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Denali/Cassin Ridge in ALASKA, USA 【English Translation by Naoko Tukauchi】


Time period : May 11 ~ June 11, 2006
Members : Sue (Climbing Club Kashima-no-kai/Gunma prefecture) ,  Hideki Nishimura (Chigusa Alipine Club/Aichi prefecture)

We made an ascent of Mount Mckinley via Cassin Ridge in May/June of 2006. That year, the weather in Denali was bad, and the summit success rate by the normal route was lower than usual years.
Cassin Ridge is a classic route known to many people, but this route is not so technically difficult and yet it takes many days to complete the ascent. Maybe because of that, modern climbers may not be attracted to it so much. I don’t see many reports on Cassin Ridge.

I hope this report will be helpful to people who are planning to climb Cassin Ridge. This report was first carried in the December 2006 issue of GAKIJIN published by Chunichi Shinbun Tokyo Shuppannkyoku.

I can summarize 50% of Cassin Route is ice climbing, rock climbing is 20% for the upper part of Japanese Couloir and the first rock band. The remaining 30% is snow ridge/snow field/mixed terrain. This route is very long, and you have to have enough physical and mental strength. Skill-wise, you have to be a good all-round climber to be able to handle rock, ice and snow. It may sound like a matter of course, but recent alpine climbers, including myself, tend to excel in one type of skill, but not all of them.

Denali and Foraker in Kahiltna Glacier and nearby Ruth Glacier have plenty of moderate routes. Just like Yosemite serves as a good practice site for those who are aiming at big walls, climbers from various parts of the world come here in Alaska and horn their skills so they can take a bigger challenge elsewhere. I hope more Japanese climbers come to Alaska.

Super Topo publishes “Alaska Climbing” and I bought a copy in an outdoor shop in Anchorage. A PDF version is available for purchase over web. You can get detailed information of the route in the topo, so I focused my description to the activities of each day.


May 11 (Thursday)
I took an overnight bus to Nagoya, to join with my partner. We took China Airline 9:30AM flight from Chubu International Airport and arrived at Anchorage 8:30AM, on the same day. Mr. Kato, the owner of Midnight Sun Express, where we booked our stay, came to see us at the Anchorage airport.

May 12 (Friday)
Shopping and Packing.

May 13 (Saturday)
We went to Talkeetna to submit our mountaineering plan, and went on to Kahiltna Glacier BC (Running Point).
At Talkeetna, we ran into Tatsuro Yamada and Yuki Sato, and they gave us warm words of encouragement. Further, at the Running Point on the glacier, we saw Katsutaka Yokoyama and Fumitaka Ichimura. Those four young climbers finished their climbs in Alaska, ready to fly to South America to climb more mountains there (see their records in a Japanese magazine Rock & Snow #33/34). They are the front runners of Japanese alpine climbing. A middle age woman like myself should be persistent tacking this tough route!


May 14 (Sunday)
BC (Running Point) 11:00 ~ Northeast Fork junction (2,350m high) 17:00

May 15 (Monday)
Northeast Fork junction 10:30 ~ flat field below the Kahiltna Pass (2,900m high) 14:30

May 16 (Tuesday)
Flat field below the Kahiltna Pass 10:30 ~ Camp 11 (3,400m high) 14:30
Note: As a local practice, a camp name uses its altitude. C11 is 11,000 feet high.


May 17 (Wednesday)
C11 11:00 ~ Medical Camp (4,350m high) 17:00
Left MC 18:00 ~ back at C11 20:00

May 18 (Thursday)
Stayed at C11 all day. My body was swelling and I had diarrhea.

May 19 (Friday)
C11 12:00 ~ MC 18:00
The Windy Corner halfway up is really windy as the name suggests.

May 20 (Saturday)
(Weather was fair to snowy) Stayed at MC. I had a terrible swelling on my face, and a Japanese person there (Koji Hosono) gave me diuretic medicine.

May 21(Sunday)
(Weather fair to snowy) MC 11:30 ~ 4,900m Col 13:30
Left the Col 14:30 ~back at MC 16:00
We only carried the loads up.

May 22 (Monday)
MC11:30 ~ 4,900m Col 15:30 ~ High Camp (5,200m high) 19:00
It was hard when I had a load on my back. My blood oxygen level in the morning was 77.

May 23 (Tuesday)
HC 12:00 ~ descent to MC 14:30

May 24 (Wednesday)
Stayed at MC. I had a severe swelling on my face, and I was out of breath although my blood oxygen level was as good as 82.

May 25 (Thursday)
MC 13:00 ~ Went down to Northeast Fork junction 19:00
I was not sure if I was well acclimatized, but it’s almost time to go to Cassin Ridge.

May 26 (Sunday)
Rest at Northeast Fork junction. My period started. My face was still swollen.

May 27 (Saturday)
Rest at Northeast Fork junction. Finally edema on my face got better.

May 28 (Sunday)
Weather was fine. Seventeen days already passed for preparations, high altitude acclimatization, and resting. During this time, I realized the weather was changing at 2 ~ 3 day cycle. We chose Northeast Fork as an approach to Cassin Ridge. We made a cache of extra items here and headed up.

It started with a walk on a flat snowfield, but the snow got deeper, and finally we had to break the trail. The crevasse zone began from the base of the Western Rib. Bamboo wands that had guided us up to the Western Rib base stopped there. I fell into hidden crevasses more frequently. Several times I stepped one foot into a crevasse, and once below-the-waist. It was scary. It was like walking on a mine field. After finishing the crevasse zone, we camped on a snowfield.
[time] Northeast Fork junction 8:30 ~ Snowfield beyond the crevasse zone 19:00


May 29 (Monday)
(weather fair) After a short climb of the plateau, we reached the base of Japanese Couloir. Since the bottom of Japanese Couloir had an overhanging serac, we started from the left side, and climbed 3 pitches to the upper right direction, getting inside the couloir. (This is different from the topo, but I think the bottom part has a different shape depending on a year.) It was afternoon hours, and there were many falling rocks inside the couloir. The angle is about 50 ~ 60 degrees, except for a couple of spots as steep as 70 degrees. While leading a pitch, there was no terrace even at the end of 50 meter rope length, and I had to cut ice to make space for one foot to rest, so my calves were sore.
[time] camp 10:30 ~ Japanese couloirs base 13:30 ~ Cassin terrace 23:30

May 30 (Tuesday)
(weather snowy to snowstorm) We managed 3 pitches of rock climbing (including 5.8 grade mixed terrain) and 8 pitches of knife edge ice ridge. The fine snow in the morning turned into a blizzard. If the weather was clear, this knife edge ridge could have made an awesome picture because of its exposure. After finishing the knife edge ridge, we looked for a good bivouac site on a slope under the big serac.
[time] Cassin Terrace 12:00 ~ tent site under the big serac 19:00

May 31 (Wednesday) to June 1 (Thursday)
(snowy ~ cloudy over night ~ fair) In the morning, it was still snowing on and off. My partner and I had a difference of opinions about the day’s plan. I wanted to stay in a tent, but my partner wanted to make a progress, even a short distance. We had an argument, but finally decided to move on.
To get to the first snowfield we have to overcome the large serac wall in front of us. The topo suggests a rappel and a long traverse to the left. While looking at the serac wall, I thought the left edge of the serac is climbable. I left my pack and led the pitch. As I climbed, my head was stuck underneath the overhanging ice, then I traversed to the left using a subtle balance, climbed through the break of the ice, brought myself up above the overhang and drove three ice screws into the ice. I hauled my pack then. I believe it was a quicker way to reach the first snow field than rappelling and traversing. We simultaneously climbed the first snow field, breaking the trail and pitched our tent in a bergshrund at the base of the first rock band. There was no other good place. The snow continued to fall, sometimes stronger, and sometimes softer.

While we were prepared to go to sleep, a small avalanche hit our tent at 21:42. Fortunately only the fastener of the tent was broken, none of our equipment was lost. However, we were forced to climb the first rock band during night. It was a white night, but bitterly cold (probably 20 ~ 30 degrees below zero). The rock band section climbing took long, and my fingers were frostbitten while belaying. I thought “he will top out soon,” and then “he will top out by now.” I just waited and did not retrieve the down mittens I had in my pack. In the morning while we were sitting on a rock terrace wrapped in a fly sheet, I noticed my fingers turned purple. Around 14:00, we put up a tent on a mixed ridge between the first and the second rock bands, and slept deeply.
[time] Camp under the big serac 11:00 ~ bottom of the first rock band (avalanched site) 22:00 ~ first rock band 70degree mixed wall (probably) 2:00 ~ tent site under the second rock band 14:00


June 2 (Friday)
(weather fair) The second rock band offers several routes and we chose to link steep gulleys in the rock face. The route meanders largely, and it took long time to gain altitude for the efforts we spent.
[time] Camp under the second rock band 10:30 ~ Couloir on the top of the second rock band 21:00

June 3 (Saturday)
(weather fair, with high wind) We picked our way up and reached the second snow field. From here, it’s not technically demanding, but it’s steep and the snow surface is crusted due to the strong wind. We have to be on guard. Then we traversed to the right toward the big couloir at the back of the third rock band. The big couloir has 50 degree angle and 300m altitude difference. The snow was as deep as knee or thigh. The trail breaking was especially hard to a tired body. This couloir could sometimes be covered with blue ice, which should be climbed protected.
Finally we reached the Col. Unbearable wind was blowing there. We cut the ice behind rocks and pitched our tent, but half of the tent was sticking out into the air. For the last three days in the rock band section we could not get enough space for two people to lie down. As we kept a seated position, we could not sleep off the fatigue. In addition, because of scarce food and high altitude, four of my fingers had changed the color.
[time] Couloir on the top of second rock band 9:30 ~ Col 14:00

June 4 (Sunday)
(weather fair) The wind died down in the morning, but I was reluctant to leave the tent because it was very cold outside, and I was so tired. “Today should be the summit day!” I braced up myself and started to climb the mixed ridge. The ridge began to have lateral edges, and soon a big snow wall appeared in front of us. The upper part of the snow wall was steep, and not easy. After that, we climbed the mixed snow ridge for 40 to 60 minutes, and finally reached Kahiltna Horn. We completed the climb of Cassin Ridge! We hugged each other in appreciation of the effort made by each of us. Then we quickly made the summit of Denali without the pack and came back to Kahiltna Horn, and from there followed the normal route down to the high camp (5,300m high), almost running.
[time] Col 9:30 ~ Kahiltna Horn 18:30 ~ Denali Peak 19:30 ~ HC 21:30

June 5 (Monday)
(weather fair) If we are lucky, we should be able to descend to the Northeast Fork junction. I was in a good mood. Once I began to go down, however, I realized I was more tired than I thought. Still, it’s just going down, and I was very relaxed. I stopped by the medical camp (4,350m high) to get a simple first aid, but the doctor applied a bandage around my fingers to make my hand look like a hand of Doraemon (a Japanese cartoon character who has glove-like hands). The doctor did not allow us to descend the mountain by ourselves. We were forced to go down together with a guided party the following day. If we had insisted on going down by ourselves, it would have upset the rangers, which we did not want to. We had no choice but to mingle with the guided party, and receive their assistance. We were the first party to complete Cassin Ridge ascent this season, but ended up having such a misfortune!
[time] HC (C17) 14:00 ~ MC (C14) 17:30


June 6 (Tuesday)
(weather snowy to snowstorm) We met with Marco Preselli at the front of the ranger station. They were going to climb Cassin Ridge. Alaska seems to be a good training site for them.
A large guided party was slow, the weather was bad, so we stayed overnight at C11 (3,400m high).
[time] MC 15:00 ~ C11 18:30

June 7 (Wednesday)
(weather snowy) I could experience an Alaskan guided party unexpectedly. I was the only woman in the group and everyone was so nice to me. When was the last time I was so popular with boys!?
[time] C11 12:00 ~ BC (Running Point) 17:00

June 8 (Thursday)
(weather overcast) A cessna plane flew us to Talkeetna. At the Talkeetna cessna base we met with Yoshitomi Okura and his party who were there for weather observation. Mrs. Kato from Midnight Sun Express took us to Anchorage.

June 9 (Friday)
Mrs. Kato accompanied me to a hospital in Anchorage. It was my first time to go to a hospital overseas. It reminded me of “ER”, a TV drama.

June 10 (Saturday)
Preparation for departure.

June 11 (Sunday)
I canceled a China airline flight and took Northwest to Narita. Mr. Masamiki Takine from Chigusa AC came to see us at the airport.

From June 12 to July 10, I was in Fujioka Hospital for the treatment of frostbitten fingers.


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by dream8sue | 2006-06-11 16:44 | 過去の記録 | Trackback | Comments(0)

デナリ(マッキンリー)カシンリッジの記録     Denali/Cassin Ridge in ALASKA, USA


<期 間> 2006年5月11日~6月11日
<メンバー> Sue(山岳同人かしまの会・群馬) 西村英樹(千種アルパインクラブ・愛知)


 デナリやフォレイカーのあるカヒルトナ氷河はもとより、近くの?(もちろんセスナで)ルース氷河周辺にも、たくさん手ごろなルートがあります。ヨセミテが今やビックウォールのゲレンデと化しているように、ここも同様で、他のエリアへ挑戦するスキルを身につけるために、アラスカで技術を磨いていくようです。 もっと沢山の日本人クライマーにも登りに来て欲しいと感じました。
 トポはSUPER TOPOの“ALASKA CLIMBING”があります。私はアンカレッジのアウトドアショプで購入しましたが、WebでもPDFを買えるようです。ルートの詳細はトポでわかるので、行動概要のみ記載いたします。


5月11日(木) 深夜バスで名古屋へ向かい、中部国際空港(セントレア)朝9:30の中華航空で SeattleからAnchorageへ。
Anchorage着、こちらも朝8:30。宿泊先の「Midnjght Sun Express」からオーナーの加藤さんが出迎えに来てくれた。

  12日(金) 買出しとパッキング

  13日(土) Anchorage~Talkeetna(登山届け)~カヒルトナ氷河BC(Runing Point)Talkeetnaで、偶然にYosemiteで一緒だった山田達郎くん・佐藤祐樹くんに会い出発に際し激励のエールを受ける。
さらに、氷河に降り立ったRuning Pointでは 横山勝丘くん・一村文隆くんの2人にも会う。彼ら4人はアラスカでのクライミングを終え、継続で南米の山へ行くらしい(ROCK&SNOW33・34記録参照)彼らは、今の日本のアルパイン最前線で登っている4人だ。私も頑張らなくっちゃ!

  14日(日) BC(Runing Point)11:00~北東フォーク出会(標高2350m)17:00

  15日(月) 東フォーク出会10:30~カヒルトナパス手前の平原(標高2900m)14:30

  16日(火) カヒルトナパス手前の平原10:30~C11(標高3400m)14:30


  17日(水) C11発11:00~MC(メディカル・キャンプ標高4350m)17:00-18:00~C11帰着20:00 

  18日(木) C11にて停滞。 むくみがひどく、下痢ぎみ。

  19日(金) C11発12:00~MC18:00 途中のウィンディーコーナーは名前通り風が強い。

  20日(土) 〔晴れ~雪〕 MCにて停滞。顔のむくみがひどく、隣にいあわせた日本人(細野浩二くん)から利尿剤をもらって飲む。

  21日(日) 〔晴れ~曇〕 MC10:30~4900mのコル13:30-14:30~MC16:00 荷揚げのみ。

  22日(月) MC11:30~4900mのコル15:30~HC(標高5200m)19:00 荷物があると非常に苦しい。朝の血中酸素濃度は77

  23日(火) HC12:00~MC14:30へ下山

  24日(水) MCにて停滞。血中酸素濃度は82あるのに顔のむくみはひどく。息も切れる。

  25日(木) MC13:00~北東フォーク出会19:00へ下りる。はたして高度順化は出来たのか不安ではあるが、そろそろカシンルートへ向かわなければ。

  26日(金) 北東フォーク出会にてレスト。 生理が始まってしまう。顔のむくみもとれない。

  27日(土) 北東フォーク出会にてレスト。 顔のむくみがようやく良くなる。

  28日(日) 〔晴れ〕 準備・高所順応登山・休養を含め17日間が経過した。順応登山では天気が2日~3日周期で変化している事がわかった。


  29日(月) 〔晴れ〕 ジャパニーズクーロワールの取付きまでは、さらにプラトーをひと登りして取り付く、クーロワール下部はハングしたセラックになっているので、左から取り付き、右上すること3Pでクーロワールの中に入って行く。

  30日(火) 〔雪~吹雪〕 5・8ミックスを含む岩登りを3Pこなし、両側が切れ落ちたナイフリッチを8Pほどこなす。

  31日(水)~6月 1日(木) 〔雪~夜間くもり~晴れ〕前日からの雪は朝になっても断続的に降り続いている。


  2日(金) 〔晴れ〕 第2ロックバンドはいくつかルートが取れる。

  3日(土) 〔晴れ:強風〕 第2ロックバンドから第2雪田に抜ける。
  4日(日) 〔晴れ〕 風は朝方には少し弱まったが、疲労と寒さでなかなかテントから出られない。
稜線は支稜をともなうようになり、やがて大きな雪壁が現れる。 雪壁上部は傾斜もあり気が抜けない。

  5日(月) 〔晴れ〕 あわよくば今日中に北東フォーク出会いまで下山できると思い、気分は上々だ。


  6日(火) 〔雪~吹雪〕 レンジャーステーションの前でマルコ・プレゼリに会う。
 【タイム】MC15:00~C11 18:30 

  7日(水) 〔雪〕 思わぬところでアラスカのガイド登山を体験。
 【タイム】C11 12:00~BC(Runing Point)17:00

  8日(木) 〔曇り〕 昼頃、お迎えのセスナにてタルキートナーに帰着。
  「Midnjght Sun Express」の加藤さん(奥様)に迎えに来てもらいAnchorageへ。

  9日(金) 加藤さん(奥様)に付き添っていただきAnchorageの病院へ行く。

  10日(土) 帰国準備

  11日(日) 中華航空のチケットはキャンセルし、成田行のノースウェスト航空の便で帰国。



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by dream8sue | 2006-06-11 14:07 | 過去の記録 | Trackback | Comments(0)