Peak(s):  Mt. Bona (Alaska) - 16,421 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2010
Date Climbed:   05/22/2010
Author:  noreaster

 Mt. Bona Alaska 16,421  

The Wrangells- Alaska

Not a 14er trip report but I thought I'd share the Alaska beauty with everyone...

I really wanted to climb Denali this year but I didn't think I would have been able to take 3 weeks off from work. I wanted to climb something in Alaska, it's been a couple of years since I've been there and I missed it. I read that eastern Alaska, right by the Yukon Territory is seldom visited and the views are stunning. It is home to the highest concentration of peaks that are 14,000 ft or higher and it is also very heavy glaciated area. I did some research and found that IMG has a program, called Alaskan Ascends, not a technical climb, but the scenery in the photos posted on their blogs were really drawing me in. The climb time is about 12 days, so it fit my schedule. My mind was pretty much set, by February I was on the climbing roster.

I trained as hard as if it was for Denali, I train pretty much all year round like that, so at least I didn't have to develop a routine. I spoke at least twice to one of the owners of IMG, he has helped me selecting some of the equipment and we also went over my dietary needs, I am vegetarian.

May arrived so quickly, by May 12 I stopped working out, just did stretching, some walks on the local trails. I had to order some new gear, not much, some of it was waiting for me at the Alaska Moutaineering and Hiking shop in Anchorage. The manager there agreed to fit my Intuition liners, even though I didn't purchase them from there, what a great customer service.

Arrived in Anchorage on May 21, later in the evening. Rented a car and spend the night at a hotel. I went for a walk at 11pm, and it was still light out. Felt really odd. I've been to Alaska a few times but always off season and never experienced the midnight sun.

The next day I got my liners fitted (3 hour process, the guy was awesome) and headed to meet the team at a local Inn. Upon arrival, we did a gear check, I ran out to get some last minute things for everyone, returned the rental, and made it back just in time for dinner. The next morning we left Anchorage at around 6am for a 5 hour car ride to Chitina, where the bush pilot was to pick us up. The ride was long but the scenery was amazing.

The bush pilot landed his plane at the strip within 5 minutes of us getting there. We were either going to fly directly onto the glacier or to the pilot's lodge, it was all depending on the weather. Well, the plans were changing, the pilot was cautioning us that the weather around Mt.Bona is very unpredictable, the mountains sits on a weather divide. He wanted to fly us into Mt. Bear instead. We needed to make a team decision. We could be delayed coming back by as much as 17 days, which would match the record of a climbing team being stuck on that mountain. We decided on the original climb plan and were off to Kutlan Glacier. The scenery during the 45 minute flight was simply amazing.

Landed on the glacier and quickly set up camp. Built a huge protective wall and enjoyed quesadillas for dinner.

On day 2 we did a short hike to a very big crevasse where we practiced self rescue. It was fun. The weather was perfect, got very warm, well the sun was beating, but the temp was around 30.

Day 3 was the first day we got to gain some good elevation, we did a carry to 12,000 feet. The terrain was mild. Spectacular views. Also, some excitement, we had some crevasse falls. I was the first victim, shortly after our first break during the carry, the snow gave underneath my snow shoe, I fell down to my hip into a foot wide crevasse. I managed to get my self out. I looked into the crevasse, and it was so deep, no bottom. I didn't get hurt, but it was a reminded that this mountain is heavily glaciated and there were climbers who died from crevasse falls there.


Coming higher towards out camp 2, the weather got very windy. We were crossing visible crevasse fields, and had to negotiate some sketchy snow bridges. We had 2 more falls, the guide on the opposite rope team, and then shortly after, the guide on my rope team. The extractions were quick, no injuries, but I tell you, laying down in self arrest for few minutes with the wind blowing sucks big eggs. We got to the site of camp 2 in about 4 hours. Dug out snow platforms, built a wall, and then headed back down to base camp.

Alpenglow on Mt Logan

Day 3 was harder, we carried everything else to camp 2, so this time we used sleds. No crevasse falls this time, we did a nice job marking the route. The weather was still nice. Sunny, some clouds, a bit windy. At camp 2 we continued with the wall and set set up camp. Day 4 was a rest day, while day 5 was a single carry to high camp at 14,000 feet. It was a slow moving carry, good thing we cached some stuff at camp 2. We repeated the build routine at high camp, the tent platform was harder to dig as we were digging into the steeper slope of the mountain, the wall was harder to build, we were higher up now. Day 5 was a rest day, well deserved. We listened to music, iPods did work there and my little solar charger was key to keeping the songs alive. The weather was getting more funky. More clouds, more windy.
16,200 feet

So, this is where things get more interesting. The summit days. We decided to have a 1 am start. Got out of our tents and we were in the clouds. Zero visibility. Managed to gear up. We were moving very slowly, most of the time we were standing until we could see enough in front of us to make another 50 feet ahead. The first 2 hours were brutal, cold, and we just knew that we may not summit. When the sun came up at 4am or so, we were at about 15,000 feet. Clouds below us, and blue sky above us. We could see the round summit of Mt. Bona to our left, and Churchill on our right. We were very cold, the wind was blowing at a good clip but nothing to be worried about. The approach to the head wall of Mt.Bona is long. You are walking on this plateau and it never ends. We had another crevasse fall, this time it was the second person on my rope team, I saw Larry walk and then all of the sudden slide below the leveled ground, it was a quick second, I jumped into self arrest, the wind was howling and the first person on my rope team didn't hear the yell. The extraction was very quick but we got really cold from not moving. After another hour or so we reached the head wall. The wind continued to pick up.

Cramponing up the head wall was fantastic. Wind beaten snow, soft enough for the grip of the crampons but hard enough to keep the traction. We kept up a good pace and the higher we went the windier it got, colder, and visibility was back to pretty much zero. We topped out on the summit ridge, at approximately 16,200. We used up almost all wands during the first two hours of climbing and we didn't have enough left. I think most of us were cold to the bone. When I took my camera to take some video and photos, my fingers froze in a matter of a minute, they felt swollen and I could not move them. We decided to come down, tails between our legs. But, I think it was a right decision, given the weather. While we trekked back to high camp, we could see the top of the mountain engulfed in a fast moving cloud. Once at high camp, we just ate and slept. The weather was turning worse but we did get a report that the storm was ending. We spent the next day sleeping.
Mt Bona, and what was stopping our summit

Summit day 2. We were going to shoot for a 3am start, but did not gear up until later in the morning. The weather was just way too crappy. It snowed, it was a bit windy. We had a quick start though, we were up on that plateau in no time, it was much warmer, we had more wands and we felt that we could make it. Well, at 15,300 where we were just about a quarter way up the head wall, we threw in the towel. We were getting blown off the mountain. Bona 2, us 0. Again, right decision, but deep inside we were disappointed. The way we saw it though, we pretty much climbed it anyhow. Once we got back top the camp, we rested for a couple of hours, packed everything up and descended 4,000 feet to our base camp. Re-established the camp, and prayed that the next morning the weather was good enough for a pick up. And it was, a beautiful morning. The flight back was amazing. We stopped at the pilots lodge to refuel and continued on to Chitina. Then a long ride back to Anchorage with a stop at this village to shower. A couple of dollars for a warm shower, can't beat that. Once in Anchorage we helped with the gear and went out for dinner.

This is pretty much it. Enjoy the photos. Additional pics and a video here:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice ...
11/30/2010 17:20
We don't see many (i.e., any) reports for the Wrangell Range ... what a wild and inhospitable place. H*ll of an effort on your part. And, isn't that just the way it is ... beautiful weather when you have to return. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


spectacular !
06/21/2010 20:35
I have been considering signing up for this trip every year for the past 10 or so years but never do because I am afraid of getting stuck in a tent for 2 weeks waiting for storms to clear and then going home. Looks like you had enough clear weather to see some of the spectacular scenery there. Looks like one of the most beautiful places on the planet on the rare days the sky clears. Every trip report I could find on the web involved a group not summitting due to foul weather. Still on my bucket list to see Alaska some day. Sounds like you really need to be on your toes with the Crevasse rescue and route finding, no boot path to follow there, and you are really on your own with that remote setting. What a great trip, thanks for posting.


Nice pics!
06/21/2010 21:07
Sucks you guys didn‘t make the summit, but awesome stuff nevertheless. Logan looks like an absolute beast

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