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North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mt. Hunter, South Face, Variation

Mt. Hunter, South Face, Variation. On June 11, Jack Tackle and I flew into the Thunder Glacier (6,800') below the south face of Mt. Hunter. Our objective was a face at the end of the cirque, but due to the steady stream of serac fall scraping our intended route, we decided to put our efforts elsewhere. We saw a line up the south face that would intersect the Southwest Ridge (Kearney, 1979) and decided to try this instead. For the next six nights we waited for freezing temperatures to make travel safer and faster. On the early morning of the June 17, we started up. Unbeknownst to us, a part of the route we were attempting had been climbed in 1989 by Preston and Ruddle and named Eroica.

The route started up-glacier at an obvious ice couloir below some relatively stable seracs. Jack and I simulclimbed the ice for a few thousand feet up to where we intersected the 1989 route. We then continued up the long snow ramp system of Eroica that put us at the upper rock band on the face (11,500'). We chose a more direct line than the one done in 1989. We had enjoyable, moderately hard mixed climbing for eight pitches. At the end of these technical difficulties, we intersected the Southwest Ridge, where we set up the tent (12,150').

The next day, we attempted to reach the summit via Kearney’s route. Unfortunately, we were in a whiteout for most of the upper section, but did manage to climb to within 200 feet of the summit. We waited for quite some time for a small clearing to occur so we could see where we were, but when this failed to happen, we retreated.

On the 19th, we descended the Southwest Ridge. This ended up being quite complex and tedious. We did not have freezing conditions and found ourselves doing many more rappels than anticipated. We didn’t research the descent route much and wrongly assumed that it would be a cruise. It took us 28 rappels and all day to get back down to the glacier. The Southwest Couloir was just a constant stream of wet avalanches, which made us all the more thankful to get out of there. We named our variation Sound of Freedom after all the sonic booms we heard from the flyboys while we were climbing.

Doug Chabot