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North America, United States, Alaska, Mt. Huntington, Shi-Shi, and Mt. McKinley, Denali Diamond, Third Ascent

Mt. Huntington, Shi-Shi, and Mt. McKinley, Denali Diamond, third ascent. In April and May, Fumitaka Ichimura and I spent a substantial holiday in the Alaska Range.

On April 25 we made base camp on the west fork of the Tokositna Glacier at 2,500m. We had planned to first climb the Phantom Wall (Smith-Teare, 1991), but there was little snow or ice on the crux part of the route. We found a straight gully, filled with ice, that forked right off the Phantom Wall, and it seemed so interesting that we went there. On April 27 we departed from base camp at 4:00. After reaching the col of the west ridge, we climbed down toward Huntington’s southwestern side (Death Valley), making one rappel. We started climbing the southwest face at 7:00. First we climbed continuously up 800m of ice (55°) on the Phantom Wall. After passing a steep gully (one pitch, M5), a remarkable gully appeared overhead. The ice in the gully was thin and the granite smooth. It was not easy to get reliable protection, but the actual climbing was comfortable and brought us fun. The maximum steepness was 90°, and the grade was AI5 and M5. We climbed 450m in this gully, then reached the South Ridge (Jay-Woolums, 1979). We got more tired climbing the ice on the ridge. Just below the summit was a 20m serac that began at 95°. We reached the 3,730m summit at 19:00, then descended via the west ridge. It was a long descent, with over 20 rappels. The complicated routefinding consumed us. At 2:00, 22 hours after leaving, we returned to base camp.

This line might have already been climbed, due to its prominent location, but I couldn’t find any record in the literature. Or it may be a variation of the Phantom Wall route. Anyway, this line was so beautiful, and we enjoyed the climbing. We named the route Shi-Shi (1,800m, Alaska Grade 4, M5 AI5). Shi-Shi means a person who works to realize his worldly ambitions at the risk of his death, like a Samurai. Shi-Shi never regrets, even if his body is thrown in a ditch or a ravine after his cruel death. The person like Shi-Shi always must imagine his body lying in a ditch.

We flew to the Kahiltna Glacier base camp on May 5. After waiting out a week of intermittent bad weather, we traveled up the Northeast Fork Kahiltna Glacier, weaving our way among the many icefalls and hanging glaciers to reach Denali s 2,500m southwest face. We started climbing the Denali Diamond (Becker-Graage, 1983) on May 19. On day three, the crux pitches appeared, with continuous 90° sections. At the uppermost part, there was no ice in the corner, so we used dry-tooling technique. We took the left-hand line of the chimney, climbed by the first ascent party. I supposed it was also the line of the second ascent, reported at M7 with two point of aid. I also used two rest points, but regret using the protection for rest and believe a completely free ascent possible. On day five we reached the summit of Denali (6,194m), following the upper Cassin Ridge. We went down to base camp via the West Buttress.

Katsutaka Yokoyama, Shinshu University Alpine Club, Japan