American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains, Mount Bona and P 11,920

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Mount Bona and PI1,920. On May 30, Paul Claus of Ultima Thule Outfitters landed Ruedi Homberger and Stefan Wyss of Switzerland and myself at approximately 10,300 feet on the upper Hawkins Glacier under the immense south face of Mount Bona (16,421'). We were exploring a route up Bona and possibly a route on the north ridge of University Peak (14,470'). We immediately skied up to 12,400 feet at the crest of the ridge that runs from the summit of Bona due south to P. 12,980 and University Peak. Just under the ridge crest, we were forced to remove skis and climb up a short steep section of snow and ice to get around a large bergschrund. We skied back down, set up camp and planned to make an early morning attempt on Bona.

I was having some trouble with the quick ascent to over 10,000 feet and decided against going higher immediately. Ruedi and Steffi left camp after midnight and skied back up to our previous high point, then continued up the ridge on skis to just below the summit cone, where they removed their skis and continued to the summit. They skied back down the ridge and were back in camp by 2:30 p.m.—a remarkable ascent, and I believe the second ascent of the south side of the mountain. The first ascent of this side of the mountain was in 1955 by the party that made the first ascent of University Peak and P. 12,980. This basin is ringed with hanging seracs and icefalls and is not recommended for everyone. The seracs are quite active and at least two per day would break off.

On June 1, we climbed P. 11,920 by skiing and climbing up to the col at 11,400 feet to the northeast of the summit, then following the ridge to the narrow corniced summit. A huge bergschrund of maybe 200 feet blocks a direct route up to the col and we were forced to go around this to the right, then traverse back across above the bergschrund to reach the col. We had to remove our skis for the steep, icy traverse and I was forced to chop steps for several hundred feet since we had left our crampons back in camp. While we made this traverse, a large serac broke off on the left-hand side of our route and several ice blocks rolled into our ascent path.

This peak offers a tremendous view of not only the Bona-University Peak basin, but the Twaharpies Basin to the west, and opening up to the Chugach Mountains and peaks of the Bagley Icefield to the south. The ridgeline to the north continues up to the plateau at over 14,000 feet between Aello Peak and Mount Bona. The exposure of over 6,000 feet to the Hawkins glacier to the south and west, combined with the cornices and snow mushrooms, made this climb to the summit more than worthwhile. For future visitors to this basin, this peak is highly recommended for the inspirational views from the summit.

Danny Kost

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