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North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Thunder Mountain (Peak 10,920'), South Face, Peak 11,200', South Face, and The Moose's Tooth, Southwest Face, Attempt

Thunder Mountain (Peak 10,920'), South Face, Peak 11,200', South Face, and The Moose’s Tooth, Southwest Face, Attempt. Jim Hall, Paul Ramsden and I flew into our base camp on the Tokositna Glacier below the south face of Thunder Mountain on May 5. We made five attempts on a line up the impressive Central (Lightning) Spur on the south face, climbing 1,000 feet of steep mixed and aid before the repeated bad weather forced us to look elsewhere. We turned our attention to the south face of the striking Peak 11,200' to the east of Thunder Mountain which we suspected was unclimbed. Carrying only day sacks, we crossed the bergschrund at 9 p.m. on May 18 and moved together most of the way up the face on moderate ice and mixed ground. We reached the alarmingly corniced summit at 6 a.m. on the 19th in a storm before rappelling and down-climbing straight down the south face. We made it back to our skis 18 hours after leaving them. At the time of writing, the virgin status of this peak remains unconfirmed despite discussions with the Denali park rangers. It has been suggested that the late John Waterman may have climbed the peak from its eastern col while en route for his first ascent of the South Ridge of Hunter. If this is not the case, then we have chosen to name the peak Mount Providence on account of a lucky escape with a stuck rope while rappelling.

After the ascent of Peak 11,200', we decided that the Central Couloir to the left of the Lightning Spur on Thunder’s south face might fall to another light-and-fast approach. With only a liter of drink and a handful of energy bars each, we left camp at 10 p.m. on May 24 and moved together up the initial snow slopes, turning the first serac in the huge gully on the left. Above, two large icicles hung for 50 feet from an overhang, forming a half pipe between them with the right-hand icicle ending six feet above the base of the couloir. The half pipe finally was surmounted by chimneying between the two icicles and finally swinging out onto the right-hand icicle and climbing it directly up above the overhang. We continued up in magnificent surroundings with huge blank granite walls towering on both sides of the narrow gully, belaying only for several steep Scottish-style sections. At 10 a.m. on the 25th, the sun began to touch the couloir and it was time to find somewhere to sit out the hottest part of the day. We cut a small ledge under a rock band and drank and dozed uncomfortably while the sun slowly traversed the sky. At 4 p.m., we continued up the crux top section of the couloir, which involved three steep and sustained ice and mixed pitches. The summit ridge was reached at 6 a.m. on May 26. The highest point was a section of cornice situated between two pinnacles on the summit ridge. Because none of us was keen to tread that particular point, we chose the west summit pinnacle which was nearest us. We descended the west ridge and rappelled a couloir on the side of the south face, finding good belays for the majority of the descent. The skis were reached 42 hours after leaving them. It had been a long “day” out. The route was christened Dream Sacrifice (Alaskan Grade 5, ED2, Scottish 6).

On June 4, Lewis and Ramsden attempted to repeat the new Donini-Crouch route of the previous week on the south face of the Moose’s Tooth. At 2 a.m., halfway up the icefall and with clear skies above, the temperature was still 7°C and running water poured down the granite walls all around. We turned back to camp to wait for it to get colder. It never did, and on June 5, feeling a bit jaded after 32 days on the ice, we called Paul Roderick and flew back to Talkeetna to start the trip home.

Nick Lewis, unaffiliated