First Ascents and Exploration
Alaska, Neacola Mountains
On April 21 Gerard van den Berg and I installed camp at the top of the Pitchfork glacial cirque [They initially reported being on the North Fork Glacier, but their maps and coordinates show the Pitchfork, which drains to the Glacier Fork of the Tlikakila River. The North Fork is a few miles southwest of the Pitchfork—Ed.], near Neacola Mountain (2,873m). The next day we prepared to explore the endless spectacular climbing and skiing, but a storm dropped two meters of snow, trapping us for six days. When the sun timidly emerged, the mountains were heavily loaded, so we headed toward summits that we felt were safer and had five good days. Peak and route names are ours, as we believe our ascents were all firsts:
Day 1. We climbed Pacific Warrior (360m, 6b [French] A2 M6 WI4) on the southwest face of Aguja Ulysses (2,150m, section 22 on Lake Clark (Dl) map, 60°51.042N, 153°20.846W). From the Hill of Geese (so called for the constant migration of these birds, even in bad weather), we approached via a ramp, up to 50°, for 150m to the foot of a narrow gully. In five pitches (210m), we climbed a mixed chimney/gully of ice, snow, and rock to the summit. We made a long rappel down the other side and downclimbed to our skis.
Days 2-3. Unstable conditions, so we descended the glacier for 15 miles to new targets. We established camp atop a side glacier, after ascending 600m on 30° slopes while pulling 80kg sleds.
Day 4. Day of fun: climbed several things, so we could ski virgin terrain. We also went up 600m (40° max) to a 2,250m col between two needles, which we climbed via their east faces. We called the left needle Punta Rik (60°, with a step of 4+ rock) and the right one Punta Jimmy Boy (60°, 3+ rock) (map section 35, 60°54.634N, 153°7.575W). Then we climbed the 800m southeast face of the cirque’s highest mountain, with snow to 60° and three or more needles near the summit: Pico Jeanet (2,300m, map section 35, N60°54'880/W153°07'771). We descended on skis (EBA ski difficulty, similar to S3), with some downclimbing.
Day 5. Constant avalanches. Day 6. With bad weather forecast and the Redoubt Volcano on the verge of erupting again, we decided to leave. But first we had to climb, full speed ahead. We climbed the south-southwest face of La M (2,100m, map section 31, N60°55'031/W153o05'136), calling our route Little Horses (300m, 5+ A2 WI3). A 250m snow-ice ramp (70° max), led to El Collado del Silencio. From there we first climbed the more difficult left needle, a 40m pitch at 5+ A2, and rappelled to the col. We then climbed the 50m right needle, about 6a AO. [Maps at aaj.americanalpineclub.org]
Curro González, Spain