Arrigetch Peaks, Alaska

After a season of work for the Alaska Outward Bound Center seven OB staff and three others spent eighteen days from August 18 to September 5, 2002 in the Arrigetch Peaks of Alaska. Our group was Nettie Pardue, Tina Woolston, Jeff Pflueger, Robert MacKinnon, Jared Coburn, Mike Morley, Mike Zawaski, Jeff Brislawn, Mark Sundeen and Erik Bluhm. Our group was comprised of climbing pairs which were off for days at a time from the two established base camps up Arrigetch Creek and Aiyagomahala creek. Pairs kept in contact via radio. Each of us brought 2-3 plastic bear containers for secure food caches.

Winter was coming to the Arrigetch Peaks. The frosty conditions had eliminated the mosquitoes, but kept the more northern aspects encrusted with enough snow and ice to limit our climbing to the thawed southern aspects. We watched the brilliant reds, golds and yellows of the tundra deepen, and saw the days dramatically shorten as winter came. A third of the days were crisp, blue and beautiful, a third overcast, and a third produced some rain and snow. The combination of good weather and stunning topography did not grant respite from either climbing or planning the next climb.

Jared and Mike M climbed six pitches of the northwest ridge of an unnamed peak they dubbed "Notchtop" in the upper Aquarius Valley (represented on the Survey Pass (B-3) Quad as a long ridge between two glaciers at the head of the valley. Approximate GPS: N67.40149 W154.14952). The route covers excellent rock and has interesting moderate climbing to 5.7/8. They were stopped a pitch from the summit by difficult climbing and cold temperatures. The two also attempted the unclimbed east ridge of Ariel and retreated due to extremely rotten rock.

Jeff P and Robert climbed a new route on the South Face of the Badille (III 5.8). The route traverses from the talus on the SE side of the peak, follows the obvious left trending crack system/gully to the summit ridge, and continues along the ridge to the summit. This is an excellent and varied route to a stunning central summit in the Arrigetch peaks.

Jeff P and Nettie climbed six pitches of moderate slab and crack climbing up to 5.8 directly up the slabs leading to the SE ridge of the West summit of the Caliban (7181').

Mike Z and Jeff B climbed the south face of the Elephant's Tooth (5.7) to the summit. They later attempted the northeast buttress of the Parabola starting from a notch visible from north of the buttress. They climbed six pitches up to 5.9 before being turned back beneath a chimney full of large loose blocks. This was probably the Riechert/Bitenieks route reported in the 1998 vol. 20 AAJ.

Later, Mike Z and Jeff B climbed a route on the south face of the East Maiden, and reported about five pitches of good climbing to 5.8. The route starts up flakes below a left facing dihedral in the center of the south face, exits the dihedral to slabs on the right, and continues straight up to the summit. This route may be a direct variation of a route described in a previous AAJ account.

Two teams (Jeff P, Robert, Nettie and later Jared, Mike M) climbed on two separate days the spectacular NNW ridge of the Parabola (III 5.7) photo. The ridge is SE of the largest lake in Aquarius Valley. The teams ascended 700 vertical feet of easy 5th class to the flat ridge top from the east. Six pitches of moderate climbing to 5.7 followed the ridge south to a false summit. Neither team climbed the next few pitches of icy slab to the "Central" summit of the Parabola. The descent was 1 rappel west from the ridge to the slab gully, and 4 rappels down the slabs north of the ridge. A stopper inscribed "R.W. Freed" and bail slings were found along the route.

As a fantastic end to our trip to the Arrigetch, three teams (Jared and Mike M, and later Mike Z and Jeff B, and later Jeff P and Robert M) on three consecutive days climbed the West Ridge of Shot Tower (IV, 5.8 C2). Stunning! Robert M aided the final headwall clean with the help of 2 fixed pins and a handful of small offsets and tcus, but he paid the price for a skimpy aid rack and some back cleaning when he fell 20' during the final mantle at the top! To descend, it is best to rappel the route and remain on the ridge, including tensioning around the "mushroom".

Jeff Pflueger
Wilderness Fringe