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North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Mt. Huntington, East Face

Mt. Huntington, East Face. Paul Roderick of TAT dropped off Alex Lowe and me on the West

Fork of the Ruth Glacier under perfect skies. A high pressure had settled into the Alaska Range, and we were psyched to take full advantage of it. We unloaded the plane at noon on May 12, left our base camp gear in the haul bag and immediately started climbing. Our objective was to climb the East Face, which was done in 1983 (Kimbrough-Tuckey), but to try and finish via the large rock buttress guarding the top. Alex had tried this route with Steve Swenson a few years prior but got hit with a rather prolonged storm that made retreat from the Rooster Comb Col quite terrifying.

We climbed up and over the Rooster Comb Col. Ankle-deep snow with a firm base and some easy-angled ice made climbing quick and enjoyable. Within four hours, we set up our first camp on a shelf directly across from the East Face (which looked awesome). The next day, we climbed the 1983 route, which consisted of long snow ramps with rock bands and ice steps. It was a beautiful line. We veered off the ’83 route near the base of the buttress and set up our first camp at 10,030 feet. The following day, the 14th, I led up the buttress. The first pitch was mixed climbing up a granite comer that steepened to a 5.10 hand crack for pitch 2. I couldn’t believe our luck: no gloves, no loose rock and climbing in rock shoes. Unfortunately, after a few more rock pitches we got shut down. I tried in vain to push up through a comer system that ended in a blank slab with overhanging snow. Alex tried too, but had no luck. This was the obvious way to go, as there was no other weakness that we could find. So we admitted defeat with the buttress, rappelled down and set up camp.

Once again we awoke to perfect skies and took off to finish the East Face via the ’83 route. The climbing on the upper part of the route was stellar. The rock steps, serac band and ice runnels reminded me of the clean, beautiful climbing on the Cassin. The last pitch was an overhanging, loose, ice/snow step that capped off the summit ice serac. Alex led this surprise crux fluidly and quickly. We summitted by 1 p.m. and then started down the west face. Downclimbing the upper face with the aid of a photo, we were able to find the top of the Nettle-Quirk Route, which we then rappelled. At the bottom of the route, just like clockwork, Paul zoomed overhead in the Cessna 185, checking up on us. At 8:30 p.m., we were on the Tokasitna, and Paul landed shortly thereafter to pick us up. We shuttled over to our still- packed base camp, threw it all in the plane, cracked open the celebratory Foster’s Oil Cans and flew back home. Two nights on the mountain, a summit and traverse on the most beautiful 12,000-foot peak in the world. It was our last climb together, and one of my best. Thank you, Alex.

Doug Chabot