Remote First Ascent in Alaska Range

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Graham Zimmerman leading pitch 3 of the Nebula Arête (M5/6. Photo by Mark Allen

Graham Zimmerman leading pitch 3 of the Nebula Arête (M5/6. Photo by Mark Allen

Voyager Peak (12,214') showing all three lines climbed by Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman: Green (first attempt on southeast buttress); yellow (descent route); blue (second attempt, Nebula Arête); and red (summit route via south face central couloir). Courtesy of Graham Zimmerman

Voyager Peak (12,214

6/7/11 - Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman did the first ascent of an extremely remote 12,214-foot peak in the Alaska Range in May, the culmination of two visits to the isolated—and possibly unvisited—Northwest Fork of the Lacuna Glacier, as well as three separate attempts on the mountain.

In early May, the two men set out for a six-day round trip from Kahiltna Base, skiing for about 15 miles around the east and south side of Mt. Foraker, until they eventually reached the Northwest Fork of the Lacuna and the south face of Peak 12,214. (The peak is a prominent point on the complex ridge systems extending south from Foraker.) Over one and a half days, they climbed 2,500 feet up the southeast buttress of the peak before bad snow conditions and an incoming storm sent them down.

After returning to base camp on the Kahiltna and climbing the west ridge of Mt. Hunter, the two skied two days back to the Lacuna. Knowing they had a descent route already installed from their previous effort on the peak, the two decided to go light on a new line left of their first attempt, and on May 23, packing no bivy gear, they climbed 3,500 feet up a granite buttress, followed by a couloir leading to the summit ridge. There, in poor weather, with 1,000 feet of corniced ridge still above them, they opted to descend the southeast buttress, returning to camp 26 hours after leaving.

Three days later, with food nearly gone, they left camp at 10:30 p.m. for one more attempt, this time choosing a direct and easier line via a couloir. Finding great snow and ice conditions, they reached their high point on the summit ridge in less than five hours, and then simul-climbed up the corniced ridge to the top. They were back in camp after a little over 20 hours. The next day, they did a long hard ski back to Kahiltna Base in 13 hours.

"There wasn't much ice in the range this year," Allen said. "Our lines followed rock buttresses capped by terrifying corniced ridge climbing."

Allen and Zimmerman dubbed the mountain Voyager Peak and named all three routes they climbed, each of which reached the same point on the summit ridge. But more than just enjoying the climbing success, the two reveled in the exploration. "This is the most remote Graham and I have felt in the Alaska Range," Allen said. "Surprisingly, the exposure to the remoteness diminished over time as we became comfortable with the environment, allowing us to take on bolder strategies and go for it."

Dates of Ascents: May 2011

Sources: Mark Allen, Graham Zimmerman, returnofthejollyroger.blogspot.com