First Ascent and Shiver Bivy on Alaska’s Mt. Dickey

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3/25/15 - John Frieh, from Portland, Oregon, teamed up with Alaskans Chad Diesinger and Jason Stuckey to climb a new route on Mt. Dickey’s northeast face. Blue Collar Beatdown (V WI4 M4 65° snow) “required 48 hours of effort, minus a four-hour ‘sit and suffer’ when route-finding at night through complex terrain proved too difficult,” Frieh said in an email.

The trio flew in to the Ruth Gorge on March 19 and started climbing on March 20. Their route climbed a steep glacier to a headwall slashed by a snow and ice ramp, which led up and right to Dickey’s broad northern plateau. Steep, poorly protected but sticky névé led to the ramp, which they followed toward the ridge line. The vertical gain from the glacier to the summit ridge was about 3,000 feet, with considerably more climbing distance.

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“As I had previously climbed Dickey in 2012 [first ascent of No Such Thing As a Bargain Promise, with Doug Shepherd] our plan was to be off the face before the sun set and than rely on my knowledge of the descent to head down in the dark, thus eliminating the need for bivy gear,” Frieh said. Unfortunately, the climbing turned out to be more complicated than expected, and eventually the trio was forced to dig a snow cave into the side of a snow fin and sit out the night of the spring equinox. “No one really slept, out of concern we would frostbite our hands or toes, so we passed the time heating water on the Reactor stove and doing some calisthenics, though we were limited by the size of the cave,” Frieh said.

As soon as it was light enough to climb, Stuckey started leading toward the top, but the first pitch out of the cave proved to be a nightmare of trenching and snow-wallowing, requiring hours to lead. Finally they topped the face and trudged another 1,500 vertical feet to the summit of Mt. Dickey before descending the west face to return to base camp.

Frieh has now done nine new routes or first winter ascents in Alaska since he started climbing in the state in 2009. In 2011 he and Stuckey did the second winter ascent of Mt. Huntington, and in 2014 they and Brad Farra did the first winter ascent of Huntington’s northwest ridge (the French Ridge).