American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska, Wrangell Range

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1968

Alaska, Wrangell Range. On 10 May Katsuomi Aoke (24), Hyhozi Matsunaga (21), Hirokazu Yamazaki (30), Osamu Iwatake (24), Take- hisa Shiono (23), and Kiyoshige Seiryu (20), six climbers from the Tokyo University Alpine Club, Japan, were flown to the upper Nabesna Glacier by bushpilot Jack Wilson to attempt the unclimbed northeastern ridge of Mount Blackburn. Members reached near 14,000 feet on this climb 26 May and 2 June before deciding to give it up and shift their objective to the nearby Atna Peaks which they mistakenly believed to be unclimbed. Shiono and Seiryu succeeded in climbing the western Atna Peak, 13,860 feet on 8 June. Aoke and Matsunaga repeated this ascent the following day and were descending the steep West Face late in the day belaying each other with ice axe belays when Aoke slipped, pulling out Matsunaga’s axe which he had only been able to get in about halfway. Both fell about 1,500 feet down the steep slope. Aoke was killed but Matsunaga was only scratched and bruised. The other members of the expedition intercepted Matsunaga on his way back as they came out to search the next morning.

Source: J. Vin Hoeman.

Analysis: (Hoeman) My own party was the first to descend the slope where the accident occurred in 1965 (see AAJ - (1966) 15: 121-122) and we found the slope too steep and the ice too thinly covered with snow to rely on ice axe belays. We belayed and rapelled from ice screws. This party is not believed to have had any.

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