Ryan Irvin and I spent three weeks on the Kahiltna glacier this spring. It was an amazing time and the culmination of several years of alpine study. We were both very humbled by the scale of these mountains and glaciers.
We climbed Mt. Francis' east ridge with a partial snowboard descent, the sw ridge (3,800', 5.8, 60 degree snow and ice), bacon and eggs (AI4), and did several spines and couliors on annie's ridge, as well as some more relaxed split touring and rock cragging on the base of mt. francis.
This will be a bit of an ongoing TR as we get more photos and videos edited.
Thanks go out to Next adventure, mountain hardwear, phantom splitboard bindings, voke tabs, and pocketfuel.
All photos are by Ryan Irvin or Zach Clanton.
Save on baggage fees by wearing spantiks on the plane...
Climbing Mt. Francis east ridge
Partial snowboard descent of Mt. Francis
Climbing a tricky coulior on Annie's Ridge
On top of radio control tower
Spines on Annie's Ridge, Zach Clanton is the dot shredding down
Gopro shot of Ryan's spine line
Climbing a route called bacon and eggs
Zach Clanton photos, Bacon and eggs, Annies ridge tracks, and mt. francis base climbs
Stay tuned for more in-depth stories, photos and videos!
Ryan and I have been climbing together for several years now. He's proven to be a great partner, he is always willing to lead a hard pitch when I'm not feeling up to the challenge. While he is generally a stronger vertical climber than I, his experience in snowboarding is limited to relatively recent times. I however, grew up on the snow, the grandson of a ski-patroller and instructor. We formed a great team quickly, a prerequisite to any adventure in the larger mountain ranges on the planet earth.
Still, we are mere beginners compared to some climbers and snowboarders out there. That is the purpose of this essay-to inspire people to push their personal limits and comfort zone. One thing I have realized in life is that stepping out of your safety realm is stepping into great things. Alpine climbing and splitboarding are a direct analogy to this. The feeling of standing on a self perceived unattainable summit, or riding the steepest line of your life will give you a sense of accomplishment that is hard to find.
Our first climbs together came at Portland, Oregon's local training grounds of Beacon Rock and Mt. Hood. I was well on my way in my snowboard mountaineering (with descents of Mt. Hood's Cooper Spur http://splitboard.com/talk/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11374 ) and he had traditional rock climbing mastered (with notable climbs in the Tetons and Washington's Prusik Peak).
Within a couple of years we had several routes completed off of the northwest mountaineer's tick list. Trips like Mt. Hood's North Face, Mt. Rainier's Fuhrer Finger and Mt. Baker's North Ridge taught us many important lessons.
Around the same time I started thumbing through Joe Puryear's Supertopo Alaska Climbing book at work. I was given a library of Alpinist Magazine issues 1-20. My imagination started to go wild. Were we able to climb in the Alaska Range? Were we good enough? Tough enough? We talked for hours about climbing the West Buttress on Denali and even had tentative plans to go that spring. In the end we decided we didn't have the money or proper gear to do an expedition into the Alaska Range that year.
Shortly after our Denali crack-pot idea, we were invited along on an expedition going to the Juneau Icefield on the borders of Canada's Yukon territory, British Columbia and Alaska. While it was a great expedition it was somewhat flawed, we achieved our goals but the whole time we dreamed of the Alaska Range.
On expedition on the Juneau Icefield
Chris' first (and only) experience with a real crevasse fall
2nd ascent of Mt. Service
2nd ascent of Mt. Poletica
3rd ascent of Mt. London
If the hook wasn't set before this trip, now it was. The entire drive home from the Yukon we talked of the Alaska Range. We continued to talk about the range for the next several months. Finally in March of 2014 we booked our flights, we were going to the premiere alpine destination in North America.
Section 1: East Ridge Mt. Francis and Annie' Ridge Couliors
It is amazingly easy to get to the Alaska Range. A 400$ plane ride from Portland, Oregon on a Wednesday, a day shopping for food at Wal-Mart, a night in the sketchiest "hostel" ever (the alaska backpackers inn is not what it seems on the interweb) a bummed ride off of craigslist, and a 600$ flight with Talkeetna Air Taxi deposited us on the glacier 48 hours after leaving home.
The one and only Paul Roderick
We were one of the first groups on the glacier this season. It was great to experience the Kahiltna Glacier as a wilderness setting. It would not be so peaceful in a few weeks. It is lovingly referred to as Kahiltna International Airport, due to the amount of Denali climbers that are flown in and out on a daily basis.
Dragging the bags up to camp from the landing strip, Mt. Francis SW ridge in the background.
One of the perks of working in a gear shop, sell about 200 Mountain Hardwear tents and they give you one to take on expedition. The Trango 3 in front of Mt. Hunter's north buttress.
That first night was cold. I don't think we were quite prepared for it at first. Toothpaste froze. Sunscreen froze. Our produce we brought was immediately ruined. Peanut butter was impossible to get out of the container.
The next morning, we got up early and climbed the east ridge on Mt. Francis. It is a fairly easy climb, similar to glacier climbs we find here around the cascades. We went up a bit different route than the standard, opting for a 50 degree coulior that we would snowboard down on the way back. Above the coulior comes the crux of the climb, a series of crevasses which the uphill walls are 20 feet taller than the downhill sides.
Climbing the coulior at the start of the route.
Leading one of the ice walls, we would rappel off of snow bollards to get past these on the way down.
Riding down the 50 degree coulior.
After our success on Mt. Francis, and a great snowboard run down most of the mountain, we went to ride a line we saw on the flight in, on the west side of Annie's Ridge. With mountains like Foraker and Hunter within a few miles, Annie's barely qualifies in Ak range standards. However, anywhere in the lower 48 it would be a cherished playground.
A team of 2 skiers and splitboarder (anyone know who it was?) had a very successful expedition, Skiing Hunter, Foraker and Denali in one trip. The splitboarder got first snowboard descents on Hunter and Foraker.
Mt. Foraker, 17,402 ft.
Mt. Crosson, which you must climb first to climb the Sultana ridge on Foraker.
The climbs and runs on Annie's Ridge were pure fun. No worries about crevasses or icefall, just plain old good times climbing and shredding.
The climb up.
The harder of the 2 couliors we rode. Straight line through the rock band by the riders left strip of snow.
Favorite slash of the trip. You can't do that in hardboots!