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Southwest Ridge

5.8 Steep Snow, Trad, Snow, Alpine, 3600 ft (1091 m), Grade IV,  Avg: 3.6 from 12 votes
FA: unknown
Alaska > Interior Alaska… > Denali NP > Mt Frances
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Description

A great route just a short distance from Kahiltna basecamp. Can be done in a day or an easy overnight. Caution, the more gear you take the longer this climb will take you.

Head down heartbreak hill to access the southwest ridge. Scramble up loose rock and scree to the first tower.

The first towers go around 5.6-5.8, with short technical sections separated by snow slopes. There is a knife edge rock ridge that can create problems where a cornice usually hangs off it.

The third tower you bypass by lowering off fixed gear about 15 feet. Communicate with your partner clearly because you will not be able to see or hear them.

Climb up steep snow to the ridge crest and follow the ridge to the Gendarme. Rap off fixed gear into the notch.

The next couple of pitches are the crux. The actual crux is a 4" wide left slanting crack, goes for around 80'. 5.8

Easy snow brings you to a scary traverse around the false summit cornice. Make sure you are at this spot when the snow is well frozen, otherwise you are looking at pure danger.

The next obstacle is the final gendarme. Go up right and through a notch to your left. From the top of this it is 400' to the summit.

Descend the East ridge. It is moderate snow with glacier ice steps that you can bypass on your right side, or rap down off snow bollards. Lots of crevasse danger, I would recommend climb the east ridge first as a warm up. The lower cirque has avalanche potential.

Joe Puryear's Alaska Climbing Supertopo book is the alaska range bible. You will see many groups out there on the glacier with this book at basecamp. Great route description in there.

Location

Just up glacier from the bottom of "heartbreak hill"

You will see it at Kahiltna Basecamp.

Protection

Ice tool, one or two. Nut set, single cams to 3", 4" piece recommended. Glacier travel gear, single 60m rope.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

E Harz surfing the wave on the upper ridge.
[Hide Photo] E Harz surfing the wave on the upper ridge.
The last obstacle before the summit.
[Hide Photo] The last obstacle before the summit.
Traverse along the ridge.
[Hide Photo] Traverse along the ridge.
Looking back on the start of the half mile corniced ridge traverse.You can make out Aidan as a small dot on the backside of the false summit cornice. 
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Artem Vee photo
[Hide Photo] Looking back on the start of the half mile corniced ridge traverse.You can make out Aidan as a small dot on the backside of the false summit cornice. Artem Vee photo
Pulling over the false summit cornice.
[Hide Photo] Pulling over the false summit cornice.
Team tranquilo en la cumbre
[Hide Photo] Team tranquilo en la cumbre
Death traverse under false summit cornice.
[Hide Photo] Death traverse under false summit cornice.
Excellent splitter on a direct variation that skips the lower out I onsight soloed, m4+.
[Hide Photo] Excellent splitter on a direct variation that skips the lower out I onsight soloed, m4+.
The upper ridge close to the summit. Hunter in the background.
[Hide Photo] The upper ridge close to the summit. Hunter in the background.
The route is the left side ridge in this photo. you can see the gendarme and notch you rap into, and the false summit cornice you must traverse under.
[Hide Photo] The route is the left side ridge in this photo. you can see the gendarme and notch you rap into, and the false summit cornice you must traverse under.
Clean granite on tower 1
[Hide Photo] Clean granite on tower 1
Approaching the false summit
[Hide Photo] Approaching the false summit

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Flex
Flagstaff, AZ
 
[Hide Comment] Super fun moderate alpine climb, a great introduction to Alaska climbing. This route begs to be climbed when you land on the Kahiltna! Nov 21, 2015
Greg Gawel
Jackson Heights, NY
[Hide Comment] Is it Francis or Frances, because supertopo as well as yahoo maps lists it as Frances. Dec 24, 2018