American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Snowcap Mountain, First Ascent and Clarification

Alaska, Revelation Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Fred Beckey
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2010

A prominent rock peak with an unusual summit icecap, located between the upper forks of the Stony River, southeast of the nearby Revelation Mountains, is identified incorrectly on current topographic maps. The true Snowcap Mountain (ca 8,350') is unquestionably about three miles southwest of the summit, which has no permanent summit snow or ice, so named on these maps.

In 1928 geologist and topographer Stephen R. Capps completed the difficult wilderness trek from Cook Inlet across Merrill Pass to the Stony River. His precise report of this unexplored region clearly indicates the mountain’s correct position, verified by my two expeditions to the region. The true Snowcap Mountain, its name and position marked on his map about 20 miles north-northeast of Two Lakes, is clearly visible from Capps’ route along the river, while the summit named on the newer maps is not in sight.

May 21, 2008, dawned a glorious morning. Pilot Rob Jones had already landed Zach Shlosar, Richard Baranow, and me on a narrow, tumbling glacier to the east of true Snowcap. I had suffered a mysterious leg cramp and was resigned to remaining in camp, but my partners headed upslope, skiing near the right flank of the glacier until it was necessary to make a steep boot pack. Zach then led a section of vertical ice above a gaping bergschrund. The last portion of the glacier route involved cramponing a steep section, with the exposure of blue ice walls underneath. They navigated around two more ’schrunds, then completed the route to the virgin summit. The route climbs a strange corkscrew-shaped glacier that, from the summit, flows briefly northwest, then curves north, then broadens to the northeast down to our camp. After absorbing the spellbinding views of this remote portion of the range, one that included numerous difficult-appearing unclimbed peaks, they skied back to camp, sometimes roped while jumping impasses. Richard punched though a crevasse and somersaulted onto a steep slope, to highlight the descent.

Fred Beckey, AAC

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