American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mt. Red Beard, West Ridge

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

Mt. Red Beard, West Ridge. In early May Jamal Lee-Elkin and I, unable to fly into the Hayes Range because of uncooperative weather, flew into the Yentna Glacier south of Mt. Foraker. The Yentna is a relatively unvisited area, probably because the peaks, ranging from 8,000 feet to 13,000 feet, are much smaller than their neighbors around the Kahiltna. We opted for the Yentna on the advice of Paul Roderick, the owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi, who has occasionally flown parties into the glacier.

After an attempt on a nice peak directly above our base camp at about 4,000 feet (aborted due to foul weather), we packed light and headed out for another attractive peak just south of base camp. The route followed a long west ridge, with a subsidiary summit at about 6,000 feet, a rock ridge with several large gendarmes, and final shoulder and summit ridge above the gendarmes—the entire ridge was about 4,000 feet long. Conditions were difficult, with deep snow and much post-holing before we reached the rock ridge. We bivied just below the ridge in a snow cave, believing further bivy sites would be few and far between, as turned out to be the case. The next morning we followed the ridge, with one 5.8 move and a spectacular, airy traverse around the largest gendarme, protection on the snow traverse being afforded by perfect granite flakes. Communication, on the other hand, was less than perfect, Jamal being on one side of the gendarme and I on the other. Above the gendarme the climbing was straightforward, though the weather was hot. The rarely-had views of Foraker and the Revelations from the summit were impressive.

Jamal named the peak Mt. Red Beard, in honor of his friend and climbing partner Ned Greene, who had a large red beard. Ned was the caretaker of the Harvard Cabin on Mt. Washington; he died last winter when an ice dam exploded and swept him 800 feet down Damnation Gully. Mt. Red Beard is nine miles east (91 degrees, to be precise) of Mt. Russell, the most frequent Yentna climbing destination. Its elevation is approximately 8,600 feet, and it is located in square seven of the Talkeetna D-4 map.

Jim LaRue, AAC

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