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South Walsh, Southwest Ridge
Timestamp Free: 2019.05.24 - 03:48:54
Ranges: North America Ranges / Pacific Cordillera Range / Saint Elias Mountains / Icefield Ranges
  (4 days)
Participants: Paul Knott and Graham Rowbotham
First ascent of South Walsh and Walsh (main) by Paul Knott and Graham Rowbotham.
On 28 May Graham Rowbotham and Paul Knott reached the pointed summit of South Walsh (4223m). This was the highest unclimbed peak both in the St Elias range and, it has been claimed, in North America.

Twelve days before, they had been flown by Andy Williams from a frozen Kluane Lake to 2855m on the upper Donjek glacier. As Andy flew off they turned to the impressive southwestern aspect of the Mt. Walsh massif presented an impressive facade. The generous plastering of snow quickly convinced us to attempt the southwest ridge rather than one of the possible routes on the west face.

Over two days they climbed the ridge, traversing cornices before being forced onto the south face to avoid the rime-encrusted rock towers in the upper section. On the face they relied on a thin covering of sugary snow over the shattered quartz-veined limestone. There were no belays. Crossing the buttresses where the snow was at its thickest, the pair traversing into a series of couloirs in their search for a viable route. Luckily, due to the cold conditions the snow did not deteriorate even in the direct afternoon sun. They escaped by trenching up steeper slopes to a ledge below a huge triangular ice cornice.

Buffeted by a gale on the summit, they descended to the plateau connecting the massif. Since there was no effective shelter from the relentless maelstrom, they dug in the tent but found ourselves compressed overnight by the build-up of deposited snow. The next day they traversed the ridge over Pt.4227m (also unclimbed) to the main summit of Mt Walsh (4507m). Below the final slopes they stopped in a sheltered, sunny bivi-schrund to revive the stove and hence their dehydrated bodies.

From the summit they descended the west ridge, the route of the first ascent in 1941, thus...

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