American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Neacola Mountains, Chakachamna Peak, South Face to Near Summit

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

Chakachamna Peak, south face to near summit. Fred Beckey had his eye on a prominent 7,530' peak in the Neacola Mountains for many years, but it remained entombed in his infamous “Black Book.” The peak is located three miles south of Lake Chakachamna and is visible on a clear day, 90 miles to the west, from Anchorage and Turnagin Arm. The USGS Board on Geographic Names has just recently officially accepted Fred’s name of Chakachamna Peak. (Map: USGS Tyonek (A-7), Alaska; Approximate coordinates: 61°09'N, 152°26'W)

A few years ago Fred and two partners flew onto the glacier on the south side of the mountain. It was late in the day and the snow soft and unstable; Fred felt it was not a safe time for a climb. But his partners felt otherwise and got two-thirds of the way up the couloir, till a wet-snow avalanche swept one of them 1,000' down the couloir. The climber escaped with only minor injuries, but the event marked the end of the attempt.

On the evening of June 12, after waiting out several stormy days in Anchorage. Brook Alongi, Fred, and I were flown by helicopter onto an unnamed glacier on the south side of the peak, under clear blue skies. Since weather windows tend to be short and far between in the Neacola Mountains, we set up our tents and immediately started climbing the left-hand (western) of the two broad, 3,000' couloirs on the peak’s south side. We had breathtaking views of immense glaciers, the active volcanoes Spurr and Redoubt, and dozens of unclimbed peaks. We climbed through the night using pickets for running belays up the 40-50° snow, arriving at the col atop the couloir at 2:00 a.m. Fred was exhausted and waited there. I led a ropelength of snowy mixed ground and belayed Brook up to me. We could see the summit 100' higher and a few hundred yards away, but descended due to deteriorating weather and concern for our cold and tired partner back at the col. We descended without incident and arrived at our tents late the next morning. More information about the climb, as well as a few pictures can be found at: www.cascadeclimbers.com/threadz/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/371540/an//page/0/vc/l

Brook and I had hoped to sample some other climbing opportunities in the area, but the weather did not cooperate. We spent the next five days in the tents while rain, snow, and strong winds made even the most mundane outdoor activities unpleasant. When the weather finally broke, we called in our helicopter and flew back to Anchorage. I thought that after this trip there might be one less page in the Black Book, but on the flight out Fred was snapping pictures and saying, “That looks like a nice peak.”

Eric “Pax” Fox

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