American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Tordrillo Mountains, Mt. Gerdine, Northwest Ridge and Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Mt. Gerdine, Northwest Ridge and various activity. On April 4 Johnny Soderstrom, Zach Shlosar, and I flew in with Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi. Flying into this fairly unexplored area was quite an experience, being surrounded by untouched granite towers, pillars of ice, and 3,000' couloirs. Having received Mountaineering Fellowship Grants from the AAC, Johnny and I recruited Zach for the unclimbed northwest ridge of Mt. Gerdine (11,258'). We were landed on the main flow of the Hayes Glacier at 4,700', six miles down the east fork from the base of the route. We put in a camp at the base of the Hayes Volcano, at 6,000'. With the base of Mt. Gerdine being guarded by an icefall, we were forced to climb the Hayes Volcano to Point 8,300', which made for a great ski or snowboard trip down. Not finding a route around, we were forced to traverse the Hayes Volcano, descend a gully on the backside, and travel across a slope exposed to ice fall, weaving through cracks to intersect the northwest ridge at 7,300'. We found the lower ridge scoured by the wind, leaving it beautiful hard blue ice. The ridge was straightforward; we belayed a few steps of ice and simul-climbed the rest, with the angle varying between 40° and 75°. At 9,600' we came to a balcony dividing the upper and lower ridges, which made a good camp. The temperature fell to about -15°F as darkness came. After cooking for a few hours outside, I crawled into the tent to warm up and found that a big toe was frozen. With my foot in Zach’s armpit, the three of us dozed off in our cozy Bibler. The next morning, April 7, we awoke to blue skies and a throbbing toe. Thinking that I could wait a couple of hours to go down, Johnny and Zach headed for the summit, as I stayed in camp. They found the upper ridge to be fun, straightforward climbing on névé, with the angle varying between 40° and 70°. After negotiating a few bergschrunds they reached the summit, with a view encompassing Denali and the Alaska Range, the Kichatnas, Revelations, Neacolas, Cook Inlet, the Chugach, and the Talkeet- na mountains. After rapping off a bollard from the summit, they hurried back to camp, and we packed and descended. With a few variations we descended the line of ascent, using seven V- threads, one picket, and much downclimbing. Back at the runway we spent three days trying to contact a plane for an early pickup. Johnny and Zach took advantage of the nice weather and skied a couple of couloirs to the east of camp. On the front of Peak 6,330' there are seven rock towers with couloirs between most of them. We named this formation the Seven Dwarves after they skied the two south couloirs. On April 11 Paul circled over and flew us home to Talkeetna. Happy with our shortened trip to this new area, we left with a first ascent of Mt. Gerdine’s Northwest Ridge (4,000', AK grade 3, AI3), first descents of the Hayes Volcano and the two southern couloirs of the Seven Dwarves, and a purple toe.

Jared Vilhauer

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