First Ascents in Alaska’s Wild Revelation Mountains

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5/4/15 - Two teams have found success in Alaska’s remote Revelation Mountains, climbing major new routes on two different peaks.

The British pair of Pete Graham and Ben Silvestre nabbed the first ascent of the east face of Jezebel in the eastern part of the Revelations. The 9,650-foot peak had been climbed twice before, but the east face had never been attempted. Graham and Silvestre had planned to attempt the north face and had never even seen a picture of the east side of Jezebel before a plane left them on the Fish Glacier, directly below the wall, on March 25. “We were very impressed and excited to be dropped below such an amazing face that we didn't even know about,” Graham said.

After scoping lines, the pair made two false starts, the first aborted by bad weather and the second by not bringing enough ice screws for the initial crux of the climb. Returning with 14 screws, they climbed the crux, a 30-meter pitch of vertical and overhanging ice that had looked like a “small step” from the glacier. Two pitches of very steep, hollow ice and a snow-packed chimney that required two hours to lead brought them to a couloir and more straightforward climbing. They reached a bivy site on a prow at around midnight.

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Day two took them to a spectacular 50-meter ice chimney, followed by easier climbing to the “Tower of Commitment,” where they fixed a rope and rappelled 60 meters into an adjacent couloir that appeared to lead to the top. They followed this couloir to the east summit of Jezebel, where they ended their climb, and then descended a few pitches to a bivy site. The next morning they continued the descent, reascending their fixed line to the Tower of Commitment before downclimbing and rappelling the rest of the route. They made it back to the glacier by nightfall.

They called the 1,200-meter route Hoar of Babylon (VI WI6 M6 A0).

Meanwhile, after many delays because of poor weather, Chris Thomas and Rick Vance flew into the west side of the Revelations on April 10 and soon made the first ascent of Seraph, a peak just to the north of the Angel, above the Revelation Glacier. Vance describes the climb:

“Our route ascends an obvious weakness in the east face of Seraph that is approached by crossing an icefall and then a hanging glacier below Angel. We attempted the route on April 13 but were turned around by heavy snow and sprindrift after the first technical pitch. (There is a long section of steep snow at the bottom.) True to form for the weather in the Revs, the skies cleared shortly after our retreat, so we decided to return the next day with the tricky approach dialed.

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“The crux came low on the route, clocking in at WI5+ A2, and was followed by several pitches on sustained 5.10 rock. We climbing somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 full-length pitches—there was a lot of simul-climbing in the middle—with a significant amount of snow and ridge climbing on either side of these pitches. Overall the route went pretty quickly with the approach beta gathered the day before, and we were camp to camp in somewhere around 17 hours.”

The two named the route the Mandarin Mounty, after a cocktail that Thomas invented consisting of warm Tang and Canadian whiskey. Further climbing ambitions were abandoned after a severe windstorm destroyed their kitchen tent. “We spent 36 to 40 hours holding our main tent up against the worst winds I've ever experienced,” Vance said. “The snow walls we built were completely eroded away, and during our brief time out of the tent both of us were dumped by gusts. We sat through the worst of it holding onto the tent's internal poles, ready to be thrown out at any moment, jackets and boots on, with the sat phone in my pocket.”

To escape the mountains, the two walked more than 20 miles down the Revelation Glacier and Big River to the comforts of Rob Jones’ hunting lodge, from which they eventually were flown back to Anchorage.

Sources: Pete Graham, Rick Vance