ZIATZUOM: Mt. Blackburn 2014

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“The sky is called empty, the earth is called still; to be thus is invincibility.”  -Guanzi

6/5/14 10,822ft. It is perfectly still.  There is an opening thirty feet above that lightens the pale blue walls and strange dangling frost formations.  The sky outside is full of wind and snow, and the mountain rumbles every so often with icefall.  In front of my bivy the snow drops away through a large hole down the Northeast face–the opposite side of the ridge our group of seven is climbing.   A T-shaped giant ice cornice crevasse.   Forced to dig a snow cave by the force of weather, it soon opened into the roomy blue crack, and after a little belayed floor making we had a cold home for the night.   Blackburn rages out on the ridge, but is all quietude and invincibility in here.

6/7/14 12,300ft. If we were in the throat of the mountain before, we are now perched at the mouth of an overhanging crevasse wall on the edge of all. The double sunset as the sun dipped behind Mt. Sanford and re-emerged late last night in a still unempty pink-orange sky was astounding.  Such limited space in this eyrie that I melted water while on a two ice screw belay–mountains upon mountains below–light snow, dark rock, hanging glaciers, and the shoveling of fellow climbers.

6/10/14 10,500ft. ZIATZUOM is the word I see as I stare at the tent wall.  I like the sound of it better than the relentless snow, wind, and zero visibility [what a roar…] that have pinned us to the narrow corniced ridgeline for the past 24 hours during our descent. Fellow guide Bennett LaValley and I tried to find the route this morning, but I ended up traversing a steep ice slope over a white-out abyss–not the route.  Ate our last meal this morning.  Supposed to fly tomorrow.  Ahh, but what a glorious summit day.  High above the cloud lumps in the sun, looking across at steaming plumes from active Mt. Wrangell and the summit of Sanford, the lake-like Nabesna ice-field glinting off its smooth smotherings, the sky full of ice crystal light over the Kuskulana Glacier far below.

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6/11/14 McCarthy AK  5:30 AM came cold, cold, and still after a night of tent-shoveling.  A clearing.  We scramble into boots, and Bennett is behind as anchor as I struggle through thigh deep new snow towards the edge.  The route!  A narrow steep slope down to the next ridge mound.  Two steps and the snow splits at my feet, releasing the entire slope, cracks and blocks sliding smoothly away–gathering speed towards the disappearing edge.  Strangely beautiful.  I put in a trail along the two-to-three foot crown before returning for more support.  After consulting with our leader Dave Staeheli, we packed up and with all six climbers tied in to 40-100 meters of rope above, .  I set off two more massive storm slab avalanches to clear the route to our anchored rappel line.  Cracks ran to the corniced edge, the first slide propagating and splitting off 25 feet below me, the second not releasing until I was in the middle of the slope–sudden motion all around as I remained motionless, securely implanted by crampons and ice axe in the stable layer below.  The anchor, rappel, 9,700′ camp, sleds, warming descent, crevasse fall, snowshoe stemming self-rescue, slushy base-camp cache beer, and a flight out with a field-repaired rudder finished off day 14 of St. Elias Alpine Guides 2014 Mt. Blackburn Expedition.  7,200ft. to 16,300ft.

 

“The alert to not regard the world a worry; the hasty do not make plans regarding all things–who can give up hastiness to become alert?”  -Guanzi

 

More Pictures:  https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYf9B8x

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~ by Scott Hamilton Peters on June 13, 2014.

One Response to “ZIATZUOM: Mt. Blackburn 2014”

  1. Hey guys, I’d love to put your Blackburn Report on my website: SnowBrains.com. I used to be a guide for SEAG. Good stuff.

    Please contact me if interested:

    miles@snowbrains.com

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