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Homeric Journey Ends on Unclimbed Revelations Summit

The Odyssey (6b A1 M7, 1100m), west face of Pyramid Peak, Revelation Mountains. One of five distinct mountain groups within the Alaska Range, the Revelations sit some 130 miles southwest of Denali and seldom see expeditions. “Hidden deep in Alaska’s southwest wilderness, the hallowed Revelation Mountains hold more myths than truth,” Clint Helander wrote in the 2012 American Alpine Journal. Until 2001, fewer than 12 teams had travelled to the heart of the mountains. “Perhaps it was the Revelations’ isolation, its reputation for heinous weather, and a lack of information that explained its virginity,” Helander mused. [Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection

A four-person French team flew into Alaska’s Revelation Mountains, pulled by a “hypnotic calling,” says Jermone Sullivan, “like the magnetic chant of sirens that most any alpinist has felt, turning him into a mononeurotic animal.” The calling came from Pyramid Peak, an 8,572-foot summit along the east flank of Revelation Glacier. Sullivan, along with Lise Billon, Pedro Angel Galan Diaz and Jeremy Stagnetto remained in the Revelations for 15 days to climb the first ascent of Pyramid via The Odyssey (6b A1 M7, 1100m) and one other line, The Iliad (TD+, 900m), on an unknown peak.

The trip stemmed from a chance meeting in Joshua Tree this winter between Billon and Sullivan and a climber Sullivan calls “the Godfather of the Revelations,” Clint Helander. “[Sullivan’s] humble attitude and thirst for adventurous and exploratory climbing was immediately obvious,” Helander said. “I instantly knew that they were just the kind of people I would love to share my information with.” Helander, who has made six first ascents in the Revelations (and two attempts on Pyramid Peak) in as many expeditions, was happy to share photos of the peak’s unclimbed routes. “This burst of altruism in a universe where projects are generally accomplished or closely guarded secrets is remarkable indeed,” Sullivan said.

Arrow showing the line of The Iliad (TD+, 900m), climbed as something of a consolation prize after Billon, Diaz, Stagnetto and Sullivan failed on their first Pyramid Peak attempt. [Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection

Arriving on the Revelation Glacier on March 17, the group set their sights on a direct line to Pyramid Peak’s summit. “[T]wo days of effort and climbing thin and unprotectable ice smears finally dead-ended in a blank slab,” Sullivan explained. Back on the glacier with spirits dampened by their failure, the team turned to an obvious ice smear on another peak. The Iliad followed “straightforward alpine ice with two amazing crux pitches of thin ice,” Sullivan wrote. They finished the line in a 20-hour camp-to-camp push on March 23.

Again on the glacier and eager for more climbing, the Frenchmen continued to scan Pyramid Peak for possible routes. “The frustration of not finding a line on Pyramid took end when we ate the space brownies that had been given to us hitch-hiking into Talkeetna,” Sullivan wrote. “Little did the driver know that thanks to this we would find our line! With the deep shadows of the setting sun and the alteration of our vision playing together, the line of The Odyssey became evident.”

[Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection

During a four-day effort beginning on March 27, the four climbers ascended Pyramid Peak’s west face in 18 pitches and 300 meters of ridgeline climbing. “The route had various hard mixed pitches, vertical snow (little ice), a few easy snow pitches, and 80m of kitty litter rock (of which we had never encountered [in] such mind boggling quality…),” Sullivan explained. Many of the pitches required long runouts. The four bivied three times while on the mountain, summiting on March 30 and rappelling the northwest face before arriving back in their camp.

[Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection

“The names of the routes were chosen in reference to Ulysses’ quest for Ithaca, his lost land. When Ulysses finally gets there he realizes that he is an old man. Looking back he understands the real treasure lies within the adventures he has lived through to attain his goal. A metaphor we found quite just in regard to our climber lives in which the objective is often but a vessel for exploration of the unknown!” The Frenchmen continue their Alaskan adventure with a two-week trip to the Ruth Gorge, while Helander prepares for his seventh tour in the Revelations with Graham Zimmerman.

Sources: Clint Helander, Jerome Sullivan, Alaska: A Climbing Guide, 1968, 2010 and 2012 American Alpine Journals

[Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection
[Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection
[Photo] Jerome Sullivan collection