American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, St. Elias Range, Kluane National Park Reserve, Mt. Kennedy, North Buttress, First Alpine-Style Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Mt. Kennedy, North Buttress, First Alpine-Style Ascent. The 6,000-foot North Buttress of Mt. Kennedy was an obviously orgasmic and well-known alpine-style objective in the St. Elias Range. The buttress had been climbed twice before (1968 and 1977) using siege tactics. Andy Cave and I started up the route in good weather on May 25. By the morning of the 28th, one meter of snow had fallen and we had been stationary, on a slightly elevated spur, for two days. It was disturbing to be trapped in one place for so long with such nasty avalanches roaring past on either side. Andy calmed his nerves with deep and meaningful reading whilst I contented myself with Harry Potter books, with which my daughter had complained I was not conversant.

The snow moderated on the 28th and we continued, reaching the obvious crux, two-thirds of the way up, on May 29. The first (siege) ascensionists had recorded some A3 pitches somewhere around here and their photographs showed distressingly steep blank walls. We linked up some intermittent ice streaks to the right of the sieged line, and directly below the upper crest, to gain prominent dolerite bands leading to the base of the summit icefield. We found this section challenging due to both the steep ground and the return of heavy snowfall. But the gods liked us, and from a bivy below the icefield we were able to reach the summit in perfect weather at 5 p.m. on May 30. We managed our first contact with Kurt Gloyer, our pilot, from the top and arranged to be picked up from the Cathedral Glacier (on the south side of Kennedy) the following afternoon. Fortunately, the pick-up went according to plan, and we were back in Yakutat that evening. In retrospect, we both found the experience very pleasurable.

Mick Fowler, United Kingdom

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