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Peak 9,650, Ice Schooner, New Route, and Various Activity

On May 18, Rob Jones and his Super Cub deposited Fred Beckey, Ryan Hokanson, and I among the many other erratics on a small glacier in the Revelation Mountains, at the southwestern end of the Alaska Range. With good weather and perfect snow conditions, we excitedly moved camp to the base of our main objective, the northwest buttress of Peak 9,650'. Beckey had dubbed this peak the “Ice Schooner” during his first visit to the area in 1982.

The weather promptly deteriorated and with it went the snow conditions and our morale. In spite of this, Ryan and I remained optimistic. During one clear spell, we made a scouting mission and climbed the North Ridge of Goose Peak (a.k.a. Peak 8,215'; see AAJ 1996, p. 179).

More snow and bad attitudes followed, but patience, perseverance, and the time to use them prevailed. Finally it dawned clear and we headed for our primary objective. Ryan and I postholed up the initial 2,000-foot couloir thinking that conditions would be better on the ridge crest. Wrong. We continued to the summit via a snow trench, utilizing running pro where surface instability and lots of exposure made us especially nervous. This was the second ascent of Peak 9,650' (see AAJ 1982, p. 138) and the first ascent of what we dubbed the Ice Schooner route. Consisting of very aesthetic snow and ice climbing up to 50 degrees in a remote and beautiful location, it is a fine example of Fred Beckey’s enduring appreciation for the beauty of mountains and the act of climbing them.

This appreciation, however, does not necessarily extend to the people who climb mountains. When Ryan and I returned from the Ice Schooner, we found that Fred had gathered his personal belongings and abandoned ship, seemingly unconcerned with the fate of his teammates. Now, weary and with more weather on the way, we had to wonder about Fred’s fate, off alone without a tent or a stove. This situation soon resolved itself, when Fred came wandering back into camp mumbling about poor weather and sore feet.

The remainder of our stay in the Revelations was characterized by more bad weather. We scouted objectives, but bouldering on glacial erratics and a bit of skiing seemed the only reasonable options. Unfortunately, Ryan sustained a sore knee while ascending one of our local erratics.

By the day before our appointed pick up, I had had enough inactivity. The south ridge of Peak 8,472' appeared to be mostly moderate scree, an appropriate objective given the circumstances. I followed the ridge to the summit and back in poor visibility. A few hours later, Ryan and I were hanging out in camp watching the skies clear, and made radio contact with our pilot flying overhead. At this point, departure was our main objective. The weather looked great, and he would be back to get us at 8 a.m. Great news! Not only did it look like we would get out of there, but I had time to try another climb. I felt terrible leaving Ryan in camp with a sore knee, but I couldn’t possibly carry him. That night I plowed my way up the beautiful north ridge of Peak 9,076' by what was likely a new route. It was one of those Alaskan all-night sunset/sunrise spectaculars, with Denali and the rest of the Alaska Range spread out between me and eternity.

Kirby Spangler