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North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Mt. Dan Beard, Sideburn Rib

Mt. Dan Beard, Sideburn Rib. In April, Gareth Hughes and I made the trip across the Atlantic to attempt the unclimbed east face of Mt. Dan Beard. Bad weather thwarted an early reconnaissance, but early evening on the 12th we headed over. We chose a line on the far right that seemed elegant and sheltered, weaving up mixed ground before gaining a snow arête high on the face that leads to the summit seracs. We started up the face at 7 p.m., through steep and often waist-deep snow interspersed with short, moderately difficult, mixed steps on crumbly granite held together by ice. We reached the snow arête, from where interesting weaving through seracs gained us the summit at 3 a.m. An unnerving, not-recommended descent of the heavily seracked north face and a long powder trudge up and over the ridge leading to Point 8,245' finally got us back to the skis and then our base camp near the mountain house after a 24-hour round trip.

In keeping with the beard theme, we suggest the name “Sideburn Rib” (4,500', mixed to Scottish IV, serac pitches to 75°, 65° snow).

On the way to Sideburn Rib we spied a pair of superb-looking steep couloir lines tucked away in the east face’s huge rock buttress, to the left of our route. A week later we started up the right-hand line—a very deep couloir sporting two huge chockstones. A thousand feet of 50° snow took us to the bottom of the climbing, which started with a sustained pitch of WI5+ on slightly hollow ice. The next pitch sported an unratable overhanging ice offwidth—one of the most bizarre pitches either of us has climbed—which succumbed with arm-bars and other trickery. Above, easier ice led to the first chockstone. Passing it directly proved impossible, as the promising-looking pillars were unconsolidated snow, but a mixed pitch on the left wall let us outflank the chockstone at about M4. Above, two long pitches of 50° snow and a short 80° ice step put us beneath the second chockstone, where we ran out of luck. An unprotectable inch-thick 90° ice smear on the right, leading to a disintegrating hanging chandelier, was the only way up, and we decided the pitch was too dangerous. With fatter conditions the couloir will make a superb route. From a distance the remaining pitch or two to the ridge looked relatively straightforward, though there may be a cornice to negotiate.

On our last day we skied up Dickey via Pittock Pass, enjoyed a superb decent, then headed for the bars in Talkeetna. A fantastic place—we’ll be back!

Vivian Scott, Edinburgh, U.K.