Huntington’s French Ridge in Winter, 50 Years After First Ascent

Mount Huntington is an icy pyramid in Alaska, 13 km south of Mount McKinley, it presents steep and technical terrain. Huntington was first climbed by French alpinist Lionel Terry and party in 1964, up the Northwest Ridge which is also called the French Ridge.  The following year, the mountain was climbed again up its West Face/West Rib, the story is chronicled in David Roberts’ The Mountain of My Fear.

As the calender page turned from February to March, two Portland climbers, Brad Farra and John Frieh, prepared to board a plane, along with Fairbanks based Jason Stuckey, that would take them from Talkeetna to the Tokositna Glacier, below the west face of Huntington. The climbers then made the first winter ascent of the French Ridge, 50 years after Lionel Terry made its historic first ascent.

Frieh reported on Cascade Climbers, “We skipped establishing a base camp and instead immediately started climbing the French (NW) ridge, reaching an elevation of 3,300 m before bivying for the night. On March 2, we started climbing around 8 a.m. and reached the summit of Mt. Huntington just under 16 hours later, around 11:30 p.m. Due to the late summit we enjoyed a second bivy just below the summit at 4,000 m. Six hours later we defrosted ourselves with mass quantities of coffee before beginning a descent of the West Face Couloir (Nettle-Quirk) around 9 a.m. As Jason and I had climbed and descended the West Face Couloir in the winter of 2011 we were able to move quickly down the route and reached landing zone around 3 pm. on March 3, making for ~51 hours on route. I believe this was the first winter ascent of the French Ridge of Mt Huntington during the winter season and the third overall winter ascent to date.”

For more on the story, visit Cascade Climbers and Super Topo.

"Nearing" the summit Photo John Frieh
“Nearing” the summit Photo John Frieh
The French Ridge  Photo Bob Butterfield
The French Ridge Photo Bob Butterfield

Sources: Cascade Climbers, Super Topo



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