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North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Mount Huntington, West Face

Mount Huntington, West Face. At 6:30 p.m. on May 6, less than 24 hours after we left Colorado, Talkeetna Air Taxi deposited Dave Bangert and me on the Tokisitna Glacier below the west face of Mt. Huntington. It was bitterly cold. On May 8, we climbed about 2,500 feet of what has come to be known as the Nettle-Quirk route in ten hours. At the “Alcove,” where the Nettle-Quirk joins the Harvard Route, we brewed for two hours as the weather deteriorated, and it began to snow lightly but steadily. We carried only one sleeping bag, one bivy sack, one stove, and no tent. After some consternation, we descended.

Rappelling from the V-threads Dave established, we passed Steve House and his partner, who were climbing up with heavy sacks. Steve and his partner descended and flew out on May 10, along with a party that had climbed the Harvard Route in three days, while Dave and I had sat tent-bound mulling the efficacy of our “light and fast” tactics.

Left alone on the glacier, we decided to have another go. On May 12, we left the tents at 4 a.m. carrying a stove, three liters of water, two Friends, two pins, six ice screws, three Screamers, 15 free ’biners, and some snacks. We reached the bergschrund in 1:15, the beginning of the roped climbing on the ramp in 2:15 and the Alcove in six hours. Avoiding the loss of momentum suffered in stopping to brew, we reached the French Ridge at 9:08. The weather was perfect. Dave voted for the summit, some 200 vertical corniced feet higher. I opted to descend. We arrived at the tents five hours later.

Despite the postmodern diminution of the importance of reaching the summit, I regret not standing on top of Huntington. It would have been nice to see what lay on the other side.

Michael Gilbert