Nenana Mountain, Descent Gully and South Buttress. In March, with Fairbanks local Seth Adams, I followed rumors of granite and an unclimbed named summit to Nenana Mountain (2,402m) in the western Hayes Range. After 70km of skiing via the Yanert River, we discovered quite a bit of granite, up to 500m high. We climbed a broad snow couloir that was even easier than it looked. We dubbed it “Descent Gully,” because it really wasn’t a fun way up the mountain. I fancied a mixed route on the south buttress, but the next day was cold and windy, so we began our ski out. Skiing into a stiff headwind at -30°, I questioned the logic of my upcoming 800km drive for a 230km ski race in the Brooks Range.
But a rock line on the 500-meter south buttress had caught my attention, and in July I returned with Kevin Wright. We took a motor canoe as far as it would take us up the Nenana River, before abandoning it at the base of a canyon and walking. Less than 50km of hiking deposited us on the glacier, and after some rainy weather, we set out up our route. We swung leads up six pitches of quality 5.8 to a nice ledge, then ran the belay up three more pitches to the ridge. We unroped and scrambled along the ridge to the top of the summit boulder. The descent of the southeast face was loose but quick. It is worth noting that in the cirque to the right of our route is a high-quality wall with high-standard free climbing. On the edge of this cirque, we climbed a couple of nice 5.10 pitches before getting chased off by rain.
We have heard that perhaps a NOLS group previously climbed the peak via our July descent route, but otherwise no one seems to know of any prior ascents of Nenana.
Jed Brown, A AC