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North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mt. Hunter, South Ridge, Third Ascent

Mt. Hunter, South Ridge, third ascent. In mid-June Forrest Murphy and I climbed Mt. Hunter’s South Ridge. It was likely the third ascent. We opted for the “direct start variation,” made by the 1986 second ascent. Here we found high-quality mixed climbing to M5-, with long stretches of moderate mixed ice terrain. After a psychologically demanding journey across the Happy Cowboy Pinnacles and up the Changabang Arête, we visited the South Summit and descended the West Ridge, reaching Kahiltna base camp five days after leaving our camp on the Tokositna Glacier.

Previous traverses of Hunter to Kahiltna base camp via the South Ridge or the adjoining Southeast Spur took a minimum of 12 days and 13 days, respectively. The difference in our case was stable weather. (A major buttress located between these routes was climbed in 2001 [AAJ 2002, pp. 230-231]; this team descended the Southwest Ridge route, reaching the Thunder Glacier after 10 days on the mountain). The technical difficulties of the South Ridge were not extreme, but we found the route to be committing, consistently challenging, and requiring almost every alpine skill imaginable. This somewhat forgotten route has some of the finest rock in the Alaska Range, and offers a grand course in all aspects of Alaskan alpine climbing.

Mark Westman