Trip Report: Young Brits on Denali's Cassin Ridge

Bangor University students Tom Livingstone (21) and Tom Ripley (22) have just returned from a 5 week expedition to the Central Alaska Range. The pair managed a number of climbs including a 2 day ascent of the classic Cassin Ridge on Denali's South Face.

Tom Livingstone descending the West Buttress at sunset after an acclimatisation ascent, 158 kb
Tom Livingstone descending the West Buttress at sunset after an acclimatisation ascent
© Tom Ripley / Tom Livingstone

The two Toms started their trip with warm up climbs around the Kahiltna Glacier. They made an ascent of SW Ridge of Mount Francis in bad weather and a good attempt on Bacon and Eggs, an ice gully on the Mini-mini Moonflower Buttress, climbing to the top of the difficulties before abseiling off. After an abortive attempt on the Mini Moonflower North Colouir, temperatures were becoming dangerously warm so they packed up and started up the West Buttress. It took them four days to establish a high camp at 14k Camp.

After sitting out a period of bad weather the pair climbed Denali by the West Buttress to get fully acclimatized. Climbing from 14k Camp to the summit and back in a very long and tiring day.

Tom Livingstone slogging towards the summit, 141 kb
Tom Livingstone slogging towards the summit
© Tom Ripley / Tom Livingstone

Tom Ripley atop the Japanese Couloir, 131 kb
Tom Ripley atop the Japanese Couloir
© Tom Ripley / Tom Livingstone
Tom Ripley takes up the story from here:

"After the West Buttress we were both pretty knackered and spent two days of perfect weather recovering. On the 22 June we teamed up with Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman (who were off to climb the Slovak Route) and descended the Wickware Ramp to the base of the Cassin. The ramp is heavily crevassed and towards its end is constantly threatened by massive seracs. It's probably the quickest way of approaching the route and we survived unscathed but I'm not sure I'd really recommend it.

The next day we started climbing the Japanese Colouir at 6am and climbed for twenty hours to near the top of the Second Rock Band. The climbing was excellent and mainly straightforward with a few cruxes of Scottish IV. After 20 hours on the go we camped the night on a tiny a ledge at around 16,500'. The next morning we woke to snow at 7am. After two challenging pitches of about Scottish V we were at the top of the Second Rock Band, the end of the technical climbing, but with 3,600' of tortuous slogging remaining the route was far from over.

The weather was still bad so we were both nervous about what lay ahead. Thankfully, whilst we were sat melting snow the skies cleared and were able to continue in fine weather. We took it in turns, each breaking trail for an exhausting hour at a time. Eventually we topped out on Kahiltna Horn. We dropped our sacks and plodded to the final few hundred feet to the top, summiting at 11pm.

I was pretty spent by this point, but Livingstone, fresh as ever, was able to shepherd me down to the sanctuary of 17k Camp, where we collapsed into our tent.

Not that it matters, but with a combined age of 43 we are pretty sure this is youngest ever British ascent of The Cassin Ridge and probably one of the youngest ascents by climbers of any nationality. Do you know of any younger brits who have climbed the Cassin?"

Tom Livingstone and Tom Ripley are indebted to the following organizations, without their support the expedition would not have taken place.

Financial Support from: BMC , Mount Everest Foundation and Welsh Sports Association.

Equipment was supplied by: Anatom , Cotswold Outdoor, First Ascent and Mountain Equipment .

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