North America, Canada, Cirque of the Unclimbables, East Huey Spire, Riders on the Storm

Publication Year: 2004.

East Huey Spire, Riders on the Storm. In July, after five days of travel from Colorado, Evan Stevens and I unloaded our gear from the plane at Glacier Lake and trekked through three miles of hell. After losing the “trail,” we took six hours of bushwhacking through alder thickets and scrambling up loose talus to reach Fairy Meadows.

The following afternoon Evan and I did some reconnaissance. Since it was still relatively early season, snow capped the peaks’ summits and melted onto their faces. Flattop Peak was loaded with several feet of snow, spilling snowmelt onto the face we’d intended to climb. East Huey Spire caught our eye, with a dry line up splitter granite cracks. We climbed the first two pitches (which had been climbed previously) and scoped the rest of the route through binoculars. It looked promising and had never been climbed to the summit.

The next day dawned clear and we attempted the Lotus Flower Tower, but were thunder- stormed off at pitch 13. We spent the rest of the trip working on our new route on East Huey Spire. We found evidence of a 1997 attempt by Paul Friberg and Kurt Blair on the first five pitches, which they rated 5.10 A2. We freed these pitches at 5.11c; the quality was Yosemitesque, with little cleaning required on pitches one through four. Pitches five to seven involved difficult climbing up a beautiful splitter. Pitch six was the crux, at 5.12b (or C2). Neither Evan nor I could free it without falling. Pitch seven traversed out of the splitter (5.11b) into a nearby corner, where the free climbing eased to 5.10. We followed the corner for several pitches and freed all of these pitches (previously aid climbed and named “Don’t Panic It’s Organic”). There was one dangerously loose and wet pitch that went free at 5.10bR. The final pitch (5.11+) was an unclimbed line that went up a steep three-inch crack and onto a sparse arête directly to the summit.

We topped out on our fourth day of working the route, using two fixed ropes to bypass the initial pitches and save strength to free the upper pitches on the summit push. All other attempts to free the face were made from the ground up, freeing every pitch as we went. After six days of climbing and gardening with nut tools and wire brushes, there were two pitches that we didn’t free. Pitch six would go at 5.12b/c. Our route, Riders on the Storm, should become an ultraclassic and is guaranteed to be repeated by the masses. There is a good chance it will be freed by a stronger team in the near future.

Johann Aberger