American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Cathedral mountains, Various First Ascents

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

Cathedral Mountains, various first ascents. From June 28 to July 18 British climbers Lindsay Griffin, Geoff Hornby, Dave Wallis, and I visited the Cathedral Mountains, a small offshoot of peaks to the west of Mt. Russell. Heart Mountain is the main peak named on maps. The peaks are bordered by Cathedral Creek to the west, and it must be wondered if these were the original Cathedral Spires (the name now given to the Kichatna Spires). From a gravel airstrip and hunting lodge established by Clark Engle in the 1960s, a track led approximately five miles to an old trespass mine by the edge of Boulder Creek, about two miles north of the snout of the range’s main glacier. The mine site was used as a base by our team.

We made 18 probable new routes, including 15 probable first ascents of peaks. However, hunters and prospectors have been active in the area, and Heart Mountain has been named, so it is possible some of the peaks had seen unrecorded ascents. Names are provisional and altitudes very approximate. From the trespass mine (ca 3,300 feet), Heart Mountain and Point 6,765', farther along the ridge to the southeast, were climbed via the col between them. We climbed Point 6,765' twice. The second time we continued south on the ridge, over three crumbling rocky summits, Points 6,700', another 6,700', and 7,000', to reach Point 7,236'. We traversed Point 7,236' by ascending the north ridge and descending the south ridge to a col. From this col we traversed Point 7,400' from north to south. In a 14-hour push we climbed the northwest gully of Heart Mountain and traversed the ridge, first southeast, then south, for approximately three miles to Point 7,880', taking in eight summits. We climbed Point 6,805', which overlooks the Purkypile Mine to the north, from a snow basin to the east. From a glacier camp at 6,200 feet, about two miles up the main Boulder Glacier, we climbed Points 7,900' and 7,600' on the south bank of the glacier. We named Point 7,600' Mount Alyssa. The highest mountain of the region and the only one known to have had an ascent, Point 8,500', was climbed via a southeast-facing gully. We descended the line of the original ascent, the northwest ridge, to a col connecting the head of Cathedral Glacier with a high glacier basin on the north side of the mountain. From here Point 7,825' and two other peaks, 7,800' and 7,700', were gained by traversing a snow-and-rock ridge west. Despite a height of 7,825 feet assigned to the most northerly of these three peaks, the middle one appeared to be the highest. We reversed the ridge and followed it to its eastern end and the summit of Point 7,900'. A snow gully allowed a descent to the high glacier basin, which was crossed and the camp on Boulder Glacier gained. These peaks were climbed in an eight-hour push. The 1,000-foot south-facing rock pillar below the summit of Point 8,500' was climbed and the snow-and-rock ridge above followed to the summit for the third ascent of the peak. During much of the trip clouds developed in the afternoon and led to light rain or snow, which sometimes became heavy. Temperatures were far from extreme, usually hovering close to freezing. This meant good snow conditions never really occurred.

Brian Davison, United Kingdom

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