Climbers Colin Haley and Bjorn-Eivind Artun have just returned from a 37 day trip to Alaska in the far Northern USA. They climbed Denali (6,194m) several times by various routes but more significantly established a new route on the South East face of Mt. Foraker (5,304m) in one sleepless 71 hour round trip.
Arriving a the Kahiltna Glacier in mid May they quickly acclimatized by climbing Denali via the West Buttress Route (twice), The Messner Couloir and The Cassin Ridge, all from a camp at 4300m. The Cassin Ridge was to be a speed record attempt on the mountain but fresh snowfall and poor weather meant this was out of the question. It took them 17 hours to reach the summit of Denali via The Cassin Ridge and another 11 hours to descend the mountain via the West Buttress Route. Though they bought a 20 meter rope for the approach, they simul-soloed the whole route.
After climbing on Denali a one day forecast of high pressure led them to the base of the South East face of Mt Foraker. They hoped to climb a new route on this face but were dubious about their chances due to the poor weather they had been experiencing. They had not had more than one day of good weather at a time up to this point. However, on June 13 the skies dawned clear and they started up False Dawn, leaving this route after having spent just over two hours underneath some very large seracs that overhang this portion of the face. From here they started their own line up the large (1000m) face of Mt Foraker. Sustained difficulties and steep ground that involved climbing up to M6R meant that the pair were unable to stop even to brew on their first day on the route and continued to climb through the night. This caused Colin Haley to develop frost bite on his toes. Meeting up with the French Ridge on the mountain allowed them to brew and then plod their way to the summit. The descent, via the North East Ridge took longer than expected due to poor weather and a very uncomfortable night was spent in a crevasse with no sleeping bags, pads or tent. The final portion of the descent involved battling through a storm, overhanging abseils through unknown territory and finally extensive post holing back to Kahiltna basecamp (all with painfully frost bitten for Colin Haley). All told a round trip of 71 hours in perfect alpine style. They named the route Dracula, 3200m, M6R, AI4+, A0.
This line was a long held project of Climb's new associate editor Ian Parnell who on two separate expeditions skied to the base of the route before turning round due to the dangers presented by the numerous seracs that overhang parts of this route. "It's great to see that Bjorn and Colin have climbed this amazing face." says Ian Parnell, "They took the natural line I had looked at in 2002 with Kenton Cool and 2003 with John Varco. John and I even got so far as gearing up and waliing right up to the start of the super-threatened "chicken run" starting slopes, at which point it started snowing and we ran away. Although there’s a little part of me that’s jealous of Bjorn and Colin it's great to see this beautiful line brought to life, and climbed in such great style."
To read the full account with photos of Colin and Bjorn’s trip visit Colin Haley’s blog.
To find out more about Colin Haley visit his profile on the Patagonia website.
Stephen Venables Interviews Colin Haley in the November 2010 edition of Climb Magazine.