American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Yukon Territory, St. Elias Range, Mt. Kennedy, Northwest Face

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

Mt. Kennedy, northwest face. As a two-man team, Jon Bracey and I wanted a challenging mixed objective we could attempt alpine style, and the northwest face of Mt. Kennedy fit the bill perfectly. In 1996 Jack Tackle and Jack Roberts climbed their Pair of Jacks on this face, a difficult mixed line climbed in capsule style (see AAJ 1997; route photo p. 79, article pp. 80-91). However, bad weather and a dropped crampon forced a retreat from high on the wall, so this huge 2,000m face was still awaiting its first complete ascent.

We flew from Kluane Lake onto the Dusty Glacier on May 4. The next day dawned cloudy, with the threat of storm, but we decided to approach the face “for a look.” A six-mile skin took us around onto the Kennedy Glacier, and the gods were with us, as the weather held off and the face was plastered. We spent the afternoon scoping the most obvious line on the face, the icy smears taken by the Jacks, which did, after all, deserve finishing.

Over the next three days we climbed the northwest face, finding excellent conditions. The bulk of the route was pure ice to Scottish 5, with several harder mixed pitches. We made a few variations on the Jacks line, one of which provided the mixed crux at hard Scottish 7. Where the Jacks were forced to descend the north spur, we continued directly through the second rock band on new ground, then straight to the summit via the upper icefield and north spur. The weather had held off until summit day, which was savagely cold and windy. We descended that night to sheltered ground on the Cathedral Glacier for our third (and first lying down) bivy. As food ran out we spent a couple of nervous days waiting for our pickup, but nothing could dampen the elation of climbing this incredible face, all within a week of leaving the U.K.

Rich Cross, United Kingdom

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