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First ascents and other attempts with Paul Knott, May 1996.
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Waiting for the plane outside "Yakutat Jack's".

Climbing the King and Queen

This was our second trip to the range, having climbed Mount Augusta a few years previously. The real drama of this trip was nearly getting avalanched before even getting on the route and later discovering that the radio was broken and hiking a long way in order to try and attrach our pilot's attention.

Further details can be found in the Mount King George Expedition 1996


Mount King George, attempt on the NE ridge, (3741m) 8-11th May.

We easily reached the start of the route (1960m), which at first was a mixed rock and ice ridge. We then weaved around small seracs on steep windslab, using 75cm snow-stakes to gain purchase. A traverse L under a larger serac at 2500m turned out to be on concrete-hard ice. We abandoned the traverse and camped under a stable section of serac, only to be blasted all night by wind and spindrift.

The next day we traversed lower down, and climbed between the seracs via more steep windslab to a shoulder. From here we climbed round another set of seracs, also to the L on the ubiquitous ‘vertical windslab’, to a second shoulder from which we could view the rest of the route. Ahead a section of steeply corniced ridge led to a large serac climbable only by an abutting snow pinnacle. Above this an ‘impregnable’ serac wall could be bypassed only by traversing well to the L onto the E Face, under the seracs on icy-looking and avalanche-scoured slopes.

As we ascended to the corniced ridge the snow changed to a thin layer of ‘sugar’ over concrete-hard ice. We retreated and camped back on the shoulder at c.3080m. In the morning, keeping an eye on the storm clouds scudding across the sky, we traversed well below the ridge and up a short rock step onto a slope leading back to the crest. The slope led on more steep windslab to a small lip marking the transition to another ‘sugar-coated’ ice slope, this time topped with yet more windslab (c.3120m). Commenting “this is asking for it”, and having exhausted all reasonable alternatives, we reluctantly retreated. Our disappointment was tempered by a sense of relief once we had safely descended.

Peak 3089m, first ascent of the E ridge, 3089m (ungraded), 14-15th May, FA.

On crusted slopes we reached a col on the E Ridge in 2 hours from base camp. After traversing intricate but straightforward corniced ridge and ascending a slope between seracs, we reached the N summit in a further 3 hours. Another summit, possibly a few metres higher, lay 1km to the S but the intervening corniced ridge was uninviting in the high winds and rapidly approaching storm. The S summit has no spot-height and would be more easily reached by a separate ascent. On the descent we camped at c.2500m as the blizzard and poor visibility made further progress risky. After 16 hours of ‘torrential’ snowfall we trenched our way down the slopes to base camp when the weather cleared early next morning.

Peak c.2600m , attempt on the s ridge, c.2600m, 18th May.

We attempted this mountain because of its attractive appearance from base camp and the solid-looking rock at the base of the S Ridge. We climbed the slabby buttress in two 50m pitches at around Severe via a crack line. e continued up the pleasant mixed alpine ridge above to the foresummit. We were turned back only 150m distant from the main summit by bad snow conditions and a large cornice running directly down the side of the ridge.

Mount Queen Mary , from the south via the NW ridge of Peak 3118m, 3928m (ungraded), 21-24th May, FA.

Mount Queen Mary had previously been climbed only from the N and via the W Ridge. From our base camp to the S there was no direct route, but we decided to attempt the mountain via the NW Ridge of Peak 3118m and the winding ridge leading from Peak 3118m to the summit of Mt. Queen Mary, a total of 11km of route. Anticipating poor snow conditions we set off with 7 days’ food and fuel.

On the first day we reached the col N of Peak 3118m, having enjoyed mainly superb snow conditions apart from the ‘cheesy’ N slopes of 3118. The following day we made the steep ascent to a forepeak at 3440m, along some level ridge and up a further rise to a superbly open campsite on a serac at c.3560m. On the third day we reached the rounded summit in 1˝ hours.

The morning inversion turned into a storm as we descended to the col by Peak 3118m. After moderate overnight snowfall and in poor visibility we continued over Peak 3118 and reversed our route of ascent. Several times we were forced to sit out whiteout conditions, and on two occasions we lost the route. Our rapid ascent had been fortuitous since the weather took a further two days to clear.