American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, East Kahiltna Peak, D.S. and F.J.

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

East Kahiltna Peak, D.S. and F.J. Carl Tobin and I flew into the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier. We skied to the East Fork, where we spent from May 3 to 12 exploring climbs. May 5 was clear and, despite our being tired from the ski to the East Fork, we decided to climb and not waste a good day. This proved to be a good idea, as we did our best climb that day. The route, which we called D.S. [this is an acronym; the original name is unprintable—Ed.], took us in about 600m to a break in a spur that jutted out from the southeast ridge of East Kahiltna Peak. The climb started on the right-hand side of the spur with a small, left-angling snow couloir. At the top of the couloir, where the snow angles up and around left onto a rock slab, we headed up into a right-facing corner. The climb follows thinly iced corner systems for most of its length. It was Chamonixesque. The ice was often between 10 and 30cm wide, and thin. Several pillars were wider, but steeper, with junky ice. The climbing was mixed, with a few dry-tooling sections. The crux was the last pitch, which was 90m long. It started with a narrow (5-10cm) section of ice. The upper pillar had snapped off, leaving a large ice roof. There was another ice roof above the main break point, making a double roof. This was technically difficult, though it protected well with an ice screw driven up into the bottom of the break point of the pillar. This section was definitely WI7, and there were several other sections of grade 6 (both mixed and WI) on the pitch as well. There were also several other hard pitches, including another roof pitch with 6+ climbing. I really liked the grade 6 ice off-width pitch, which I did not have to lead. We completed the route in a 17.5-hour round trip. I give the route an ED2/3 rating, despite its length, for its technical difficulty.

On May 8 we climbed another route, F.J. [another acronym for an unprintable name— Ed.]. It was 1,200-1,300m long, reaching the summit of East Kahiltna Peak (13,440'), but did not have the sustained difficulties of D.S. F.J. follows a long, steep snow ramp on the east face, previously climbed by Pat Callis and Terry Kennedy (AAJ 1994, pp. 78-81). Where the Callis- Kennedy traverses left to continue on up snow slopes, we continued straight up through a steep rock band (to the right of Barry and Jonathan’s variation [see below]). The 70m crux pitch involved a short 90° pillar followed by a lengthy section of thinly iced mixed climbing up a steep chimney. The climbing was technical, thin ice and dry-tooling on tenuous holds. It took something like two hours to lead. The following pitch, though technically easier, had some very cool dry-tooling up a chimney to gain a break in the rock buttress just right of the center of the face. From there, we continued on steep snow and alpine ice to the summit. We topped out with a rapidly approaching storm and immediately began our descent. There were 20 rappels with 75m ropes, after a 19-hour push.

Vince Anderson, AAC

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