Killing it on the Kahiltna Glacier: Kurt Ross’ Climbing Report

"We watched another sunset on Mt. Hunter while nearing the top via some beautiful ridge climbing between the cornice bivi and the summit plateau." -Kurt Ross  Photo by J.D. Merritt.
“We watched another sunset on Mt. Hunter while nearing the top via some beautiful ridge climbing between the cornice bivi and the summit plateau.” -Kurt Ross Photo by J.D. Merritt.

This past May Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Kurt Ross climbed the Southwest Ridge of Mount Francis, the West Face of Kahiltna Queen, an unreported route on the South Face of Peak 12,200, Bacon & Eggs on the Micro-Moonflower, and the French Route on Mount Hunter with various partners. Accustomed to climbing steep technical terrain, Ross says he learned to move efficiently on the “moderate” low angle ice, cracked glaciers, snow ridges presented on all these routes.

“People have only been asking me about the North Buttress of Hunter, but I doubt I would have felt ready to attempt it if I hadn’t bailed off of it twice and climbed those other moderate routes earlier in the trip,” Ross explains. In an 80-hour push, he and J.D. Merritt tagged the summit of Hunter

“The French Route was by far the biggest, most wild and most memorable route that I’ve ever tried,” Ross says. “It was a huge step up for both J.D. and I, requiring every bit of experience and skill that we’ve gained by climbing less committing objectives.”

Other memorable experiences include descending Peak 12,200 in a whiteout, which Ross says was “an important learning experience.” He and his partners, Colin Simon and Nik Mirhashemi, decided to attempt the route despite a questionable weather forecast. “The ascent went without a snag, but the area completely socked in as we neared the top,” Ross says. Without maps and left with only a GPS app on Ross’ phone, they slowly descended the ridge, checking the GPS every 15 feet.

“I’ve never been in such a disorienting situation,” Ross explains. “It was also the first time I’ve been attached to someone who took a full crevasse fall; Nik fell above his head and caught on a stopper knot at one point. When we wobbled into camp after our epic, the mega-experienced guide Mark Allen made us some awesome food and talked with us. I asked him what he would do if he was caught in a whiteout without shelter or GPS. He said, “Well, I wouldn’t…”

Kurt used the 4400 Porter, a black Summit Pack and a full assortment of CF8 Stuff Sacks on his adventure. Read Ross’ full epic report of their successful 80-hour ascent of Mount Hunter

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Kurt Ross climbing one of the many ice and mixed pitches on Mount Hunter. Of this pitch, Ross says: “Much of the gully that makes up the first third of the route was cruiser ice that’s easy to stick. In a conversation with Doug Shepherd after our climb, he reported that this section of the climb was black ice last spring.” Photo by J.D. Merritt.