Jezebel (East Summit), East Face, Fun or Fear

Alaska, Alaska Range, Revelation Mountains
Author: Tom Livingstone. Climb Year: 2018. Publication Year: 2019.

Uisdean Hawthorn and I flew into the Revelations on March 23. We landed on the Fish Creek Glacier, almost directly below the east face of Jezebel (9,620’). Our main objective was the unclimbed north face, an impressively steep, 1,200m wall, but we were unable to land below it due to the boulder-strewn nature of the glacier. In preparation, we stashed all our climbing kit at the peak’s northeast col while waiting to make an attempt.

After a couple of days of mixed weather, during which time we built a ski jump above base camp and made use of the excellent skiing conditions, we received a good forecast. We skied back to the northeast col and descended to the north face. We had scoped the face and concluded there was only one safe line—the entire rest of the face is threatened by enormous seracs. Though we were slightly concerned about cornices above our line, they didn’t look too big.

On March 31, we climbed eight pitches and 350m up our intended line, onsight and all free. Two attempts in 2017 on a nearby line had reported vertical, unprotectable sugar snow, but luckily we found steep névé. Protection was sparse, however, and pitches often involved moving together until a belay was reached. Pitch two was 60m with no gear, and pitch three was 75m until a poor belay.

After our eighth pitch we reached the main feature of the line—a large chimney likely several pitches long—but heavy waves of spindrift now washed down the cliff and chimney. The first section was black diorite rock, bizarrely compact yet chossy, and with overhanging steps. After this we could see 60m of overhanging sugar snow. The spindrift avalanches flew right over the lip of the sugar snow into space. There appeared to be no way to bypass this pitch and no way to tunnel up through the sugary snow. Furthermore, a large snow mushroom sat right at the top of the chimney. We had known about this mushroom from the outset but were now very aware of it.

Due to the conditions, we chose to descend from atop our eighth pitch, so we can’t be absolutely certain the pitch is “unclimbable.” To us, though, it looked unclimbable by fair, safe, or rational means and we were bitterly disappointed. We had hoped for a Dru Couloir Direct–style pitch, or at least some cracks on which to aid around. We rapped back to the glacier, leaving wires as anchors.

After a few days of rest we decided to focus our attention on the east face of Jezebel's east summit, as we didn’t think the conditions would improve on our intended north face line. After one false start due to unexpected snowfall on April 5, we launched the next day. We decided to try a line to the left of Hoar of Babylon (Graham-Silvestre, 2015, see AAJ 2016).

On April 6 we started with six steep névé and mixed pitches, which maintained interest and just about avoided the sunshine as it came round onto the east face. We climbed in blocks of three leads, following the obvious couloir feature.

We then climbed about another six pitches of steep ice and mixed, before following a couloir for 200m to reach the east ridge. We followed this until nightfall, and then flattened out a bivy beneath the large final tower. From the bivy site, we did more ridge traversing to a moderate mixed pitch. We unroped here and climbed 150m to the peak's eastern summit, arriving at 12:30 p.m. This ascent was very satisfying and involved some technical climbing, thankfully mostly at the start of the route.

We descended our route up the east ridge to a col, then made three rappels on rock gear, leaving wires, and downclimbed and walked down easy terrain in the broad, open couloir on the south face.The problem was how to get back to the east face and the Fish Creek Glacier. From the couloir we had to climb four 60m pitches up the left side of the col between the east and south faces, and then made three rappels, one 60m downclimb on snow, and then a final rap to reach the Fish Creek Glacier and wal to our skis. We named our route Fun or Fear (1,200m, M6+ AI6 R 90˚).

After a rest day we got an updated weather forecast. With 10 days left before our international flight and no major weather window in sight, we called in TAT, who picked us up the next day.

– Tom Livingstone, U.K.

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