North America, United States, Alaska, Hayes Range, Various New Routes

Publication Year: 2004.

Various new routes. Between March 29 and April 7,2002, Rich Chappell, Jose Rueter, Mike Sterling, and I made first ascents in the Hayes Range. Jim Cummings of Delta flew us to the west fork of the Gillam Glacier, beneath the west face of Mt. Hess. We were lucky to be able to land, given low snow accumulation and recent high winds. Temperatures ranged from -20 to +15° F during the trip.

In two days we had our ski camp put in at 6,500' on the east fork of the Gillam and had completed a reconnaissance up to the 8,600' col southeast of the south peak of Mt. Giddings. Cramponing was excellent, but avalanche blocks off the west face of Mt. Geist crossed our ascent tracks.

On April 1 we made what is likely the third ascent of Mt. Giddings (10,180') via a new route up the south buttress. It took six hours to ascend, four to descend, being predominantly 3rd class snow, with a few sections of rotten-rock ridge that we 4th classed. On a pulverized rock band at 9,200' we discovered water ice and whiffs of sulphur—geothermal activity? We remained roped on the summit, due to large crevasses. The views to the Tanana River, Donnelly Dome, and Mt. Hayes (13,832') were magnificent, due to the peak’s central location and the perfect weather.

After repositioning camp farther up the glacier, at 7,360', we headed back up to the col just west of Peak 9,610' and climbed three pitches of 45° blue ice to its top. We descended from this summit heading northeast on the rocky ridge to Mt. Skarland (10,315'), but fear of frostbite turned us around despite fantastic views of the entire west basin of Mt. Hayes. Our retreat back over Peak 9,610', south to the col, and then west through the icefall went flawlessly.

Again we moved camp, down to 5,600', and on April 5 completed the first ascent of the north peak (10,065') of Giddings. We gained its west ridge at 9,200' by climbing a depression on the main southwest face. The upper ridge was 45°, protected with screws and pickets. The route took seven hours up, four down. Access to the base of the climb was by ski up the fine pocket tributary glacier beneath Peak 8,320' and northeast from the Gillam Glacier's east fork, upon which we had camped. We flew out on April 7 in continuing perfect weather. Such a blessing, on the heights, with the most agreeable of bergkameraden!

Philip S. Marshall, Three Corner Round Pack Outfit