This is the last of the Sultana Ridge, Mt Foraker posts - I last left off where we when we hit the sleeping bags on the summit of Mt Crosson enroute to Sultana, and had just gotten a less favorable weather forecast, and we were concerned that the good weather might not hold long enough for our summit bid and getting off the mountain.
The following day, we pushed across the knife-edge ridge between Mt Crosson and Mt Foraker. It was spectacular. The ridge was in good shape, and we climbed across it in great weather, with views over the Kahiltna glacier on our left with Mt Hunter and Denali, and the Foraker glacier with the huge Alaskan tundra on our right, literally climbing the crest of the Alaska Range. Above Kip Garre is walking the line on the way to Sultana with several thousand feet of exposure on either side
We dug in our 2nd camp on the ridge close to Foraker. It is perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever had the pleasure of pitching a tent. We rested for a few hours, made water and dinner. Shortly after midnight, we began our summit bid.
Above, Kip Garre is leading the way a short distance from our 2nd camp. Kip took a monster pull and led all the way to the summit. Nor bad for a heli guide from Cali.
Andrew finally punching boot and crampon holes into the Sultana ridge. His third attempt, and Foraker must have been his nemesis. Mt Hunter is the background, and Denali is out of the picture over Andrew's right shoulder - he had already skied both those mountains - this was was the final score. We climbed steadily and 8 hours later, and climbing over what seemed like an endless number false summits, we found our selves breathing the noticeably thinner air at the summit of Mt Foraker.
Kip getting down on the summit of Foraker. It was cold and windy, and we did not linger at the summit. Elated to finally have reached the summit, we knew half the challenge (and the fun part!) was just about to begin.
We began making turns down the
firm wind sculpted snow. The skiing was straight forward, but at the same time,
incredibly exposed and the snow and ice were laced with cracks. Above, Andrew McLean is working his way down the upper Sultana Ridge with over 10000 ft of
exposure down to the Kahiltna glacier on his right. A few hours later – we were
back at our camp, and the Sultana had been skied.
Tired and very psyched, back at our 2nd camp we began making water and recovering. The weather was forecasted to deteriorate rapidly, and indeed, the wind began to increase. Soon the tents were rocking in the wind, and furious Foraker was earning its reputation for ferocious weather. We spent several hours carefully digging the tents in and securing camp, contemplating the possibility of getting pinned high of the ridge for several days. We had plenty of fuel, but only 2 days worth of food. But just as we had finished reinforcing our camp, the winds subsided, and the clouds lifted. The view of the sultana after the short storm subsided. Mother Foraker playing games and showing us whom is boss?
We awoke the next morning to splitter blue bird conditions, and we had a very long day to cross the ridge back to Mt Crosson and then laid tracks down Crosson to the Kahiltna glacier. Above, Kip is skiing an Alaskan size load down Mt Crosson for the last time. The next morning we skied across the Kahiltna, and flew back to Talkeetna and were thrown back into the iphone wielding, RV infested reality we call “normal”, and very soon we found ourselves happily drinking pints of IPA at the West Rib Pub. It was Andrew’s third attempt to ski Mt Foraker, and he now becomes the first person to have skied Denali, Foraker and Hunter – congratulations!
A full version of this account was posted on the OR web site.
Here is a listing of my previous posts of this trip
The Sultana Ridge, Mt Foraker - getting to the Kahiltna
Buxom, Jester Word on Foraker - acclimatization and bad weather
The Sultana Ridge - a description of the route
Now we climb part 1 - the summit bid begins.