American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Little Switzerland, Dragon's Spine, Apocryphal Arête

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

Dragons Spine, Apocryphal Arête. I went to Little Switzerland for the first two weeks of June. There Adam George, Ben Lamm, and I climbed the Dragon’s Spine. We climbed the south-facing slab to the left of the major dihedral that splits the wall. We named the route the Apocryphal Arête and rated it 5.10cR WI0-. Our route, unfortunately, didn’t top out. We got to a small platform 30 feet below the actual top of the formation, but were stopped by snow, lack of balls, and fatigue. I say lack of balls because we could have gone up a steep slab that was clear of snow but opted not to chance a big fall. “I know I’ve done boulder problems that high and harder than that,” I told Ben and Adam, “but there’s no way I’d go up that here.” Ben tried to traverse around to the north side, but that’s where he encountered the snow. Oh, well. Then began our hellish descent. “I love alpine climbing, except for the going-down part,” Ben kept saying. He was getting dehydrated, and kept repeating himself, and eventually started mumbling incoherently to himself. The next two tent- bound days did nothing to improve his sanity. He patrolled our campsite, on the hour, looking for yetis. “They’ll get us if we’re not careful!” he said. “If I hadn’t killed that one that stole my harness, we’d be fine. But they’re a revenge-minded lot!” After a few weeks back in civilization Ben got a bit saner, but then he bought a motorcycle, and it’s been downhill since.

Route description: Begin by hiking up a steep grassy gully for 200 feet to a chimney with old pitons. Rope up. Climb the chimney to a small roof. Traverse right (5.10). Rope drag gets bad, so belay at a bad stance (125 feet). Climb up and then out left onto shitty rock, continuing up until you find a good stance. There aren’t any, really. This is the only bad-quality pitch (175-200 feet). The next pitch begins on the same bad stuff but ends on a nice ledge (200 feet). Climb a wide chimney (175 feet). Climb up and left into an offwidth (100-125 feet, 5.9+). Belay where the crack splits. Climb up and right in the narrowing, increasingly flared crack (5.10R); finish on a ledge (190 feet). Climb up and right in a right-facing dihedral (200 feet). Climb to a large ledge and begin up a right-facing dihedral. Belay on a pillar below a left-facing, overhanging dihedral (200 feet). Climb up and left in the dihedral to a small roof. Pull the roof (5.10), then scramble up and belay (100 feet). Climb mostly fourth class towards what looks like the top. Eventually you get to a right-facing dihedral. Climb it to a ledge, keep going up, and pull over left to the top of the pillar where we stopped. It’s only 20 or 30 more feet, but without a bolt it would be a V2 highball friction-slab problem. Rappel to the left.

Brian Sohn

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