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North America, United States, Alaska, Little Switzerland, Royal Tower, East Buttress and The Throne

Royal Tower, East Buttress, and The Throne. In mid-June, 1994, Ned Lewis enticed me onto the Pica Glacier’s Royal Tower with a beautiful picture of a 1,500-foot unclimbed rock buttress rising out of a smooth glacier. We spent five days hand-drilling bolts at the belays to the first nine pitches—the only bolts we placed. Unknowingly, we were within three pitches of reaching the top before we decided to descend.

Back on the Pica Glacier in the last week of June, 1997, Doug Munoz and I unloaded our gear from the plane only to spot two climbers on the initial pitches of the route we had flown in to finish. Trying to make the best of it, we headed over to the southeast flank of the Throne, another spectacular Little Switzerland peak just across from the Royal Tower. We skied almost to the pass between the Throne and the Ogres to begin climbing a large tongue of rock. We found fun, steep, 5.10 climbing on rock steps between snow bands. There are endless route combinations and we saw evidence of previous ascents in some areas. By mid-day we were on the summit with an easy descent ahead. When we returned to camp, all we could see of the climbers from earlier that day was a fixed rope on the first pitch of our intended Royal Tower route.

The next morning, a short ski, a mild bergschrund and we were on Royal Tower granite. After a relatively comfortable night on the ledge at the top of pitch six, we saw two climbers quickly scaling the route below us. Throughout the day they continued to gain on us. Finally, Doug and I finished the rock route just a few pitches above them. On the way down we met Mark Price and Craig Short from Bellingham, WA. Two days earlier they had climbed the first few pitches of the route, spotted the bolts, then decided to hit virgin territory on the Throne while the weather was still good. After our quick introduction, Mark and Craig finished the rock route and continued onto the snow above, where they were turned back by scary snow conditions. Doug and I probably climbed eight hours the first day and took about 20 hours to finish the rock face and descend the second day. Mark and Craig made a round trip—including their snow summit attempt—in about 24 hours. Doug and I saw no evidence of previous passage beside the bolts Ned and I had placed. We called the route The Chase (IV 5.10 A2).

Kristian Sieling, unaffiliated