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Ascent of Mendenhall Towers-Fifth Tower on 1985-07-15

Climber: Dick Ellsworth

Others in Party:Bruce Lella
Date:Monday, July 15, 1985
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mendenhall Towers-Fifth Tower
    Location:USA-Alaska
    Elevation:6600 ft / 2011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Did this as part of the first traverse of the Towers with Bruce Lella. We started with the first free ascent of the Rabbit Ears (II 5.9), then on to the top of the West Tower. Bivied in the col between the West & Main Tower. Then topped out on the Main Tower early the second day. After that the weather started to clamp down, started to sock in leaving the east ridge of the Main Tower and was consistently bad after that. Got over the third and fourth towers, rapped down into the col between the fourth & fifth towers for a wet, windy, and cool bivy.

The next day getting up to the summit of the Fifth Tower was the crux of the Traverse. (Those of you who have spent time in the Juneau Icecap know things can get kinda dicey.) Ran into a pitch that i am SURE would go free at 5.7 on a nice sunny day. We did not have a nice sunny day. Had to use three points of aid to get past the ice-rimed cracks (hence the overall rating of the Traverse at VI 5.8 A1) of the West Ridge of the Fifth Tower. The Sixth and Seventh Towers went somewhat grudgingly in the snow/rain/sleet/wind.

Finally rapped off the Seventh Tower and as we were getting sorted out near the base we heard a huge crashing noise. Looking up we spotted a Coupe Deville-sized rock headed for us. We dodged at the last minute and watched it crash to the glacier below. Bivied again out on the flats then walked out to the West Glacier Trail.

To the best of my knowledge there has not been a second traverse of the Towers. It can be pretty committing, and in foul weather you have an opportunity for some deep introspection.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Aid Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Bivouac
    Nights Spent:7 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Windy
White-out, rain, sleet, snow...full conditions.



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