BD grassroots athlete Samuel Johnson reports on first ascents in Alaska's Hayes Range
Black Diamond grassroots athlete Samuel Johnson teamed up with Ryan Hokanson this summer for an expedition to the Hayes Range of Alaska. Though their primary objectives were a no-go, they did manage a couple of impressive first ascents, Below is Johnson’s report and route photos, as well as a great video he put together.
Ryan and I flew out of the Hayes Range yesterday following time on the Gillam and Hayes glaciers. Due to issues with our initial flight, we were unable to land anywhere near Mount Shand's South face, which we had hoped to attempt. As an alternative, we landed on the Gillam in the hopes of attempting new lines on Deborah or Hess. We found Hess quite melted out and chossier than we had hoped, and were unable to negotiate the icefall and serac threatened approach to Deborah. Our intended plan B routes extinguished, and our favorite pilot now available, we flew with Rob Wing over to the Hayes basin. There, we spent some time examining an enormous ridge traverse we hoped to attempt, eventually deciding that the traverse would likely be much safer as a threesome and with some more snow protection. We then shifted our focus to other unclimbed lines in the Hayes basin, completing the first ascents of two routes: The Direct West Face of Mount Hayes, and the Northeast Buttress of Mount Balchen (though prevented from summiting by active lightning and St. Elmo's Fire 100 feet away from the tippy-top), both in single-push alpine style. Thanks to the Copp-Dash Inspire Award, Black Diamond Equipment, and my other company support for all your help!
[The route line for the Direct West Face of Mount Hayes, which we climbed in 12 hours in single push alpine style from the bergschrund to the summit. The route gains about 6500 feet from the Hayes basin at an average angle of about 55 degrees with steeper steps and smears here and there for a total of about 9000 feet of climbing.]
[The route line for the Northeast Buttress of Mount Balchen, which we climbed in 10.5 hours in single push alpine style from the bergschrund to 100 feet short of the summit, where we turned around due to nearby lightning strikes.]