BD Sales Rep Jack Tackle bags new lines in Alaska
Jack Tackle has been around the block a few times, having been on expeditions to Alaska and beyond for more than 30 years. So when the "Javaman" came back from Alaska this past spring and said he had his most successful trip ever, well, we wanted the details. He sent the following email and photos to the boss to fill him in on the trip's highlights.
From: Jack Tackle
To: Peter Metcalf
Subject: Back from AK
Date: May 28, 2009 10:31:12 PM MDT
Hey Peter –
Good morning… just got home late last night. Had an awesome trip with Jay Smith. I am digging out big time of course, but here's a quick synopsis. (BTW—this was maybe my best trip ever to AK since I started going in ‘76.)
Jay and I spent a total 18 days in the range… first 13 days were on Mount Huntington and the Rooster's Comb. Our plan was a new route on Huntington, but within 24 hours we knew it was not in shape and involved too much wall climbing… not fast and light enough. It would’ve been sort like having to do the Zodiac first and then a big alpine route on top of that. So, we did a route in 16 hours up and down on Rooster's Comb as a warm up. We went fom the Tokisitna basin between the Comb and Huntington… moderate and fun. Mark Westman thinks no one has done the peak for many years, and I bet no one has climbed it from our starting point. Hard to explain without a map and photos but not a big deal. That was May 9th. We flew in May 7th.
Then, we went back to the south side of Huntington and found three new routes to do. First one was the biggest. On the south peak of Huntington (10,700 ft) we did Prizefight (18 pitches, 5.9R WI 4+/5 M6). Grade V. Did it in 39 hours tent to tent with a three-hour bivy in a snow hole I dug using my Half Dome helmet and Cobra. No bags or tent. 16-18 rappels. Beautiful stone, good ice but shitty snow up high. (Attached photo only shows the first 11 pitches.)
Next to it on what I called "The Scottish Wall", we did two more new routes. Lagavulin (Grade III, 5 pitches, 5.10 WI 4+) was done on May 17th. Seven hours up and down, five raps. The Black Pearl (Grade V, 8 pitches, M6/ WI 5+). 14 hours up and down, 8 raps. Done on May 18th.
We flew out to Talkeetna on May 19th, re- grouped for three days, then flew back into Thunder Mountain, just south of Hunter's south peak on May 22 (which was the 10th anniversary of Malcolm Daly and Jim Donini's epic on the other side of Thunder). This is one that has been on my list for 13 years. Spotted it in 1996 when Chabot and I did the new route on Hunter we called the Sound of Freedom.
This was the most significant thing we did on this trip and both Jay and I think it's one of the best and hardest alpine routes we have collectively done ever. First attempt, ground up… nailed it. Tangled up in Blue (Grade VI, WI 6? M6/7?). Twenty 70 m pitches, plus 900 ft of simul climbing. Jay led 3 really hard and impressive pitches in the crux on his first block that I suspect may have turned back Ramsden, etc. Hard to rate, and Jay should weigh in… all I know is that he said they were as hard a pitches that he has ever lead in the mountains. The route is super continuous and steep. Relentless bulletproof calf burning ice, plus stout mixed and super long pitches with the 70 m rope. It's on the north face of Thunder, accessed from an arm of the Kahiltna, just opposite the SW ridge of Hunter. It's almost 4,000 ft., the same as the North Buttress of Hunter proper (i.e., Moonflower to the top of the buttress). I know Paul Ramsden and possibly others had attempted it, too. I got that info from Paul Roderick of TAT who is the man flying climbers to out of the way places.
We did it May 23-24 to the top. Day 1 was 20 hours to a bivy in a shrund. Day 2 was 14 hours more to the top with another short two-hour bivy/brew in a crevasse. Decent was 10 70 m raps and then 8 miles of the worst snow back to the tent. The last 3 miles back up the glacier to the tent took us 4 hours because of breakable crust and waist deep snow at times. Heinous...
67 hours tent to tent. Got back at 1:30 am on Tuesday the 26th. Had only 9 hours of total sleep. Took one gas cartridge and a day and a half of food each. My Quantum pack weighed 19 lbs when we started, including light bag, belay parka, water, food and such.
Thunder and Tangled up in Blue was the icing on the cake. 5 routes, 4 of them new in 18 days total. Not so bad for two old guys. Weather and conditions were killer, but we did not tarry either. I've attached some initial photo's of the overall routes. I have not even yet downloaded my pics from Thunder, opened my mail or unpacked my duffels yet. We have some good climbing shots, too...
We’ll have to make plans for the Tetons this summer. See you soon.