American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Previous Attempts to Access the Johns Hopkins Glacier

Alaska, Fairweather Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Paul Knott
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2010

The Johns Hopkins Glacier is well guarded and until 2009 repelled climbers’ attempts at access. Nor have I found evidence of research parties accessing the glacier, despite active programs involving landings in Johns Hopkins Inlet.

The glacier becomes extremely broken below 1,000?, effectively preventing access from the sea, except apparently by bears. The 1977 party of James Wickwire, Alan Givler, Dusan Jagersky, and Steve Marts turned back from such an attempt, instead landing farther east at Reid Inlet, which accesses the Brady ice plateau. From here they tried to access the Johns Hopkins via a col between Mt. Abbe and Mt. Bertha. Due to crevassing, they could not reach the main glacier but instead climbed from the hanging glacier on the Hopkins side of Mt. Abbe. Similarly, a 1983 trip by James and Kevin Haberl, Peter Mair, and Bruce Blackwell found no safe landing in Johns Hopkins Inlet and found an impassable icefall blocking access through a col between Mt. Abbe and Mt. Bertha. The nearest kayak landing to the Johns Hopkins appears to be the Gillman Glacier access that Walter Gove and Bill Pilling used for their 1991 ascent of Mt. Abbe, but this does not provide a route to the main glacier. Again, in April 2007 Steve Graepel, Gabe Rogel, and Jason Kraus proposed to access the north ridge of Mt. Crillon via a kayak landing and the Johns Hopkins Glacier. Linking our own access route to the glacier from the west shoulder of Mt. Abbe with the 1977 route from the Reid Inlet to the southwest side of Mt. Abbe could be the key to such a venture, after a good winter snowfall.

Given that helicopter access is not permitted, the obvious access choice is by ski plane. Unfortunately, the potential for this is limited, as the upper névés are very broken, and the lower glacier undulates and is prone to melting out. Luckily for us, Paul Swanstrom flies here regularly and had scoped out the possibility of landing on the west shoulder of Mt. Abbe.

By Paul Knott, New Zealand

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