Placeholder Routes & Places

Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Foraker/Sultana Ridge

We planned for a 3 week expedition-style ascent of Mt. Foraker via the Sultana Ridge Route. Given a warmer than usual winter (thanks ENSO), we were unable to gain access to Mt. Crosson - the entire flank of the mountain was melted out, so ascending on snow was impossible.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Completely melted out.

Given a warmer than usual winter (thanks ENSO), we were unable to gain access to Mt. Crosson - the entire flank of the mountain was melted out, so ascending on snow was impossible. Ascending on loose and un-anchored dirt was untenable, and a bit of very dicey looking water ice that we woke up at midnight to try to climb melted out our second day, and had baseball-sized rockfall 24 hours a day. We therefore never even gained the ridge to head towards Foraker. We were in good (frustrating, unlucky) company - most if not all of the groups that attempted the climb from this direction were unsuccessful in 2016, for the same reasons.

Lessons learned:
1. Climb earlier. We went during the standard season for this route, flying onto the Kahiltna Glacier May 23rd. Climate change (especially when combined with El Nino) is moving the climbing season up, closer to winter. I wouldn't be surprised if in years to come, most of these climbs move to late April, from mid-May. I won't try to to climb in the Alaska Range after mid-May again.
2. Having seen the climbing route (extensively) close up, now, all three of us would prefer to have done this climb alpine style, taking fewer days. A shorter climb would have allowed us to fit in the climb in the short windows between storms in the region - those storms have a more significant impact on Sultana Ridge on Foraker vs Denali because of the extensive ridge traverse - smaller, lighter packs would also make us more adept in moving in those conditions.
3. Many websites and route descriptions suggest this would be a good alternative to doing the West Buttress route on Denali. I think this is a wildly inaccurate characterization, having done the West Butt myself. Crosson is very steep, without deeper anchor points; the ridge of Sultana Ridge is much longer and more exposed with a longer "no fall zone"; and Foraker is significantly steeper with a much bigger summit day. I love this peak and am sure I'll head back to it at some point (the route is gorgeous) but not for a few years.

 

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.