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North America, United States, Alaska, Little Switzerland, Middle Troll, South Face; The Throne, Smaug's Hoard

Middle Troll, south face; The Throne, Smaug’s Hoard. Eric Sullivan and I flew to Pika Glacier on August 9 and glassed The Throne’s south face. We skied to the base and found a start for our line: a left-facing, right-leaning dihedral system toward the west side of the face. The snow apex at the left edge of the face is the base of the first pitch.

Our second day was a whiteout until late afternoon, when we climbed the first pitch on aid, past hanging moss gardens, and fixed a rope. The 11th dawned clear, and we climbed the south face of Middle Troll (IV/V 5.8). Immaculate dark granite for 1,200 feet led to the summit—a spectacular diving board jutting from the apex of the west face.

On the next day, after we jumared The Throne’s first pitch, Eric attempted a hook traverse on aid but took a short fall and skinned his knuckles. I took the lead and pendulumed to a crack to the left. I climbed a slab to an overhang and pulled over (5.10). Above was 30 feet of thin face climbing on flakes, with no protection. Forty feet above my last piece and looking down at a huge ramp, I traversed right to a ledge and pounded in pins. Eric put a nasty core shot in the rope jumaring the pitch, so we called it a day.

The 13th dawned clear, so we hustled to The Throne. I led the third pitch free (5.9+), over a thin slab to a huge, bomb-bay chimney. The fourth pitch entered an overhanging dihedral system that continued for two pitches, through three large roofs. Eric led next, freeing a rotten offwidth, then aiding through a mess of loose blocks on leapfrogged cams and grinding nut placements (A3) to relative security, traversing a 20-foot horizontal roof to a spectacular hanging belay on the rightmost corner of the roof. We fixed a rope and headed home.

It then stormed incessantly for days—rain, snow, and tent-rocking wind. The only respite was downing Southern Comfort in a cold horizontal rain while taking sled runs.

On the afternoon of the 18th it suddenly cleared. We had to get our gear regardless, so we rushed to the wall and jugged our four pitches, pulling the ropes up after us. Eric took the fifth pitch, using aid to pass a double-roof system. There is a wonderful flake just to the right that in dry conditions would probably go at 5.9. Eric finished the pitch (A2) with free moves onto a small sloping ledge. I led the last pitch, an awkward little chimney to a sloper traverse (5.6). We rejoiced at our new route, Smaug’s Hoard (V 5.10R/X A3), then made several involved rappels and hopped enormous ‘schrunds in a waterfall-filled drainage on The Throne’s west face. It had cleared for less than four hours but was storming again by the time we reached camp.

We celebrated with moldy bread, burritos, and the last of the Southern Comfort. Another 40-hour storm dropped almost a foot of snow. Our DGA plane showed up eight hours late on the 20th, and we enjoyed spectacular views of Denali and The Ruth on the flight out.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Matt Porter (24) of Trapper Creek, who died September 13 in a single-car accident near Whitehorse, Yukon. He was a fun, buoyant Alaskan spirit we met on The Pika during our stay, and he will be missed by the Alaskan climbing and skiing communities, as well as by all who knew him.

Samuel Johnson