East Buttress of the Angel

Angel from glacier

revs stitchGraham and I have just returned to Talkeetna after spending a fun-filled ten days in the Revelation mountains. This remote range, on the far southwest end of the Alaska range, has been visited a few times in Spring season, and climbers have returned with stories of amazingly huge mixed lines and perfect “J-tree” white granite. We had found almost no information on summertime rock climbing activity in the range, so we were excited to make a reconnaissance mission and see what these mountains could offer.

We flew in with Talkeetna Air Taxi on their new R44 Helicopter piloted by Will Boardman. Lack of snow for a ski-plane landing made the helicopter essential, so we’re very thankful to Will and TAT for their help. It should be mentioned that landing a helicopter in Denali National Park is illegal, but the Revelations are outside of the park. It was TAT’s first helicopter insertion for a climbing trip.

inside heli

During the hour and a half ride into the range, during which we saw no roads and few signs of human life, we got a visceral feel for the scale and isolation of Alaska. Once the drone of the chopper faded, and Graham and I were left on the glacier with our gear, we’d entered our own little mountain kingdom, sole rulers and inhabitants.

Once we had gotten a feel for our realm, we realized that we were camped directly underneath the most enticing objective: the East Buttress of the Angel!

We began climbing on July 13th, starting up a beautiful granite wall with cracks and corners aplenty. 600 meters of quality rockclimbing, with difficulties up to 5.10, filled most of our day. Everything was climbed onsight and followed free. We were stoked to find a perfect bivy spot on the ridge, where we set up our comfy little tent and sheltered from a passing squall. After a few hours of rest during the midnight sun we began climbing again surrounded by blue skies! A low cloud layer below us brought the surrounding peaks, jutting through, into beautiful relief.

bivy morning

Another 500 meters of classic ridge terrain separated us from the summit, and we occasionally donned crampons to navigate snow and ice while simul-climbing. At this point we shared terrain with the 1985 ascent of the Southeast Buttress made by Greg Collins and Tom Walter (full history below).

graham following ridge

Reaching the summit midday, we paused to remember our friend Zach Orman, who passed away earlier this year in a paragliding accident. We miss you Zach!

zach orman
Zach smiling

We descended to the North and then rappelled 600m down the Eastern aspect of the North Ridge to a hanging glacier which we able to mostly walk down back to the main Revelations Glacier.

rappel cave

After this point our options became extremely limited due to multiple core shots in our ropes and terrible weather. On the 21st of July we flew out of the range after five days of being pinned down in heavy rain and wind.

Huge thanks goes to the Mugs Stump Award for it’s generous support, as well as the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Expedition Fund.

As always, I had the best kit imaginable thanks to Rab, CAMP, Scarpa, and Nudefood!!!


The Angel was first climbed in May of 1985 by Greg Collins and Tom Walter. They succeeded , after four attempts, in climbing “Snow ramps with an occasional rock move or two along the left flank of the [East] buttress.” After a crux slab (5.10), they gained the East ridge and followed that to the summit.(Tom Walter, 1988 AAJ, p. 119)

(In the report they describe their route as taking place on the ‘Southeast Buttress’ of the peak. We think that their route is on the south side of what we are describing as the ‘East Buttress’. It seems that our route joined  the 1985 route at the top of the buttress and followed the same moderate ridgeline to the summit)

In April of 2012, Clint Helander and Ben Trocki made the second ascent of the mountain by opening the South Ridge. Clint was super helpful and inspirational for our trip, in driving us around Anchorage, giving us photos and maps, and generally sharing his enthusiasm. Thanks Clint, you’re the man!



flyin in
Light rain on the flight in


up glacier flyin in
Our first view up the glacier


graham corner stitch edit
Graham leading up a gorgeous corner (poorly stitched composite image, sorry)
triple cracks pitch
Graham moving from one splitter to the next on the “Triple Cracks” pitch. Fun-fun-fun!!
scott in bivy
Peeking out of the little bivy tent. Photo by GZ

Graham approaching the “Terror Towers”, named by Collins and Walter in ’85. It was less chossy than it appears, though, and we found easy passage.
graham lost his keys
Graham lost his keys high on the mountain….

summit snowfield
Slogging on the summit snowfield.
matching sunnies!
Matching sunnies, how cute (:
After our route, we spent a few rainy days, entertaining ourselves by aiding up boulders. FUN!!
tent drops
Tent bound boredom…
We think the central rock buttress here on the Hydra is unclimbed!
hydra corner
Here’s a close-up of a beautiful corner system on the Hydra. Go get it!
heli on glacier
Waiting for the fog to lift so that we can fly out. What a proud little bird!!

heli eyes

Summer Plans

Hey friends-

Some of y’all probably know about my efforts, with some good friends, to make it to the most amazing and rugged granite mountains in the world: the Pakistani Karakorum.

I wrote a post over on Mountain Project about these efforts, and why we’ve failed, two years in a row, to secure the needed permits and visas. Read the post, but beware that it gets a bit political.

Moving on to something more positive, I’m currently in Talkeetna Alaska! It’s my first time in Alaska, which coincidentally was the 49th state to join the Union, and also the 49th different state that I’ve visited!

I’m hanging with my good friend Graham Zimmerman, and we’re packed and ready to fly into the Revelation Mountains! We got the idea from our friend Clint Helander, who has made annual trips to this obscure range over the past several years, putting up rad ice and mixed lines on massive (mostly unclimbed) faces. 

His photos of big granite buttresses and ridges, all unclimbed, enticed us.

The Apocalypse, photo by Clint Helander.

We’ll be flying in on this little chopter:

our lil heli

It’s a long flight, nearly 200km, and so we’ve gotta carry a good amount of fuel. Meaning a limited payload for climbing gear!


It’s a good thing we’ve got all sorts of techy lightweight gear, like these hybrid Aluminum/Steel crampons and carbon fiber boots! Thanks CAMP and Scarpa!!


Will, our pilot, using Google Earth and old-fashioned paper topos to plot a route for our little bird. We need to cross the crest of the Alaska Range to get to the Revelations, so we’ve gotta find the right pass!

We’re planning to fly in today or tomorrow, as soon as the weather in the mountains looks amenable. Plan to be back out on the 29th of July, so check back here!