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Two New Big Routes in Alaska's Hayes Range

Back to back first ascents

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Alpinists Benjamin Lieber, Alex Hansen, and Austin Schmitz put up two new big routes this Autumn season in the Hayes Range in Alaska. The first was DeWild Style (AI4+) on the SE Face of Peak 9,250 that Lieber and Hansen climbed. After that success, they recruited their friend Schmitz for his first trip to Alaska. Together the three established Longing for Light (AI5) on the NE Shoulder of Mount Moffit.

In mid-September, Lieber and Hansen took a bush plane piloted by Jesse Cummings from Golden Eagle Outfitters on a reconnaissance mission to the Hayes Range, flying low and spying potential new lines. They spotted two faces plastered in ice that looked inviting—both of which would come to be climbed by the alpine team within a few weeks. The climbers said Cummings was an integral to their success, and they consider him the fourth team member.

Instead of schlepping their gear up the valley to the base of the route, Lieber and Hansen had the bush plane drop duffle bags in the vicinity of where they wanted to set basecamp, then touched down at the nearest viable landing strip for the snow plane—about seven miles down the valley—and hiked in from there. They set camp, and the next day cast off onto the unclimbed face.

The team air dropped gear to basecamp, and then hiked to meet it from the nearest viable landing area for the plane.Austin Schmitz

“It was a beautiful deep gully system straight up the face,” Lieber wrote on “The climbing consisted of AI3 to 4 with some steeper sections of 4+. In between the ice runnels, which were often narrow, was solid steep snow. The route is approximately 700 meters and is located on the SE Face of a sub-peak at 9,250ft tall. We rapped the route on almost all V threads in good ice. It was an exceptional day!”

The duo were in and out of the range in just 72 hours, having established DeWild Style (AI4+).

Riding the high from their first ascent, Lieber and Hansen recruited Austin Schmitz to join them for their next foray into the Hayes Range. Schmitz obliged, and in early-October they were off once more.

“The valley gets zero minutes of daylight during October,” Lieber wrote. “It is cold, dark, and quite intimidating.”

Again, they airdropped their basecamp near the base of the climb, then were dropped about ten miles down valley. The approach was laborious and involved many hours of navigating bouldery terrain before reaching their bags. The next morning the team blasted off up the NE Shoulder of Mount Moffit, but were worked from the day before and moving slow.

“We got on a gully shortly after noon and had at it until nightfall,” Lieber wrote. “It was long and wandering with alternating sections of ice and snow. When night fell, we knew the top was still far away so we bailed. Too little energy to do it today. We rapped through the cold dark Alaskan night and went back to camp to rest.”

After two days’ rest, they mounted another attempt, this time completing the 800-meter route they dubbed Longing for Light (AI5)—appropriate, given the lack of daylight in Alaska that time of year.

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