American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Tordrillo Mountains, Tordrillo Mountains, First Full-Length Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2009

Tordrillo Mountains, first full-length traverse. Over nine days in May, Andrew Wexler, Dylan Taylor, and I, using skis, made the first full-length traverse of the Tordrillo Mountains. We covered 100 miles from south to north, climbing 38,000 vertical feet and making ski descents off the range’s four highest peaks: Mt. Spurr (11,069'), Mt. Torbert (11,413'), Mt. Talachulitna (11,150'), and Mt. Gerdine (11,258'). The previous most significant crossing was by Scott Woolums and Mark Jonas in March 1982 as documented in Tordrillo—Pioneer Climbs and Flights in the Tordrillo Mountains of Alaska.

On May 16 Doug Brewer of Alaska West Air flew us across Cook Inlet to a 2,400' ash bench on the south slopes of Mt. Spurr. Dylan had skied from Spurr’s rounded summit in 2004. Volcanic activity in 2006 turned the summit into a 300' deep crater lined with crevasses and venting lung-burning sulfur gasses. We skied from the high point and camped at 10,000' on the Spurr Plateau, from where we descended a complex 4,000' icefall to the Capps Glacier—the first crux of the expedition. We spent our fourth and fifth nights at 7,000' on the Triumvirate Glacier below the Torbert Plateau. From this camp we day-toured 20 miles and 8,000 vertical feet to the summits of Mts. Torbert and Talachulitna.

The next crux was downclimbing the Great Wall, a 14-mile serac-ridden barrier that straddles the range and stopped our 2007 traverse attempt. This time we succeeded by down-climbing four pitches of steep, snow-covered ice to a northern lobe of the Triumvirate Glacier. After skiing Mt. Gerdine, we toured another two days to the tippy north end of the Tordrillos at the Iditarod Trail. There Chugach pilot Mike Meekin shuttled us to the Skwentna Roadhouse, and a Spernak Airways charter took us to Merrill Field in Anchorage.

The Hans Saari Memorial Fund and the Shipton-Tilman award made this trip possible.

Joe Stock, AAC

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