Ascent to Redoubt Volcano-East Face on 2013-05-24

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Loren S.
Edward Earl
Dave Covill
Jill N.
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, May 24, 2013
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Airplane
Point Reached:Redoubt Volcano - East Face
    Elevation:6700 ft / 2042 m
    Remaining Elevation:3497 ft / 1066 m (61% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Wednesday, May 22:

The five of us on the Redoubt expedition all met at the Ultima Thule hanger at the Palmer Airport on Wednesday morning. After sorting and organizing gear, the pilots told us the weather was not too great out to the west and they might not be able to fly us today. So we headed out to a nearby house of someone that Loren and Dave knew and hung out there for the rest of the day.

Thursday, May 23:

We were hopeful of getting morning flights today, but it was not until 1 PM that we got the call to get back to the hangar—the weather had improved dramatically at Redoubt. Paul Claus and Ultima Thule had an 8-passenger Otter, but it was busy today and our party would have to be flown by smaller planes in three loads. A Super-Cub was in Palmer already, and Dave and Jill crammed in that tiny plane as the passengers on the first trip, flown by Paul’s son Jay. A bigger Cessna 185 piloted by Paul’s son-in-law Ben was on its way from Mount Logan—that’s a long trip and it didn’t arrive until almost 3 hours after Dave and Jill left. We first thought that Edward, Loren, and I would all fit in the Cessna, but only Edward and I (plus gear) were allowed in that plane. Jay returned in the Super Cub not long after the Cessna showed up, and Loren got in the back. Jay switched to the Cessna, and Ben took the Cub, and both planes took off from Palmer around 5 PM.

The Cessna with Edward and I was faster, and after the 1 hour, 20 minute flight Jay decided to fly around the mountain for a bit. He buzzed the summit and the smoldering crater of Redoubt, and I tried to take pictures, but it was all a bit overwhelming and fast. The summit of the peak looked very jagged and difficult.

We saw the tent that Dave and Jill had set up, and saw that they were hiking uphill on a recon trip. Jay landed us, and shortly afterwards Ben and Loren showed up. After our gear was unloaded Ben gave us a quick safety talk and then both planes left, one right after the other, and we were alone at 4550 feet on the ENE slopes of Redoubt. The weather was perfect.

Loren, Edward, and I set up a tent next to Dave’s, built some snow walls, and waited for Dave and Jill to return. By 8:45 we were worried since we had seen no sign of them for a while. Edward and I got ready to go look for them, but they returned a few minutes before we would have left. They had blazed a trail uphill for 1200 vertical feet and found ways around some crevasses areas.

Friday, May 24:

We slept in a bit and took our time taking down camp and getting our heavy packs full of everything we would need. It was not until about 11:30 AM that the 5 of us got roped up and started up the broad lower snowy slopes, following the snowshoe path Dave and Jill had made yesterday. It was a bluebird day and we hiked up easy snow slopes for a bit, and then switchbacked steeply for a bit to an area of large crevasses, where the path took us past a marginally tricky section and led to more easy snow cruising.

At 6150 feet or so we came to the nose of a snow ridge. Ahead, looking towards the summit, the slope dropped a bit to the huge concave east face of Redoubt, a sea of seracs, icefalls, and cliffs. Down to the left cliffs dropped precipitously, and a steep but easy-looking snow slope rose to our right. From here our options did not look good. After starting at the face a bit, our general agreement was that there might be a route that involved a steep snow traverse, crossing a huge crevasse, climbing a steep slope littered with serac fall debris, climbing a “giant staircase” icefall of four steps, cutting left sharply, and then finding a way to the left-hand skyline ridge, which seemed to be guarded by an ice cliff. It did not look very appealing, easy, or safe.

We decided to camp at this spot, and Loren and I volunteered to head up the snow slope to the right to what looked like a rocky peak, to see if things looked better that way. So while Dave, Jill, and Edward pitched camp, Loren and I roped up, took a small daypack, and snowshoed steeply up 550 vertical feet to a snowy crest. Up here the snow was mushy, and Loren, in the lead, put his foot through some crevasses—this place was not super-safe. We could see a right-hand skyline ridge that looked like an OK ramp in some places, but parts of it were hidden and we could not see a route to it. There was a big rock “stump” ahead and uphill, and there was a snow route that looked like it might go around it, but the steep slopes below the stump had huge holes that were the start of a huge bergschrund. And there were hints of ice towers on the right ridge, and I recalled seeing several big crevasses there from the plane.

Also, from this new angle we could see the route we picked out earlier was clearly a no-go, with way too many steep ice cliffs or gaping crevasses that our team was not prepared to pass.

Loren and I returned to camp and we shared our sanguine views. We talked a bit and eventually came to the conclusion that there was no way up from here for our party. For a final recon, Dave, Jill, and Loren decided to hike straight down a bit, to see if the easy-looking left skyline ridge might be reachable by some downclimbing. Edward and I melted water while they were gone, and upon their return they said that there was no way down and around obstacles from here, and that we would have to return to our base camp.

We had a nice social evening—Dave’s huge tent accommodated all 5 of us as we played cards, ate, and chatted. The setting was fantastic, and the long Alaskan twilight bathed the incredible sea of peaks around us with beautiful alpenglow. This trip was also my first time camping on a glacier and overlooking the ocean.

Saturday, May 25th:

We packed up our Redoubt high camp at 6150 feet and hiked downhill to our basecamp. It was another perfect blue-sky day, and we easily followed our snowshoe tracks from yesterday. Except for the area around the minor crevasse field, it would have made a very nice ski run. We were back at basecamp before noon, and started making plans for going downhill around a rocky ridge we called “Five Fingers” to see if there was an easy way up to the nice-looking left skyline ridge. This route was the one Jay Claus has recommended to us, but I think our reluctance at losing elevation has biased us against it.

Edward and Loren were not hopeful about this option and decided to stay back at camp while Dave, Jill, and I tried this new route. I was a bit on the fence but thought it was worth a look-—with luck, we might regain the 2000 feet to our earlier high camp location and perhaps tomorrow could be a summit day.

(Continued at second attempt at Redoubt Volcano)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2250 ft / 685 m
    Extra Gain:50 ft / 15 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.4 mi / 7.1 km
    Trailhead:4550 ft / 1386 m
    Grade/Class:Snow I
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Rope, Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Tent Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Part of Trip: 2013 - Redoubt (3 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1(Attempt) Redoubt Volcano2013-05-242250 ft / 686 m
2(Attempt) Redoubt Volcano2013-05-251600 ft / 488 m
Total Trip Gain: 3850 ft / 1174 m    Total Trip Loss: 3850 ft / 1174 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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