North America, United States, Alaska, Kichatna Spires, Tatina Spire, Groundhog Day, and Mt. Haffner, Attempt

Publication Year: 2005.

Tatina Spire, Groundhog Day, and Mt. Haffner, attempt. British climbers Mark Reeves and Steve Sinfield visited the Tatina Glacier for a short stay in late May and June. Having waited five days in Talkeetna for the weather to improve enough to risk attempting a flight in, they were surprised by perfect blue skies during their first morning at base camp. After quickly packing, they headed north down the glacier to the far end of Mt. Haffner’s west face, where they discovered a less-than-vertical granite slab. The pair climbed 14 pitches of British VS/HVS in wonderful sunshine, before the slab merged with the lower reaches of a snow basin, and the terrain became unpleasant. Increasing clouds and the water feature up which they were now climbing combined to force a retreat. At 6 p.m. they began rappelling and arrived on the glacier at 9:30. They regained base camp at midnight.

It rained most of the following day, but in late afternoon the two were able to inspect the small cirque near the head of the glacier that rises southwest to Flat Top Peak. On the broad south face of ca 2,500m Tatina Spire they spotted an unclimbed line right of the existing route, Alaskan Rose (Calder Stratford and Kevin Thaw, 1996: nine long free pitches with a crux of 5.1lc R), which climbs a steep south-facing buttress to the top of a subsidiary summit south of the highest point of Tatina Spire. The British pair considered the line they had spotted, which rises ca 600m from the glacier, to be more suitable for a one-day free ascent. ( The first ascent of the higher Tatina Spire was made in 1975 by Hooman Aprin, David Black, and Michael Graber via a multi-day route up the 700m southeast face at VI 5.9 A4.)

It rained for the next four days, but on the fifth the weather cleared, allowing Reeves and Sinfield to start up their proposed new line with 100m of static line, a 60m lead rope and another 60m of 8mm static. The first four pitches (VS to HVS) led to an undercut traverse out to a hanging corner. This corner gave three pitches of slightly damp E2/3, with a couple of aid moves on the first and around 10m of aid on the second (A0/A1). They climbed the remaining seven pitches (up to E3) and reached the top at 1 a.m. They rappelled the route in three hours and regained base camp shortly before 5 a.m. The 14-pitch route has been christened Groundhog Day and has difficulties of E3 5b/5c or 5.10c R and A0/A1.

With their hands trashed from jamming, the pair radioed for a flight and were picked up at the start of the unusual heat wave that affected all Alaska.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, CLIMB magazine