Two First Ascents in Alaska’s Kichatna Spires

On April 19, 2023, American mountain guides Joseph Hobby and Zach Lovell made what is likely the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Citadel in the Kichatna Spires in Alaska.

Hobby and Lovell established Borealis Face (610m, 85˚ ice/snow). One day later, they sent Superfly Couloir (518m, AI5, A2, M6), a new route on an unnamed peak.

A quick back-to-back

According to Lovell’s Planet Mountain report, “Joseph Hobby and I flew into the Cathedral Spires of the Kichatnas on April 18. With a forecast calling for three good days of weather, we climbed two new routes on back-to-back days on April 19 and April 20, before flying out on April 21.”

Climbing on Citadel northwest face, Kichatna Spires, Alaska.

On Citadel’s Northwest Face, Kichatna Spires, Alaska. Photo: Zach Lovell


Lovell reported that they skied to the base of the Northwest Face of Citadel and crossed the overhanging bergshrund using snow pickets ashandholds. The climbers then cached their skis and simul-soloed the first half of the route. They did the second half together, “as the climbing steepened and got more exposed,” according to Lovell.

As they climbed, legendary alpinist Mark Twight — who had heard of their plans — flew nearby in a bush plane and took photos of them.

Lovell and Hobby needed four hours to ascend Borealis Face and almost another four hours to descend it, because of the amount of searching and digging they needed to find good rappel anchors in the rock.

Photo taken by renowned climber legend Mark Twight from the air.

An aerial photo taken by Mark Twight.


On April 20, the pair climbed a couloir on an unnamed peak south of the Riesenstein. There, they each soloed the first section of the route.

“The real crux of the route was a chockstone which required an extensive amount of shoveling/clearing to get to the rock,” recalled Lowell.

This new route, named Superfly Couloir, took them seven hours.

“We dubbed the peak the Rise and Shine, a play on words [on nearby] Riesenstein. When we got back to camp, we were gifted with an amazing northern lights show for our final night,” said Lovell.

American mountain guides, Zach Lowell and Joseph Hobby, on the summit of Citadel, Kichatna Spires, Alaska.

American guides Zach Lowell and Joseph Hobby, on the summit of Citadel, Kichatna Spires, Alaska. Photo: Zach Lovell via Planet Mountain

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.