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After strange conditions turned Chris Gibisch and Ryan Hokanson back near the summit on the Mooses Tooth (10,070′) multiple times this May, the pair climbed Peak 8,010′, just north and east. On May 11 they established this line on the east face, A Fine Blend (IV AI6 M6+ 50 degrees, 750m). The peak’s only other recorded line is The South Route (500?, Allemann-Lotscher, 1968). [Photo] Chris Gibisch / Ryan Hokanson collection

Last month I left Montana to join Alaskan resident Ryan Hokanson for a three-week adventure scampering above the Buckskin Glacier in the Alaska Range. We set up camp just below the Mooses Tooth (10,355′) on May 3. Two meters of new snow and spindrift thwarted our five attempts on the east faces of the Mooses Tooth and Bears Tooth (10,070′), but we managed a new ascent on Peak 8,010′, a smaller summit that lies just north and a bit east. A beautiful gash-like corner system visible from the glacier leads directly to the summit. It appeared to be nicely chocked with ice, so of course, it caught our attention. Ryan and I figured the climb would be about six pitches and take part of a day, camp to camp–a perfect warm-up compared to the other routes we had attempted.

On May 11 we left camp around 10 a.m. and, after a two-hour approach, reached the base of Peak 8,010’s east face around noon. Ryan led off onto good ice first, and when the rope came tight, we began simul-climbing. Early on, some short but steep ice caught me off guard. Pitch after pitch, the climbing continued to be more technical and more poorly protected than we had anticipated.

A number of storm systems swept through the range this past spring, filling many of the routes with steep and unconsolidated snow that was difficult to protect. Earlier, on the Mooses Tooth’s east side, we tried The Southeast Face (TD+: WI5+ 5.8 A3, 1300m) and a line almost established last year by Aymeric Clouet and Christophe Dumarest of France (a couple pitches from the top, they found vertical sections of snow and wet slides). In both cases, we found dangerous, unconsolidated snow, and we turned around within two pitches of the summit ridge. The routes literally began melting out beneath us–it was the strangest thing either of us had experienced.

As we were climbing Peak 8,010′, another storm socked the entire cirque. Snow began blowing directly up the gash, but thankfully spindrift wasn’t cascading down. I climbed up to what appeared to be the crux, pounded some iron and brought Ryan up. He led up the next pitch, encountering a series of tricky, overhanging snow blobs completely devoid of usable ice. After 120 feet of brilliant climbing, the pitch eased off and Ryan found his first solid pro. A few more lengths led to a large chockstone/snow-mushroom that blocked our way to the summit snowfield. After some overhanging snow climbing and a few mixed moves, I was on 50 degree snow heading for the summit. Two more pitches and we were standing on the top.

Ryan Hokanson approaching A Fine Blend (IV AI6 M6+ 50 degrees, 750m), visible above his head on the east face of Peak 8,010′, Alaska Range, Alaska. [Photo] Chris Gibisch

It was now 1 a.m. and snowing; visibility was fewer than fifty meters. We tried to rap off the north ridge to a pass separating the Ruth and Buckskin glaciers, but after losing our way, we succumbed to a temporary bivy, where we waited for more light. When the sky brightened a couple cold hours later, we explored our proposed descent on belay, but the powder-covered granite slabs told us that it would be best to descend our new route. Ten rappels and a bit of down climbing got us to our skis.

After leaving the range, we couldn’t find any reference to the line being climbed previously, nor did we find evidence of other climbers. It was a fine blend of climbing which left a memorable impression on both of us. A Fine Blend (IV AI6 M6+ 50 degrees, 750m) is Peak 8,010’s second recorded line, after the South Route (500′, Allemann-Lotscher, 1968). On this trip, Ryan and I found that the obscure, shorter climbs are sometimes the scariest, and most rewarding.

Chris Gibisch follows up Pitch 3 (AI4 with some easy mixed steps). A few lengths later, on Pitch 7, the pair would find the crux: a hard, very thin, steep mixed section followed by three twenty-foot sections of vertical and overhanging unconsolidated snow and 85 degree neve, with no solid gear for ca. 120 feet off the belay. “[Pitch 7 was] probably the scariest and most dangerous pitch I’ve ever led,” Hokanson said.
[Photo] Ryan Hokanson