Brits add New Route to Mount Hunter North Buttressby Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor May/2011
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British Alpinists Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker have added a significant new route to the North Buttress of Mount Hunter, Alaska.
The Cartwright Connection (M6, AI6, 5.8, A2) initially tackles new ground and joins the Moonflower Buttress at the Vision, above the second ice band.
Mount Hunter (4,442 m) is around 8 miles south of Denali (Alaska's highest mountain) and the 1200m face of the North Buttress is described as the 'technical showpiece' of Mount Hunter on the Supertopo website.
Jon Bracey describes his and Matt Helliker's ascent of The Cartwright Connection:
"Unrelenting spindrift avalanches and gusty winds constantly blasted and buffeted our portaledge. Our small cocoon of safety on this harsh and hostile mountain was slowly being engulfed, as we nervously watched the snow level rise up the fly walls. Five of the toughest days climbing of our lives it had taken to get to this point and our chances of reaching the top of the North Buttress were quickly diminishing. There was nothing we could do about it and the forecast was for more snow and stronger winds over the upcoming days....
After our previous recce the first day on the wall went smoothly and things were going to plan. That night was less so as we realised the perils of hanging our portaledge on a 60 degree ice slope. We were awakened by the bang of the ledge as it suddenly collapsed and transformed into a hammock! On day two we faced many uncertainties with finding a way through some very complex and steep terrain full of overhanging snow mushrooms. Matt fought hard leading all day, and finally got us in position below the steepest rock band of the climb at about 2am. By overcoming these difficulties our confidence grew and for the first time ever I started to think that we might have a small chance of getting up this climb! Day three was steep and scary.... thinly iced slabs, overhanging cracks, loose rock to aid climb up, a pitch of vertical ice and more. We finally got to bed at 6am! Day four we joined the Moonflower route and our new route was on- we just needed a little luck with the weather. Day five it snowed and wind blew.....
After being trapped in the ledge all day at 9 pm we sensed a slight lull in the storm and could see glimpses of the sun through the clouds. We were both thinking exactly the same thoughts...this might be our one and only chance so lets take it. With no food left there was no point in playing a waiting game. We quickly packed a stove, spare gloves, warm jackets and a minimal rack. Our goal to reach the top of the Buttress, 500m and 13 pitches of climbing above us. In reality knowing the chances of success being negligible.
Two pitches later the snow started up again and we were battling hard against forceful spindrift. The cold was almost unbearable but some how our optimism and unwillingness to give-in was winning through. In a dream like state of exhaustion we stood at the top of the face at 5am, few words were said, with no comprehension of what we had just achieved. We just knew we had to start abseiling with haste. 38 abseils and 14 hours later we were back on the glacier and collapsed, having been awake for 36 hours. We have named the route 'The Cartwright Connection' in memory of my good friend Jules as it was his vision to attempt this line."
'The Cartwright Connection', North Buttress, Mount Hunter, Alaska
FA Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker 13 – 18 May 2011
Ca 6000ft, Alaskan grade 6 (M6, AI6, 5.8, A2)
The route joins the 'Moonflower Buttress' at the Vision, above the 2nd ice band. We descended from the 'cornice bivi' by abseil.
You can read more about the expedition on their blog: moonflower-expedition.blogspot.com