The vertical mile: Mt. Dickey?s 5,000-foot east face. The ephemeral Blood from the Stone is shown. The Wine Bottle (Bonapace-Orgler, 1988) takes the buttress at right. [Photo] Sean Easton
Ueli Steck and I met in Anchorage on March 12 and quickly flew into the Ruth to check out a promising line on the east face of Mt. Dickey. As our pilot spiraled in front of the face, we were disappointed by the view. The previous year I had climbed on Mt. Barrill and had seen streaks of blue ice on Dickey. This year there were traces of white, or nothing at all. It was with great doubt that we headed up to check it out.
After three pitches on the face we had both taken lead falls, my first ever in the mountains, and it appeared as if the hard climbing was all ahead. We fixed our lines and rappelled to wait out a short storm. Awakening to clearing skies, we packed enough food and fuel for three nights and a rack to take on all difficulties.
The next three days presented awesome climbing: a vein of snow and ice wound up corners and cracks through the imposing central section of the 1600-meter east face. The route kept us guessing; we were never able to see ahead farther than the next pitch, and always questioned when the tap would turn off, shutting us down. Without the frozen medium, Dickey’s east face would only succumb to big-wall tactics.
Ueli led through the crux mixed pitches; technical and serious, they linked together the “missing sections” of the snow/ice line. My most challenging lead was a rotten ice curtain that took us to the final snow slopes. From the summit we raced low-level clouds down the non-technical southwest side, reaching base camp five hours later.
We flew out on March 21, having had the place to ourselves the whole time. I suspect our route, Blood from the Stone (5.9 A1 M7+ AI6+ X, 1600m), would only be climbable early in the season, and that it comes into shape frequently.
Editor’s Note:While the above climb was made before our cutoff date, we include it here because of its exceptional merit and the scant attention it has received in the American climbing press.
— Sean Easton, USA