No More Second Guessing - An IntroductionI was perplexed for a moment, Graham was below at a hanging belay and I had climbed until he had no more rope to give me. For several minutes I dug down to the wall through sugar snow looking for some feature to attach an anchor to. After several minutes of digging I found a steep sheet of granite with no cracks.The headlamp light faded down the fluted when I looked in Graham's direction. The pitch had started with a mixed section and then I had sprinted through this first unprotected snowfield and I was looking for any anchor. To follow this pitch Graham would have to pendulum 40ft to get on-line. I resumed digging. After digging out ten cubic meters of snow I found a flake in the rock. I quickly placed marginal pieces in this, and not knowing how securely it was attached to rest of the wall, I backed up this "C+" anchor by digging my heals into a stance. I held both lines with my hands; Graham was on belay.
Like this one, the most memorable moments of last year's trip come to mind from time to time as I go through day to day life twelve months later. They are not the reasons Graham and I are compelled to go back, they are bi-products of the stress, concentration, good and bad fortune that comes with navigating long, complex alpine terrain. Rather, we are motivated by the stories of other climbers on these steep faces that inspired us to go the first time. Like them, we hope to participate in a worthwhile project that adds something innovative to the history of alpinism and exploration of the region. Each year, we chose a new mountain feature that will test of our abilities and provoke our desire to see person go up that line for the first time.The Alaska Range is magnetic and compelling but it is as formidable as the Sahara. After several decades of climbing in the range there remains much to be explored. Each peak has unique characteristics that give it distinct allure and personality. Graham and I have four weeks do some recon and pick objectives that are suit our abilities. We are stoked to be back. For the month of May 2011 Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman are returning to the Alaska Range under the team name Pirates of Rad with aspirations to explore this year’s condition on the massifs of the Kahiltna Glacier. The Kahiltna is home to some of North America's largest alpine faces belonging to Mt. Hunter, Mt. Foraker, Denali, among others. Mark and Graham have had great success in the past (see Mt. Bradley: Black Diamimond Comprehensive Report ) and are looking to forward to getting after it again.
No More Second Guessing - An Introduction
|Graham Zimmerman Looks down 1000ft of newly discovered terrain on out bivi perch above the Northwest fork of the Lacuna Glacier. ~Mark Allen|
Approaching our first bivi with the west ridge below. We had finnished the crux of the route "the rock band" and it was time to dig in. We shared a great spot with Boon and Clint. Great night high on the West Ridge~Mark Allen
On the morning of the 12th Mark and I left Kahiltna Base Camp for the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter. This route is a super aesthetic feature that gains about 8,000 feet of elevation in 3 miles. It is an absolute classic of the Range and is included in the revered Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. Without a doubt, it lives up to its reputation. The night of the 12th found us halfway up the route just above the crux, a mixed section. We had climbed up miles of beautiful corniced ridge through a series of steep rock towers. We were joined at the bivy by our buddies and local Alaskans, Clint and Boon. We spend the evening hootin’ and holerin’ between our tents and to Kahiltna Base camp over the radio. The next morning saw us moving on to the ice face, four pitches of traversing steep ice on the side of the knife edge ridge. Above this, we rallied up the broadening ridge to the summit plateau where we found the one of the most spectacular bivys either one of us had ever experienced. A wave of ice and snow inside a crevasse allowed us the escape the developing winds and spin drift while watching the purples and pinks of alpenglow wash over Mt Foraker. The next morning it was obvious that our weather window was coming to an end so we ran to the summit, avoiding the summit ridge cornice via a natural Chutes and Ladders tube. On the summit, we were graced with gorgeous views of the AK range around us including Denali, Foraker, Huntington and peaks of the Ruth, where we spent time last season. We then proceeded to race back down to the Ramen Couloir just below the ice face and down-climbed that feature. As we reached the glacier, we were encompassed in pea soup. With zero visibility we attempted to navigate our way around the heinous ice fall that we knew was somewhere out there in the fog in front of us. But after a few hours of fruitless wandering we bivyed once more and finished our food. The next morning dawned clear and we found our way to the other side of the ice fall and by the afternoon we were back in the comforts of base camp. Now a storm is bearing down on the Range and we are resting -perfect timing. The West Ridge allowed us the gain a period of acclimatization and knowledge of the conditions up high in the mountains. When our bodies are ready and the weather is clear, we will begin to attack the steeper terrain this range has to offer and we’re psyched about it. Best wishes to everyone at home. We will check in again soon.
|Pitch 3 of the Nebula Arete. Graham takes of on classic mixed climbing. We targeted the steepest, safest, most asthetic line that we could express. It took us 12 hours to complete the arete before it joined the upper face then ridge of the Luner Spur.~Mark Allen|
|Graham Zimmerman on the Arete proper. At first light after I led the night block here we take on some of the best mixed climbing either of us have had in the mountains. M6 solid and good gear and the possition was amazing~Mark Allen|
|Graham seconds the x-factor cornice. X for the unkown variable that allowed the cornice to remain attached to the mountain. This marked the end of the Nebula Arete and we climbed up several hundred feet of the face to join the Lunar Spur our first attempt route~Mark Allen|
|Topo of our 2011 exploritory activity colminating three viaable routes to the summit yet only one complete route to the summit. Our yellow line marks the descent used for all three climbs.~Photo Graham Zimmerman|
May 9th 2011:
Southeast Buttress/Ridge “Lunar Spur” 2500ft V M5, AI 2, Cornices (Green)