Climbing news travels fast in this internet age….
Two days ago myself and Will got back from our second trip in the Alaska range. We had quite an ambitious plan in mind which we never managed to materialize but we did manage a single push attempt on the Cassin which was good fun. Bad weather after the Cassin meant that we ended up just getting on the last ski plane out of Kahiltna- as the clouds closed in behind us and we heard that Base Camp airstrip had shut down just a few minutes after we took off we knew that we made the right decision!
The Cassin was the highlight of our time out there without a doubt and we were glad to be able to do it in a single push style. Heading into the base of one of the world’s biggest faces and onto one of America’s most famous climbs was a little daunting with just a day pack to say the least but we managed to top out in 14 hours and 40 minutes. However we benefited from a track up to the first rock band from two Swedish friends before we over took them and we topped out on the Kahiltna Horn (20,000ft), not the summit of Denali proper (20,320ft). The 15 hour Mugs Stump record from 1991 was also done to the Kahiltna Horn and with a track in the whole way but from the pure ethics side Colin Haley and Bjørn-Eivind Årtun did the Cassin last year to the summit and with no track in 17 hours so they hold the real record. In todays’ climbing world it’s actually more daunting doing something like this and opening yourself up to a barrage of criticism than actually doing the climb itself so those are the simple facts. In any case Colin Haley and Nil Nielson are up on Denali now set on smashing the Cassin record so by now it’s probabaly a done thing!
The route itself is an awesome line and a really fast scramble type climb. From 14 camp and back we clocked up 9470ft of ascent and descent in 21.55hrs and I could definitely feel it hard in the last hundred meters to the summit- I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely wiped out in my life. Our tactics had involved bringing up two freeze dried meals so that we could stop and brew up and eat something half way up the thing but it was so cold that I couldn’t get the gas to flow properly resulting in no food and a measly one litre of water each for the entire route! We had planned on climbing it around the 20 hour mark so left in the evening and climbed through the night meaning that we could top out still with some daylight on us- this ended up being a bit of a bad move as we found ourselves high up on the route freezing cold way before sunrise climbing with every piece of clothing we had on…still a great day out on the South Face and looking forward to next year already.
I'll do a proper trip report when I'm back but in the meanwhile here are a few random shots of the trip....
11,000 ft Camp with the sun setting on Crosson in the distance, © Jon Griffith
17,000 foot high, 14 Camp can be seen far below. In the distance (LHS) lies Mt Hunter, and (RHS) Mt Foraker. © Jon Griffith
Accessing the foot of the Cassin via the Seattle Ramp- Mt Hunter in the distance. © Jon Griffith
Feeling nice and fresh at the top of the Japanese couloir on the Cassin before the sun set and it got cold! © Jon Griffith
Will on the cowboy arete on the Cassin. © Jon Griffith
High on the Cassin at sunrise the next morning. A biting wind made it incredibly cold even when moving. © Jon Griffith
Magnus on the upper West Rib. Mt Hunter in the background. © Jon Griffith
On an acclimitisation run up to 17 camp. © Jon Griffith
Magnus on the initial section of the upper West Rib. © Jon Griffith
Sunset over Mt Hunter. © Jon Griffith
Hero shots on the West Rib cut off. © Jon Griffith