American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Foraker

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Foraker. Our expedition to Foraker via the west ridge consisted of Mark Dale, Juan Esteban Lira, John Mason and me. Foraker was first ascended in August 1934 by the west ridge with an approach via the Foraker Glacier. The second ascent of the west ridge was done in July 1977 but it was actually a variation with the approach being made by the Herron Glacier. This second group on the west ridge spent five weeks pioneering this route, having started their trek at a hunting camp west of the Swift Fork River. Including equipment shuttles, they traveled over 200 miles on foot. We intended essentially to follow their route except to go in much earlier to take advantage of better snow cover on the tundra and traditionally clearer weather in April and May. There is a large lake, just outside the original park boundary, where we hoped to land to cut some 30 miles off the walking distance. We arrived in Talkeetna on April 11 and were successfully flown to the frozen lake on the 12th. We immediately began ferrying equipment across the tundra in the direction of the Somber Creek valley, which we knew from the 1977 party to be a shortcut to the Herron Glacier. A very light winter snowpack made pulling the sleds across brushy tundra difficult. Nine days were spent shuttling food and equipment to our Advance Base Camp at 5000 feet on the true right bank of the Herron Glacier at the foot of the west ridge. We took a much needed rest-and-organization day on the 21st and then on the 22nd began the ascent of the west ridge proper. The weather had been generally good but was getting colder as we ascended. We camped at 7800 and 9800 feet and had an equipment cache at 13,500 feet by April 26. Temperatures were dropping below 0°F and unfortuanately Mason frostnipped his toes and could not continue the ascent. On the 28th Dale, Lira and I headed off to establish Camp III while Mason stayed at Camp II. We had hoped to place the camp at 13,500 feet but a lack of tent platforms forced us to go on to 14,100 feet. The morning of April 29 dawned clear, though windy, with a temperature of - 15°F. We left the tents at 11:30 A.M. with -5° and a 15-mph wind. We got to the summit (5303 meters, 17,400 feet) at 5:30 P.M. with 30-to 40-mph winds. We were reunited with Mason on the 30th and all members were back at Advance Base on May 1. We spent three days returning to the lake and were flown out on May 6.

Donald J. Goodman

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