Alaska Part 5 - The Resignation Arete IV 5.11+

The rock is good in the Mendenhall Towers. This splitter, and its twin finger crack on the right, are ideal rest-day routes, accessed from the glacier just East of Tower #4.

Now about 6 days into our time at the Towers, we finally saw signs of the weather pattern changing. With slight gusts and whispy clouds, Jason and I were eager to jump on another unclimbed line that we had spotted from our scouting day.

Tower #4, with a thin finger of granite visible. This flake looks like the summit, but is actually obscuring the top of the peak. We'd head toward this flake all day.

After being stymied by a large undercut snow fin and moat, we began at the buttress toe, and I was soon leading pitch #1. Most of this pitch was fairly casual, but ended with a short section of steep corner and roofy underclings to a hanging stance, where I brought Jason up.

Jason headed out left passing a couple more roofs and using face holds on the golden rock.

Pitches 3 and 4 were excellent, much better than we had even hoped. They followed a wide crack up clean slabs, then over a series of 3 roofs in a corner, each roof slightly harder than the last one, and all in the 5.10 range.

Jason pulls over roof #3

This brought us to a spacious ledge and the first headwall of the route. I literally could not believe the quality of the rock on this crest!

Bleached-white granite, full of long flakes, cracks, and more of the vertical fins and edges that we had seen on the curtain. The clean rock, steep climbing, and presence of long cracks made difficult moves seem fairly casual (by alpine standards).

After 4 more pitches up the crest, Jason led a 62-meter rope-stretcher and we thought perhaps we had neared the summit. However, my pitch of easy terrain led us to a small cave still 3-400 feet below the top, and the wall was getting steeper!

Jason took the crux of the route in good style, again stretching the cords out for a full pitch of sustained 5.10 moves, with two 5.11 cruxes. The first 5.11 section finished up the top of theoverhung finger crack visible on the left.

I wish I had stayed outside of our little belay cave to get more photos of this lead, as the steepness is hard to capture.

The 2nd crux was a delicate face sequence off a ledge, which involved a stretch even for Jason, who is 6'6"! I was unable to do the move freely while following, and found a flaring, two-lobe placement for a cam, which I used as a temporariy handhold to reach up into the desired hand jam.

I led the final pitch, which used up all the rope once again. This pitch began at the base of a final steep wall, with a thin, curving flake of granite to my left. We had been eyeing this "finger" all day, and had noticed it's strange prominence throughout the week before. It was exhilirating to end the pitch by stemming my way slowly up the wall, higher and higher in the swirling mists. I kept my left foot on the flake, and my right on the wall, until my left foot could go no higher.

At this point, I kicked off the flake with my left foot, and gently tottered all my weight onto the final headwall crest. Here a long stretch of 5.8 face climbing with no gear brought me to the beautiful cracks of the summit slabs.

We stayed up top for only a minute, watching the clouds go flying by us and obscuring such famous peaks we'd seen as the Devil's Thumb, Devil's Paw, and Mount Fairweather.

We set anchors and rappeled down an overhanging wall to the East of the summit. The rappels were long and clean, eventually crossing a hanging snow patch and arriving at the glacier just a few hundred yards from where we had crossed the moat.

Excavating an anchor:

In honor of Sarah Palin, the polarizing erstwhile governor of Alaska, we named our climb the Resignation Arete. As Ms. Palin had announced her surprise exodus from the governor's mansion days before our arrival in Juneau, all of our newspapers were full of Palin-related coverage and conjecture. Upon dispatching the crosswords, we were left with nothing but Palin-related reading material for our recon or bad-weather days. We think she was just intimidated by teh prospect of Jason and Blake roaming her fair state.

1 comment:

  1. Great job guys, those routes look super sick...you got my mouth watering. That region can be so awesome when the weather is good.