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Getting There Can be Most of the Battle

Posted on: November 4th, 2009 by admin

Dead end: Uncrossable Hidden Creek, below the Kahiltna Glacier. Courtesy of Josh Hoeschen.

Dead end: Uncrossable Hidden Creek, below the Kahiltna Glacier. Courtesy of Josh Hoeschen.

Young climbers Dustin English, Josh Hoeschen, and Todd Tumolo won 2009 Mountain Fellowships from the AAC for exploratory climbing on a rock peak by the Kahiltna Glacier, west of the Pika Glacier in Alaska. But things didn’t go exactly as planned this summer, as Josh Hoeschen reports below. The team remains psyched about this objective, however, and plans to return in 2010.

Because of recent volcanic activity and unseasonably warm weather, we were unable to land on the Pika Glacier to approach our climb. Everything was melted out because of the ash on the glacier. All other glaciers in the area were un-landable as well. We decided to land at the toe of the Kahiltna and attempt to hike up to the climb. We were not sure if it would be possible to approach the climb this way, but we were willing to give it our best.

We estimated that the crux would be crossing Granite Creek. It was not. Despite swarms of flies reminiscent of a biblical pestilence, 125-pound loads on our backs, and miles of  harrowing bushwhacking and man-eating bogs, we got to Granite Creek in good time and found a reasonable crossing.  We thought the crux was behind us, and despite aching bodies slept soundly that night.

The next day we experienced the full fury of Alaska bushwacking. It took us four hours to move half a mile. The bushes were so thick it was near impossible to move at points. Also, we were swarmed by angry bees and stung frequently. Still we were hopeful. We got to Hidden Creek, which on the map looks like small potatoes. But it was a completely white torrent of uncrossable water. We moved up the creek as far as possible, but the warm weather and melting snow had raised the volume so much that crossing was impossible. We made the decision to turn around and attempt the trip next year, approaching from the Pika as we had originally planned, using gear that we’ve purchased with the AAC’s generous grant funding. —Josh Hoeschen