American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, Peak 8,010', A Fine Blend

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Peak 8,010', A Fine Blend. Ryan Hokanson (Alaska) and I (Montana) headed to the Buckskin Glacier for a three-week adventure scampering trip, setting up camp just below the Moose’s Tooth on May 3. Two meters of new snow and spindrift thwarted our five attempts on the east faces of the Moose’s Tooth and Bear Tooth, but we managed a new route on Peak 8,010', a smaller summit at the head (western end) of the Buckskin. A beautiful gash-like corner system, which appeared to be nicely choked with ice, leads directly up the east face to the summit. Ryan and I figured it would be about six pitches and take part of a day, camp to camp—a perfect warm-up compared to the other routes we had attempted.

On May 11 we left camp around 10 a.m. and, after a two-hour approach, reached the base of the face around noon. Ryan led first, onto good ice, and when the rope came tight we began simul-climbing. Early on, some short but steep ice caught me off guard. Pitch after pitch, the climbing got more technical and more poorly protected than we had anticipated.

Partway up, another storm socked the entire cirque. Snow blew directly up the gash, but spindrift wasn’t cascading down. I climbed up to what appeared to be the crux, pounded some iron, and brought Ryan up. He led into a series of tricky, overhanging snow blobs devoid of usable ice. After 120' of brilliant climbing, Ryan found his first solid pro as the pitch eased off. A few more ropelengths led to a large snow-mushroom-encrusted chockstone. After overhanging snow and a few mixed moves I was on 50° snow. Two more pitches, and we were standing on top.

It was 1:00 a.m. and snowing; visibility was less than 50m. We tried to rap off the north ridge to a pass separating the Ruth and Buckskin glaciers, but, after losing our way, we succumbed to a brief bivy and waited for more light. However, our proposed descent led to powder-covered granite slabs, so we descended our route. Ten rappels and a bit of downclimbing got us to our skis.

After leaving the range, we could find no reference to the line being climbed previously, nor did we find evidence of other climbers. It was a fine blend of climbing, which left a memorable impression on us. A Fine Blend (750m, IV AI6 M6+ 50°) is Peak 8,010’s second recorded line, after the South Route (500', Allemann-Lotscher, 1968). Ryan and I found that obscure, shorter climbs are sometimes the scariest and most rewarding.

Chris Gibisch

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