“The monumental east face of Golgotha (8,940 ft) on the flight in. We attempted a direct ice line that begins at the crescent hanging snowfield and shoots straight up the face to the summit. Spindrift and deteriorating weather forced us out (twice) but we still reached the summit via the main rampy couloir on the left and then to the southeast face on left.” – Clint Helander
[Photo] Clint Helander
In late March and early April, Clint Helander and Ben Trocki completed two first ascents in the Revelation Mountains of Alaska. Their routes included a previously unclimbed peak, and a route only ever attempted once before, in 1967.
The Angel ((9,265 ft), Helander and Trocki climbed the ridge on the left of the photo. This line was first attempted in 1967 but never completed. [Photo] Clint Helander
A remote subrange of the Alaska Range, the Revelations lie approximately 130 miles to the southwest of Denali and the other large peaks of the central Alaska Range. While Mount Hesperus, the highest of the Revelations, is only 9,828 feet, the subrange as a whole demonstrates the steep, rugged characteristics common to the Alaska Range. Huge vertical relief abounds. Due to their lower elevation, the Revelations are far less traveled than their neighbors to the northeast, and they are also more difficult and expensive to access, given their further distance from both Talkeetna and Anchorage.
The primary objective for Helander and Trocki was Golgotha (8,940 ft), a previously unclimbed/unattempted peak. With this being his fifth trip to the Revelations, Helander knew about the peak. But his desire to climb it this year was heightened by an October 2011 article in Climbing Magazine. In it Dave Roberts, who was there in 1967, wrote, “Oscar Wilde was right: Youth is wasted on the young. So I’m willing here to drop a clue that I would have confided to almost no one until recently: There’s a peak in the Revs that’s probably harder than Mausolus. It loomed over our base camp for seven weeks. One day, a huge serac broke off its north face, and the ice blocks ground to a halt only 80 yards short of our tents. The sole climber in residence at the time fled barefoot up the glacier. We named the peak Golgotha. As of 2011, it’s never been attempted.”
Trocki leading on the Angel. [Photo] Clint Helander
Helander and Trocki set their sights on a direct line up the steep east face. However, they were turned back by high winds and spindrift. Instead of giving up on the peak, they traversed right to a couloir on the southeast face. From there they found relatively easy climbing, up to 5.7, and moderate but fun mixed terrain that led them to the summit despite 70 m.p.h. gusts.
A happy Helander on the summit of the Angel. [Photo] Ben Trocki
Upon returning to their base camp, Helander and Trocki found it nearly completely buried with drifted snow. After digging out their camp, the two were able to set their sights on their next objective: the south ridge of the Angel (9,265 ft). Skiing from camp at 3:30 am, the pair climbed snow-covered slabs and mixed climbing with several pitches up to 5.8. Near the top of the ridge, they simul-climbed the final rock band to the summit. A short rappel, 3,500 feet of down climbing brought them back to their skis and they returned back as camp 21 hours after departing. Unlike the weather on Golgotha, at the summit they had perfect conditions, without a hint of wind. Their climb marked the first complete ascent of the south ridge, and the second overall ascent of the mountain. In 1967 Dave Roberts and Matt Hale, as part of a group of six, made it to within 700 feet of the summit. Then in 1985 Greg Collins and Tom Walter climbed the southeast buttress to make the peaks first ascent.
Helander summed up the route. “It was a tremendous honor to finally climb the South Ridge of the Angel. To this day, Roberts and Hale express deep regret over not bagging that beautiful peak. It will always hold a special place in my heart and go down as one of the best days of climbing I’ve ever had.”
The pair made an attempt on an unclimbed peak a few days later and then one more attempt on the east face of Golgotha. An increasing avalanche danger led them to retreat from both. They finished the trip with the third ascent of the Vanishing Pinnacle. Helander is a Revelations veteran, have made several first ascents in the range. His previous FAs include the Ice Pyramid (9,250 ft), Mount Mausolus (9,170 ft), and Exodus (8,385 ft).
This 2012 trip was fully funded by a Mugs Stump grant.