British alpinists with sights on Alaska

04 May, 2016
The impressive north face of Thunder Peak (10,600 ft), Alaska. © Paul Roderick
 

British alpinists, Ben Silvestre, Will Harris and Peter Graham have recently set off on a six week trip to the Central Alaska Range. Their plan for the expedition is split into two halves. During the first half they intend to climb from the seldom visited Thunder Glacier.

Despite being relatively close to the busy Kahiltna landing strip, the starting point for the popular West Buttress of Denali, the Thunder Glacier has only a handful of existing routes which climb out of this impressive cirque.

It was a photograph of the beautiful north face of Thunder Peak (right), first climbed in 1983, that drew their attention to the area. They plan to attempt a new line on this face, but have earmarked several other potential new route objectives in the area, including the massive south face of Mt Hunter South.

During the second half of their trip they intend to ski back to the Kahiltna base camp before attempting the Infinite Spur on Mount Foraker. The Infinite Spur is described by supertopo.com as "Alaska’s ultimate test-piece" and is one of the world's finest alpine objectives. It has only had a handful of ascents since it was first climbed by Michael Kennedy and George Lowe. It's remote situation, the commitment involved, and its 9000 ft soaring arete make it an unforgettable route.

Before they left the UK we asked the team to give us a bit of background on themselves:

Peter GrahamPeter Graham (29), Site Engineer

Peter is from the Lake District and has been climbing from an early age. He enjoys all aspects of the sport but his greatest enthusiasm is for the more adventurous side of climbing, feeling most at home on filthy Lakeland mountain routes, sandy sea cliffs or hoar encrusted Scottish crags.

Highlights

  • Climbing all six great north faces of the Alps. Five Ascents of the Grandes Jorasses including a rare winter ascent of the Walker Spur.
  • First Ascent of “Partners in Grime” (ED 1500m) in the Waddington Range, Canada, with Malcolm Scott.
  • Mate Porro y Todo los Dema on the north Pillar of Fitz Roy with Ben Silvestre.
  • First Ascent of Hoar of Babylon (WI6 M6) on the East Face of Jezebel in the Revelation Mountains, Alaska, with Ben Silvestre.
  • Several hard Scottish winter ascents including The Needle (XI 8), Sundance (VIII 8) and Avenging Angel Direct (VIII 8).
Ben SilvestreBen Silvestre (26), Rope Access Technician

Ben started climbing aged 20 on the gritstone outcrops of the Peak District, but soon realised that his interest in the mental side of climbing was better directed towards adventure routes than potentially leg breaking gritstone slabs. An apprenticeship at Gogarth was followed in quick succession by Scotland and the Alps, where a partnership forged with Pete Graham led to bigger and better things. The past couple of years have consisted mostly of expeditions to cold climates, split by sunnier ventures on Britain's west coast.

Highlights

  • First ‘proper’ (cold, miserable and multi-day) alpine route, attempting the Lesueur Route on the Dru north face with Peter Graham, resulting in a stormy retreat at its junction with the Dru Couloir, just shy of the summit.
  • Many Scottish Winter routes including The Needle (XI 9), The Godfather (VIII 8) and Boggle (VIII 8).
  • Integral ascent of Mate Porro Y Todo Los Demas on Fitzroy, and Exocet (Cerro Standhart) with Pete Graham in Patagonia.
  • First Ascent of Hoar of Babylon (WI6 M6) on the East Face of Jezebel in the Revelation Mountains (Alaska) with Pete Graham.
  • Countless days spent hanging above the sea without a care in the world.
Will HarrisWill Harris 29, Full time alpinist/ house husband

Climbing since a young age, Will is an all-­rounder currently based in Chamonix, France. He is as likely to be found clipping bolts on steep limestone as he is shuffling across crusty ledges above the sea or skiing into frozen north faces in winter. He has climbed across five continents, with previous expeditions to Alaska, Patagonia and Nepal.