American Team Nabs New Line on Alaska’s Kichatna Spire

Kichatna Spire is massive, prohibitive, and remote. Nestled deep in the Alaska Range northwest of Anchorage, it punches 1,885m high by prominence — mostly in vertical granite — from the Cul-de-Sac Glacier.

Climbers seeking the summit need to dream big and plan well to succeed on the peak. Experience doesn’t hurt either, and it certainly helped a recent American first ascent team get up and down a new route safely.

Graham Zimmerman, Dave Allfrey, and Whit Magro established The Pace of Comfort (VI 5.10 A3+ M6, 70-degree snow) over five days in late May. The 950m line constitutes only the second established route on the formation’s northwest face since Jim Bridwell and Andrew Embick hammered out The Ship’s Prow in 1979.

The American team leveraged over 70 years of combined alpine experience to pull off the multi-faceted climb.

The Pace of Comfort route on Kichatna Spire

“The Pace of Comfort,” Kichatna Spire, Alaska Range. Photo: Oliver Rye

 

Fair weather, fast progress

The group landed on the glacier below the peak along with videographer Oliver Rye on May 22. They reported fair weather and a reliable forecast, pitched basecamp, and scoped the route. Promptly the next day, they started up the wall.

Magro led first, with two 70m pitches at C2 and 5.10. The team then fixed lines and rappelled, returning the next day. When they came back, progress was more substantial. Allfrey aided a 68m monster on technical A3+, then cruised up a 50m corner at C3. Zimmerman took a 45m pitch at C2, M6.

That led them to a snow ledge they called ‘Triple Ledges’. About a third of the way up the wall, they deemed it an appropriate takeoff point for their summit push, fixed ropes, and rappelled back to the Cul-de-Sac.

On May 25, the three climbers rested for their summit push. By midmorning the following day, they were back on the wall, hauling the fixed lines.

Magro led them off the Triple Ledges with another long pitch, 70m of A3. Allfrey took over for the final 100m of sustained, vertical to the overhanging rock below the upper headwall. He took a 13m whipper there when a cam blew out of rotten rock. The passage proved dicey. Magro soon resumed the lead and picked his way around a chockstone on M6 terrain.

The three climbers then chopped a bivy into a snowfield a few hundred metres below the summit and sat out a bright arctic night. Zimmerman took over in the morning, leading a big block of five pitches to the summit ridge. Magro led them to the 2,342m top by 4:17 p.m.

A rapid, uneventful descent followed, and the team reached the Cul-de-Sac by midnight.

Unusually good weather aids FA success

The Pace of Comfort seems aptly named by all standard measures of big alpine climbs. Far from an epic, the climbers appear to have experienced a relative romp.

“A blur of motion, packing, shuffling, and of course, climbing. Intimidating, steep walls and unknown alpine climbing loomed above us at the start,” Allfrey wrote on Instagram. “We were gifted with unprecedentedly good weather and took advantage of it.”

The success comes 12 years after Zimmerman and Allfrey first envisioned the line.

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.


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skimtn50
skimtn50
1 month ago

Fantastic achievement!! Great to hear about climbers pushing the limits successfully.