American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Burkett Needle (2,590m/8,500'), East Arête, Repeat Offender

Alaska, Coast Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Dave Burdick
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2012

On September 9 John Frieh, Zac West, and I flew to the Burkett Glacier in the heart of the Stikine Icecap. A rare two-day weather window had appeared between the record storms and rainfall that had been hammering the area all summer. We abandoned plans for Mt. Burkett (2,965m/9,730') after we observed the active and broken state of the hanging glacier on the approach. Instead, we turned our attention to the unclimbed east arête of Burkett Needle, the alpine tower immediately west of Mt. Burkett.

The following day we climbed a rock rib to the icefall below the Needles southeast face. The glacier was quite broken and required climbing into moats and up a short serac, to reach the gully that leads to the east arête. Deteriorating weather caused us to bivouac at the col.

On the 11th we ascended steep snow and low 5th-class rock on the lower arête to a gendarme, which we climbed over to reach exposed rock and mixed climbing right of the crest. This led to a false summit, beyond which we made a short rappel to the summit tower, where we joined the original route on the north ridge. Three mixed snow and rock pitches led to the summit. We rappelled and downclimbed the northeast face.

Repeat Offender (IV 5.9 M5 AI3) represents the sixth ascent of Burkett Needle. [Previous ascents were Davis and Kor, 1964; Cauthorn, Collum and Foweraker, 1995, south pillar; Daudet and Foissac, 1999, southeast face; Hassan and Holsten, 2009, south pillar; Burdick and Frieh, 2009, west ridge.] Many thanks to the Copp-Dash Inspire Award for supporting our trip, Dieter Klose for assistance and allowing us to climb while the Icecap was “closed for the season,” and our pilot Wally, from Temsco Air.

Dave Burdick, AAC

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