Mt. Tiedemann, Southwest Bartizans and various ascents. It took three trips, but in late July I finally scored on the weather in the Waddington Range. Guy Edwards and I drove to Bluff Lake, where we met Kevin McLane, Chris Atkinson, Matt Maddaloni, and Andrew Boyd. White Saddle Air flew us to the Mt. Combatant col at 10,000'; after driving from sea level, we felt the altitude. Guy and I climbed the South Ridge of Mt. Hickson for a warm-up. The next morning we made a predawn start on an awesome-looking new mixed line on Waddington, but warm temperatures at sunrise brought on a shower we figured we didn’t need, so we rappelled off. We scurried back to base camp and repacked for a warm, sunny climb up Skywalk Buttress on Mt. Combatant. We descended by four rappels off the ridge and a downclimb of Combatant Couloir. This route was outstanding, with sustained climbing, and took us 11.5 hours roundtrip.
We rested a day and repacked for a go at a 1,400m unclimbed ridge on Mt. Tiedemann. We packed light bivy gear, a stove, and a little food and, at about 4:00 a.m., headed down to Tiedemann Glacier. This descent was a crapshoot, given all the hanging seracs. We darted down, looking over our shoulders with a feeling of commitment that I wasn’t expecting until halfway up the climb. We made it through the most exposed slopes without mishap, then encountered some broken crevasses negotiated by a short rappel, a little jump over blackness, and a few funky ice moves. After more weaving and a steep snow/ice slope we traversed onto loose rock. With our boots, tools, and crampons stuffed away, we stretched out 60m of rope. There was then a long stretch of running belays until the rock steepened. The steep climbing here proved to be 5.10 something or other. We bypassed two prominent towers on the ridge, for the sake of speed and because they looked precarious and unstable. One short rappel beyond the second tower and three easy pitches brought us to a great spot for hunkering down for the evening. At this point we joined an old route that came up a couloir on the right of the ridge. This route is now a maze of crevasses and seracs. Warm temperatures, no wind, and snow to melt allowed us to sleep soundly for five whole hours.
Early the next morning we woke quickly on the first pitch. It was a long pitch, with loose rock, but brought us to better climbing and, by noon, to a snowfield. We soloed this to steeper ground. Four more fun mixed pitches and some scrambling brought us to the summit by 3:00 p.m. We didn’t dawdle on the summit and climbed down the north ridge to the Chaos Glacier. The warm temperatures made the decent tedious due to the balling up of our crampons. From the Chaos we negotiated a few holes to gain the north face of Mt. Combatant. The face was 400m of 55° alpine ice and took little time. We descended the 700m Combatant Couloir and arrived at base camp by 11:00 p.m. All in all, one of the best alpine outings I have embarked on—the climbing grand in spots, though scary loose in others. We called the route the Southwest Bartizans (V 5.10+, with four easy mixed pitches).
After a day off, other climbers arrived and we moved camp to Plumber Hut. Matt joined us, and we moved camp again, to the Upper Tellot Glacier. We then went up to the Stiletto-Sara col and climbed two new 5.11 pitches to the left of the Beckey-Patterson route. The next day Guy and I climbed the Chilton-Must route on Mt. Stiletto (highly recommended). Guy was still amped and soloed the Ice Chimney route on the north face of Stiletto. The weather was changing, so we called in Mike King and flew back to Bluff Lake, after only being in the hills for 10 days.
This was an eye-opening trip for me, as I see how important it is to be able to jump on decent weather when the opportunity presents itself. The challenge now is to create flexibility so I can pursue these windows of opportunity, and find a partner who can do the same.
Jia Condon, Canada