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North America, United States, Alaska, Peak 11,520', The Flame

Peak 11,520', The Flame. After a brief reconnaissance up the Northwest Fork of the Tokositna and a week of bad weather, on May 6 Seth Hobby and I cast off onto what we believe is a new route on the north face of Peak 11,520', one of two peaks along Mt. Hunter’s extended east ridge. Our line was to the right of the 2002 Keeling-McNeill route (which was close to nonexistent in 2005), both routes being on the northwest aspect of the broad face, and began in a narrow gully, before gaining the prominent ice face, which we climbed to its end at the summit ridge.

The climbing, incredibly consistent at 60°, was primarily on blue ice, with disappointingly short sections of névé and snow. From atop the ice face we continued to the summit, finding the ridge to be a typical Alaskan cornice walk, with no real technical challenge save exposure and avalanche danger. The views to the east side of Hunter and larger- than-life Huntington were striking, to say the least. We counted about 15 70m pitches on the descent, and we climbed the route in 16 hours camp-to-camp. All rappels were via V-threads. The docile-seeming seracs that guard both edges of the face do, in fact, threaten both routes on the face. Also, John Fitzgerald, with whom we climbed the Harvard Route on Huntington a few days prior, soloed two-thirds of the route a couple of days before our ascent, but ran short of time and energy before reaching the top of the face.

We called the route The Flame (IV AI3) after the striking rock feature that dominates the skyline from anywhere on the face. The golden granite is often illuminated by afternoon sun. The nature of the climbing tends to make your calves feel as though they are on fire, so the name fits in more ways than one.

Coley Gentzel