Anglo-Kiwi Pair Completes Three Alaskan First Ascents
7/7/14 - In one of his frequent pilgrimages to the coastal mountains of Alaska, Paul Knott (U.K./New Zealand) teamed up with Kieran Parsons, also from New Zealand, and managed three first ascents of peaks in Glacier Bay National Park. The duo had hoped to attempt the east ridge of Mt. Crillon, an unclimbed line first proposed by Bradford Washburn way back in 1941, but unseasonably warm conditions for late April, along with heavy snowfall and high winds, prompted them to change objectives.
Instead, they traversed about 12 miles over the Brady Icefield to reach a high bowl overlooking the Johns Hopkins Glacier, north of Mt. Bertha. Here, on May 6, they climbed two snowy peaks on the south side of the bowl, making the first ascents of each. The next day, having scoped their primary objective, an 8,290-foot peak with a striking granite pyramid at the top, they set out via the southeast ridge. A knife-edge ridge of cornices and mushrooms presented the first challenge, and it took them three hours to traverse only a few hundred yards. Easier climbing then brought them to the summit pyramid, where three pitches up to about 5.7, on solid, juggy granite, led to the top.
"From the summit, we could see just how much untapped potential exists for climbing and big walling in this knot of granite peaks," Knott said in an email. "The west side of Peak 8,290 sports a continuous 1,500-foot pillar, and other summits in the Mt. Abbe group sport similar monolithic pillars up to 2,500 feet in height."
Knott has been visiting the mountains of southeast Alaska and the Yukon for more than 20 years, making numerous first ascents, including two new routes on a previous visit to the Mt. Bertha area, in 2009. Last year, after the first ascent of Mt. Eaton in the Yukon, he and Derek Buckle experienced the full fury of the storms in this area, as they were trapped for eight days high on the mountain and were lucky to be rescued by helicopter during a lull.
Sources: Paul Knott, American Alpine Journal