American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mt. Foraker, Infinite Spur Variation

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Mt. Foraker, Infinite Spur variation. The sun is setting, and the cold is creeping down the Kahiltna. It is May 16, and Eamonn Walsh and I have just been spit out of the last plane of the day at Kahiltna base camp. We stare up at the Moonflower Buttress of Mt. Hunter, which stands front-row center in this arena. The Moonflower will be first, then the Infinite Spur on Foraker. But failure on the Moonflower quickly teaches us about moving efficiently in Alaska, so we take a day of rest, then begin our long journey up the Infinite Spur. We have planned for a 10-day round trip. We climb the Spur despite nasty storms, deep snow, being caught in avalanches, heavy packs, and cold. We free the route without hauling our 55-pound packs. We suffer like we never imagined possible. We fly out spending less then three days in base camp.

We did a new variation on the Infinite Spur by staying on the rib proper. It may have been a bit slower but proved to be the best climbing on the route. Above the icy rib the route is blocked by a rock buttress. On the first and second ascents the teams skirted the buttress to the right on snow slopes but then encountered loose 5.9 rock. Last year’s third- and fourth-ascent teams avoided the bad rock by going left around the buttress but found snow and ice climbing that was unaesthetic and slow. We went up a gully that splits the buttress and offers three really good pitches up to AI4. Subsequent ascents this year went our way as well.

Above the buttress previous and subsequent parties have gone left on snow slopes to reach the base of the dreaded Horizontal Ridge. We went straight up the rib and had four more pitches of primo mixed climbing up to M5. Recommended.

Rob Owens, Canada

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