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    christoph benells

    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!


    Mmmm…AK range :drool:

    Greatly looking forward to more stoke! Thanks for the ongoing TR :thumpsup: :thumpsup:

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg



    Yeah Chris and Ryan! More pics and vids please!


    Very cool Chris!


    Sickness! Dope to see ya shreddin Ak Chris! Lookin forward to see more


    Phuck Yeah guys! :headbang:

    Guaranteed images and action to follow! :thumpsup:


    Nicely done Chris, Ryan and Zach! Can’t wait to see more!

    Matt Wood

    :bow: I really need to get up there before I’m too old and broken 😥

    christoph benells


    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 ) 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.


    Right on Chris! :thatrocks: Cool to see pictures of the Juneau Ice field, trippy looking area. Interesting crevasse trap, and the Cooper spur route looks a bit gnarly 😯

    christoph benells

    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!

    christoph benells

    ahhh. i see

    just found this. :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :bow: :bow: :bow:


    Very cool TR!

    christoph benells

    added some new photos!

    christoph benells

    Section 2: Climbing-radio control tower’s west face (9 pitches, m5 60* snow) and Mt. Francis’ SW ridge (3,600′, 5.8, 60* snow) Bacon & Eggs (AI4)

    I know this isn’t really splitboarding, but we did use the boards to approach the climbs. I’ll keep this to a photo dump.

    Our line on Radio control tower, a good warm-up for technical climbing in the Alaska range.

    Looking up the mixed climbing crux

    Third pitch belay


    Mt. Francis Sw ridge.

    We went up thinking we were going to do an overnight climb, but poor snow conditions forced us to bivy an extra night near the summit. Zach Clanton had the NPS chopper looking for us while they ferried loads to the 14k camp on denali, they spotted us hanging out on the summit. 2 open bivies, 20 or so pitches of technical rock, lots of thigh deep snow, and one terrible traverse under a huge cornice. Zach met us on the trail back to camp with some :doobie: and :guinness: :thumpsup:

    Bacon and Eggs, Ryan had a bout of unfortunate timing at this belay :shit: :shit:

    Zach was a good buddy out there.

    wasatch surf

    so fucking rad man! Bacon and Eggs is on my wishlist. Hope to make it up there one day.


    Awesome Chris!

    I’m planning my first trip to AK this spring, and it’s fueling the fire! :thumpsup:

    christoph benells

    Spine Lines on Annie’s Ridge

    These spines were right out of our tent door, so awesome! Perfect Preserved Powder Pointing north…all north aspects were so good! Not too bad for the middle of may.

    This photo is not tilted, i swear!

    Zach Clanton is stoked

    Climb it like clanton

    Mcalpine (that’s his real name) shredded this one in some old ass mountaineering boots with the toe falling off!

    Clanton is white roomin’

    Myself, you cant do that in hard boots!

    Slurvin’ irvin gettin some with them phantoms!

    Make sure you stop where there are no crevasses

    HOt DAMN that was a gooood time. I know there is some videos of this stuff, if ryan irvin would get off that ladder and stop hangin christmas lights!


    @christoph benells wrote:

    I know there is some videos of this stuff, if ryan irvin would get off that ladder and stop hangin christmas lights!

    Nice Chris! Don’t worry, Ryan did something with the videos before he headed out of town… :doobie:




    Sick all around!!


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