Alaska Trip Report - Gavin Pike & James Clapham

by Gavin Pike Jun/2009
This article has been read 6,909 times

Chamonix-based British climber Gavin Pike is just back from a very successful Alaska trip with James Clapham. They had a productive stay on the Ruth Glacier, which yielded two new routes. Below Gavin details the trip:


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+Huge cornice near the summit of Mt Church., 181 kb
Huge cornice near the summit of Mt Church.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike

+On the summit ridge of Mt Church, with the scene of the cornice incident visible below., 205 kb
On the summit ridge of Mt Church, with the scene of the cornice incident visible below.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
After warming up on the awesome steep couloir of Shaken, not Stirred on the south face of the Mooses Tooth, we headed over to Peak 11,300 for an attempt at the first ascent of the 5,000ft high east face. Our initial attempt on a line on the right side of the face was ended when the blobs of white we had spied from the glacier stuck to an 80-degree slab turned out to be powder, not ice. So we turned our attention to the obvious central couloir that falls directly from the summit, with the cost of accepting the objective danger of the line (which is overhung by a serac).

We climbed most of the couloir, which we named Night of the Raging Goose (V WI5 5,000ft), at night to minimize the risk, passing through a crux section of 10m of vertical ice in the narrows halfway up the wall. The top of the face and section of ridge connecting to the normal descent route gave good value. After some involved work climbing and descending steep serac ice and snow mushrooms, an overhanging mantel over the cornice finally landed us on the established South Ridge descent, and we eventually made it back to camp after a 25-hr push. This was the first ascent of the east face, a wall that holds much potential for a number of future lines. The face does take a lot of sun though, so early season (ie. March or early April) is probably best if this season is anything to go by.

After spending a week sitting out a storm and waiting for everything to settle, we turned our attention to the north face of Mt Church (8,233ft). The first ascent of the face was made by a Japanese team last year. After deciding against the deep chimney line that later gave Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker For Whom The Bell Tolls (we couldn't see into this chimney from our glacier recce), we elected to get on the central line of the face, to the left of the Japanese route, Memorial Gate. Amazing Grace (V AI4 4,000ft) gave good quality alpine ice in the narrows, which we simulclimbed, making fast progress to high on the face. The 65 degree snow of the upper face proved hideously loose and unconsolidated, with one particularly funky pitch being christened The Burrows. Very Patagonian, very time-consuming, and not much fun.

But the fun was just beginning. After we topped out the face, we started up the east ridge towards the summit. This had some very delicate cornicing, which was proved when James took an unscheduled ride down the north face after a large section of the cornice collapsed.

Thankfully, nothing more serious than a bruised leg and coccyx resulted, but we were forced to bivvy near the summit nonetheless. We picked our way down the much safer north ridge the next day, eventually hitting our camp in the Gorge after nearly 24 hours without food or water. A slightly more exciting ascent than we had planned for.

We then lost a couple of weeks while James recovered from his injuries, and this plus the soaring spring temperatures meant the plans for trying a new line on Mt Dickey went out of the window. So we caught a flight over to the Kahiltna Glacier, and got on Moonflower on Mt Hunter. After climbing 14 pitches to a bivvy, we were stormed off the face the next morning (the only bad weather in over 2 weeks, aahh!!). After another period of a couple of weeks of poor weather, we realised that high temperatures and rain to 10,000ft had brought technical climbing on Hunter and Foraker to an end for the season, so we decided to head back to civilisation.



Photo Gallery: Alaska Trip - Gavin Pike & James Clapham

+The previously unclimbed 1500m east face of Peak 11,300. Night of the Raging Goose takes the central couloir line., 148 kb
The previously unclimbed 1500m east face of Peak 11,300. Night of the Raging Goose takes the central couloir line.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+Dawn light on the upper face, Night of the Raging Goose., 182 kb
Dawn light on the upper face, Night of the Raging Goose.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+Climbing bullet-hard serac ice at the top of the face on Night of the Raging Goose., 150 kb
Climbing bullet-hard serac ice at the top of the face on Night of the Raging Goose.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+On the south ridge descent from Peak 11,300., 173 kb
On the south ridge descent from Peak 11,300.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+The 1200m north face of Mt Church . Amazing Grace  takes the ice streaks through the rockband just left-of-centre, 180 kb
The 1200m north face of Mt Church . Amazing Grace takes the ice streaks through the rockband just left-of-centre
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+Tunnelling through some funky Alaskan snow on the 'Burrows' pitch, Amazing Grace., 198 kb
Tunnelling through some funky Alaskan snow on the 'Burrows' pitch, Amazing Grace.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+On the summit ridge of Mt Church., 204 kb
On the summit ridge of Mt Church.
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike
+Time to go down! Incoming storm forces retreat from Moonflower on Mt Hunter (14,570ft)., 217 kb
Time to go down! Incoming storm forces retreat from Moonflower on Mt Hunter (14,570ft).
UKC Articles, Jun 2009
© Gavin Pike

 

The expedition was supported by the BMC , MEF and Marmot .



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