Two New Routes in Alaska's Kichatna Spires


Ben Erdmann leading in rock shoes on the SnickleFritz. Photo by Jess Roskelley.

4/24/14 - Ben Erdmann and Jess Roskelley have climbed two new routes above the rarely visited Trident Glacier in Alaska's Kichatna Spires, including the possible second ascent of 8,514-foot Augustin Peak.

The first success came immediately after the two were dropped in the range, despite unconsolidated early season snow. The SnickleFritz (5.9 A2 M5 80°) is a 1,500-foot mixed line on the southeast side of the ridge that divides the middle and north forks of the Trident. The two bivied once below the top and then descended from a col atop the ridge.

After this came 10 days of the Kichatnas' notorious weather, during which they explored each nook and cranny of the glaciers and neighboring passes on skis. "We felt a bit like Shackleton, except with lots of good food, global communication, and minimal hardship," Roskelley joked.

Northeast face of Mt. Augustin. Photo courtesy of Ben Erdmann.

Northeast face of Augustin Peak. Photo courtesy of Ben Erdmann.

When the weather improved, on April 20, the two launched up the northeast face of Augustin. This peak was first climbed in 1977, via the west face, by Mike Graber, Alan Long, and George Schunk. "Since then I have not found any documentation of a second ascent," Erdmann said. "In general the Trident is quieter than other parts of the Kichatnas."

Starting in the middle of the night to minimize danger from a serac band in the middle of the face, the two men climbed until they were above the seracs and then shared a sleeping bag until the sun hit them. They then simul-climbed the rest of the 4,000-foot route, reaching the summit at 2:30 p.m., and reporting "classic and enjoyable" climbing. The Erdmann-Roskelley Northeast Face was graded IV M3 70°.

Ben Erdmann on top of Mt. Augustin. Photo by Jess Roskelley.

Erdmann on top of Augustin. Photo by Jess Roskelley.

Last spring, Erdmann and Roskelley had a successful trip to the Kichatnas with Kristoffer Szilas, completing a new route on the Citadel.

Dates of ascents: April 2014

Sources: Ben Erdmann, American Alpine Journal