Caliban, Pillar Arête; West Maiden, Repeat of North Ridge
United States, Alaska, Brooks Range,
In the second half of August, Ryan Hokanson and I enjoyed a great trip to the remote Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic National Park. After flying for an hour from Fairbanks to Betties, then another hour to Circle Lake, we walked for two days with 95-pound loads up Arrigetch Creek to our base camp.
Upon arriving we explored the area, sat out some rain, and then launched from base camp to repeat the West Maiden’s North Ridge (V 5.9). We climbed for 16 hours, finding 22 60m+ pitches up to 5.9R. The route was originally done in 30 pitches. After topping out, we spent 13 hours stumbling through talus down Hot Springs Creek, on the south side of the peak, and over a nasty pass to return to base camp 29 hours after roping up.
Following a couple of rest days, we inspected the south face of Parabola but found flaky rock. As an alternative, we checked out the Aquarius Valley and the opposite side of Arrigetch Creek, inspecting the eastern ridge and arête of Caliban (eastern summit 6,994'), settling upon this as our next objective. The next morning we walked three or four miles up-valley to the base of Caliban. We spent a couple of hours scrambling up the 3rd/4th-class talus ridge to access the beginning of what became the Pillar Arête (V 5.10b). We spent another 15 hours or so climbing in exposed terrain, navigating the serrated arête that splits Caliban’s southeastern and northern faces. We climbed past four separate towers, rappelling from their tops as we problem solved each. Finally we climbed the summit pyramid, which is the fifth and final tower. During the course of the route, we climbed about 16 pitches, plus a bunch of simul-climbing, with four appels on the route. After topping out, we rappelled the southwest ridge to a col, descended 4,000' of talus and heather to the valley floor, and walked down-valley back to base camp. Several days later we packed up our belongings and walked for a day and a half to Takahula Lake, where we were picked up by Brooks Range Aviation.
Samuel Johnson, AAC