First Winter Ascent on Mt. Huntington


Brad Farra breaking trail on the first day of the French Ridge winter ascent. Mt. Huntington's summit is hidden in this foreshortened view of the very long ridge. The 3,250-foot west face, which the team descended, is visible on the right. Photo by Jason Stuckey.

3/6/14 - Brad Farra, John Frieh, and Jason Stuckey completed the first winter ascent of the very long French Ridge on Mt. Huntington in early March. The rarely repeated northwest ridge was the first route up 12,240-foot Huntington, which rises to the east of Denali and Mt. Hunter in the central Alaska Range. It was climbed in expedition style, in 1964, by an eight-man team led by the great French alpinist Lionel Terray.

Farra, Frieh, and Stuckey were flown to the Tokositna Glacier around noon on March 1. They immediately started climbing and bivouacked on the ridge at circa 10,000 feet. The next day they climbed for 16 hours, only reaching the summit a little before midnight. They had a very cold bivouac just below the top, and then down-climbed and rappelled the Nettle-Quirk Route (West Face Couloir) to return to the glacier, about 51 hours after starting.

Huntington was first climbed in winter in 2007, when Jed Brown and Colin Haley summited via the West Face Couloir. Frieh and Stuckey repeated that route in the winter of 2011. This year's climb was the third winter ascent of this striking peak.

The French Ridge is not extremely difficult, technically, but its length, along with cornice and avalanche danger, make it less popular than the shorter west face routes on Huntington. "This climb felt much more committing to Jason and me, even though we were returning to a mountain we had previously climbed," Frieh said. "I suppose it was the knowledge that past a certain point retreat would be very difficult and time consuming."

Dates of ascent: March 1–3, 2014

Sources: John Frieh, American Alpine Journal