New Ice Routes in Southeast Alaska

Posted on: March 26, 2012

Ryan Johnson on Tide Line (WI5, 420m), one of two new ice routes that Ryan and his partners established in Southeast Alaska this March. [Photo] Jason Nelson

In early March, Ryan Johnson, Tim Banfield, Jason Nelson, James Q Martin, Tom Lanagan, Alex Pedneault, and Sam Johnson established two long ice routes in Southeast Alaska. Both lines were over 300m and at least WI5.


Tide Line ascends the obvious flow in the photograph. [Photo] Tim Banfield [Photo] Ryan Johnson

Tide Line (WI6, 420m), the team's first route, was established in Tracy Arm over the first week of March. On March 1, R. Johnson, Banfield, Nelson, Martin, Lanagan, and Pedneault departed Juneau for Tracy Arm, a roadless fjord forty-five miles to the south, aboard the boat, Alaska Quest with Tom Satre and his soon-to-be daughter-in-law Tamantha. To start the trip, the group encountered typical March weather in Southeast Alaska: rain. When the the clouds finally cleared they spied a huge wall at the end of the fjord. Gaining the base of the wall required 1500 feet of rainforest bushwhacking. After this first scouting day, the group stashed their packs and hustled back to the water for their pickup. The next day they were hampered by a late start and more difficult than expected climbing. After only a few hundred feet they bailed, arriving at shore in complete darkness with heavy snowfall and a surf of whitecaps. After a rest day and more poor weather, Johnson, Nelson, and Lanagan went back to finish the climb. This time the group topped out at dusk, with the crux of the climb in the final 100m. They dubbed the route Tide Line.

Dealing with the poor weather and rough seas, "it felt like a lot more of an expedition than a cragging trip," said Ryan Johnson. They joked, "that at least when the ice got steep it stayed rotten."

Bathtime with Toaster. Insert Cylon reference here. [Photo] Sam Johnson

The second route, Bathtime with Toaster (WI5, 340m) in the Suicide Bowl of the Mendenhall Glacier, was done by R. Johnson, Banfield, and Sam Johnson. Upon return to Juneau, there was a significant change to the group. S. Johnson came down from Fairbanks to join R. Johnson and Banfield after the others left. From the trailhead, they hiked the six or seven miles up the Mendenhall Glacier to the Suicide Bowl. There they chose the most direct line up the large and very steep west wall. Bathtime with Toaster consists of five pitches and was done in six hours round trip. Despite the continued bad weather S. Johnson summed up the experience, "We had a great time and also got a little climbing in."

Sources: Ryan Johnson, Samuel Johnson

Tim Banfield on the first ascent of Bathtime with Toaster. [Photo] Sam Johnson

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.

pierre leguirrard

this is a message to handle about ice and mixed ascenscions in alaska during the time i was a member of expeditions of years 1987 to 1994. my friends and myself from the small village of gyere focused travels and climbing efforts on unexplored regions of alaska in wintertime. we did visit valdez and do did numerous ascensions in deep beyond canyons and slots. in the question of southeast alaska did we visit fjords by boats and rubber rafts and sometimes swimming. killer whales were hungry to feed and seals rested in peace on the rocks above our floatations. a place we knew only as The Terror Arms had few ascensions, mainly by my son Michal and his now sister Louise. I was taken up at basecamp during that few travels with matters of greater importance. She was a fire lady with spirit to calm the starving killer whales. so we came went there and climbed.

2012-03-29 23:38:13
Ryan J

If you know how to get ahold of him I would love to talk to him about what he did down here. Were you still in town when he came through? I'd be suprised if he pick this line, but if he did no worries! It was the first ascent of 2012. It was still a fun line, a good trip, and a great adventure.

2012-03-29 00:54:54

I would first try to get ahold of Mr. Pierre LeGuirrard somewhere in Frenchland about that Tracy Arm ascent. There were some strong french teams that came in to AK years back and plucked some fine routes throughout the state from Valdez to SE AK.

2012-03-28 22:22:40
Roger Strong

Nice work you guys...stunning photos and psyched to see Q's photos and story of your trip.

2012-03-28 04:00:09
Keese Lane

Fixed Ryan.

2012-03-26 22:51:29

when did you guys hit suicide basin? me and some friends were out on the N side of the mendy towers from the 12-17th trying to climb the line to the left of the great white conqueror. Awesome climbing, must feel good to finally tick off one of the suicide basin lines.

2012-03-26 09:29:35
Ryan J

A little edit, none of the photos we taken by me. Top one, Jason,the second Tim and the 3rd and 4th were Sam.

2012-03-26 07:54:15
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.

Forgot your username or password?