Upper Granite Peak and Jefferies Glacier, Probable First Ascents
Alaska, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
From July 16 – August 6, upon the recommendation of well-known bush pilot and mountaineer Paul Claus, we visited the upper Granite Creek and Jefferies Glacier areas. From our drop-off point (3,014'; N 60°44'16", W 141°57'11") in upper Granite Creek, a lengthy ridge leads up Peak 8,329' (GPS elevation; 8,320' on map; N 60°41'52", W 141°42'32"), which dominates the left flank of the glacier. [Map elevations are from the USGS 1:250,000 Bering Glacier map—Ed.] We gained the undulating west-northwest ridge by loose scrambling through and around a series of low buttresses. At one point we had to drop 180m before resuming the final section toward the summit. This final section—almost one km long—was the most interesting of the route. Several gendarmes offered easy slabs and short walls, though we skirted two on their left. Never difficult (AD) but with extensive scree and boulder debris, the route was interesting and finished with a short snow slope to the top. The route involves 1,100m of ascent and the ridge itself is almost four km long.
Next we headed for the southeast ridge of Peak 7,679' (GPS; 7,656' on map; N 60°39'52", W 141°49'07"), which sits in the upper corner of a branching glacier that connects upper Granite Creek and the Jefferies Glacier. We accessed the peak via snow slopes leading to a col that connects it with a smaller tent-like peak. From here a spur, punctuated by towers and buttresses, leads directly to the summit. Although many of the towers were sound granite, the climbing was consistently loose. But it was an enjoyable and obvious line (AD, ~500m) to a snow-capped summit.
From our camp on the southern edge of the Jefferies Glacier, on skis we ascended Peak 7,178' (GPS; 7,230' on map; N 60°35'10", W 141°45'08") via its easy west face (F) to its rocky summit.
Finally, we attempted the southeast ridge of Peak 7,890' (map elevation), situated near the col by the entrance to the Jefferies Glacier. After weaving through a series of crevasses, we gained a loose and broken rock ridge that we followed to a point 150m below where the ridge appeared to level. But a large wall blocked our way and we descended.
Based upon Paul Claus’s extensive knowledge, our research, and Steve Gruhn (who maintains climbing records of many Alaskan peaks), we believe our ascents to be firsts.
Stuart Howard and David Swinburne, U.K.