Ascent of Mount Blackburn on 2017-06-08

Climber: Jeff Rapp

Date:Thursday, June 8, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Blackburn
    Elevation:16390 ft / 4995 m

Ascent Trip Report

Team of 5, including a Dutchman, led by 2 guides from St Elias Alpine Guides ascended Mt Blackburn on a 10 day trip. We flew onto the Nabesna Glacier (Paul from Thule Lodge, modified Otter) 3 days later than planned due to weather. The arrival was early enough with blue bird skies to make a gear carry up the crevasse field to camp 9800 at the base of the ridge. We used snow shoes but not sleds, only packs. The following day we moved camp up to 9800 using sleds and the established trail. It was another perfect weather day, but a snow storm was forecasted for the next few days so we built a strong camp with high walls to wait it out.
The storm was as predicted and dumped approximately 5 feet of snow over two days. We stayed at camp 9800 for 4 nights, with a lot of time digging out tents and camp. The morning of day 6 the snow has stopped and clouds appeared to be lifting enough to give us hope to move higher. We snowshoed in a white out to the base of the ridge to begin the climb.
Challenging conditions and very deep snow led to slow progress. It took 2.5 days to ascend the ridge to high camp at 12,400. One night was spent on a very thin, dug in ledge next to an ice wall to protect from the winds. Spindrift was a major challenge all evening and produced very little sleep and very wet gear. The snow was so deep that at times it was chest and face deep to break. Very slow moving those 2 days.
The move up to high camp on day 8 was a short and sunny, which allowed us to make camp early and dry out clothes and gear.
We left for the summit on day 9 at approximately 3:30am. There was a light wind and mostly clear skies, but as we ascended the weather deteriorated. It became quite windy (up to 40/50mph gusts) with low visibility. There were also patches of waist deep snow and loosely covered holes and bridges. A few times required bear crawling to pass over bridges. On the summit pyramid the weather improved and clouds started to clear. We summited at around 1pm. The descent was much quicker and in increasingly better weather - arriving in camp at around 4:30pm.
With one more day of good weather predicted for the following day, we made another early morning 3:30am start to descend from 12,400. After a few rappels and down climbs we were back at camp by 11am, rigging up the sleds and digging up the gear cache for the final stretch back to the airstrip. A few hours later we arrived at the glacier and base camp - ready and eager for our flight back. It was the quickest descent from high camp either guide had ever experienced, and we arguably had our best weather day on the final day.
The trip is planned for 14 days, we were 3 days late to fly on, 9 days climbing, 1 day descending and left 1 day early. The ridge is a beautiful and remote mountain experience, and the mountain weather is very challenging and unpredictable. Blackburn is a serious remote alpine undertaking and very rewarding.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9190 ft / 2801 m
    Route Conditions:
Snow Climb, Glacier Climb, Ice Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Guide, Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:9190 ft / 2801 m
    Route:Northwest Ridge
    Start Trailhead:7200 ft / 2194 m
    Time:9 Days 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Days 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Jeff Rapp
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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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