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North America, United States, Alaska, St. Elias Mountains, Mt. Hawkins, First Ascent

Mt. Hawkins, First Ascent. In this modern world that we live in, true wilderness that has never seen the human foot is more and more uncommon. My family is privileged to live in the heart of one of the greatest wildernesses left in North America, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This park hosts three major mountain ranges and more peaks over 14,000 feet than anywhere else in North America. Combined with Kluane National Park in the Yukon, there are more than 23 million acres, most of it mountains. Not surprisingly, very few of the peaks have names.

On April 13, I was very honored to follow my 11-year old son, Jay, the last few steps to the summit of Mt. Hawkins, likely the last named unclimbed peak in the park. Mt. Hawkins lies on the same ridgeline and about ten miles to the east of Mt. Tom White in the western reaches of the Bagley Ice Field. Jay and I had made an attempt on the mountain in 1999, turning back due to poor conditions. This time the weather was perfect, the mountain was in good shape, and we had our good friend Ruedi Hornberger with us. We climbed light and fast from the 7,000-foot level, accessing the east ridge via a rib on the south face. Ruedi climbed unroped, and I roped with Jay, belaying him on about six pitches.

As we joined Jay on the summit, our altimeters read 10,900 feet. We enjoyed a round of Swiss tea and marveled at the incredible view of endless mountains in this untouched wilderness.

Paul Claus, Ultima Thule Outfitters