American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Citadel: Westman's World

Alaska, Alaska Range, Kichatna Spires

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Ben Erdmann
  • Climb Year: 2016
  • Publication Year: 2017


On April 21, after six weeks of watching from a distance as a gigantic storm system pummeled the Alaska Range, Jess Roskelley and I saw a forecast for a weather window long enough to fly into the Kichatna Spires
. With our primary objective out of condition, we returned to the Citadel (8,250’), where we had climbed a new route up the east face, with Kristoffer Szilas, in 2013 (AAJ 2014). This time we set our sights on the peak’s unclimbed west face, above the Cul-de-Sac Glacier. Josh Wharton and Zack Smith had attempted a line there in 2008 but retreated after Wharton took a lead fall, ripping gear and injuring Smith with his flying crampons. Jess and I planned a completely different line to the left of their attempt.

After fixing the first two pitches on day one, we returned to camp and consumed a generously rationed dinner, eating for the hunger to come. The next morning at 3 a.m., Jess and I committed to the wall. The steep rock yielded physical mixed pitches, switching between free and aid. Moving diagonally leftthrough the lower wall and into the rightward traversing snow ramps in the middle of the face, we made our only bivy on the route when a horrendous windstorm pinned us down with driving snow. The following morning we climbed the remaining ice runnels, encountering thin, wandering ice in shallow granite grooves. Near the top we linked into familiar terrain from our ascent of the east face, three year previous. From the summit, we descended via our ascent route, completing Westman’s World (4,000’, VI A3 AI4 X M7 70˚) in honor of our dear friend and mentor, the Alaskan legend Mark Westman. Our trip was supported by the Mugs Stump Award.

– Ben Erdmann

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