American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Wyoming, Glacier National Park, Mt. Jackson, Shades of Gray and Alpenglow

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Glacier National Park, Mt. Jackson, Shades of Gray and Alpenglow. Visiting, with limited time, Anna Jansen sought to climb a mountain over the weekend. Excited by high pressure, we made for Glacier. The following day our friends Jeff Shapiro and Gray Thompson arrived, adding to our confidence. Good company, thoughtful conversation, and a restful evening led to a unanimous decision to scale Mt. Jackson (10,052').

The next morning we charged the striking northwest couloir (3,400' from base to ridge), for the possible first ascent. Jeff and Gray advanced left while Anna and I veered right. We climbed casual snow that steepened into a headwall. AI3 climbing led Anna and me into off-vertical snow flutings of near-styrofoam consistency. Protection became slim as I led easy, yet exposed, ground. A ropelength later I hammered a ringer blade: “Thank God.” Another rope-length found us additional protection, an anchor, and a break. Anna followed remarking, “The climbing didn’t look hard, but you were moving slow. I knew you had shitty protection, so I climbed like I was soloing.” Right on! With a carefree smile she took the next section. Twenty-five feet led through a smear of ice in a rock corner, with 500' of exposure. Now to relaxed snow climbing, right? Wrong! After pulling the anchor and simul-climbing onto a huge snowfield, I looked up at Anna running out 600' of snow pack without pro. Dear God, if she slips, spare her and kill me. The recurring nightmare seizes my consciousness like a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder flashback. Alpine climbing with your girlfriend is twisted! My only comfort is the easy climbing. Back in the couloir proper we greet the other team. Jeff and Gray are having a blast. “Got some awesome pics of you guys. Get any of us?”

“Sorry, we were too gripped to think of snapping any.”

The rest of the route involved uncomplicated snow climbing with good protection. When we were 500' below the west ridge, the sun threatened to set. Pursuing the same terrain as the other team was out of the question. Our comrades continued up the couloir, while Anna and I headed left. Terrain remained easy, with ample protection on straightforward rock (5.7) and snow. Alpenglow provided soft colors as I topped the ridge. By the time Anna joined me, we were blanketed in deep magenta. Downclimbing by moonlight, Anna and I reached Gunsight Pass and stumbled four miles back to camp. The other team suffered a wet bivy on the summit ridge. The time spent on Mt. Jackson in March was one of a good route, jolly spirits, and merry making among close friends.

Glen Deal

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