First Ascent of the Ice Pyramid in Alaska

The west side of the Ice Pyramid (9,250') in the Revelation Mountains of Alaska. The southwest ridge generally follows the right skyline, and the Cataclysmic Couloir gains the northwest ridge on the left. Photo by Clint Helander /

Seth Holden follows a pitch on the first day on the southwest ridge. Photo by Clint Helander /

Clint Helander and Seth Holden completed the first ascent of the Ice Pyramid (9,250') in the Revelation Mountains of Alaska. The two climbed the southwest ridge in a four-day round trip from base camp. 

Helander, Holden, and Steve Sinor had attempted the Ice Pyramid in 2008, climbing 18 pitches on the southwest ridge before running out of time on the third day of their main attempt. They later made the first ascent of an 8,385-foot peak they called the Exodus. 

This spring, Helander and Holden climbed 15 pitches in about 14 hours during their first day on the Ice Pyramid. On the second day, they passed their previous high point by traversing under a series of gendarmes. Deep, unconsolidated snow over slabs slowed their progress until they returned to the sunny side of the ridge and conditions improved. A knife-edge ridge and short rock steps took them to the top. After a scary incident with a mountaintop crevasse, they quickly descended a couloir to the south and then spent one more night out before crossing a technical pass to return to their skis. 

Looking down the sinuous southwest ridge. Photo by Clint Helander /

Holden leads the first pitch on Day 2, one of the crux pitches of the route. Photo by Clint Helander /

After some rest and exploration, the two decided the best-looking unclimbed route in the area was another line on the Ice Pyramid: a gash on the west face they called the Cataclysmic Couloir, leading to the northwest ridge. The two quickly climbed the couloir, but halted at the ridge in the face of deteriorating weather and difficult ice climbing with only four screws and pickets for protection. Back at base camp, they packed up and hiked three days down the Big River to reach the lodge owned by their pilot, Rob Jones. 

The Revelations lie at the far southwestern end of the Alaska Range; fewer than two dozen teams have climbed in the remote range. 

This expedition was supported by a Mugs Stump Award.

Dates of Ascents: May 2009 

Source: Clint Helander /

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