American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Fairweather Range, Northern, Various First Ascents and Descents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Northern Fairweather Range, Various First Ascents and Descents. On April 18, our group of seven climbers and skiers (Jim Earl, Tiffany Scrymgeour, Chris Erickson, Anne Sherwood, Brendan Cusick, Chris Trimble and Hjoerdis Rickert) were flown from Yakutat to our Base Camp in the northern Fairweather Range. This was located about 12 miles north and very slightly west of Mt. Fairweather itself, at 8,000 feet on a small side lobe of the glacier that runs north from Mt. Watson toward Mt. Lodge. (This glacier eventually becomes the Grand Pacific Glacier). Immediately after setting up BC, Brendan Cussick and I headed up to climb the ice face to the saddle between Peak 10,620' and Peak 10,891'. This climb was always between 60° and 75° and always icy—a classic alpine calf pumper (IV 75°, 2,800'). We reached BC the next morning at 7 a.m. after a night of rappeling, downclimbing, and postholing around the backside of Peak 10,620'.

Two days later, Tiffany Scrymgeour and Hjoerdis Rickert made the first ascent of “Cerro Solo” (Peak 9,400'+, II low fifth class). The same day, Chris Trimble and I climbed the north face of “Mt. Dan Fox” (Peak 10,891', III 80° 5.4), which is one and a half miles immediately south of Cerro Solo. We named the peak after Dan Fox, a counselor and climber who died of lung cancer in Missoula, MT, two years ago.

Several days after this, Brendan, Tiffany, Hjoerdis and I climbed the east buttress of Point 10,397', which is a sub-peak of Peak 10,755' one mile to the northwest. This climb involved 1,600 feet of climbing on 5.6 rock, iced-up corners, and 60-degree snow. The same day, Chris Trimble, Kris Erickson and Anne Sherwood climbed, then skied and snowboarded the south face of Cerro Solo. Following this, the weather changed and it dumped six feet of snow on our camp.

Kris, Anne, Brendan and Chris did a variety of other serious ski, snowboard and telemark descents, including lines on the south face of Little Debbie (Peak 10,590') and the 60-degree southeast face of “Ski Peak” (Peak 9,200'+, located half a mile west-southwest of Cerro Solo), of which Kris, Chris and Brendan made the first ascent.

Everyone except Chris Trimble and myself left on April 30. The two of us remained, waited out several days of bad weather and approached the north face of Mt. Watson (12,500'). We began climbing this face at 4 a.m., reaching the north ridge after 12 hours on ice and snow up to 80 degrees. The summit ridge, about one kilometer long, was not straightforward: it involved 1,000 feet of 75-degree traversing on the knife-edge ridge. We summitted just before dark and scurried down the East Ridge (line of original ascent by Walter Gove and party in 1974). After one rappel on a rocky part of the ridge past a serac barrier, we stopped and brewed up some hot liquids. In an hour, it was light enough and we were rested enough to continue descending across the plateau just east of Mt. Watson, then back west to our camp at the base of the mountain by mid-morning. We each suffered slight frostbite on our toes from the cold temperatures, which we estimate to have been -15°F. It was the first ascent of the North Face and Ridge (V 80° 5.7, 4,500').

Jim Earl, unaffiliated

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