winds on the summit ridge of Mount Moffitt. We pushed on and soon found ourselves on the summit of Shand. Lots of downclimbing interspersed with five 100-foot raps brought us back to our camp. The next day we down-climbed to the top of the rock band and rappelled back to the glacier. After doing some more day climbs, falling 60 feet into a crevasse, and finishing our 10 books, our pick-up date came. Eight days later and 20 pounds lighter the weather got good enough for Paul to pick us up. Ian and Rick ate dabs of rotten cream cheese and hunks of putrid cabbage during the eight days of waiting. Me, I just chewed on my teeth crud.
Jeff apple Benowitz* unaffiliated
*Recipient of an AAC Mountaineering Fellowship grant.