Monday, May 5, 2014

Mt Huntington Harvard Route

After working fairly consistently throughout the winter, a first for me, fellow AAI guide Chad (Chaz) Cochran and I had some time and money to burn. We were working an industrial safety gig which provided us with ample time in a nice warm truck to plot ways in which to squander our hard earned cash.  We finally settled on attempting something in the Alaska Range in April before Chad's Denali expedition.  Both of us had done a fair bit of climbing in the Alaska Range so choosing an objective was slightly tricky, but luckily neither of us had ever been to the Tokositna Glacier nor attempted Mt. Huntington. With an objective in mind we packed our bags and headed off to the great north.  

An Alaskan Range trip requires allot of gear
My flight left Bellingham WA at five am.  It was brutal.  In addition to this uncivilised start time I got to Seattle and realized that I had booked my connecting flight to Anchorage for nine o'clock at night, not in the morning as I thought.  Facing a 14 hour layover I pleaded my way onto an earlier flight and managed to get to Anchorage at a slightly more reasonable hour. Despite being able to hop on an earlier flight, my ski bag was not as lucky. After hours of headache I finally tracked down my bag and got on a shuttle to Talkeetna. With the headache of traveling out of the way we sorted our gear and checked in with the park service. Once everything was ready we shuttled our gear to Talkeetna's airport where we would get a short flight from Talkeetna to the glacier via a ski plane.  Luckily the weather was good and we were able to fly into our objective without any delay.  We arrived to a very inspiring vista of mountains, snow, ice, and rock.

Our ride to the hills
Our route on the flight in.  The Harvard is the ridge in the middle
of the picture.
Mt Huntinton-The Harvard Route climbs the right hand ridgeline in the
As we were the first party to attempt the route this season, there was much work to be done.  We set up camp and turned in.  The next day we climbed to the base of the technical climbing so that we could break trail in the early season snow without our heavy multiday packs.  Crossing the bergschrund proved to be difficult  Eventually we found a way across.  It involved some weird snow aid on pickets.

Chad attempting to climb through the overhanging snow.  The route goes up the coulior above Chad 
Once a way to the base of the route was beaten in we returned to our base camp and turned in with the plan of starting the route the next morning. With a casual nine am start we set off from base camp and started forging our way up the route.  The climbing was quite moderate in the initial coulior until we hit a feature called the Spiral.  The Spiral was one of the more fun mixed pitches I've climbed in a while.

Chaz following the Spiral
While we had wanted to make it to the bivy at the base of the Nose, a feature which marks the end of the harder climbing, the first day, the climbing was slower than expected and we were forced to dig a ledge several pitches before the Nose.  The ledge while small was adequate.  The next morning we got up and made good time to the Nose.  This camp was much more spacious than the previous night's accommodations and the warm Alaska sun allowed us to dry our wet gear.

View from the Nose bivy
The next morning we got up and Chad led the only aid pitch of the route.

Chaz styling the aid
Jugging up and cleaning the Nose
Once past the nose we were able to make good time to the upper snowfield of the mountain.  There was only one more mixed pitch along the way. While not hard it proved time consuming as the pitch consisted of snow over granite slabs which my crampons did not really like.  The guidebook described this pitch as "scrappy" but I would describe it as insecure, runout, and generally awesome.

Mixed traverse after the nose

High on route
While the upper portion of the route is quite moderate, mainly 50 degree snow and ice, most years a vertical to overhanging snow fluting guards the summit.  I had been dreading this feature for the entire climb and was quite relieved to discover that this year it was easily passed by a moderately steep ice traverse.
Bypassing the vertical snow horror show
With the last obstacle passed Chad and I stood on the summit 8 hours after leaving our bivy at the Nose.  Hours of rappelling later we finally turned in around one o'clock.  We got up the next morning and finished up the 20 something rappels to the ground as weather started to move in.

Rapping into the clouds
While the climb took it's toll, three night sharing one 15 degree bag with another large man is not a pleasant experience, nor warm, the Harvard Route is easily my favorite Alaskan route to date. Below is our topo. Hopefully I'm not violating international copyright law.

Our trusty guide
--Dustin Byrne, AAI Instructor and Guide

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sweet account of the route!

Where did you get map for the route? Was it in a book?