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Juneau Icefield, Taku D Peak (1,771m/5,810'), Southeast Face, Epic

Some of the remotest and wildest summits on earth are located in Alaska, and climbing them is a great adventure. Our goal was to reach, climb, and exit Taku D Peak, between the Taku and Matthes Glaciers in the middle of the Juneau Icefield, without technical support. Teams climbing on the Icefield normally use helicopters, satellite phones, and GPS. Max Kirchsasser and I went without.

In mist and rain we began our first load carry from Juneau through rainforest. Four days and one storm later, all our equipment was at the edge of the Icefield. As we set off on our ski journey,

pulling sledges, luck and good weather were on our side. Sunlight glistened on the Icefield in front, while behind lay the Pacific Ocean.

We crossed a ridgeline with some difficulty to reach Death Valley, where we had days of standstill, waiting for better weather. Eventually blue sky returned and, well rested, we pushed on. Finally pyramidal Taku D loomed into view. The first ascent was probably in 1952 (Robert L Schuster) by the Juneau Icefield Research Program, which 12 years later named the Taku Range. They climbed the southwest ridge, which today could be considered the standard route.

A phenomenon

of mountains is that they appear uninviting and aloof from a distance but up close reveal possibilities of ascent. Such was the case with Taku D, as we found a weakness on the unclimbed southeast face. Through knee-deep snow we inched our way to the rock walls at the base of the face, and I led the brittle first pitch. Thick mist made way for strong morning sunshine. On the next pitch we had to move around a small roof. The cracks were full of ice, but we were carrying a large selection of pitons; more weight, but in my opinion indispensable there. We eventually exited onto a steep snow slope, where we were greeted by blue sky. High on the mountain we joined the southwest ridge, and trudged through knee-deep snow to the summit. The snow was soft and heavy, and we were afraid of a sudden slide, but we reached the top and descended the southwest ridge. We named our route Epic (550m of climbing, TD).

Months of research and preparation had come to an end. To reach our dream mountain, wed ascended from the ocean, through rainforest and over glacial ice, to the summit of Taku D. Our adventure became complex and borderline because we reduced technical aids to a minimum.

Florian Hill, Austria