Abercrombie Mountain, Southwest Face. For a few years Abercrombie Mountain (2,120m) had been in the back of my mind, for a time when conditions were decent and I had a good partner. Its southwest face starts at only 640m, presenting an unclimbed 1,480m face only a few hours’ ski from the road. Alpine climbing is normally out of the question in Valdez due to the huge snow depth, but Valdez had just experienced six weeks with almost no precipitation and very high winds. Hence, while the Heli-ski hopefuls sulked about Valdez, Colin Haley and I skied up the Valdez Glacier to the top of the Second Bench on March 19, 2007. The NOAA forecast called for “a major change in the weather pattern” to show up on March 21, so we knew we would be racing the weather. We left camp under clear skies at 6:40 on March 20 and climbed steps of water ice and mixed terrain to around WI4- and 5.4b. Almost halfway up the face, there is a large snow bench on which one could casually stroll off the face. We knew we had to move a couple of gully systems to the right, but indecision and poor visibility caused us to go farther than we wanted. This caused us to hit the north ridge sooner than we would have liked.
We reached the summit at 15:00 in a whiteout and began the descent.
Four hours later we were back in camp, coaxing enough water out of our dying gas cylinder for a ramen each. We were pleased that we had gone high class and brought Maruchan rather than Top for this important recovery meal. Although we wore harnesses and carried a rope and some rack, we never took it out of the pack.
Good training, I guess. The next day, we skied out just before the snow began in earnest.
We believe this to be the first ascent of the face. It offered enjoyable climbing, and the rock quality was better than usual for the Chugach. There are at least half a dozen good-looking lines remaining. Most would go at about the same grade, with perhaps one or two harder pitches. There were also a few nice waterfalls in the area, probably all unclimbed, for a time when the avalanche conditions are low. For more photos see http://59A2.org
Jed Brown, AAC