Mount Hunter Trip Report (#3189)
- Signed By: Mark Westman/Joe Puryear
- Date submitted: February 03, 2000
We had great snow conditions and made the climb in 3 days from Kahiltna Base to the summit. On the descent, we downclimbed 3500 feet of steep snow in a long couloir to reach the glacier valley south of the West Ridge. We left the West Ridge at approximately 11,500', not far above the 500 foot ice face, at the upper end of the last corniced section. We avoided the icefall of the glacier by crossing a spur shoulder on the north flank of the canyon, against the West ridge, downclimbing a couloir and rappelling over a 240' 85-95 degree icicle (spectacular!) and this deposited us easily on the glacier below the very broken icefall. We walked around to the base of the West Ridge and retrieved our skis. We did this to escape a storm which arrived on our summit day, and would not recommend this descent if poor snow conditions exist. Also, w/o snowshoes the walk around the end of the ridge would be a lot of postholing. We were lucky and had ankle deep snow. This was, however, a nice alternative to some long and tedious (and possibly scary) downclimbing on the ridge. There is a couloir which avoids the 240 foot icicle and gains the upper glacier easily. This route might possibly afford the technically easiest route to Hunter's summit under safe conditions, as it accesses the West Ridge above all of the problems. We met two British acquaintances on the summit plateau as we were descending and they had just climbed this way (not the icicle, which was our discovery), which is how we got the beta. With good snow and an obvious storm front approaching rapidly from the SW, we packed up our bivy at 11,500 and reached the glacier by nightfall. 8 hours were required to reach base camp the next day. The climbing on the ridge is mostly casual, but the rock climbing forms the crux. A vertical, snow packed chimney on the very crest of the ridge was the hardest pitch. A step in the ridge above 10,500 involves passing some very steep unconsolidated snow flutings, scary but easy. At 11,000 there is 500 feet of 45-50 degree water ice. The cornices were no problem, however, we were there in late April in sunny, minus 10 degree temps. By late May it could be a little more interesting.