American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Tana and Bremmner Glaciers, First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Tana and Bremner glaciers, first ascents. On June 8 Paul Claus landed Mike Crafts, Phil Tatman, Ben Traxler, and me on the col between the Tana and Bremner glaciers. Paul had not landed before in this area, which is covered on the Bering Glacier quad map. After establishing base camp, we climbed a small spire and identified several possible objectives. Over the next several days we climbed three of these, two of which were probably first ascents, but were unsuccessful on two others due to poor weather and soft snow. Our first climb, on June 10 to the top of Peak 7,724' (long. 143.18808, lat. 60.75875, immediately north of the col between the two named glaciers; FA DiStacio-Dorsch-Kost, 1989), started as a moderate glacier climb up the south face with few routefinding difficulties. After passing through a small rock band, we suddenly found ourselves in a totally different situation: we were standing on a huge cornice, prompting us afterward to name the route Highway to the Danger Zone (south face to northwest ridge, III 70°). A line of steep, soft-snow pinnacles guarded the northwest summit ridge, which Ben tamed with an armful of pickets. It was a bluebird day, and we had no trouble seeing the entire range from Logan and St. Elias to the east, to Blackburn and Sanford in the west.

On June 11 we climbed Peak 7,123', a small dolphin-shaped fin on the Bremner side of the col (long. 143.22701, lat. 60.72376) via a snow slope on the southwest flank. Hungry for more, we moved camp on Friday the 13th, but two days of fog and drizzle forced us to scrub our plans for Peak 7,677', a beautiful snow dome. We did grab one high point in the cirque as a consolation prize: Peak 6,200'+ (long. 143.10225, lat. 60.72753, Tana drainage) via the south face. Running low on food, we returned to base camp and set out the next day for our last objective: the northeast face of Peak 9,344' (long. 143.24504, lat. 60.69104, Tana drainage). This peak, on the Mt. Hawkins massif, like many of the peaks in the range has a large serac band and unstable rock ridges guarding a delicate summit pyramid. Despite a midnight start, we were unable to pass the seracs before the snow bridges became dangerously weak.

None of us protested when Paul Claus arrived a day ahead of schedule, offering to take us out before a large weather system closed in. We recommend future parties consider starting earlier in the year for solider conditions.

John McQueston, AAC

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