Amazing New Route in Alaska's Kichatna Range

Ben Erdmann, Jess Roskelley, and Kristoffer Szilas have climbed a very difficult ice and mixed route on the Citadel (8,250') in Alaska's Kichatna Range. The three men climbed Hypa Zypa Couloir (3,700', VI AI5+ M6+ 5.10R A3) in a 70-hour round-trip from base camp, with two frigid bivouacs. After completing the new line on the east face, they traversed over the summit and descended the north ridge of the peak.

The new route follows a gully and chimney system to the left of Supa Dupa Couloir, climbed in 2003 by the British team of Stu McAleese, Olly Sanders, and Twid Turner. In fact, the team this year had intended to repeat Supa Dupa, but Turner had mentioned the possibility of the a route to them, and after flying to the base of the mountain on April 4 and a "quick inspection of the route, we were convinced we should go all in," Szilas wrote on his blog.

The trio started the climb at midnight the same day they flew in and spent all day climbing steep snow, ice, and mixed terrain up the steep couloir. They bivouacked on a narrow ledge chopped in 60° ice—too narrow for their tent, which collapsed during the night. The next day they reached the col and then continued up steep rock on the south ridge, then chopped another ice ledge for a sitting bivouac not far from the summit. On day three they climbed over the top and endured a difficult and dangerous descent, downclimbing and rappelling from occasionally suspect anchors.

Ben Erdmann leading one of the crux pitches (5.10R) on the south ridge of the Citadel

Ben Erdmann leading one of the crux pitches (5.10R) on the south ridge of the Citadel. Courtesy of Krstoffer Szilas

The Citadel's east face was first climbed in 1976 by a big-wall route on the east buttress, climbed by the powerful team of David Black, Andy Embick, Mike Graber, and Alan Long. Since then, two more rock routes have been climbed on the east face, including one by McAleese and Turner. In 2008, Zack Smith and Josh Wharton attempted another ice route on the peak's east side but retreated after a fall near the top.

Dates of ascent: April 5-7, 2013

Sources: Kristoffer Szilas, Jess Roskelley, Ben Erdmann, American Alpine Journal


Kristoffer Szilas at the second bivy, near the top of the Citadel. Courtesy of Kristoffer Szilas

Szilas on the summit. Kichatna Spire is behind. Courtesy of Kristoffer Szilas




Previous Comments

Great Job, Benjamin Uncle Gene

Gene Van Beaver - 01/28/2014 3:12:32

Looks cold. How long do they actually manage to stay out there? Please feel free to explore News Universalt at any time.

Rick - 04/18/2013 7:11:04

Nice work guys, looked like some incredible climbing. Good timing on the weather window too.

Jason Stuckey - 04/16/2013 6:25:18

You guys are correct. The Alaska grade system is for routes 4,000ft and higher and for peaks 14,000ft and above. I was not aware. We have changed the grade to a grade VI based on the NCCS system. Our bad. We want to be correct and fair on any grade we use.

Jess Roskelley - 04/16/2013 3:35:09

'Amazing'? The most over-used word in the English language, now garnering the same level of attention as a car alarm...big whoop. Belch, fart, carry-on.

Amazing...ho-hum. - 04/15/2013 9:37:07

The Alaska Grade System was silly to begin with-a joke played on us all by Boyd. ex. The Muldrow Glacier route on Denali being "ranked" as hard as the west face of Deborah What is more silly is folks still using the system. What is belly cracking, choke on ones scotch silly is discussing the merits of a route being "ranked" Alaska Grade this or that. I say let the Alaska grading system die along with the canvass tent. -grumpa

grumpa - 04/14/2013 7:16:04

I don't know if you noticed but A3 and 5.10R does not sounds like very good rock.

A3 - 04/14/2013 6:13:17

The Alaska Grade System has nothing to do with specific peaks in AK, but is a system based on difficulty, length, and commitment particularly adapted to the special challenges of Alaskan climbing. Alaskan Grade 6 is defined as --Severely Difficult, poor to no retreat options, hanging bivouacs, may entail extensive corninces and knife-edge ridges, and the highest standards of sustained technical climbing for over four thousand feet. I was wondering why they gave their climb an Alaskan Grade 6 rating and stated that it "corresponded to European ‘ED’". A little confusing. Their route was less than 4000ft and looked like it had good ice and rock for retreat options. Sounded like the north ridge was pretty tricky to get down though. Awesome route though, very impressive. I'm not trying to take anything away from their accomplishments, I was just a little confused as well to their use of the Alaskan Grade.

Stücken - 04/14/2013 5:45:59

i was under the impression that only the three main peaks in the ak range recieved the "ak" grade.

abby normal - 04/14/2013 2:27:26