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Home Forums Trip Reports A-Range 2010 Part 1: Icefall Peak (?)

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    This will begin a series of TR’s covering Savage and company’s various routes of late April through May 2010 in the Alaska Range.
    It’s been quite a busy few months with not much time for computers, but I have lots of new photos and routes to share. This segment will present photos from a hut trip up the Gulkana Glacier in late April.

    Upon arrival to our accommodations (around 5pm) I began an ascent of what I believed to be Icefall Peak. My goal was the summit pointed out in the photo. Notice the gigantic and amazing looking icefall formed on its north side.

    Being that it does not get dark in Alaska during this time of the year I surmised that I had enough time for an ascent and descent of this route in the evening light. My planned descent route was mostly west facing and would receive its best light during the hours of my activity. Here is a view of a nice skiable face I found on the climb.

    The ascent (and descent) of this peak turned out to be much more than I had bargained for. I was forced to climb an elongated section of semi-steep alpine ice and negotiate several exposed snow bulges of approximately 55 degrees in slope angle. Luckily the snow was soft and stable on those pitches (sorry no photos, too scary, cold, and tired to get out my camera!). I obtained the summit ridge at approximately 9:30 pm and was rewarded with the relief of eased effort, safety, and spectacular views.

    North view

    I quickly scampered to the summit and enjoyed being on a high peak in the Alaska Range for the sunset hour. This is what I saw.

    East with the moon
    West with approximately an hour of light
    South looking at Mt. Drum in the Wrangell’s

    The sun was dropping quickly and it was getting very cold. I needed to get down asap.

    I bailed quick. I scored wonderful steep powder through the various snow bulges on the north face. Nevertheless this section was extremely intimidating due to its exposure to large seracs and glaciated faces below. It would have been possible to descend the north side directly and end up at a location much closer to camp. However this would have been a very risky decision without route knowledge, gear, rope, and partners. I had spent too much time climbing and descending to the west face and the light was gone. I was very tired and I still needed to descend the approx. 200ft. section of ice. I was very worried about this part. I committed and made a self-belayed descent using my ice-axe and toe edge to cautiously shimmy myself down the ice. Anyone who has performed this process knows how tiring it gets (maybe safer to switch to crampons and down climb, but more time consuming). It seemed like it went forever and I was spent. This photo was taken after I completed that section and found a resting place. The worst was over and I now only needed to descend the slope seen to the glacier below. I am not sure why I never took a photo of that ice above me. I just wanted to get down before it got dark!

    The descent was trying. It was of considerable distance (maybe 2,500 vertical feet ) and while there were a few powder turns to be had in protected areas, the majority of the slope had turned to a nasty breakable crust as the sun went down. Sometimes being alone on a big cold peak in the Alaska Range at 11pm can make one feel vulnerable. That’s was me and I was excited to be down. Here was the view looking back up the lower portion of the route. I have marked the area of rock hard alpine ice that I negotiated (no justice for it in this photo).

    There seemed to be sufficient light to travel the 2 miles of glacier required to reach my lodgings, but it was getting late. I split up and threw on my skins and began the grovel. You can see the hut on the small bench on the right located below the peak in the photo. The hut is the small black box seen directly in the middle of this photo.

    I was tired but as the light faded completely and the full moon came out the nighttime glacier environment became surreal. I was very happy to be where I was. This photo shows the peak I ascended on its northwest side. The better sections of skiing I call ‘bulges’ can be seen here. They are likely just sections of steep, cleanly sheered glacier ice covered in snow.

    Follow the full moon and rejoice that it is great to be alive and skiing on a beautiful glacier tonight!

    Soon all light was gone and I was left with only the moon, the crisp air, the seracs, and crevasses to guide me.

    I arrived at the glacier hut around midnight. My companions had boiled snow and I was very happy for water, tea, food, warmth, and a sleeping bag. I crashed out with a feeling of accomplishment.

    In the morning my companions, who had elected not to go climbing with me at 5pm the night before, embarked to go for some ski touring. I elected to take a down day and enjoy the relaxing retreat of a cozy glacier hut, warm food, good reading, and a view of the prior evening’s summit.

    (you can see my partners heading across the glacier here)

    I’ve been on my fair share of hut trips. This hut, by far, has the best graffiti of any other I stayed!

    Here is a wonderful view of the awesome icefall and my companions descending from a shoulder of the glacier.

    Here is a view of my ascent/descent route, taken on another day from a different vantage point than was available before.

    This is an interesting peak with several other opportunities for ski mountaineering. Later I was to find out that this is supposedly not Icefall Peak and that Icefall Peak proper is the next peak north east along the ridge. I found this quite odd because the latter peak looks far less appealing to me as a climb and also looks smaller. Additionally, the peak I climbed has the very unique, giant icefall dominating its north face. Maybe there is some type of mistake on the map, as I am still not convinced. In the following photo I have delineated the two summits in question, if anyone cares to comment or has additional information to provide.

    Either way, names don’t matter to me. I had another excellent trip here in Interior Alaska. Thanks to Joey for getting me out there! Sorry about your sled dude! May she rest in piece(s)…

    Stayed tuned for Part 2.


    Hmm, another epic. Stellar.


    sweetness man! keep em comin!

    neither of those are icefall peak. just kidding what do i know. 🙄 but how many times have we climbed something thinking it was something else only to have the map or someone else tell you it was not what you thought.

    regarding the ice and the ice belay story, glad it worked out well for you (it gave me flashbacks of a similar situation i didnt handle so gracefully). would suck to fall and get hurt that far away from any kind of help. glad you made it back to the hut.




    Mr Savage

    Your trip reports are so KNARLY i feel like I should be roped up just to read them. Thanks for making pee my pants


    Whatever Ray. At your age you pee your pants involuntarily 😆

    Nice one Jaime. Should have gone down when there was sun! One of my new pet peeves is climbing all day and having to ride flat light. Good job not dying. AK seems sooo long ago 🙁


    That’s it, I’m moving to Alaska….

    Who is coming? The plan is to abandon all life plans of money and success in order to snowboard where nobody ever has. Probability of success, low….


    Thanx for checking it out and thanx for all the props.

    I know all you all been shredding hard too!

    Russman; I’m not trying to discourgage you but life in AK can be highly challenging for a number of reasons depending upon your location/situation. Good luck whatever you do and if your serious than I am happy to offer beta.

    BG; yeah skunked on flat light, but you know me well enough to know that arriving at basecamp at 5pm on a bluebird day was not a result of my lack of motivation; other folks have different ideas about what time to start out in the AM. :scratch: Put it this way; I was in full on salvage mode.


    Nice one, SS.

    What was the heat source in that hut?


    no heat source, just a shelter, a glacier hut. Its nice and cozy, but even during the day you sorta gotta wrap yourself up in a sleeping bag, at least on that day I spent chillin there. That day was really windy and I never mentioned that the reason my partners bailed off the route they were going to attempt was because there was a ferocious storm coming in. We got completly blizzarded out to where you could not see 20ft in front of you. The little hut was def. a bonus for that.

    I had been following the weather and a storm was forecasted for that day. The prior day was slated to be bluebird, hence my 5pm start time; I knew that if I did not take advantage of the nighttime weather then I would likely get skunked the following day.


    Straight-up sickness :rock:

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