Dall Glacier, Mt. Katherine, First Ascent

Alaska, Central Alaska Range
Author: Zach Lovell. Climb Year: 2019. Publication Year: 2020.

In an era of heightened climbing and skiing popularity, there are still many less-explored corners of the Alaska Range. Exploration can even come at moderate difficulties, which is exactly what Thomas Eaves and I found on the Dall Glacier during our mid-May expedition. The Dall Glacier is located to the south of Mt. Russell (11,670’), ultimately flowing into the Yentna River at its terminus.

We flew onto the glacier on May 16 and immediately began scouting. Acting as guide, I recommended an unnamed and likely unclimbed peak east of the Dall Glacier (62°44'49"N, 151°47’04"W) that offered an amicable southwest ridge rising above its serac-laden west face. We made our climb from May 19 to May 20, after waiting a few days to let a snow-shedding cycle run its course.

Given the warm temperatures, we departed at 6 p.m. in the evening and utilized skis to ascend low-angle glacial ramps toward the southwest ridge of the peak. After 4.5 miles and 1,900’ of elevation gain, we reached our proposed line, cached our skis, and donned crampons. For 2,300 vertical feet we were gifted with classic and aesthetic Alaskan ridge climbing, with snow/névé and rock up to 60°. As we neared the end of the ridge, a full moon emerged, casting a surreal glow upon us and the mountain’s final tower. Our summit views were some of the most unique I’ve experienced in the range, with the Yentna River, Mt. Russell, Mt. Foraker, and Denali all joining us in a moonlit dance party.

Moon Walk (III 60˚ snow) was completed in 14 hours camp to camp, including a total of 10.5 miles of travel and 4,200’ of elevation gain/loss (2,300’ of technical terrain). Thomas dubbed the peak Mt. Katherine (ca 8,300’) for his wife and to hopefully gain endless favor with her for permission to go on future expeditions. There have been very few recorded trips on the Dall Glacier—there is much left to be explored.

– Zach Lovell


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