5/29/13 - On their third attempt, Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman completed the probable second ascent of Mt. Laurens, a 10,042-foot peak in the Alaska Range, via a new route on the northeast buttress. Laurens lies along a ridge line that extends southward from the Fin, a prominent summit along the southwest ridge of Mt. Foraker, between the Yetna and Lacuna glaciers, far from the hustle and bustle of the Kahiltna Glacier.
Allen and Zimmerman spotted the east face of Laurens while making the first ascent of Voyager Peak (12,213 feet) in 2011. In early May the two flew into the range intent on climbing what they had dubbed the "Mastodon Face." They skied about 14 kilometers up the Lacuna Glacier to its southwest fork, and then made two attempts on the east buttress of Laurens, turning around both times after about 1,500 feet of climbing.
The two men then shifted their attention to the northeast buttress, which they started climbing on May 20. Steep snow and ice interspersed with challenging mixed climbing comprised the first half of the route. After a bivy on a "beautiful prow," the two continued up a snow arete to the north ridge. With unprotected snow climbing over and around huge cornices, they traversed the north ridge toward the top. After a second bivouac and more frightening ridge climbing, they reached the summit plateau, where they had to wait out a windstorm in their tent until sunrise allowed them to climb one final pitch to the top. They descended the south end of the east face via a dozen rappels and 2,000 feet of downclimbing, returning to their base camp 67 hours after leaving. They graded the northeast buttress V AI4 M7 A1.
Laurens was first climbed in 1997 by the Austrian alpinist Thomas Bubendorfer in a remarkable solo effort. Bubendorfer, who in 1983 set a speed record on the north face of the Eiger that stood for 20 years (4 hours 50 minutes), spent 16 days alone in the mountains, without a radio. He climbed Laurens in an 11-hour push and named the peak after one of his sons.
Dates of ascent: May 20–22, 2013
Sources: Mark Allen, Graham Zimmerman, American Alpine Journal, bubendorfer.com