Mt. Foraker, Infinite Spur, Fast Ascent
Alaska, Denali National Park
Steve House and I climbed the Infinite Spur on June 9 and 10. We carried little in the way of gear, because we are lazy and could not be bothered carrying tents and sleeping bags. This allowed and forced us to move at a steady pace. Our speed was the result of such a lightweight approach but not the goal. We carried an MSR XGK stove, 33 ounces of fuel (used half), 40 GUs each, eight packages of soup, some Halvah (sesame seed paste), map, compass, altimeter, GPS, radio, an 8.8-mm rope, six screws, five cams, stoppers, slings, biners, a tarp for emergency and wind shelter, and Polarguard parkas. We each carried a small daypack.
I led the first block, which was 10 pitches of rock to 5.6/5.7 and easy mixed climbing. Steve led the second block, mostly steep snow and moderate ice, with one short WI5 pitch. By simul-climbing we climbed the spur in six “pitches,” though one “pitch” gained 900 vertical feet. We reached the end of the spur (at ca 15,000') after 13 hours of climbing. We spent 3 hours and 45 minutes at a flat spot drinking and eating. Then I led three more pitches on moderate ice. We continued roped for a while, then unroped below the east summit and climbed on to the top, stopping just before the summit for a hot drink. We summited at 8:15 a.m., 25 hours after starting.
We descended the Sultana Ridge, which took an additional 20 hours, including one more brew/hydration break, to return to Kahiltna base camp.
The route proved to be easier than we expected and involved much snow climbing, something I get bad allergies from. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the climb, mostly because of scenery beyond belief. The descent of the Sultana provided some of the prettiest views. Another pair started on the Spur the same day we did, but there were no other parties on the mountain, which made the experience richer and more special (even more so when compared to the Denali cattle drives). However, our approach was rather unromantic, in that with our lack of equipment we could not spare the time to contemplate our surroundings. Our experience was thus not as textured or rich as it might have been. This was the price we paid for the ease with which we managed to climb.
Rolando Garibotti, AAC, Club Andino Bariloche