MT. BRADLEY, NORTH FACE

Posted on: December 1, 2005


Maxime Turgeon working out the headwall moves on Pitch 8 of Spice Factory (WI5 M7 5.10 R, 1600m), north face of Mt. Bradley (2775m), Alaska Range, Alaska. Turgeon and Louis- Philippe Ménard climbed the route free, with no bolts, in alpine style, in fifty-five hours camp-to camp. Climbers reported warming temperatures wreaked havoc on most ice lines in the Range this year; Spice Factory was the season’s best tick. [Photo] Louis-Philippe Menard

When Maxime Turgeon and I first saw the north face of Mt. Bradley (2775m), the weather was so warm we didn't think we'd even be able to get on it. The white line we'd spotted on some pictures was nowhere to be found. But after a good warm-up on Johnson (The Escalator) and London Tower (The Unfrozen World of Our Incertitude), and five days on the Ruth Glacier, we brought the binoculars along and went back to look at the north face with a little more optimism.

During our first attempt, we bailed two-thirds of the way up when a huge rock fell on the leader's pack, taking it 1000 meters down the face (even though it had been clipped to a piece of pro). To our great surprise, two days later we found the pack by rappelling into crevasses. We didn't think we'd get another chance, as the temps were just getting warmer, but after a nighttime trip up Ham and Eggs (V 5.8 AI4, 850m, Davies-Karkauer-Zinsser, 1975) on The Mooses Tooth (3156m) to improve our spirits, we went back anyway.

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While the first pitches had deteriorated a bit, the second half seemed to be in better shape. We left camp on May 20 at 2:30 a.m., this time bringing three days of food and fuel and a sleeping bag. After freeing the pendulum traverse on the headwall crux and stretching the rope to make fewer pitches, we managed to reach our former bivy site at an early 5 p.m. We brewed and slept for five hours, and the next morning cruised to our previous high point at 10 a.m., freeing aid pitches as we went. A couple of hours up a narrow ice runnel brought us to the summit seracs and a total whiteout. After three more rope-stretching pitches on hard serac ice, we had to stop. We couldn't see more than ten meters ahead of us—and we were soaking wet. The double-bivy sleeping-bag system that had worked so well in our living rooms was not the best for weathering storms or lying in snow. But three hours later, the sky cleared up a bit, and we figured out where we were: only two 100-meter pitches remained between us and the summit.

At 11 p.m. on May 21, we summited after forty-seven hours of intense climbing. We called our route Spice Factory in reference to the spiciness of certain pitches, namely the "Jalapeno Headwall," "The Hot + Spicy Ramp," "The Pepper Grinder" and "The Curry Mushroom." We feel Spice Factory is Alaska Grade 5 (WI5 M7 5.10 R). We climbed all 1600 meters free (the three aid pitches were freed on the first try), with no bolts, in pure alpine style, in fifty-five hours camp-to-camp.

Louis-Philippe Menard, Montreal, Canada



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