Impressive Climb on Alaska's Mt. Hayes


The east side of Mt. Hayes, showing the new line Thicker Than Thieves. After climbing the south summit, the three climbers continued over the main peak and descended the east ridge. Photo courtesy of Angela VanWiemeersch

6/19/14 - John Giraldo, Jason Stuckey, and Angela VanWiemeersch climbed a new line to the south summit of Mt. Hayes in late April and then traversed over the main peak in an impressive three-day effort. Mt. Hayes (13,832'/4,216m) is the highest mountain of the eastern Alaska Range.

The trio had hoped to attempt a direct line up the east face, which rises about 6,000 feet above the west fork of the Trident Glacier. But no route appeared reasonably safe from falling ice and other hazards, so they decided to attempt a route on the northeast-facing wall left of the south summit.

John Giraldo starting a 5.8 choss pitch on the first day. Photo by Angela VanWiemeersch.

Starting early, the three clmbers simul-climbed to within about 1,200 feet of the ridge line, and then began belaying pitches as the technical difficulty increased. As darkness fell they still had not reached the ridge, and with no tent they struggled to find a suitable bivy site. Finally, after several tricky leads in the dark, they found a spot under a cornice where they could dig in for the night.

In the morning, as they started up the knife-edge ridge, the weather began to deteriorate and the route ahead appeared to be a maze of crevasses and seracs. "We regrouped to discuss our plans," VanWiemeersch said. "We didn’t even know if there was going to be a plausible route through the craziness. Our options were to either go for it or turn around, because once we ventured onward there would be no easy way to go back. Luckily we were all on the same page and opted to continue. That was one of the coolest moments of the climb for me. Three different people with three different perspectives, but we were all on the exact same wavelength."

After a long day of tricky route-finding and delicate snow bridges, they reached the broader slopes of the south summit and discovered a perfect bivy site inside an ice cave.

Though well-rested, they still felt anxious in the morning, facing another four miles of climbing and descent, over the main summit and down the tricky east ridge. Fortunately, the high winds for which the Hayes Range is notorious never struck in force. Although visibility was poor, the trio was able to summit safely and then downclimb and rappel nearly 7,000 feet to return to their skis, 72 hours after leaving.

The climbers named their route Thicker Than Thieves (7,300', VI 5.8 R AI4 M5).

Date of ascent: April 2014

Sources: Angela VanWiemeersch, Alpinist.com


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