Alaska Part 2: Mendenhall Tower - SE Ridge

An interesting and frustrating thing about the Mendenhall Towers was the lack of information published about the area. Only a few of the climbs had been entered into the American Alpine Journal, as SE Alaskans are just too darn belligerent and secretive to deal with that lower-48 nonsense. After arriving at the glacier via helicopter on July 9th, we spied an obvious line up a steep prow/arete to the summit of the highest "Main" tower and decided to give it a go.

Jason heads up splitters for breakfast, P1 off the snow:

P2 - Some complex and heads-up 5.10 climbing

Sussing it out:

The clean crest:

The Curtain Wall looms behind Jason:

Refueling on Route:

The Headwall:

It turns out that this route was the SE Ridge, and had likely seen a handful of ascents before, but the rock quality was amazing and we snuck around to the right and added a splitter 5.10+ headwall pitch that would/could/was easily be bypassed by the the 2 or 3 prior parties and we almost missed as well. It was totally contrived (as in, there was a direct way that was 5.8 or something) but infinitely worth it! We found tat and a couple old fixed pieces on parts of the route, but nothing on the headwall. If this route were anywhere closer to anywhere, it would be a tremendously popular classic.

We ate a snack on the summit in UNBELIEVABLE warmth, and discussed options for getting down.

Jason had sussed out a steep line to rappel, and the featured granite allowed us to get by with only leaving runners and cord for anchors the whole way down. We began by heading down some fairly easy terrain on the East Ridge.


Raps into the unknown

We landed back on the glacier and after some minor shenanigans to cross the moat, we were home free. A midnight-sun dinner was prepared and day 2 on the Mendenhall glacier had been dispatched.


  1. nice climbing time it sounds like-you scored on the finest spring weather in 30 yrs. might be that john svenson climbed this route in the late 70's. my friend ed and I put up a route on the west tower in '8o. it goes directly up the grey buttress that is lighter colored and is distinct from the rest of the face. 5.9 A3 the aid was basic except for an expanding flake that was spooky- hence the 3. wonder if it fell off yet. I think it was 81 when bruce and cosmos did an entire traverse of the towers,what we call an enchainment now. keep at it, scott

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