Ascent to Mount Hunter-11200 in 1978-04

Climber: Dick Ellsworth

Others in Party:Vaughan Hoefler
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:April, 1978
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Mount Hunter - 11200
    Elevation:7100 ft / 2164 m
    Remaining Elevation:7473 ft / 2277 m (51% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Was attempting the third ascent of the Kennedy-Lowe route. Left skis at the base of the ridge and shoved off with 8 days food. Due to previous storms, the conditions on the route were tough - snow was sticking on slopes that should never have held snow, resulting in plowing up through chest deep snow. Vaughan and i climbed for 24 hours and finally dug a cave below the ice pyramid.

Next day the storm had returned and was a whiteout with 35-50 mph breezes. We stayed holed up for three days, going on half rats to conserve our food & gas. Fourth day dawned clearish - when i pocked my head out of the cave i could see the bottom of the cloud layer about 300 feet above. After brewing up and hashing out our options we decided to bail on the route, realizing the conditions might be even worse than on our way up.

To make a long story short, after the first few raps down the route, Vaughan was crossing a 35-40 degree slope as i was trying to get in a belay. I heard a tremendous whump and turned around to see Vaughan disappearing in a huge slab avalanche, perhaps the size of a half football field and three feet deep. I turned back and quickly got a boot axe belay in (held everyone on K2 right?), the rope stretched and momentarily held. I was deliriously happy for a half second until the belay gave way and i was airborne. I tossed my axe and in the next 45-60 seconds i lost one of my nine lives. At times falling free in the air, bodysurfing the snow, at times completely buried and pounding the rocks and hard stuff below we fell about 1700 feet.

Each of us ended up in a different crack, we both emerged at exactly the same time and pointed at each other and laughed like crazy men. Had to leave that area asap due to huge hanging seracs about 400 feet above us. Minor epic skiing back to Kahiltna Base due to me detaching all the ligaments in my left knee and all ribs from my sternum.

Sure enough, the storm closed back in and we spent several more days in my tent at base camp with a bottle of Jack Daniels donated by some Colorado climber for my meds. Finally cleared somewhat and Cliff Hudson came in and got us.

That's the executive summary. No summit, but glad to be alive.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:7100 ft / 2164 m
    Elevation Loss:4100 ft / 1249 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Skis, Ski Poles, Tent Camp, Bivouac
    Nights Spent:4 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Extremely Windy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:7100 ft / 2164 m
    Trailhead:Kahiltna Base  14200 ft / 4328 m
    Time Up:24 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:4100 ft / 1249 m
    Trailhead:11200 ft / 3413 m
    Time Down:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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