Elephant's Tooth, North Pillar; Parabola, South Face, Possible First Ascents
United States, Alaska, Brooks Range, Arrigetch
Ten years ago I tried to climb in the Arrigetch but failed to do anything, because of rain. I returned in July 2010 with Claudia Nestler and food for 32 days. Nevertheless, we had only five days without rain, operating from a base camp on Arrigetch Creek, a few hours from the climbing. On the first dry day we repeated Parabola’s east ridge and continued to Parabola’s west peak (22 pitches, 6b), which would be a famous route were it in the Alps. We also repeated West Maiden’s north ridge, during rain. A few days previously we had climbed a new direct line from the bottom toward the crest (five pitches, 6b AO), via steep cracks and slabs, but rain stopped play, and next time we chose the original line (6a), which near the top was like climbing a waterfall.
We then made the possible first ascent of the north pillar of Elephant’s Tooth. The rock was not always good, but at the top we had a nice view down to our camp and Arrigetch Creek. It took six hours to climb the eight pitches, with difficulties up to 6a/b. Five rappels, and one hour later we were in camp.
The weather was still good, so we decided to try the south face of Parabola, another possible first ascent. The initial cracks and corners proved interesting and strenuous, and the rock was fantastic on each of the 15 pitches, particularly on the last five up the headwall. The climb took 12 hours, with difficulties of 6b and seven m of A1. It was a dream come true; I’d wanted to try this face 10 years earlier. When our time was up, we walked back to Circle Lake, our original drop-off, where we were delivered a canoe and six more days’ food. Over the next five days we paddled down to Helpmejack Lake, where we were picked up by a Cessna from Betties Lodge.
Werner Stucki, Switzerland
Editor’s note: It’s likely several climbs in the Arrigetch are unreported, but two sources are useful for reference. In 2003 Nancy Pfeiffer and Jim Lawler compiled a summary of the mountaineering history of the Arrigetch Peaks. This 64 page report can be downloaded at: http://www.nps.gov/gaar/naturescience/upload/arrigetch%20final%20report%20compressed.pdf. In the same year a summary report was compiled by Clint Cummins and can be viewed at: http://www.stanford.edu/~clint/arrig/index.htm. Thanks to Steve Gruhn for help with this report.