Despite the unsettled Alaskan weather and hazardous conditions, Mike ‘Twid’ Turner and Dave Gladwin, have achieved their objective of climbing a 1000 metre new route on the right hand-side of the west face of Triple Middle Peak in the remote Kitchatna Spires.
Landing on the Tatina Glacier in a light aircraft, Twid and Dave met two climbers with similar objectives: a Brit called Stu Inchley and Kim from Tasmania. In seven previous expeditions to this area Twid had only ever seen one other team.
Twid said: “As the conditions were so hazardous with everything plastered in snow and ice we decided to combine forces. This proved a good move and both Stu and Kim are now fully indoctrinated with the belief that suffering on an Alaskan big wall is a lot of fun. I’d never seen such wet down pits as these two lads had.”
“After a couple of days stocking an advanced camp with all our gear we headed off to the wall. Everything was plastered in snow and all the cracks were iced up. It’s been a 50 year record snowfall in Alaska. It looked great but made the climbing a lot more challenging.”
“The climb started with 500 metres of snow and ice, and dancing with avalanches, that led via a precarious traverse to the base of the pillar. This was a big wall of superb granite, topped by some amazing snow ridges. We chose a direct line linking perfect cracks and icy corners that needed a combination of steep aid and mixed climbing. After six days we reached our summit with magnificent views across the Kitchatna range.”
“After summiting we descended to our mid-way bivi. We were stuck in this snow hole for a couple of days owing to storms: quite exciting. Eventually we deemed it safe to descend and eventually made it back to base camp eight days after leaving. It was a really fun trip but had a lot of avalanche hazards.”
“We called our route Hard Arteries after the fact that half the team lived off pure blocks of butter for the duration of the climb. It involved a 1000 metres of climbing with A3, Scottish 5, free V. It’s not the hardest route I’ve done but in the burly conditions I felt it was a major effort considering the weather and amount of snow on the climb. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful routes I have done.”
The area is often referred to as the ‘Patagonia’ of Alaska with stunning granite spires clustered around a tight area of deep glacier valleys.