North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Toyal Tower, Canadian Bacon, and Thunder Mountain, Maxim
Royal Tower, Canadian Bacon, and Thunder Mountain, Maxim. Shawn Huisman and I climbed two new routes during a two-week door-to-door trip to the Alaska Range. This was our first climbing trip to Alaska, and we consider ourselves lucky to have pulled off two first ascents in such a short time. Taking advantage of April’s colder temperatures (though longer nights, but still only about six hours of darkness), we found conditions on sun-exposed faces to be perfect, with good snow, ice, and mixed.
The first route was a narrow gully on the 2,500' east face of Royal Tower in Little Switzerland. It is the gully line immediately left of Spam and Legs (AAJ 2002, p. 243). Our Canadian Bacon (ED1 M5 WI4) involved 3,000' of actual climbing up thin, foamy ice and steep mixed. Much of the ice was too snowy to accept ice screws, making for unnerving climbing, as picks threatened to slice through the vertical “sn’ice.” We encountered four WI4 pitches separated by longer sections of alpine gully terrain. The mixed crux was a steep rock pitch that gained the southeast ridge. Once on the ridge, we cruised to the summit. We completed the route in a 17-hour round-trip with lots of simul-climbing. There are still a few interesting-looking ice and mixed objectives on Royal Tower, so get after it!
Two days later, we bumped over to the Tokositna Glacier and the base of the 3,500' south face of Thunder Mountain. In a 14-hour round-trip, we climbed a gully located on the left side of the south face [the major gully left of Ring of Fire—Ed]. Maxim (ED1 M4 WI5) begins as a steep snow couloir that gradually pinches to fun ice and mixed climbing. The first crux negotiated steep ice, slightly overhanging at one point, around the left side of a truck-size chockstone. The last couple of pitches involved a two-foot wide, spotty thin-ice runnel leading to a prominent notch on the gendarmed summit ridge. Unseen from the glacier, this tight, shoulder-width goullotte provided the best climbing of the trip. We stopped here, instead of continuing along the corniced ridge to the summit. Incidentally, this gully had been rappelled after the first ascent of Dream Sacrifice.
Sean Isaac, Canada