Growing up in the heart of the Wrangell Mountains in interior Alaska, I have always had a penchant for vertical escape. My friend John Giraldo also shares this interest, and together we spent our teenage years pushing ourselves on little-known peaks in the Wrangell and Chugach mountains. In 2009, at age 19, we mustered the courage to try a new challenge: Snider Peak.
Located within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve near Glennallen, AK, this jagged rock pyramid sits between 12,010' Mt. Drum and 14,163' Mt. Wrangell. Snider isn’t the tallest summit at 8,200', but its nearly vertical 3,000' north face and the serrated spires on all corners gives this small peak an aggressive stance. Despite standing less than a 15-minute flight from Gulkana airport, Snider had no documented climbs. After our aborted 2009 attempt, we returned to Snider in May 2010.
We did the 10-mile approach, waited out an 18-hour squall, left the tent on the northwest toe at 1 a.m., and scuttled up the snow-loaded flanks with caution. The early Alaskan sunrise found us 1,700' above base camp, inching along the west ridge, which we crested at 6,700'. We then quickly dropped south into a shallow basin below the southwest face, where a couloir runs directly toward the top.
Here, the real climbing began and we simul-climbed quickly up the first half of the narrowing couloir, fighting weak sugary snow, thin ice, and crumbly rock. After 800' we burst out of the gun barrel onto a high step below the summit spire, hanging precariously over half a mile of air. The last pitch tested us with 200' of mixed climbing that swung around directly above the massive north face. Our route, Dicktation, topped-out on the narrow tip of the west summit pillar. A razor-thin ridge ran 100' to the east and rose to a slightly higher (~20') spire, but given the exposure and depleted rack, we knew that this was the end of our route.