The Gauntlet Ridge in Alaska is Massive
One of the longest ridge climbs in Alaska
Jess Roskelly and Clint Helander have made the first ascent of the Gauntlet Ridge, the entire south ridge, of Mount Huntington. This is one of the biggest new routes in North America in the past few years. The two strong Americans climbed from April 19 to 23 after making the complicated approach from the east fork of the Tokositna Glacier.
“Navigating steep snow ramps under active seracs and above tangled icefalls,” wrote Helander on Instagram, “We continued the approach on April 19 through a labyrinthine crevasse field in a claustrophobic basin known as Death Valley, finally reaching the south face of Peak 9460 in the late morning.”
From there, they climbed a full day in hot temps to a high bivy in the evening. In the morning, they rappelled from the summit and fully committed to the ridge. “Retreating backward or down the 4,000’ west face of the South Ridge to the treacherous Death Valley was considered to be so dangerous with the odds stacked against survival that summiting Huntington (nearly two miles away) was the only way of retreat.”
Over the next few days, they climbed the next three peaks, Peak 9800, Peak 10100 and Idiot Peak (10700). “The cruxes were many, but Jess and I climbed with an inexorable fervor that I neither of us is likely to experience again,” wrote Helander.
Their ascent required a number of rappels, then serious climbing up and some down climbing with lots of traversing. “Tension traverses, difficult mixed climbing while simul-climbing and dangerous snow conditions with minimal protection were the daily standard.”
On the fourth day, they knew they would reach the summit of Huntington and survive. “The perfect weather we had enjoyed for the last five days broke down as we weaved our way up previously untraveled terrain to the ice crowned summit of Mount Huntington.”
In 1980, Jeff Thomas wrote in the American Alpine Journal, “The South Ridge of Mount Huntington is ‘not so much a ridge as five separate serrated peaks, each increasingly higher. To climb the entire ridge was enticing, but it would be terribly difficult.” The way through the Tokositna Glacier was first traveled in 1978 by Jeb Schnek and Dave Holsworth and they said they were very lucky to have made it, but they made little progress on the ridge.
In 2013, Canadian Nancy Hansen climbed Huntington via the Harvard Route with Max Talsky and Jacon Mayer and had a near-death accident when the summit cornice broke. Watch this video about their trip.