American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, MooseSkin Mountain, The Ass of Spades, and Various Attempts

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

Mooseskin Mountain, The Ass of Spades, and various attempts. First, I thank the American Alpine Club for considering awarding a young dirtbag a Mountain Fellowship Grant to go climbing. Marcus Donaldson and I flew out of Talkeetna on April 14 and landed on the Buckskin Glacier in early afternoon. I am unable to describe the sights and our feelings as we stepped out of the plane and gazed, slack-jawed, at the surrounding peaks.

After a day of reconnaissance, we found a small, beautiful line of ice on a small peak immediately north of the Broken Tooth. The next day we climbed two lovely pitches of moderate-to-hard mixed ice and rock in a nice system, until the weather closed in and we retreated.

Four or five tent-bound days followed, due to weather and snow conditions. On the first day of good weather we left in a predawn caffeinated stupor and skied to the base of a 3,000' line that we had spotted. It was on the south face of a pretty peak to the north, left of the prominent buttress and right of a large couloir. We later learned that this peak was called Mooseskin Mountain (Peak 8,300'; AAJ 2001, p. 211). We roped up and simul-climbed moderate 40°-50° snow that led over the bergschrund and a few mixed steps to the base of the first real challenges. Marcus made a nice lead through the difficulties, M4, to a good anchor and brought me up. I then took the lead and we simul-climbed again through more snow and small mixed bands. Marcus’s next block led through rotten, shattered black rock, a little spicy, to another good anchor. I got a fun couple of pitches in the same rock, and Marcus then led us to the summit ridge. Once on the ridge I took the lead, and we were on the summit at 4 p.m. On the decent Marcus ripped a 15-by 30-foot cornice that left us a little shaken and happy we were roped-up. We named the route The Ass of Spades, in honor of the naked-lady playing cards that kept us entertained during the storm.

During our climb we had ample opportunity to check out the north face of the Moose’s Tooth, but I was unable to spot a safe or even semi-safe line on the intimidating but gorgeous face. The east face’s ice also looked out of condition, and we knew our chances of success were little to none. We therefore bailed, to attempt routes elsewhere in the range. After 28 days on the glacier and the trip of our lives, we flew out to Talkeetna and devoured five dinners between the two of us.

Chris Donharl

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